5 Bookish Reasons to visit Burlington, VT

1. The Crow Bookshop. This fabulous used bookstore also stocks popular new books.  I’ve spent many hours browsing these shelves, and the staff are knowledgeable and passionate about books.
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2. Phoenix Books. This was new to me, as I haven’t been in Burlington for a few years, but it was a happy substitute to the old Corporate Bookstore on the corner.  And they even have visiting authors: Lev Grossman will be there June 23.

3. Plenty of coffeeshops. From Muddy Waters to Uncommon Ground to Speeder and Earl’s, there are plenty of places to take that book/newspaper/journal and read/write/caffeinate. Each place has a different vibe, whatever your mood.

4. Not 1, but 2 record stores! Pure Pop and Burlington Records…any town that can support 2 shops with vinyl is a town that appreciates art, music, books, and the dying art of browsing.

5. An intellectual community. Because this is a college town, Burlington is full of people willing to talk about books, politics, philosophy, and ideas! A great place to visit and have conversations with everyone from your barista to the people on Church Street.

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

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5 Bookish Reasons to visit Burlington, VT

Up Late with Finders Keepers by Stephen King

This novel, the second in the Retired Detective Bill Hodges trilogy (which began with Mr. Mercedes ) had a strong story, but went too fast for my liking, as now I want another story with Detective Bill and his friends Holly and Jerome.

Basically, King crafts a story of a reclusive writer (I imagine he has crossed J.D. Salinger with John Updike for some of the details he creates for author John Rothstein). What begins in 1978 finishes over three decades later. Morris Bellamy, a lost young man with a semi-famous English professor mother and an absent father obsesses about Rothstein’s trilogy, which follows the maturation of Jimmy Cross. Bellamy decides to force his way into Rothstein’s life, looking for more stories about Jimmy, whose famous line, “shit don’t mean shit” becomes a sort of mantra for Bellamy. Decades later, Pete Saubers, who lives in Bellamy’s old house, becomes mixed up in the storyline. The difference between the two young men, however, is significant. There were times when I was reminded of King’s other novel about an obsessed fan, but this is remarkably different than Misery.

What I liked about this story was the attention to detail and strong characterizations. King knows how to draw you in and tell a story–you don’t want to leave once he begins to unravel the tale. Also, there are a number of Macbeth references in this one, which I particularly enjoyed. Near the end of the book, there are hints (supernatural ones, at that) about what the next (final?) book in the Detective Bill Hodges trilogy. It ends with a resounding click in the reader’s brain–the desire to have the third story immediately.

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

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Up Late with Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Friday Five: 5 Books on My Summer Reading List

Here’s a list of what’s on my to-read list this summer–what about you?

  1. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain MaryAnne Wolf–I found this one at the thrift store for a dollar–the title alone was enough for me to buy this one.
  2. Quiet Susan Cain–as an introvert (no, really, I know it may be hard to believe) I am really looking forward to this book to verify some of my own ways of being.  After taking a Myers-Briggs personality test a few years ago, realizing I was an introvert and needed time to myself changed my entire perspective on life.  I’m not broken, just different.
  3. I Remember Nothing Nora Ephron–I love Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck so much that I’ve given it to 3 other women as a gift. Her essays are remarkable, so when I saw this one at the booksale, I snatched it up and put it in my summer read pile.
  4. God Help the Child Toni Morrison–This book has been making its way around our English department since one colleague read it for her bookclub.  I have heard it is a departure from her other books, but that it is fascinating.  Can’t wait to read this one, as Morrison is one of my literary heroes.
  5. Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog Kitty Burns Florey–I am thinking of starting my AP Lit class with sentence diagramming next year–the idea of being able to SEE style with a diagram may help my students understand author style better.  I was talking to another colleague, and she lent me this fun little book, which I am positive will come in handy in the fall.

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Friday Five: 5 Books on My Summer Reading List

Last Day, 2015

The following post is reblogged from Anthony Sedun’s blog, Digital Bamboo

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Last Day, 2015

It’s here again. Last day of school for students and just like that, the Academic Year (AY) is drawn to a close.

Talent show, slide show, luncheon with goodbyes.

The bigger the building, the larger the silence when the life has left it. And that’s what it feels like here, at school, when the kids go home.

We are and it is for the sole purpose of helping children learn and grow.

WITHOUT THEM, THE BUILDING FEELS LIKE AN EMPTY SHELL, WASHED UP ON THE BEACH. NO MATTER HOW PRETTY AND SHINY, IT’S ESSENCE WAS IN THE LIFE IT HELD.

There are so many thoughts that surface and dodge and dash in the watery end of the year habits of mind.

Here, I suppose, are some of the moments I’m most proud of as a teacher and fellow traveler along the arc of language and life with my kiddos this year:

SKYPING WITH CLASSMATES IN COLOMBIA. Through my work with The Life Writes Project (www.lifewrites.org), I’ve started taking baby-steps into the ocean of opportunities for connecting my students with teens and others in Medellin, Colombia (South America) who want to reach out to native English speakers like many of my students. I’ll never forget how some of my students had a chance to make live presentations of their Comic Strip How To projects to both, their classmates right here in Harrisburg but also simultaneously to students in Mr. Durango’s English class of native Colombians in South America. For my kids to see that their work mattered to peers and adults in our school and in that Colombian school as well was huge and it will stay with them for a long time. One of my deepest desires in teaching is to continue breaking down the barriers of geography and place to open up and build bridges that connect our kids, our teachers, our communities together. When I look out into the vastness of the night sky or the vastness of the schools, I see stars and stories waiting to be told, shared, connected into brighter constellations of hope.

SATISFACTION SCALE. After reading their Father, Mother Narrative Poems to their peers, I invited students to write their initials on a piece of scrap paper and attach it with tape to the classroom cupboards anywhere along the Satisfaction Scale. The scale had “NOT SATISFIED,” “SATISFIED,” and “DEEPLY SATISFIED” along the spectrum. “How satisfied were you with your writing?” It was really revealing and humbling to see how students saw their own work. Some indicated they were not satisfied, others that they were satisfied, and still others that they were deeply satisfied. Now, everyone did very well on their graded portion of the assignment. So what these ratings revealed were remarkable glimpses into a world of young people, young people who said time and time again in many ways that yes, I want to be counted on to do great and wonderful work, I want to strive for compelling writing and not just completed work, and yes, I want to believe my words can reach others and make a difference.

FATHER, MOTHER NARRATIVE POEMS. In April, my seventh grade students were challenged and tasked with learning about poetry and specifically with the charge of writing a certain kind of narrative poem I call “Father, Mother Narrative Poems.” Simply put, the poems had to tell a story and they had to focus on one parent, either a father or mother. Now, I am fully aware of my students and how many of them live in family situations that have experienced disruptions, separation, divorce, or some other arrangement in their primary caregivers. But this underscores one of my fundamental principles in teaching, especially teaching writing. A teacher ought to be the first to take the risks he asks of his kids. That’s why I wrote my own poem and shared it with the kiddos. When I write, I don’t tend to write “school-ish” pieces as others might. I don’t “dumb it down” or simplify if those decisions are not ones I would have otherwise made as a writer writing real pieces to be shared with others outside school. So I open up about my early life with my sister in Korea and how our mother died and how Korean dad neglected us and became an alcoholic. I write about this not to say poor me. Rather, when I show my scars, I find my students are drawn more deeply into this thing I am asking them to do now: write deeply, richly, powerfully from your life. The first students to clap for me when I read my poem were the students who also had scars from their lives like me. And despite our occasional head-butting about getting work done or staying on task, these kids saw me for a real man who can bleed like them and moreover, who can write like them. I mean that. I want to show them that I can write like them and that they can actually write like them too, but it takes time and effort and lots of attention to crafting your story and wielding these words as powerful, precise tools for the journey ahead. So what did I see when my students worked and worked on their Father, Mother Narrative Poems? Absolutely beautiful things. Truly, my students were brave for themselves and for one another. All of my kids stood in front of class and read their poems about their dads or moms and they did so to applause. We applauded before and after they read to set the right tone that yes, we see you, we know you, we celebrate you and your work in this piece. Some kids wrote about missing or absent, deceased, or distant fathers. Others wrote about tired and tough mothers who, despite the tough relationships, they know still want great things for them. Some kids held it together and some broke down in tears reading their writing. In those moments, we stood up and we stood close; we hugged each other and we shook hands. Kids who weren’t even close or friends per se looked each other in the eyes, glanced down with respect, held out a hand or leaned in for a hug and said in so many ways: I hear you, I see you, I am here for you, and I am glad you are here. Tough girls and cool boys alike, gifted, unidentified, or special ed, none of it mattered in these moments.

IN THESE MOMENTS, WE WERE ALIVE TO ONE ANOTHER’S NEEDS AND WE HONORED EACH OTHER’S HUMAN DIGNITY TO TELL OUR STORIES AND TO BE NOURISHED BACK TO LIFE BY THEM. AND FOR THAT, I TEACH WRITING. FOR THEM AND FOR ME, I CRY OUT TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN: THESE WORDS MEAN LIFE AND TOGETHER WE RESUSCITATE OUR SOULS BACK TO A MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD WHERE WE MATTER TO ONE ANOTHER.

Last Day, 2015

Up Late with Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

This book was supposed to be my summer read, but I went and picked it up and couldn’t put it down until I finished. I think Amy Poehler and I are best friends now. Or at least it feels like it, since the way she writes sounds like a conversation I might have with a best friend.

I really enjoyed the layout of the book.  Each section starts with a two-page spread that looks like something you might find on social media. Like this one, below: “Nobody looks stupid when they are having fun.”  I felt like each piece of advice was something I wanted to post on the wall of my classroom.

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Aside from great wisdom, there’s of course hilarious stories–stories about bits, and skits and friendships.  Amy Poehler and I are close in age, so some of her childhood stories also resonated with me. She also has a way of writing things I’ve always thought but never been able to articulate, like this gem: “I think we should stop asking people in their twenties what they “want to do” and start asking them what they don’t want to do.” Or this: “You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” So go do the thing that is reading this book.  You won’t regret it.

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

 

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Up Late with Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Friday Five: Reasons to Follow BookRiot

Bookriot probably tops the list of one of my favorite book blogs. There are plenty of reasons for you to check them out on twitter or Facebook, but here are a few columns I enjoy:
1. Buy, Borrow, Bypass. Pretty self-explanatory, but some fun topics, including the Sexy Cowboy edition and Graphic Novels about Artists.
2. Giveaways & Deals. Who doesn’t love free or cheap books?  Giveaways can include up to 10 books sometime, and deals have had everything from Jhumpa Lahiri to Bret Easton Ellis.
3. Our Reading Lives These columns contain letters to authors as well as personal narratives about bookish experiences.  There are also tributes to writers sometimes (such as this one to Terry Prachett).
4. Literary Tourism Traveling and need an excuse to visit a bookish place? Check this blog out.  There’s one for Philly and one for Pittsburgh.
5. Critical Linking–this is exactly what it sounds like–bookish links to follow.  I’ve found some gems through these posts.

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Friday Five: Reasons to Follow BookRiot

Whichbook–a site to use for recommending choice books to your students

Last week a fellow teacher shared the Whichbook website with me, which is dedicated to helping you find your next book to read.

There are book lists on the page for you to scroll through, and on the left, there are spectrums for you to choose–happy/sad, beautiful/disgusting, gentle/violent. By changing the settings on these, the books on the lists will change. The picture below shows the results.

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I can see myself using this in class to help readers who have very specific reading preferences find their next book to read.  I have to admit, I spent almost an hour fiddling around with the different settings and seeing the results.  Check it out and see what your next book might be!

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Whichbook–a site to use for recommending choice books to your students