Perhaps the World Ends Here (a poem)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our PCTELA News friends.

We’ll be taking the next few days off to celebrate with family and friends.  We are thankful to have all of you out there teaching and being taught.  We are thankful to have such a great group of professionals sharing ideas and thoughts and laughter.  We are thankful for you.

Here’s a poem by Joy Harjo to enjoy as you prepare your food, share with family, and sit at the kitchen table over the next few days.


Perhaps the World Ends Here

Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

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Image: Paul Cezzane’s Kitchen Table

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Perhaps the World Ends Here (a poem)

Up Late with Revival by Stephen King

I’ve been reading Stephen King books since I was about 12–my brother had a collection of his paperbacks that I would borrow and read and re-read. I think Different Seasons may have been my first, but I have read about 90% of Stephen King’s 63 books,and I am now preternaturally afraid of clowns, Plymouth Furys, and St. Bernards.  When I discovered a new King book would be published (so soon after Mr. Mercedes) I was thrilled–and even more thrilled that it would be a return to old-fashioned horror-inducing scary-type King, rather than the hard-boiled detective approach of Mr. Mercedes and Joyland.  Not that I didn’t enjoy both of those, but King does spine-tingling scary better than anyone.

Revival pays homage to the foundations of horror.  It begins with a Thank You page that looks like this:

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I had a feeling there would be allusions to Frankenstein based on the cover and the plot summary, and I was not disappointed.  The basic story line is this: Jamie Morton meets Charles Jacobs when Jamie is 6 years old and Jacobs is the new pastor with a wife and young child. They reconnect years later at a carnival (with a brief reference to Joyland) and then, for a third time in Maine.  I don’t want to offer any spoilers, but just know this is a classic King piece–where we read about human nature and human suffering.  Topics covered include religion, playing in a band, young love, lighting storms, nightmares, and death.  Pretty typical for King, but also pretty phenomenal. As I age, I find myself more and more enamored with his observations about life, death, and everything in between.

If you’re a King fan, this is a classic.  If you’ve never read him, this is a great book to start with.

Some favorite quotes:

  • “People say that where there’s life, there’s hope, and I have no quarrel with that, but I also believe the reverse. There is hope, therefore I live.”
  • “Home is where they want you to stay longer.”
  • “The fundamental difference between the sexes is this: men make assumptions, but women rarely do.”
  • “Frightened people live in their own special hell. You could say they make it themselves, but they can’t help it. It’s the way they’re built. They deserve sympathy and compassion.”
  • “Everyone needs a hobby,” he said. “And everyone needs a miracle or two, just to prove life is more than just one long trudge from the cradle to the grave.”

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Today’s post is by Kate, VP of Secondary for PCTELA

Have a review you’d like to share? Send Kate an email kap17 @ scasd.org

Up Late with Revival by Stephen King

Up Late with Elizabeth Crook’s Monday, Monday

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Elizabeth Crook’s new novel Monday, Monday follows the life of University of Texas shooting victim Shelley Maddox, along with the lives of the men that saved her life that August day on the UT mall as they move on in life attempting to leave behind the tragedies that occurred. Crook’s premise of the book, which is nonetheless intriguing, answers the question of what happens to victims of school shootings once the shooting is over? Does the shooting shape and frame the rest of their lives, or are they able to over come it eventually? Crook effectively answers these questions through the point of view of her characters.

Crook wastes no time with getting the novel started. The reader is almost instantly thrown in to the tragedy of August 1, 1966 as Crook explicitly details one of the first mass shootings in U.S. history where Charles Whitman kills 16 students and civilians and wounds many others. The protagonist Shelley Maddox pulls the reader into the chaos with her, along with two cousins who save her, Wyatt Calvert and Jack Stone, as she is one of the many wounded. The first four chapters of the book surely leave the reader speechless, as they are so realistic it is almost like the reader was there, living through the horror with the UT victims.

The plot focuses on what happens after the shooting, as Shelley and Wyatt are drawn to each other, and end up in a deep, deep love affair that not only changes their lives, but the lives of everyone directly related to them and eventually the lives of people who are brought in to the world years after the shooting.

Monday, Monday is collaboratively narrated, which allows the reader to read from the point of view of all the main characters, all of whom face their own tragedies at some point. Through this collaboration the reader is sworn to secrecy from other characters, and carries information with them that is kept hidden from some of the characters up until the remaining few chapters of the novel. With many secrets kept, Crook gets the readers to wonder whether revealing them or keeping them would be more beneficial. The readers question is answered eventually in a surprising, and brilliant, plot twist that is sure to catch the reader off guard. The reader learns, along with the characters, whether the saying “the truth will set you free” is accurate or not.

Memory is an important theme throughout the novel. Crook does an excellent job at showing how memory works, especially in the lives of victims as they are shaped around important events, and everything else in-between is just time. One could argue that Crook speeds time up too quickly and trivializes a tragic event by turning it into a soap opera. However, Crook has a firm grasp on understanding victims and how their lives are no longer the same as they once were before.

Although Wyatt views Shelley as being nothing short of perfect, Shelley has a hard time accepting who she becomes after the shooting. Just like Shelley, this novel is not quite perfect, but through the losses of the characters, it is just right as it engages the reader through a terrifying event in history, and its aftermath. Monday, Monday is just one of many intense, but enjoyable novels that are based around a real-life crisis that happens more often than we realize. If searching for a heavy novel to read, Monday, Monday is certainly the novel to add to your “To Read” list as it contains deep and realistic content that is sure to satisfy a hungry reader looking for a new book.


unnamedToday’s post comes from Shana Snyder, a senior at The Pennsylvania State University majoring in Secondary Education English, who will be graduating in May 2015 with a Bachelors degree in Secondary Education English. She is striving to become a tenth grade English teacher. She loves reading and hopes her review will inspire others to pick up a new book to read.

Have a book review you want to share? Email Kate (kap17@scasd.org) with your idea or draft!

Up Late with Elizabeth Crook’s Monday, Monday

Up Late with Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

I picked up this book because I’ll be at the NCTE Secondary Luncheon on Saturday morning, and I hadn’t read any books by Cory Doctorow yet. So, I popped down to my trusty library, picked up Little Brother, and just could not put it down until I’d finished. This is a modern take on 1984. Marcus and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when a terrorist attack happens in San Francisco. He and his friends are picked up by the police for questioning, and held unlawfully, tortured, and then let go–into a whole new world.

The city after the attack ends up in a paranoid police state. The school has cameras, Marcus’s social studies teacher is fired for talking about civil liberties, and his friends and parents question his questioning of the new normal. I was really moved by this book, especially because for me it brought up strong memories of teaching outside of Washington, DC right after 9/11. The way Doctorow portrays the fear, paranoia, and blind allegiance to the government resonated with me. I found myself really identifying with Marcus as he struggles to make everyone around him understand the importance of free speech–and freedom.

Marcus, a computer whiz, a smart kid, and a savvy people reader, works with his group of friends to subvert the new regime’s tactics. The storyline moves along at a quick pace, and even when Doctorow pauses to explain the mathematics of cryptography, or the concept of tunneling on the internet, or the probability of catching a terrorist by random checks, the pace remains. I did not find one place in the book where it dragged or where my interest waned. There’s action, adventure, romance, and even history. Doctorow managed to incorporate mini history lessons about San Francisco, Allen Ginsberg, and the civil liberties movement in a way that did not seem at all pedantic. Additionally, he subtly includes comments on white privilege a few times, like when Marcus notices he’s the only white guy being interrogated, or when his friend Jolu outright tells him it is harder to fight the system if you’re brown or black.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a fast-paced story with subtle societal commentary.  I wouldn’t call this a dystopia per se–it is too close to today’s reality.  I am thrilled now that I will be able to hear Doctorow speak on Saturday, and I am surely going to recommend this book to all my friends, especially those who teach 1984.

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary.

Up Late with Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

Friday Five: Lessons Learned During Student Teaching

Today’s post is by Shannon Trozzo, a year-long intern/student teacher at the State College Area High School.


As a student-teacher, I feel that I learn something new or find something surprising every single day. This is what I love most about my chosen profession– no kid is alike and every student is a walking, talking lesson on how to become a better teacher. Being in the classroom as a teacher allows me to understand certain things that I would never be taught sitting in a lecture at college. These lessons range from seemingly insignificant moments to mind-blowing realizations. I could name at least 1,248 lessons that I’ve learned in my short three months of teaching, but I’ve picked five solid lessons that resonate the most right now:

1. It’s okay to not know the answer to everything. Sometimes, letting your humanity show allows your kids to relate to you and respect you even more.
2. Your enthusiasm will be one of the biggest factors in getting the students to be excited about a lesson. When you get fired up about how much of a prick Tom Buchanan is, your students will absorb that energy and discussions will explode.
3. Being in the same social world as your students is a good thing. When they say Raskolnikov is “throwing shade” at Svidrigailov, you know exactly what they mean.
4. Transparency in your thinking is the easiest way to get your students to trust your teaching. When they understand the reason behind a lesson, they can focus on learning instead of being upset that they have to write yet another paragraph.
5. Take every moment of silence and solitude that you can get. It’s tough to be in the spotlight for 8 hours straight and to constantly be answering questions, emails, phone calls, etc. Find your sanity in those sparse moments– you’re going to need it when you ask your students to take out their homework that they’ve had a week to work on and they look at you like you have three heads.

Friday Five: Lessons Learned During Student Teaching

Up Late with the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War, a timeless story of rebellion and courage, should be read (or re-read) by all high school teachers. I first read this as a middle-schooler, awed by the power of the Vigils, the secret group controlling Trinity school for boys. I idolized Jerry, a freshman, who dared to “disturb the universe” (a poster with the line from T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” hangs in his locker). By refusing to sell the chocolates in the annual fundraising sale, Jerry puts himself in the league of heroes.

Jerry is harassed on the football field, at home, and via telephone. But he refuses to back down. Perhaps it was losing his mother to cancer the previous spring. Perhaps it is the hippie who approaches him at the bus stop and says “you’re missing a lot of things in the world, better not miss that bus,” challenging him to think about the meaning of his daily life. Perhaps Jerry is just one of those people of character, who refuse to back down from the bullies. Plenty of other people in the book buckle under the pressure of the Vigils. Obie, secretary to Archie (the President of the Vigils), even admires Jerry’s chutzpah. Brother Leon, however, does not. Brother Leon, who runs the school and the chocolate sale, in an unprecedented move, solicits the Vigils help break Jerry–but it just doesn’t seem possible.

Not having read this in years, I was surprised at the observations the characters make about teachers and adults:

  • “Most grownups, most adults: they were vulnerable, running scared, open to invasion.”
  • “There was nothing more beautiful in the world than the sight of a teacher getting upset.”
  • “Were teachers like everyone else, then? Were teachers as corrupt as the villains you read about in books or saw in movies and television?”
  • I think the boys realize as they move toward adulthood that being a grownup didn’t solve all your problems–and that some adults are just as flawed as some teenagers.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good book about high school. Granted, all the main characters are male, and this was written almost 40 years ago, but I think almost anyone could relate to the characters and the events.imgres

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

Up Late with the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier