Showing posts with label back to school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label back to school. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

10 Books That Should Be Taught In Schools

Today my husband begins his tenth year as a high school English teacher. Three years ago I finished twelve years teaching in that same high school. It should come as no surprise then, that many of our conversations center themselves around what's going on in school, what should be going on in school and, after nearly every new read, there is a discussion about books that should be taught in schools. My poor husband has to deal with my pleas to bring new books to his department on a near weekly basis.

I am happy to say that sometimes it works! Many books I have recommended have made their way to the school's summer reading list (meaning I am not the only one recommending them), however, more need to be shared in a classroom. That being said, with the rolling out of the Core Curriculum this year, I fear many of these recommendations will begin to fall on deaf ears as there will be a shift toward more expository text. Even so, I won't give up! Here are my

10 Books That Should Be Taught In Schools

1. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I still can't believe I don't own this book for all of the love I have for it. I read this book a couple of years ago and instantly wished I was back in the classroom.  The educational potential of this book is unbounded. As I read I thought of so many ways I could have discussed the book in my Mathematics and Statistics classrooms. I thought of my colleagues that teach History and Political Science. Forget about the Computer classes! This book is built for debates, conversations and question ones beliefs. This book should be read in schools and discussed. Without question it is first on my list.  (my review)

2. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

Throughout my entire reading of Escape from Camp 14 I was harassing my husband about its in-class potential. This is one book that it also Common Core friendly, as it retells the tale of a true survivor of the North Korean work camps. Books about the Holocaust and the concentration camps are always very popular in schools - and I am not necessarily suggesting that they are replaced - this book offers a modern-day equivalent of those horrors happening in our world today. Students need to be aware of what is going on in the world today as they begin to think about what kinds of lives they want to leave and what kind of impact they wish to make in our world. (my review)

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This is a choice that is purely for the fun of it. Teachers are always looking for high-interest readings. I can't think of a book that is more high-interest to the nerd-generation than this one. Of course, I think this might be a pipe-dream, because I don't know if it has broad enough appeal to engage the entire classroom.

4. Little White Duck by Na Liu

This is a graphic novel with some Core Curriculum appeal. It is a memoir of a little girl growing up in China. It is an incredibly quick read and I think it would be a great supplement to any teaaching about China's history, or alongside a novel with ties to Chinese culture.

5. Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila

This graphic novel might be more appropriate for middle school than the high school crowd I am typically thinking of, but its message is so important that I think it would serve us all really well if it could find its way into our classrooms. This is a book about a kid learning about the consequences of her purchases and making the shift into activism in a way that is appropriate for a child her age. (my review)

6. Last Survivors Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer

First of all, I discovered that there is now a FOURTH BOOK IN THIS SERIES while at the bookstore this weekend. I am so excited. This series is a fictional series where the moon gets knocked too close to Earth, therefore changing the weather patterns and entire environmental landscape of our planet. Each book is told from a different point of view. Why do I think this book should be taught in schools? Simple: it builds a huge appreciation for all of the conveniences we live with day in and day out. (my post on the first three survival stories)

7. Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger

To be honest, I am not sure if this will have the same in school impact as it would have when I first read it. At that time, nearly every kid in the school building had read Harry Potter multiple times. This book dissects the story and show us, as the subtitle promises "the great books behind the Hogwarts adventures." I think reading this book could entice students who were major Potterheads to start to explore the classics that inspired it.

8. The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

It is four simple rules for peaceful living. It's a quick read. Everyone should read it, so why not just read it in school.

9. Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin

I love animals. They deserve our respect and our protection when necessary. In Temple Grandin's book we are shown how to read animal emotions to ensure that we provide them with the safe and engaging life. Pair that with the fact that Temple Grandin is one of the most fascinating people on the planet and I say that there is just so much to learn from this book!

10. Skinny by Donna Cooper

Body image is such an issue for teens. This book deals with it head on as our protagonist battles with her own internal voice that tears her to pieces on a daily basis. I think this book can be a very important one for many students. (my review)

This post is in response to this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. If you want to participate, write your post on the 10 books you think should be taught in school and add the link to the list!

In the meantime, what do you think about my list? Should any of these books be kicked off my list? Is there a book you have seen me write about that you can't believe is not here (I forgot a bunch, I think)? Finally, what was your favorite book that you read in school?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - All the Finish Lines in Sight

Happy happy hump day! It's, once again, time for me to bring you all up to date with What's Up Wednesday brought to me by Jaime Morrow.

What I'm Reading

First of all, as I am typing this I am listening to the final chapters of The Cuckoo's Calling. I need to know what happens. If I wait until after it is over to blog, then my post will be super late, so, instead I am multi-tasking (we'll see how long that lasts).

I am also reading City of Bones because the movie comes out TODAY and I haven't finished the book yet. When I realized this yesterday (at around 11:30 pm) I was on page 50. I am now on page 172. It's a fast read, but I don't think I'll be ready to see the movie tonight. It may have to wait (especially since I am audiobook-ing right now!).

Thirdly, last night my husband bought me the book I was reading in the Barnes & Noble Cafe - The True Secret of Writing. I loved Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, so I am really looking forward to finishing this one as well.

What I'm Writing

I have two goals for the writing week ahead.

1. Complete my writing group's take-home prompt. I have a writing group meeting on Saturday, so I'd like to participate in this week's take-home writing prompt. It has a minimum word count of 300 words, so I should be able to do that without a problem.

2. Write one story about my father from my own experience. If you read my last week's What's Up Wednesday, then you know about the new project I have taken on to write a book about my father for my brother. I reached out to family and friends for their input, but now it is time that I start collecting my own thoughts!!

What Inspires Me Right Now

Back to school!!! 'Tis the season for creativity for me!

For twelve years these were the weeks that I was brimming with excitement, with potential and brilliant, glorious plans! Nothing could ever get me down as I was preparing for a brand new school year and, even though this will be the third back to school season that will start without me in the classroom, still nothing can wash away the wonder. 

What Else I'm Up To

As the title of this post implies, all of the finish lines are in sight. This Sunday is the end of my husband's Master degree. This has been a long journey, partially due to my own sickness, so it will be a relief when it is done. And, as we have been putting the final touches on that work, I received news of another long sought out finish line in the mail. My (repeatedly postponed) disability hearing has a new date: September 12th. This is it. They can't postpone again, my application was filed in May 2011, so now they are up against a deadline - a decision must be made by the end of this September!

Then, in a completely random twist, my husband decided to scare the hell out of me last night with a prehistoric feature, so I recorded it for youtube:

How's your week and Wednesday going?
What awesome reads are you immersed in this week?
Are you inspired by the beginning of the school year?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Guest Post: What if Students Were Paid to Go to School?

I was pleasantly surprised this week when my Facebook Inbox contained a message from one of my former high school students, Jackie. After being a super star student for me, Jackie went on to Fordham University where she studied Business Administration. She's out in the working world now putting that fabulous degree to work! In her down time, Jackie has been following Rivera Runs Through It and has been wanting to chime in on the big What If questions each week. This week she finally did it! Here is her first contribution to our conversation with her answer to:

Ok, so I feel like I should respond to this as I would with a school assignment (insert 'right out of college' comment here).

What if you were [paid to go to school]?
If I was paid to go to school I really wonder if I would've turned out differently. Would I have been so pressured to do well and profit from it, that I would've completely lost my mind? It's like when people allude to "becoming the job", where it's no longer something you want to do but something you feel that you HAVE to. Kids might begin to dislike (a.k.a. despise) school just like some adults dislike work. It might take the competition and drive out of school, therefore making everyone average, and no one above or exceeding average.*
Is there a particular grade or subject that you think that would have made sense for?
Pre-K... because the kids have no idea what's going on and their parents would probably enjoy the profit from their children's imagination. Aside from that, I don't think that this would work.*
Do you think this idea is ridiculous all together?
No, like most things, I would completely agree that this would've been plausible and even enjoyable at some point in time. However, I don't think it'd work in the present. (See reasoning above)
Should students be paid based on merit (in other words, only get paid if they attain a certain grade or level of achievement)?
I would love to say YES!, but, that still wouldn't work. Today, if you do well in school, you are rewarded with the acceptance to a great college and a scholarship in some cases. This would be the same thing. People would strive for a while but eventually everyone would fall back into the Below, Approaching, Meets, and Exceeds expectations.
What kind of culture do you think would be created by paying students?
I really like this question because this could bring about a culture that makes hard work and reward innate in students from the beginning. However, my reasoning in the previous question still stands. No matter how many rewards there are, students/people (maybe not the same ones), but people in general will still fall below expectations.

This post is written as part of the What IF? Project hosted here on the Rivera Runs Through It Blog

I would like to thank Jackie for giving me permission to share her response with you!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paid for School: My Thoughts As a Teacher

When you are in front of the room with a lesson in hand, questions ready, poignant points to preach and waiting anxiously for, more than anything else, questions, conversations and discussions from and with your students about the topic at hand, nothing, I mean nothing, is more heartbreaking than empty seats. The battle is lost before it has even begun. The occupant of that seat will miss this lesson, you, as a teacher, will miss one more day to get to know them better as a student and as a person.

How do we fix this problem?
  • We call home.
  • We call their cell phones (if they were silly enough to give us the numbers!)
  • We make attendance part of the grading policy.
  • We make attendance part of the school's policy, the district's policy.
  • We send letters.
  • We send people from the school to the home.
  • We have truancy officers patrolling outside the school and in the neighborhood.
  • We walk the hallways during our free periods.
  • We publicly congratulate those with perfect attendance.
  • We send e-mails.
  • We put our attendance online for parents to access.
We do a lot more. Yet, some seats remain empty. For this reason, teachers and education professionals as a whole are open to suggestions. This is why I am not surprised AT ALL by the program presented in Camden, NJ this year called ICE-T ("I Can End Truancy") which is using a state grant to pay a small group of students (I have read 66 students) $100 on September 30th if they attend every day of school until then as well as an anger-management course. Is this THE solution? Probably not, but it might be one solution.

Here's the thing, we talk about students en masse as if they are all the same, all to be treated the same way, all motivated by the same things and all coming from the same environment, but they ARE NOT. You were a student once (maybe you still are), are you exactly the same as every other person you went to school with? Did you all perceive school the same way? Did you all enjoy the same successes in the same classes? I don't even know who you are thinking about right now and I know the answer is NO.

Some people are intrinsically motivated, not requiring any kind of outside input to want to learn, get good grades, be at school, or be active in the school community. Most others require some sort of extrinsic motivation, whether it be positive or negative, to do the same things. The types of extrinsic motivation also vary from parental pride/disappointment, grades/college choice, scholarships, money or social status (just to name a few!). I think these are just the facts. And I do believe that there is a portion of the population that could be positively motivated by being paid to go to school.

I understand the dissent expressed by many that paid students may get used to a "handout" mentality, or that students may feel that they are entitled to some sort of payment for their schooling, however, I have two over-arching issues in my mind that argue those down:
  1. The money should not be "free"and the value of the education must be appreciated by ALL. Valuable learning outweighs monetary bonuses in the long-run. While students are motivated by this little carrot, they should be exposed to the best program available. There should be evidence of the greater gain that they can continue to appreciate if they invest themselves in their education.
  2. Sometimes being motivated by money says more than "I like handouts." A student motivated by money may really be saying, "I'm hungry," or "I'm tired" or "I didn't think I could help my family by going to school." I've lost the battle with too many students over the years that chose the workforce over the classroom simply because their family needed it. Good students. Students that I could have long and difficult conversations about their life as it spread out before them conflicted with the reality of their TODAY. If such a grant existed for these students... If my students didn't have to choose between putting off their own education until their younger siblings were grown up enough to all hold part-time jobs together, rather than those of age splitting bills by working around the clock in jobs rather than careers.

SO... What IF Students Got Paid To Go To School?

Just like any other motivational tool, I think money would help with some students, hurt with others, make absolutely no difference with a select group, and ultimately fail if not implemented correctly and carefully. It can work if done correctly, if we can just find some wonderful source to fund it!
This post is written as part of the What IF? Project hosted here on the Rivera Runs Through It Blog. Each week a new "What if?" question is presented and I do my best to respond to the query.  You are invited to as well. This week's "What if?" was

What if students were paid to go to school?

 [I also answered this question from the perspective of a learner, to read that response, see Paid for School: My Experience As A Learner

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[UPDATED] Hot Topic Sales!!

'Tis the season to gear up with some new graphic tees, sneakers, denim, backpacks and more. My favorite place to do so? Hot Topic, of course! It's the place I run to when I'm looking for new Harry Potter apparel, t-shirts that express ME :) , fun and crazy socks, super cool wallets (right now I am rocking an awesome "I love Nerds" wallet from Hot Topic), or great deals on my CONVERSE!

Basically if you are looking for something fun to wear, to express your personality or support your favorite band, TV show, book, character or even thinking about going a little pop-retro, then check out Hot Topic and their latest sale going on until 9/3/11.

Here's the link:

If you act today, there's even FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS MADE ON AUGUST 24, 2011!
ONE DAY ONLY: Free Shipping on All Orders at - No minimum purchase necessary! Shop Now!


From Jansport and Yakpak to character themed backpacks, Hot Topic has quite a selection for the back to school-ers, so it is definitely worth checking out their backpack sale going on right now, if you haven't found your perfect fit!
Get $10 Off Select Backpacks at Jansport, Yak Pak + More - Shop Now!


However, my favorite sale of all, the one that I simply CAN NOT resist (I doubt you will be able to either) is the RETURN OF THE BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF T-SHIRT SALE!!! This starts tomorrow, so I am giving you a nice heads up to get your mouse-clicking hand ready for some seriously fun shopping! Awesomesauce.
Back for a Limited Time Only - Buy 1 Tee, Get the 2nd 50% Off, August 25th - 28th!

I hope you enjoy Hot Topic as much as I do. My love went so deep, I simply had to apply to be an affiliate and I am happy I have done so, this way I can spread the Hot Topic happiness on to you!