Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Synopsis from B&N: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

Okay, first of all I just have to say that I think I’ve spent my whole reading life confusing the Bronte sisters and their tales. I knew the plot of Jane Eyre before reading it. But I always ascribed said plot to Wuthering Heights…thinking I had read the latter (and own it) but not the former. But upon reading this book, I’ve found that I was wrong. And now I find myself trying to sort out if I’ve ever even read Wuthering Heights.

I really enjoyed this story. I appreciated Jane’s character and her depth of integrity. I did not like any of her male cousins and am glad the book ended happily.

Jane is a very spiritual, “do the right thing” girl. Temptation is there to lash out, to give in to her passions, etc. But at Lowood she learned to control those emotions and to act rationally and rightly. A part of me wondered if she lost a bit of herself in doing that, but in reflection I really don’t think so. She became a truer version of herself.

I think that Jane Eyre can give us all a deeper spiritual message and truth:

“I care for myself…I will respect myself. I will keep the laws given by God; sanctioned by man.
 I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”

I pray I can remember well remember her words the next time I face temptation. And to “plant my foot” in what I know to be true and right and good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Organized Teacher's Guide to Your First Year of Teaching - Steve Springer et al

Synopsis from B&N: Make your first year teaching a success! As a new teacher, you can be completely overwhelmed—feeling lost and not knowing where to start when you receive the keys for the first time. The Organized Teacher's Guide to Your First Year of Teaching will be your guide during these first few days and weeks and put you on the road to success. Featuring a series of lists, checklists, charts and diagrams, this handbook can be read quickly and referred to over and over. It includes a CD-ROM of all checklists and any matter that is reproducible.

I try to read one or two books of this ilk at the start of each school year. I usually pick up a few nuggets I can incorporate into my classroom, routines, or lessons.

The Organized Teacher’s Guide indicates on the cover that it’s “Perfect for teachers of grades K-8”. I would says definitely more K-3 and potentially some 4 & 5. I didn’t find much of use for my 7th/8th grade classroom. Although I guess if it were a self-contained room, some of the tips would be helpful.

So, in truth, I didn’t really read the book. I more scanned it. And, in honesty, I haven’t looked at the documents on the CD. So there might be something useful there yet. Most of the text was simply common sense, something you learn via student teaching, or tips not applicable to a middle school environment.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Schooled - Gordon Korman

Synopsis from B&N: Capricorn Cap Anderson has been homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain. When Rain is injured in a fall, Cap is forced to attend the local middle school. Although he knows a lot about Zen Buddhism, nothing has prepared him for the politics of public school.

I just read this book because we are going to be reading and discussing it with our Advisory classes this fall. So I figured I should probably read it and be familiar with it.

It was a quick read – even for a Juvenile Fiction novel.

Capricorn Anderson knows nothing of the world that he is suddenly thrust into. And he certainly knows nothing about the world of middle school. The cliques, the teasing, the protocol. However, he is such a truly genuine person. Which helps him a lot.

I thought that some of the characters truly represented middle school students whereas most were just caricatures to get a point across.

I’m interested to see what my 6th – 8th graders have to say about it. We’ll read chapters 1 & 2 next Tuesday.  I'll try to remember to update here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling

Synopsis from collectorz.com: Drawing from the oral storytelling traditions of India and Africa, Noble prizewinner Rudyard Kipling's vigorous, amusing tales offer imaginative answers to unanswered questions about animals and provide little pearls of wisdom. These classic tales, filled with playfully clever animals and people have entertained young and old alike for over a hundred years.

I don’t believe that I’ve ever read Kipling’s Just So Stories although I had certainly heard of them. So I figured it was high time to check them out.

Many of them address a “Best Beloved” in them – as if the stories are told orally. Which, really, I think would be the best avenue for the tales of how things came to be the way they are.

I found them amusing.

Tramp for the Lord - Corrie Ten Boom

Synopsis from BarnesandNoble.com: This is Corrie ten Boom's story: beginning where her profoundly moving bestseller ended, taking us on a uniquely thrilling tour to the nearest and farthest corners of the earth. She is a modest and simple woman who has seen and known a world few others could imagine; a survivor of Hitler's worst concentration camps and one of the most remarkable evangelists of our time.

When Corrie ten Boom was released from the concentration camp in Germany, she took with her a vision in her heart. A vision given to her by her sister who died in camp. A vision to be hope and work towards restoration and forgiveness…in Germany and around the world.

This is the story of “Tante Corrie” fulfilling that vision. With the help of God. The book provides various short vignettes of her travels and her speaking and her life. She is very real, showing where she in her humanness failed but God’s grace was redemptive.

Corrie ten Boom and her life are beyond inspiring. It leaves me asking God: what more do you have for me to do? I mean, if He can use a 70 and 80 year old woman to bring salvation to those around the world…surely He has something more for me. But perhaps I need to start with the small works He’s placed in front of me – and focus on doing them totally surrendered and with all my heart.

My only qualm with the book (and it’s a small one) is that my very left brained mind would have preferred for the antic dotes to be in chronological order. But even with them hodge podge, what an example to learn from!

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

Synopsis from barnesandnoble.com: Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God's gifts. It's only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we've always wanted ... a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved — by God.

This was a challenging book to read. But I had expected that. A friend (thanks, Shari!) told me about Ann Voskamp’s blog many months ago. So I knew that both her writing style and topics would be a challenge for me. Knowing that, I took a first pass at this book, One Thousand Gifts, and it was confirmed that it is one of those books that you need to read several times in order to get the full meaning and depth of it.

While I don’t necessarily agree with all of the deeper theology, I applaud the overall message. And feel compelled to undertake an attitude of gratitude more in my own life.

Ann began her journey with a challenge from a friend: record one thousand gifts, blessings, things to be thankful for. And in that she saw all the little things in her daily life – the sun glistening on soap bubbles, the flight of a bird – that really are gifts from God into our lives. But she also learned that to be truly thankful you need to be thankful in the bad as well as the good. What a lesson. Hard to hear…to understand…to do.

I am the first to admit I can be a bit of a complainer. It’s something I work on and struggle with due to my entire “realistic” (pessimistic?) outlook. In this book, Voskamp chronicles her own journey from complainer to thanks-giver. And is very real in it. It is not always easy. And at times she reverted to her old ways. And I think that’s how the journey will be for most of us. The key is to keep moving forward in the journey.