The Teacher’s Reasons Why

education-614155_1920It’s May. This time of year is both ecstatic joy and utter misery, somehow a simultaneous experience we English teachers chalk up to the definition of “paradox.”

This year is the end of my eighth in education, most of which has been an amalgam of high school and community college teaching.

In short, I’m tired. In length, I wonder how anyone is expected to run this race longer than ten years. Let me explain.

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The Strategic Power of Story

A recent publication from NPR details the memoriam of Michael Sharp, both a man and a name not likely known to many. This past Monday, his body was found in a shallow grave along with that of his interpreter, Zaida Catalan, in the Dominican Republic of Congo after having left two weeks ago to travel into the jungle.

Sharp knowingly went into the rebel-run jungle, however, and he went armed with only one item: stories. His objective? To work for peace convincing as many rebels as possible to give up their violence and return to their families, their homes.

Upon first reading, I was struck by the naïveté of Sharp. How can one go into the jungles of the Congo (or anywhere, for that matter) to approach belligerent, armed rebels with only words? No spare machete or rifle, just in case?

It is only after sitting with Sharp’s ideas for a few days that I’ve come to understand the gravity of his discovery, and that if anything is going to change the world, rebel or otherwise, it is going to be stories.

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Taking the Shoulder

blue-856818_1280It was a brisk 27 degrees this morning as I took my walk around the small town I call home. The sun decided to grace the day behind some hazy January gray, and the blue that peaked in was as breezy as a Jamaican sky. My pup, a Beagle Basset mix—a Bagle, if you will—did his job and pulled me along down the road for a mile and a half.

About halfway through our jaunt, we reach a section of road that has a semi-gravely shoulder. It’s my favorite part of our walk because the crunch and skidding of rocks immediately ricochets memories of walks I used to take with my grandmother.

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We’re all coming down with The Privilege

capsize-184167_1920This time is a strange one. There have been so many events and upheavals and uprisings that, frankly, I’m feeling a little like I’m living in another decade. Surely this isn’t the aught-teens. Surely I’m not the same person I was in the late nineties when all we had to concern ourselves with were some pesky rumors about office aides and Whitewater (not that I knew a darn thing about either, at the time). Let it be known, also, that during that time, the main street in my town also had burgeoning small businesses aplenty with Enough To Go Around For Most.

What I’m saying is, I think we all got a little spoiled. And I can understand how people are really, super-duper upset right now—on both sides of the aisle, in Congress and at the grocery store.

However, let me plead with you for a second: please remember your privilege.

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The Bread

If you’ve had a holiday season that is in any way comparable to mine, you’ve done nothing but eat bread, pasta, and pretty much anything carb-oriented for the past several weeks. I’m talking pizza, spaghetti, homemade cinnamon rolls, cookies, tarts, quiches … I think you catch my drift. (And if you haven’t had this kind of holiday season and never intend to, go ahead and roll along; I don’t need your negativity, even by omission. I’m joking but also serious. Carbs are life.)

bread
All the breads! Yum! Photo from Betty’s Blog. She can only be another carbophile like myself, I hope.

What I’d like to share with you is a bread recipe that would make unicorns jealous. Like, if angels were bakers, this is the bread they’d sing about. Dare I say it, if I were to have Jesus over for dinner, this is the bread I would serve him—with dipping oil, of course. (And that’s a BIG DEAL seeing as how I subscribe to the belief that He is the Bread of Life.) Yeah. This bread is THAT good. I am now going to refer to it as The Bread because it’s so good.

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Valentine Book Swap

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-8-19-05-amAbout a year and a half ago, I started hosting Book Swap & Chat nights. At the time, I had been to too many book clubs where there was never enough time to hear from all attendees, many felt the need to talk over everyone else (guilty: it’s a teacher habit), and not everyone enjoyed the same books. Additionally, I looked around my house and realized I had too many books. And, last but most relevant, it was mid-July at the time and my son had been gone to visit his father’s family for over a week. To put it mildly, I was lonely. I needed to be around my people. I decided to try hosting an event where like-minded book lovers got together to share books instead of all reading the same one. Alas, Book Swap was born.

Now a group of ladies (as we’ve only ever had one male attendee) meets once a month at my home. We started out meeting at a local coffee shop, but our meetings often ran until closing time and we decided we’d like to serve food. Abracadabra! Now we meet at my house! I very much enjoy hosting, so it’s rather fun for me to do.

Next month, I’ve decided I’d like to do a Valentine Book Swap, akin to Secret Santa, to celebrate our love of literacy. In case others would like to partake in a similar event or process, I’m sharing it here as well. Since we already meet once a month, the following will be addressed at our January meeting.

Happy book swapping, loving, and reading to all during this and every season!

-A

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The A to Z of Books and Me

Were you also the type that, back in the late 90s or early 2000s, used to send around email surveys to all of your friends? They were closeted ways to passive-agressively tell your friends a lot of information about yourself while simultaneously not actually interacting with them. Let it be known that it was a very strange time, which, of course begot an even stranger time: MySpace, Facebook, and then Twitter. It was a fun way to reflect and share, however, before we all started airing our dirty laundry literally everywhere online.
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I came across a book lovers questionnaire* from The Bleeding Pelican whilst perusing the web for another post, and I thought it was rather—dare I say it?—cute. It reminded me of the aforementioned surveys I used to share, and I’m interested to read your responses, too. I’d love to read your answers, actually, so please feel free to re-post your own questionnaire and comment the link to your site below.

Happy answering, fellow bibliophiles!

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The Ways I ‘Became’: 2016 in Books

To ask “What are you reading?” is essentially to ask “How are you becoming? …changing?” since everything we read affects us or our world view in some way or another. While I inherently disagree with those who feel some books should be banned, I will always understand and relate to the reality that books change people. Books offer us new circumstances, ways in which to empathize with those unlike ourselves, and teach us simply the ways that we can be. Stack Of Books

In 2016 I have become something else from 2015, and it from the year previous. I have learned the ways of many things, people, and places. While I don’t claim to read all classic literature, canonic literature, or even current New York Times bestsellers, I do know I am better for everything I have read. Here are some of the ways in which I’ve changed this year, and some suggestions for ways in which you might consider seeing how they can change you.

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What to Get Your Bookish Friends

Do you know someone bookish? Does he like the company of literature more than the company of others? Does she enjoy the library more than the mall? Can he spend HOURS in a book shop (both commercial and independent) without taking a bathroom break? Do you need last minute gift ideas for a nerdy person you’ve met once or twice, a teacher, your wife?!

Take heart! I have some gift ideas for you. If you don’t want to settle for picking out a book you know they’ll love and writing a lovely inscription, then I guess I can be forced to come up with a few material item suggestions. I’ll start with small, less expensive items and work my way up, pending your monetary allegiance to said person. (We can’t ALL blow our checking accounts on Christmas, after all. Even if we’d like to.)

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A Visit with Lois

“Time goes on, and your life is still there, and you have to live it. After a while you remember the good things more often than the bad. Then, gradually, the empty silent parts of you fill up with sounds of talking and laughter again, and the jagged edges of sadness are softened by memories.” –Summer to Die, Lois Lowry

Here’s the thing. Teaching can get boring. Professionalism, the constant yoke of academia, can get old. Sometimes it’s nice to take students to an event and just have fun, even if that fun needs to be central to school in some way.

So Lois Lowry came to a neighboring town and my speech class all wanted to get sushi and drink coffee and listen to her talk. So we went! We had a great dinner, enjoyed discussion and non-school related time with one another. We even held back the urge to scream out “WHY DIDN’T YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?!” when remembering the end of the novella The Giver, our post-middle school brains still raw from the memory of the cliff-hanger ending.

Imagine students’ surprise (and my lack thereof) that her lecture was incredibly meaningful.

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