Saturday, January 31, 2009

February and Freedom

The focus of February is on the Faces of Freedom. The work of these hardworking and unrelenting people centered around the Underground Railroad. As I had planned the bulletin board, I realized that February was upon me. With February designated as Black History Month, I thought this aspect to Black History fit rather nicely.

Racing Odysseus

Have you ever thought of going back to school? Not for a degree necessarily, but just for the fun of it?

I love school. I love to learn. I love to be taught. I love to take a class. So I loved this book.

Roger H. Martin, president (at the time) of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia goes back to school as a freshman at the age of 61. Martin's sabbatical takes him to St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland (Check out the link to St. John's and observe their striking page banner. By clinking on an author's name, a notable quote from him will come up.)
Martin's journey resulted in Racing Odysseus.

One of Martin's intents of this unusual journey was to see how relevant a liberal arts education is to today's students. Besides vicariously sitting in on St. John's freshman seminar of Great Books, I benefited from Martin's realization of how those ancient truths written a millennium ago remain ageless and still applicable.

Along with attending freshman seminar, Martin was part of a crew team. I was not at all familiar with the terms associated with crew and gladly added words like coxswain, crew, and stroke to my vocabulary list. And as often happens (I assure my students that this always happens, to watch for it), that newest vocabulary word just learned will strangely pop up soon in some of the oddest places. Just as I'd learned what coxswain and stroke were, I came across them in a history book and on Jeopardy. I love it when this happens!

Martin mentions several faculty members throughout the book. One name stood out as if quite familiar to me: Eva Brann. I scoured my bookshelves the next morning, confident she authored a book I had. Yes, Eva Brann wrote Homeric Moments that has been in my collection for several years. I remember it as very readable and interesting.

A few flagged quotes:

"My own feeling is that in an era of increasing specialization and vocationalism, we still need the kind of generalists who founded our country more than two hundred years ago, people who have an appreciation for the complexities and interrelatedness of society, the courage to ask difficult and penetrating questions, and the inquisitiveness to seek intelligent and innovative answers. By allowing students to see how the principal areas of human knowledge in the natural and social sciences, in mathematics, and in the arts and humanities are related to one another, and by developing leadership skills in the environment of a residential campus, we prepare students to be our nation's leaders in business, politics and other professions."

"Even though the books we read in seminar are ancient, it is amazing how relevant virtually all of them are to modern society. They deal with universal and fundamental concepts of life, such as rage, death, and love, with which all of us can identify."

"Even though they are studying a classical curriculum featuring books that were written hundreds if not thousands of years ago, St. John's students, whether or not they are willing to admit it, are being given the tools and skills they will use for the rest of their lives. They are learning how to reason logically as well as morally, how to think critically and analytically, how to communicate clearly and effectively, and how to live as good citizens not only in our democracy, but also in an increasingly diverse global society. "

"[A]t St. John's the tutors are not necessarily considered the experts in the fields they teach. The text is the expert. The tutors just guide the conversation. Doing this well, of course, takes great humility. It means that a tutor might, from time to time, not completely understand a passage or a concept being discussed in seminar or lab. When this happens, the students and the tutor become partners in learning. It's not just a one-way street."

"I have always known that the best preparation for careers in our increasingly high-tech society is a liberal arts education. What I didn't fully appreciate until I came to St. John's is that a liberal arts education is with us forever....I discovered that I could read the great works of Homer, Plato, and Herodotus in ways that would give new meaning to my life."

Racing Odysseus gave me further confirmation that teaching and learning classically is both beneficial and downright enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress

My 7th graders and I finished reading The Pilgrim's Progress last week. Their end-of-book project was to design a map of Piligrim's journey.

To see a few of those maps (some are really good), hop over to Through the Ages.

Teacher Movies

Since school was closed today for inclement weather that didn't happen (again), I've spent a leisurely morning compiling my list of favorite teacher movies which are now posted in the sidebar below Visiting. The list is in no particular order, but the last one listed, The Marva Collins Story, helped to launch me on my current journey. That was twenty-eight years ago!

If you have favorite teacher movies, please post them in a comment. I'm always on the lookout for another one!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A haunting title...

read the book......... ................ watch the movie

The Devil's Arithmetic is a juvenile historical fiction about the Holocaust.
Do you get the meaning of the title now?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A dichotomy?

"Things don't ever get better unless you make them better."*


"The Lord will work it out."

Not trying to be arrogant, but how do you resolve these two?
Or are they unresolvable?
Can it only be one of these two?
Or can the latter be accomplished through the former?

* This quote is inscribed at the Kunte Kinte - Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Emperor's Club

"However much we stumble, it is a teacher's burden always to hope that with learning, a boy's character might be changed. And so the destiny of a man."

"Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever."

"Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be?"

"A worth of a life is not measured by a single success or a solitary failure."

"Follow the path; walk where the great men before you have walked."

The Emperor's Club

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Comfort Food

After such a stressful week (well, the stress is pretty much a normal condition, it seems), time for comfort food: books.

Don't books just make those cranky times easier and smooth out those rough spots? They do for me. Comfort food.

After bemoaning that I cannot seem to get through enough pages of the current book on my nightstand stack of many, it dawned on me that I do read more than those few pages at night. And I should just declare that fact right here!

Every morning I read from the ESV Literary Study Bible. You might be thinking why such a lofty-sounding name for a Bible?; besides any Bible will do. Ah, not so quick. For those who love words, for those who love English grammar, and for those who love the mix the Scripture with word construction, you would love this Bible. Yes, it is the same Bible as any other English translation, but the English Standard Version is my favorite above all. Coupled with the wonderful, wonderful notes of dear Leland Ryken and his son Phillip, this book enhances my morning time with the Scriptures greatly. I find myself reading the study notes and almost wishing that I could teach a Literary Survey of the Bible class just to use the notes! My current reading regime is a "trick" practiced by my good teacher-friend K. Read the Psalm for whatever the date is, add 30 and read that one, add 30 again for the next Psalm, etc., until you are through Psalms. You will read about five Psalms a day. For instance, today's reading is Psalm 14, 44, 74, 104, and 134. When you arrive at Psalm 119, you only read it, but in its entirety. I like this different approach right now.

Following my Scripture reading (unless I get too absorbed in the notes), I pick up the beautiful The Great Tradition and read a page or two slowly. With very limited time in the mornings, this is about all I can do before it is time for me to walk with Leslie.

After I get to school, I'm overrun with books and limited time. Juggling so many subjects, I often feel swept down a swift river almost out of control.

Starting out with my sixth graders, I read The Story of the World, Volume Two, (the Middle Ages) and King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table (Green). Arthur is going slowly and not one of my favorites. I do like the writing but not the story. Just not my cup of tea.

With the seventh graders I just finished Pilgrim's Progress in Today's English. Wonderful. A classic. After their maps of Christian's journey are turned in on Friday, we'll start Johnny Tremain next week to coordinate with our place in The Story of the World, Volume Three (Early Modern Times).

After lunch, the eighth graders and I are reading The Story of the World, Volume Four
(Late Modern Times). We are almost finished with Anne of Green Gables and must decide between The Jungle Book or Prince Caspian for our next book.

Later as I lay in bed struggling to keep the eyelids open, I manage to turn several pages of Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again. Light and interesting.

Then, it starts all over again.

When I consider the whole list, I'm moving right along. My personal reading list is really the only one I consider mine. Yet, reading is reading, right?

Pressing on...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A teachers's thought for the day

"You want to be the adult in some student's life

that they are afraid of disappointing."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009

A list: What I want to do

There are so many things I would like to do. Too many, in fact, to ever do them all. I constantly wish I had more time in the day just so I could do more.

Two things I miss the most since beginning regular work over a year ago: regular reading challenges and working jigsaw puzzles.

I am a picky jigsaw puzzle worker. Only puzzles that have historic content or will fit into the decor of my home ever make it into my shopping cart. I love Charles Wysocki puzzles, and they fit into our the rustic decor. I have puzzles on the Declaration of Independence, the signing of the Constitution, the solar system.

Why I like puzzles, I don't know. I also separate the frame from the rest and, at the same time, separate the colors or picture groups within the puzzle. This makes putting the puzzle together much quicker. I like 1000 piece-ers and have been known to put one together in one day. Of course, it was a long day!

Reading is another activity that I sorely miss. I know I moan and groan about this one a lot here. I loved making my yearly lists and then breaking them down into quarterly and then monthly lists. I loved the variety of topics I would make myself read from. Having blog-browsing time during these last two weeks, I've loved reading through the many year-of-reading wrapups and seeing enticing Oh-I-want-to-read-that-book posts. The U. S. Presidents Reading Project has whet my appetite back to making those reading lists. (Thanks, Sherry!)

I am surprised at how many people do not like to make lists. Of any kind. Now I cannot function well without a list. A number of years ago, I began making lists of books that I had read. Then I started making a books-I-plan-to-read list. Those lists helped me to focus. They gave me motivation to keep going.

My little list that I posted the other day ('09 Reading) is about the best I can do now. I hope I don't fall into the trap of reading only fiction because of long and tired days. If I can order my life better, maybe my reading life will be more profitable.

I am currently halfway through Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat and find myself turning the pages rather quickly. The book is not really about the library cat; it's about the librarian who found the cat and the history of the town of Spencer, Iowa. I'm sorry, but I really don't have any interest in the life of the woman who found the cat or the history of Spencer. So, I skip through the pages and read snatches about the cat. Tonight, I'm sure I'll reach the final page.

Vacation is ending, but I need more time. With everything (expected and unexpected) that has happened over the last two weeks, I have not finished the school preparations I wanted to. Today I will finish typing the review questions I planned for all three history classes. Maybe over the Easter break I will finish the entire books. I still have lesson plans (required to turn in every Monday) to complete for next week but no enthusiasm for anything school.

I'm tired and kind of out of sorts today. Especially when I see that overnight, the neighbors' roaming horde of big dogs turned over all our trashcans (again!) and spread the plunder throughout the yard. I've avoided the pickup task long enough. Time to put on my work gloves and clean it up.

Maybe when I come back in, I will have garnered the motivation to dash out some lesson plans, straighten my office area, and encourage myself with a nice list of books to read this year.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 - Wonder where the journey will lead?

This morning began with a hot cup of coffee in bed after sleeping later.

The coffee was so good. And it was so good to stretch out my legs and twist and turn after a good night's sleep. Not having a deadline to meet and a place to go ... I could get used to this! The conversation was good, too, particularly when we get so few days of leisure together now.

Today was different than they have been in the last year. Last night I readied the beginning stage of Hashbrown Quiche for this morning's brunch, then upon arising, began sausage gravy, biscuits, and fried apples, a several pots of coffee, saving one in a carafe, so we don't run out.

You see, today I made breakfast for our family. Everyone was home and off work. All four of them. Ashley, our oldest daughter (she had to work evenings last night so she could be off today) and her husband, our oldest son Luke, our youngest Joseph, and Soldier Girl.

Soldier Girl, who has been on a year's deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, is home. She has been in a few days....A big surprise because we thought she wouldn't be in until February or so.

Our table was crowded, the food was good, and the conversation fun, as usual. Afterward, the sisters went shopping. Tomorrow they go to get their hair done.

We are thankful for blessing this year, even the smallest ones.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Getting breakfast together and on the table is not an activity that I'm used to now. Years past, it was every day. Now, only a few times a year. For someone who details how long a task may take and plans around it, I didn't this time. At all. And it all fell together wonderfully. And on time.

My cooking has changed over the years. As the children were growing up, I made biscuits from scratch and fried sausage to make scratch gravy. Nowadays, I use frozen biscuits and sausage I've cooked, drained, rinsed, and frozen in quantities to simplify preparations. And, instead of making gravy from scratch, I now use pepper gravy mix (bought in bulk from Sam's and uses now grease) made by directions with only water and add the thawed sausage. It is just as good and much healthier.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have spent many minutes throughout this break from school thinking about school.

What will I do next school year?

Will I be offered another contract and sign it, thus staying where I am?

Will I apply to the Christian classical school I've always wanted to teach in?

Will I make changes necessary to avoid countless extra hours for all-things-school?

Will I learn to be content and not complacent without sacrificing integrity and industriousness?

These are just some of the questions that weigh on my mind, and there are no easy answers.

I anticipate a bit of a shake-up when school gets back in session for reasons I cannot say here. I hope it happens. It needs to.

The combination of all these and the addition of an adult daughter living here for the next few months will have another type of stress.

But stresses strengthen for the purpose of sanctifying.

And for one who makes detailed plans, not knowing the twists and turns of this next leg of the journey will need an extra measure of grace.

Pressing onward!