Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Memory of Old Jack

I'm always looking for new and interesting things to read. At times I am a literature snob. I usually stay away from the latest fads in reading (I've not read Twilight, Dean Koontz, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, etc.) Even when I am reading YA novels for my students, I am always looking for and enjoying the ones that are complex and well written, not just a good story. So the other day when I was perusing my friend Jackie's blog and she mentioned having to put down a book because it was too poignant, I was intrigued.

After a brief internet search I had found Wendell Berry's website and had requested from my local library three Wendell Berry books. It has taken me a couple of weeks, but I pushed through The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry. It is indeed incredibly poignant. From the description of the farming community to Old Jack's ties to his land, this book left me grieving for the lost agrarian culture of the 1800s and the loss and and hardship of the characters. I found the book hard to read, not because it was bad writing or a boring story, but because it was such complicated writing that held so much depth of meaning.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

SOLC- Sometimes art is brief!

Today was Fine Arts Day at my school. This is the third year I've been in the school and I believe the third year for FAD. It's changed a little each year due to feedback from the classroom teachers, which is good. Basically the visual arts teacher, the theater teacher, and the music teacher get together and plan a day of activities for the entire school. The student body is divided up so that each classroom teacher has a mix of all the grades in their classroom. Last year we did a Jackson Pollock style painting - the canvases still hang in the stairway. It was really cool. We also had to try to build a structure out of cake. That was not so cool. The kids were obviously more interested in eating the candy and cake than building with it.

This year we had a central theme- which I thought was a great idea, even though I was not thrilled about having little kids (might I mention really HIGH maintainance little kids) in my room all day that I had to entertain, referee, and generally deal with (there are many, many reasons why I am a middle school English teacher!) Our tasks for the day were to lead a devotional on one of Jesus' parable (that we got that morning), lead the children in making a fabric art wall hanging that depicted the message of the parable, oversee them making mosaics on cookies with frosting, Nerd candies, and Twizzlers, and inspire them to create a skit or song that taught the parable.

We had made it through the wall hanging and were in the middle of the mosaic creating when the office announced that we had a call from the town saying the water was going to be turned off because of a water main break. No water. No bathrooms. No school. All the parents had been called and the students were being sent home.

Three words to describe what happened next: barely controlled chaos.

And that was the end of Fine Arts Day. I can't say that I'm sorry. I know that our Fine Arts Team put in a lot of hard work planning and preparing the day. But there are many reasons why I teach middle school English.


I feel I showed tremendous restraint at the library this afternoon. I only came home with 6 books (of course I've got 5 holds that I'm waiting to be delivered to my library for pick up, several sets of essays that must be graded by the middle of next week, and two sets of projects coming in Wednesday and Friday of this week).

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Click by David Almond, Et al.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funk
Bone: #1 Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
Your Own, Sylvia: a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill

There is also the stacks of books I got at the Scholastic Warehouse sale a few weeks ago, the stacks of books I got (for free!) from the Scholastic Book Fair at my school, the stacks of books I need to read for next year's curriculum...