Yesterday we had to put down our Siberian Husky. At just under eleven years, it seemed too soon. She was an independent girl, always – she came to us as a rescue out of a home inexperienced in the ways of Northern Breed dogs. She was always wary, backing away from a sudden movement, but she knew her own mind.
She brought new life to our old dog, a Shepard/Husky/Wolf mix. She took care of him, bossed him around, protected him in his later years (he lived to be 19) and generally ran the pack. That is what female huskies do. And in a house of females, she vied for her position in the pack as the puppies (my daughters) grew to women.
Things that I will always remember:
- skunks – she killed one (shaking it in her mouth like a rag doll after we had all been teargassed by the critter) and had a serious altercation with at least two more. Gallons of hydrogen peroxide/soda later, when she was wet, we could still catch a faint whiff of skunk.
- possums – one prehistoric beast facing down another – epic. When one would be sitting in a tree at the yard perimeter, she would sit and watch for hours, like dog TV.
- singing a song of hunger and abandonment with her (she howled, so we harmonized)
- her constant conversations with my mother. They talked all day when Mom came to visit.
- Escape artist – she loved nothing more than to find a way out of the yard and run.
- the car trick – but you could get her back by opening the car door and say, “Sky, come” and she’d look around all casual like, “Oh, my ride’s here.”
- She was a fool for buttered popcorn
- Hair – fur, what ever – she blew her undercoat twice a year, and it was like drifts of snow in the house. She had a beautiful coat – she was a beautiful dog.
- Landscaper – Huskies are diggers, and she was so breed true that she re-landscaped huge sections of the yard.
- Her throne – the Adirondack chair on the back porch was hers. She would sit in it, resting her head on the arm, enjoying the sun.
- She loved Sam. She loved Hannah. The rest of us, she tolerated.
- But she did love to sit on my feet while I worked at my desk. She would insinuate herself under the desk into the cave at my feet and plop down. She would let me tuck my feet under her and keep them warm.
Filed under: Uncategorized | 13 Comments
My seventh grade class is studying Romeo and Juliet, and we are reading the play aloud in class. This allows me to preview scenes, stop and start to think about what is happening, attitudes, emotions, word play, allusions…. but there is no homework involved with this. I want them to come away with an appreciation for language, meter, prose, characters, and the use of literary language. I want them to laugh and cry and worry – but not about having to read the play.
So, what should I do for homework?
I don’t always assign homework. I don’t think that it is necessary every night. I assign it when there is a true purpose, but I did feel like I was missing an enrichment opportunity. My cousin the librarian made a fantastic suggestion, so we are using Edmodo to host book groups.
I read and read and read books that have Shakespeare as a character, as a plot device, or a motivation. I read historical fiction, mysteries, and romances – and I settled on eight book:
- Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave – Deron Hicks
- Saving Juliet – Suzanne Selfors
- The Playmaker (and its sequel The True Prince) – J. B. Cheaney
- Shakespeare’s Secret – Elise Broach
- Swan Town – Michael Ortiz
- King of Shadows – Susan Cooper
- The Fool’s Girl – Celia Rees
- The Shakespeare Stealer (and its sequels Shakespeare’s Scribe and Shakespeare’s Spy) – Gary Blackwood
- The Juliet Club – Suzanne Harper
I book talked these in class and they used a google form sent to them on their iPads to choose a book. In the end the Ortiz and the Rees fell away (not chosen by more than two students out of 70). Two books had enough to split into two groups, the Lord Chamberlain’s and the Queen’s Men, and the Globe and the Curtain groups. I am delighted that the MOST popular of all was the immensely satisfying and well written King of Shadows.
I am not sure how this will go, but we are starting this week. I’ll keep you posted.
(and one final note – we are using iBooks because we have a 1:1 iPad program with the seventh grade. All the ebooks are great except Saving Juliet – gah! What a mess! They must have used an OCR scanner, and the TITLE was spelled wrong on the title page. I ordered back-up hard copies for the 18 kids in the group. Nuts.)
Filed under: Activities, Books for class, My room and welcome to it, Reading Evangelist, Technology | 2 Comments
Tags: book groups, Edmodo, iPads, teaching Shakespeare
I came to Austen later in my reading life. I read Georgette Heyer (which was just autocorrected as Heyerdahl – and that makes perfect sense, but only later) and all kinds of modern Regency romances in high school in the early 70s, but I didn’t embrace Austen. It wasn’t until I took a course on Austen to fulfill a distribution requirement for my English major when I was doing baccalaureate work that I fell in love with Jane. She was so delightfully mean to her contemporaries. After all, In P&P Mr. Bennet remarks to Elizabeth, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”
So I was pleased to be able to take part in the live reading, cover to cover, of the book here in Chicago at Block 37 organized by the Greater Chicago Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America. I was asked to read at the end of the book, the happy ending, with three other readers, Jennifer, Karen, and Thor (now you understand the Heyerdahl reference). The readers had been diligently reading and changing at the appointed time, but we were a bit off the road rally time, and we had more of the book to read at the end than we anticipated. This was not a BAD thing in any way. My three co-readers were excellent and our selection now included the hilarious exchange between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth. Win!
I had the green binder, so I got to have fun with the spinelessly twittish Mr. Collins and his correspondence with Mr. Bennet as well as the marvelous hyperventilating of Mrs. Bennet. Of course, Elizabeth and Darcy would seem to be the romantic binders of choice, but for sheer fun and range of reading, these were wonderful sections to read. Both Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet are so shamelessly self serving. Their lack of self awareness makes them easy to laugh at, but today I got to laugh with them.
My compatriots and I read for 90 minutes, and it could have been more, but we realized that we had pages before us and set a brisk and lively pace. We didn’t rush, but we had great energy – and the three other readers were a real treat to read with. According to the organizer, we “rocked the house.” And we had the most wonderful time. We were, in the words of Austen and one of the other readers, “excessively diverted.”
I don’t love Mansfield Park, but I might just have to do this again next year.
Filed under: Professional Development, Reading Evangelist, Refelections | 2 Comments
Tags: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
I teach seventh grade. Assessing their work is a bit like comparing butterflies. Or buttons.
Each child is different. Seventh graders come in all shapes and sizes (look at a seventh grade girl and a seventh grade boy – they can appear to be different species), and they are all in radically different stages of cognitive development.
To ask them all to complete a range of tasks – reading for content, word recognition, sentence construction, imagine, craft, analyze, evaluate - is complicated and fraught with problems. Some seventh graders can and some can not and it has NO bearing on their intelligence or ability – just how far along their brain is in becoming adult. And they have as little control over that as they have over how tall they are. Would we ask a student to be taller?
So I try to evaluate on effort and completeness – do they follow directions? Can they explain their process? What does that illuminate for me? Do they actually do the work and hand it in?
I hate grading. If we could just enjoy the books together, write the assignments and work to create personal critical responses to the readings, play with words, explore the language, then I would be happier. I am glad (although they can be traumatizing to write) that we have narratives along with letter grades.
So, back to the gradebook… and assigning numbers to the unquantifiable.
Image by Aah-Yeah
Filed under: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment
I wrote this back on October 22, returning from NYC and my father-in-law’s memorial service – heaven only knows why I didn’t post it.
Today as I was waiting in line for the loo on the plane as we awaited clearance to leave Detroit (where we had detoured because of the storm) a woman behind me was berating the flight attendant for not telling us what we going on. You see, she had called her daughter in Chicago and there was no rain. Why didn’t the pilot tell us/do something? Stupid American Airlines, observing that Ground Stop in Chicago.
And it occurred to me that I would never second guess a pilot of a plane – They have trained to do this job. I would never jump behind the throttle of a 737 because someone told me that my college education qualified my to fly that plane. Heck, I’ve flown in all kinds of planes, so I’m qualified to fly one, right? Anyone can fly a plane, right? Wrong…
So why does everyone think it is so easy to teach? Sure, most of us have sat in a classroom, done school. But like flying, it’s an art and a craft.
And lives depend on it. Art and Literature and critical thinking are required of us. They will save our lives.
The President doesn’t get this. Republicans don’t get this. Corporate schools and benchmark tests won’t develop citizen scholars. Teach for America will not save us. We need to rewrite the narrative of school and student success, but I don’t know where to start.
Image by wlcutler
Filed under: Refelections, Travel | Leave a Comment
Egad – I know – I owe you a TON of posts from York and Leeds, but right now I want to just say, “Moby Dick.”
I bought a poster last night. I don’t usually do that, but the poster is a keeper – it looks screened to me as the paper is the color of the background, and you can feel the ink on the page – and it is way cool, and it reminds me of the one play excerpt that I saw last night that I really loved.
Three theater companies workshopped three plays – we saw 30+min of each. The only one that I want to see the whole production is the lookingglass adaptation. If they get it on its feet in the next couple years, it will be great. I loved the use of the Remo drums wrapped in rope to look like bollards or winches, and the use of ladders and rigging made it feel like the auditorium was making way. They made particularly nice use if choral recitation and movement to suggest a universality of ideas – loved it.
The puppet version by Blair Thomas & Company (Redmoon puppet maker) was creepy. The puppets were wood and cloth with a little resin (forearms and hands). They were like bones, which of course was visually and thematically interesting but still creepy. They did have the coolest whale – one puppeteer – fiberglass poles to give the tail that whipping action – but mostly it was like a giant open weave basket covered with cheesecloth – sinister and HUGE. I admit, I’m not a huge fan of puppets. The puppets were white/bone/raw wood against black – with grim and whale-ish music by Mike Smith on guitar/vocals and a tuba and percussion. Atmospheric.
The House theater was a bit too meta for me (about a theatre company trying to stage the ultimate adaptation of M-D) with the play as white whale – supposed to be funny yet somehow tedious -
Pizza from Pequod after the production (hilarious). Was the beer Harpoon Ale? The new theater building at U of C is visually lovely, fabulous, and art directed yet oddly cold and uncomfortable all at the same time. A major feat of dissonance, if you ask me.
David Catlin, lookingglass director/adapter and professor at NU, reminded us that we all have chosen to live along the shore of this great inland freshwater sea – and the opening on the book probably speaks to all of us: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; … — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.”
So, I got a poster – I’m sure you understand.
Filed under: Refelections | Leave a Comment
Tags: Blair Thomas & Company, House Theater, Lookingglass Theater, Moby Dick, new work