Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Review: Schooled

I picked this book up quite by fluke recently and have to say it was a fun distraction for me! This book is published by Hyperion Books and is geared for the middle school crowd.

You might be asking yourself just HOW it fell into my hands? A couple of weeks ago, I was headed to the gym and looking for another book I am currently reading to while away the minutes on the ellipticle. I couldn't find the current title, so I picked this book up from a pile of potential reads that I've made for my DS 3 (an 8th grader).

I am really trying to "up" my knowledge of books for teens and tweens as I am excellent in the picture book arena, but seriously lacking the minute you move to chapter books.

Schooled is a book written about a 13 year-old boy, Capricorn Anderson, who has been raised by his Grandmother who is a hippie "stuck in the 60's". She is still living alone in a former commune and has home-schooled her grandson as she sheltered him from the world. The story takes place as she is injured and he's suddenly thrust into a local middle school and experiences total culture shock because his hippie lifestyle collides with that of eighth graders in 2007. It is a very realistic look into the culture and "pecking order" that exists for students in middle school and deals with bullying and peer pressure quite well.

Throughout the story is woven the important message of being true to yourself. Ultimately, I think you could sum up Cap Anderson (and this book) in one Beatles' song phrase: "All You Need Is Love".

(Note: I think this book is totally appropriate for kids who are mature fourth graders through middle school. It is definitely a fun read and may prepare them for what life is like in grades 6-8.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

They Announced It Today...

The reading series we're going to use for the next five years in our district was announced today. I think though, that the state of education almost demands that we define ourselves by the programs we teach. In our state, it is required that we use a program that is "Scientifically Based Reading Research." I always hate this time because I really would rather teach kids than programs. And I'd like to believe that every teacher in every classroom wants to do the same. But I don't.

And as much as I'd like to believe that every teacher (particularly at Elementary) would make educated instructional decisions for EACH and EVERY child in his or her classroom, the truth is some don't. So, in my opinion, we "idiot proof" those who choose not to think deeply about their students and individualize their instruction by giving them programs that require little, if any, decision-making. And by doing so, in some ways, we may water down those who used to trust their professional judgment.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate programs. I only hate it when we, as educators, move mindlessly through them like we believe that some publisher somewhere knows and understands the students who sit before us each and every day. There's nothing wrong with research or even most research-based programs. They are tools. Resources. They should be one of many things we have in our repertoire.

When I teach kids, I teach THEM. If it's with the program, great. If the program doesn't have what they need at a particular point in time, I find what they need. I make no apologies. I am their teacher. It's what I am paid to do.

What do you do when it comes to determining what materials and resources to use with your students?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I KNOW You're Out There...

I keep telling myself, "there ARE teacher bloggers out there" and I believe me! But the truth is, I spend more time honing and posting to my personal family blog than I do this one. If you want to find teachers, then you probably need to post more often, right?

So here I am.

It's time to begin again. I'm hoping to add more regularly as I share reflections from the education front. What's going on in my "school world"?

We are preparing for our state test, the FCAT. This means we will begin our seven week Saturday School for third through fifth graders. they have the "opportunity" to come for an additional three hours on Saturdays to hone their Math, Reading, Writing and Science skills and strategies.

Actually we really try and make it a "camp-like" atmosphere and take the boring work out of it. Most kids really do enjoy their time there.

Does it help? Since our scores go up each year and our kids are coming to us more deficits each year, I'd say it's an important piece of the puzzle. The key is that this is but ONE piece as there are so MANY ways we support kids and their learning.

So we're off to another test prep season. What's happening in your neck of the woods?