Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Whistling Season, Ivan Doig

Very intriguing read. Taking place in 1909-1910 in the rural Montana city of Marias Coulee from the perspective of a 13 year old boy, Paul. It tells of his life with his 2 younger brothers, the one room school house in which they learned and what happens when their father, a widower of about a year answers a newspaper solicitation for a housekeeper that reads "Can't cook but doesn't bite."

There were many facets and it was fairly intricate, but one part that stands out as an educator was a moment when one of the main characters, Morrie, who is a last minute fill in teacher (for which was vacated due to an elopement of the previously employed teacher), has a run in with one of the 8th graders' dad. The dad insists on pulling his son out, he's old enough now to not be required to go to school anymore. The helplessness you feel as a teacher when a parent is not on board with what is best for the students is enough to make you want to give up.

Also along the lines of education, 1910 is when The Standards were introduced. The beginning of standardized testing. The things the students were expected to know and be able to reiterate I believe seemed superior. A 7th grader required to write an essay on a luck of the draw topic; agronomy for example. Penmanship. Ha! No need for that now in the world we live in. But the fact that these tests weren't scheduled and barely announced "We will be sending an inspector at some future date" and with it the tests, therefore making it impossible to teach to the test. You just had to make sure the kids were learning. I can't imaging teaching grades 1-8 simultaneously. Although, in some cases, it's not very different from now. Teachers are expected to teach to the level of student learning no matter where that level is. There very well could be an 8th grader who reads at a 1st grade level and you have to teach him along with the kid next to him who reads at a 12th grade level. The one room schoolhouse definitely was taught by a different type of 'teacher', an artist I like to think.

The book is also riddled with secrets to be told and secrets to be kept. Some as blackmail. Some for the betterment of the quality of life. And others just for the element of joyous surprise.

There is also romance. Not the way most books handle it, but it's there. So there's a little something for everyone :-) I definitely enjoyed reading this slower paced but makes you think book.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welcome to your Child's Brain

So here's some non-fiction that caught my eye on the "new books" shelf in my library. There is enough humor and anecdotal narrative that makes this immensely more pleasurable to read than a text book. I have always been fascinated by the brain and how it works. I didn't pick this up to learn how to be a better parent, although it does explain a few things about why certain things "work" rather than others, which is helpful as a parent. It was my fascination with brains that drew me in. I feel like I know myself a little better too.

While non-fiction and full of large words and names of brain anatomy, this did NOT read like boring textbook. While not exactly a "page turner" (it took me a couple months to digest-well, I didn't have a lot of time to devote to it either), it wasn't dry either. There are enough vignettes and anecdotes to make it even more accessible to the lay man. I highly recommend this! And I will be looking forward to reading their other book, simply "Welcome to Your Brain" in the future.