Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Quick Book Thought about Wonderstruck

This past week, I read Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick and I have to say, I was blown away. The story like The Invention of Hugo Cabret is told in Pencil drawn pictures and words. Where Hugo Cabret needed both the words and the pictures to carry on the story, this book tells the story of a young man named Ben all in words and uses the pictures to tell the story of a young Girl named Rose. Ben’s story 
takes place in the present where he is trying to cope with life since his mother has passed away. One night he finds some information about his father he never met and the same evening is struck by lightning and loses his hearing. Rose’s story is set in the past where she is a lonely deaf child who knows her mother, but is ignored. As we read along their stories only seem to have protagonists being deaf in common. But as the pictures and words converge toward the end of the book we find that this is not the only commonality that the stories hold.
I enjoyed this book more than Hugo Cabret, which I liked and thought the story was good, but I never really empathized with the characters. I found Wonderstruck more compelling and the characters more to my liking. Both Rose and Ben are likable, characters who I could understand and relate too. The peripheral characters in this book help the story along very well; however there is one character that reminded me of Hugo Cabret in that he has a secret room where he should not. I don’t know if Brian Selznick wrote this character and sequence into the book as an inside joke for people who enjoyed Hugo or not, but it reminded me of a passage or two from the Caldecott Winner.   
I would highly recommend this book, and actually think that if Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott, this in my opinion should win it also. Because where the pictures in his other novel helped the story along, in this one they tell more than half the story. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it is considered for a Newberry, the story is that good.

Click here for more information about Wonderstruck.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Cost of Twelve Days Of Christmas

Welcome to the Thoughts of an Anti-Librarian, I'd like to share one of my Favorite lessons this time of year, I do with my Fifth Grade Students. What they have to do is find the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  This Christmas Price Index is calculated each year by PNC Bank (in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania). According to their website, “It began 28 years ago when the chief economist at PNC Bank decided to figure out how much it would cost to buy each of the gifts..”

When my students do the project, they have to find,
A.     The cost of each of the presents (and a Partridge in the Pear tree is separate).
B.     The cost of all the presents together.
C.     The cost of the entire song (each present given each day).

It is really kind of funny when they first start working on the project. Some of the kids will start looking for shopping sites, EBay and Amazon are the big ones they choose. I have to remind them at this point that they need to find the actual present not an ornament or a porcelain figurine (you would be surprised how much porcelain is used on the twelve days of Christmas).  One year, I actually had one group that found an exotic bird store and was upset when they couldn’t get a price for  French hens, they actually wanted to call the store and ask if they could get a price.

Once in a while, I get a group that starts Googling the words, “Cost of Twelve Days of Christmas.” This will take them to new sites that talk about the PNC website, but most of the time, they don’t realize that this is the website they need. Sometimes they find the Christmas Price Index from a previous year; they are so disappointed when I point out it is the wrong year. What is funny is that they don’t repeat their search with the same words just adding the current year.  When I point this out to them later, they get usually can’t believe it. (I never help during the lesson, I always review after the lesson what worked and what didn’t with the classes).

I think I enjoy this project so much, because the kids can’t believe that each of these items are real and they actually cost so much.  I have done this lesson with 6th grade also, but I would be careful about doing it in too high of grades, because the cost of Nine Ladies Dancing is  about $6300. The comments that could be made about paying a dancer, especially that much, could get inappropriate the older the students get.

This is a great lesson for practice in using Search Engines and using the internet to gather and organize information and to solve problems. The kids not only enjoy it because they get to use the internet, but also because it has to do with presents and Christmas. I enjoy it, because once I show them the PNC Website and they enjoy reading through the information and looking at the graphics that they have. I also like the fact that they don’t consider this a Math lesson, although we cover a few Math concepts as we discuss the answers, to my three questions. 

For more information on the PNC Christmas Index checkout this article on The Inspiration Room.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts on Respect for Teachers

Over Thanksgiving, my parents commented to me, "When we were kids we wouldn’t talk to teachers the way kids do now." They were appalled at how kids act in school and how the parents respond when they are told their kids have done something wrong. Respect for teachers is low in many places. Anyone who is a teacher knows the environment that surrounds our lives today. The worst part is we are responsible for a lot of these problems.
Let me explain: I teach in two different schools this year and I have found it to be a very interesting. The culture of the two buildings is very different. One has a Principal that is not very well liked the other has a Principal that is liked and respected. But in both buildings, the way Teachers treat each other is appalling. The disrespect they show for co-workers is ridiculous. This may happen in the business world, I don’t know, but the way people complain about how others’ do their jobs or what they do during the day makes me cringe.  They complain that this person doesn’t have as many duties or that person doesn’t have a class during as many periods and they even undermine or sabotage each other.
With as difficult as our jobs are and the climate in the world in which we are teaching, I don’t get this mentality.  How Disrespectful is it (not to say unprofessional) to question what a fellow teacher is doing with their time?  These complainers will never go and ask the person they are complaining about, to task them about their reasons for doing things, or maybe why it seems they have extra preps or why the schedule looks unfair. No, they would rather talk about the other person behind their back, during lunch periods. This is why I have not eaten lunch in a faculty room for six years. I can’t stand the bitching. My question to these teachers that complain is, "Why does it matter what they are doing?" How does this affect you in your teaching? 
There was a student teacher in our building, earlier this year, my one piece of advice to him was, “If you want to be happy in your job, you can’t worry about what other people are teaching or doing during their day.” I told him, “When you start worrying about how much extra time someone else has or how many duties they have, you start forgetting what is important; the students and your teaching.” 
 To be true Professionals, we need to respect the person next door to us as Professionals. And that is part of the problem; we don't respect the person teaching next to us or across from us. And I know I am only the Anti-Librarian, but if we don't respect each other, why should the community we are teaching in?