Friday, October 17, 2014

Lovely Lies

Believe it or not, I've never seen the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha." I don't know why this surprised friends of mine when I told them this recently, but it did. If you're wondering why the topic even came up, it's because when I was asked what I'm reading I told them Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Their first response was, "Didn't you see the movie?"

No. I didn't see the movie. Believe it or not, there are some movies I haven't seen. I especially avoid movies that were books first, to be honest. If I hear a movie is great, and find it was a book first, I go get the book. Books are always better because no director or actor or computer animation can come close to what my perfectly good brain conjures up when I read.

So, back to my current reading selection...

Actually, I just finished the novel. To be exact, I got up at three this morning...just so I could finish the book before I started my regular day. And, yes, I enjoyed it that much. I love the figurative language in the book. I also love that it's written as a first-person narrative. It is one of those books I have tabbed with several sticky notes to mark my favorite passages. I also find it to be quite a fascinating cultural and historical lesson.

When I closed the book at the end, I sat in my favorite reading chair and let it soak in. I smiled to myself and felt quite satisfied that it was a good read. I had enjoyed the characters, absorbed the surroundings the narrator had described throughout the book, and I was very glad I'd read the novel.

That feeling lasted a few precious moments...

And, then, although I wanted to fight it, my logical brain kicked in. My research brain gave a shout, too. Normally, this is something I like about myself, but just this once I wanted to let something go at face value,...but I wasn't able to do so. My brain just wouldn't allow it.

You see, I began making a connection between SO many similar stories. The first one that came to mind was the movie "Pretty Woman." I couldn't resist, I looked up the date of the movie - 1990. The date of the novel? 1997. While one is an American 'fractured fairy tale,' the Japanese one is too similar to ignore. It's simply set in a different country and a different time. Other than that, there really is no other differences worth mentioning.

I was tempted to hang on to what I was feeling, frustrated by a society that still tries to sell us a package of lies about what love and loyalty and 'happily ever after' should look like. I mean, if a prostitute and a geisha can find real love in this world, it shouldn't be that hard for everyone else, right? Yeah, right.

But I didn't. I didn't hang on to that feeling. I let it go...

While I know it's all lies, even I admit they're lovely ones. And, as long as I see them for what they are, there's no harm done if I indulge in little 'suspension of disbelief' now and then. Who wants to feast on a dose of reality all the time anyway? ;)

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Falling for Autumn

October in Blowing Rock, NC
October has always been my favorite month of the year! When I say that to other people, some think it's because my birthday is in October, but that isn't why...or...maybe it is? Maybe there is some genetic or cosmic reason why I have such a love for this time of year. Since I think it's possible to have been born a bibliophile, I suppose I should be willing to consider the possibility I was born to love October, as well. I mean, I love all the seasons for what makes each one unique, but autumn has been my favorite for as long as I can remember.

While I may live in Texas now, I was born and raised in North Carolina. Autumn in the Carolinas is the best! The leaves on the trees are vibrant colors of red, orange, yellow, and purple. As leaves turn brown and fall to the ground, they layer the earth with a carpet of sound and scent. There is no other sound like walking through leaves, and there is no other scent (no matter how hard the candle and deodorizer companies try) like walking through the woods on a clear, crisp, autumn day. If you want to enhance your autumn walk with some flavor, you should try eating a crunchy, sweet Gala apple as you enjoy your stroll. Mmmmm,...I'm sitting here grinning just thinking about it.

(Let's just pause here a moment to enjoy that thought...)

Yes, October is definitely my favorite month. I did mention, though, that I live in Texas now. There really isn't a true autumn season in the area I live in, at least, not like it is in the Carolinas. I'm not complaining, really. I love living in Texas. I just...miss autumn. This is why I always find my way to some place in the United States that has the season I long for at this time of year. You see, when my love can't come to me, then I must travel to meet my love somewhere else.

I'll let you know how my season hunt goes once I get a fix for my addiction. You see, while Texas was kind enough to give me lovely autumn weather this weekend (for which I am very grateful), and I have a delicious bag of Gala apples in the refrigerator, it just isn't the same. Getting a taste of what I want isn't the same thing as experiencing the whole delicious meal of sight and sound and touch. I still want to see some beautiful fall colors in big trees, and I long to put my feet in some crunchy leaves...

And no matter how many years go by, when this season rolls around, I will always, always, always want to look up at a Carolina blue sky framed in multi-colored leaves, take in a deep breath of crisp autumn air, hold out my arms to spin around, and giggle like a child, as I fall for autumn all over again.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Unexpected Blessings

Yesterday marked the end of the first six weeks grading period at my school. As teachers know, getting everything up and running at the beginning of the school year is rather hectic. You get new students that you have to learn what their needs are as quickly as possible. It's a busy time, an exciting time, you are getting to know your students, they are getting to know you and beginning to understand your expectations for them for the school year.

As this school year began, I was a bit overwhelmed by the expectations that were put on me. I looked at the broad range of different students I would be teaching and wondered how I was going to be able to do it all. As a literature and writing teacher, I feel the responsibility to make sure my students do well because reading and writing is a life skill. My students need these skills not only for their other classes, but for the rest of their lives. How well they are able to read and write will have a great bearing on their future. It's a responsibility I carry in my mind and heart every day.

I decided the best way to face the new challenges was to buckle down and charge in head first! I was overly organized, had clean and purged my classroom from the previous year, and made goals and promises to myself that I knew would be more work for me,...but would make my daily lessons flow better for my students. I've kept those goals and promises in front of me on days when I've been exhausted. I know I'm doing what is best for my students. What I didn't know was what a blessing I was going to receive from this broad range of students!

You see, my passion has always been for the struggling readers. I worry most about students who enter the sixth grade and can't read on a sixth grade level. It hinders all their academics. I have always volunteered to only teach the strugglers. Does this mean my standardized scores don't look like the teachers' scores who teach the Pre-AP or advanced classes? Of course,...but I don't teach for standardized scores. I teach to help children learn how to read and write well. I meet them at their level and work to help them catch-up with their peers.

This year, though, I have students on all levels, including two classes of Pre-AP students. I am enjoying learning things I could never have learned before because I focused solely on struggling readers. Every day, every lesson, is like a puzzle,...and I love puzzles. It's very interesting to take a lesson and see how many ways you can change it to meet the needs of the students. It's incredible to watch the different levels take different things from each lesson. Do the best answers or work always come from my Pre-AP students? No, actually, they don't. Sometimes they do, but they also come from my special education students and from my strugglers when they bridge a gap and come up with a deep connection to the text.

And you know what? No matter what type of learner makes that deep connection, I am amazed. Absolutely amazed! I love watching all their minds work as they reach to get to another level in their learning. For some of my students, they are reaching for a third grade level in a sixth grade class. For others, they are reaching for an eleventh grade level in a sixth grade class. I have to be able to see the level they are on and challenge them to go higher. It's exhilarating! Yes, it's exhausting, too,...but I go to bed every night with a smile on my face thinking about all my students.

I thought this year was going to be my most difficult, and I am finding that it is one of the greatest unexpected blessings I've ever received. I'm learning and growing with my students every day, and I love it! The more I learn, the harder I want to work. The harder I work for them, the harder I see them working for me. It's an incredible thing to experience on so many different levels.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I have the very best job in the world!