On Book Clubs

I finished my Book Club book today. It was one of those books that I would not have ever read, primarily because I had never heard of it and it has not ever popped up in front of me whilst perusing Amazon. And I peruse Amazon a lot! It was chosen by my Book Club last fall at a meeting I could not attend due to illness, so I wasn’t even in on the conversation about the book. When I looked the book up in preparation for buying it (I always buy my Book Club books, be it hard copy, digital copy, or (now at times) Audible edition) it struck me as a book I would like, but questioned if I would love it.

Well, I savored the last few chapters of that book. I did not want it to end. I had fallen in love. In love with the story, in love with the characters, in love with where the author took me! The book? I have already mentioned the title in an earlier post, the book is A Man Called Ove (pronounced Oova) by Fredrik Backman. I actually listened to it in my car each day on my way back and forth to work. And as the book came to a close I thought about how thankful I have been over these past 22 years for the amazing women (and one gentleman) I have shared books with!

Reading with a Book Club expands your mind. You read books you otherwise would not have chosen. You see things in books you otherwise would have missed. You push yourself to read more books in a time frame than you otherwise would have made time for. A Book Club has you always on the look out for the Club’s next great read. A Book Club gives you the words you could not find to describe what a book felt like while you were reading it. A Book Club encourages you to defend not just a book, but the choices its characters make as well as your opinion of the book’s value.

My Book Club has morphed over the years. Members have come and gone. The number of books we read has varied and the frequency of our meetings has waxed and waned. And all of that is ok! Somehow, we have managed to keep at it and to that I say, Bravo! I encourage everyone to at least consider forming or joining a Book Club. If you can be half as successful I feel I have been you will be glad you did!

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Egg Day, 2017

He’s back and that means Spring’s back! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the one and only Rodger! A tradition in Mrs. Scannell’s classroom for more than 30 years, standing an egg up on the first day of Spring.

Now, I know there is very little, to no, science behind the tradition. But that’s ok! The meaning of the word tradition, according to Dictionary.com is:

1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice
2. something that is handed down
3. a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting
4. a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices
5. a customary or characteristic method or manner
Truly this sums up the custom handed down year after year to each new iteration of ‘3-Scannell’ as a way of passing on my long-established practice! I learned the practice at my grandmother-in-laws elbow more than 35 years ago and have raised my classes on it ever since. Rodger was named about 5 years ago by a particularly humorous group of students. They named him after an egg on a Sponge Bob episode (everything I taught that year rolled back to a Sponge Bob episode). And so now with each spring comes the return of Rodger.
And now, it is my pleasure to introduce to you, Rodger 2017!
Rodger_2017
Presenting our 2017 First Day of Spring egg: Rodger!

 

Sunday

End of the week or beginning, let me think.

I’m finalizing weekly plans, beginning of the week-check.

Did my grocery shopping for the week, beginning-check.

Who has meetings, who can be home to feed the dogs, beginning-check.

Setting my alarm again, beginning-check.

Finished my laundry, ready for the week, beginning-check.

Filled up the gas tank, beginning-check.

Now wait a minute, laundry and gas? Didn’t I need to take care of them because it was the end of the week? Do they get priority because it’s the end or the beginning? Hmmm.

And that alarm I just set, definitely because of the beginning. Or is it because the weekend is over?

And where did those groceries go? I just bought them a week ago, right? Those lesson plans were needed because last week ended.

Just where does Sunday belong, what should I be feeling? Beginnings or endings.

Sunday, what would you like to be?

It’s My Story

Everything (I know, huge generalization!) we say, do and think is a result of our story. The more I live, observe, read, and think, the more I believe that this is something we can benefit from thinking about. That sullen little girl in the corner, she has a story. That loud, opinionated colleague, she has a story. That nervous boy who asks a million questions before he does anything, he has a story. That waitress with the ‘whatever’ attitude, she has a story. To ponder their stories is to get at, and possibly understand, their behavior.

Our stories are multi-layered. We have the story of our growing up. The story of our childhood challenges. The story of our school experiences. The story of where and how we fit in ‘the family’. The story of our early attempts at boyfriends, girlfriends, lovers, and spouses. The story of our secret wishes, devastating disappointments, inner desires, and hidden dreams. Our health stories. Our parenting stories or the story of how we never parented. The story of all those losses, who, when, why, where, how…

And don’t forget our short story! How did our day begin? What are we facing today, tomorrow, next week? What happened to us yesterday, last week? What are we dreading at this very moment or looking forward to? What disappointments are we dealing with? What struggles, goals, challenges, are on the top of our minds? What bad news have we just been delivered? We get up each day never knowing. Was today a day that lived up to our expectations or dashed them by the wayside?

In light of the story that underlies the face we present to the world each day it benefits each of us to do a few things. Make yourself aware of your story each day. Be sure the face you deliver to the world reflects as best as it can a face you want to be remembered by. Question the story behind the faces you meet. How could their story be the cause of the face you see and what can you do about that? What response can you give to a person in turmoil? How can you present yourself as a person who understands? How do you smile at the unsmiling? Allow time for the frazzled? Encourage the defeated?

You may not be able to make a huge difference, but at least your story will include the fact that you tried. And if you are wondering about my story, where did this post come from? What happened to me that made me write this post? It was a story! Yep, a good old book titled, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. It’s a curmudgeon’s story, you know, how he got that way. And it is sure to give you pause, long enough to consider the question; What is your story?

Watching Life Take It’s Shape

One thing I have learned is that life will happen the way it is going to happen whether we like it or not. Oh, we do sit in the driver’s seat, we command the accelerator, turning right, turning left, and we have the power to brake. But still, life is going to happen whether we like it or not. And sometimes we need to sort of sit back and watch how it shapes up and plays out.

Now this is counterintuitive to human nature. At least to most of us humans. We prefer to be in control, make choices, and choose our own paths. The funny thing that I have noticed though, is that we do exactly that, and then life continues to happen the way it is going to happen anyway.

Here’s an example. A young man has three dreams; to get a job, to own a home, and to have a girlfriend. He learns a trade and gets a job. He goes to work, saves his money, and buys a home. He meets a woman, brings her home, and has a girlfriend. The young man made those choices, he was in command, he chose some paths. But then there isn’t much work because the economy goes sour and worries begin to set in. His girlfriend gets a job but now that they are both working they are like two ships passing in the night. And his home, so full of promise, becomes an albatross around his neck. There are too many projects, too little money and very little time. Things look bleak, right?

Life had its way of happening whether it was what the young man chose or not.

The interesting thing is what happens next. Because no matter what life decides to throw at us, there are still our choices. But now they are based on what life has thrown at us rather than the plan we thought we had made. And whether we like it or not we now need to steer ourselves in a different direction, apply those brakes here and there and perhaps even put the pedal to the metal. And if we sit back once in a while and observe what life is doing with us, we can make some pretty good new decisions, decisions that will again put us on a path that we control.

So what about our young man? Well he finds a partner and begins a small business to see him through the tough times. He and his girlfriend begin to set aside time for each other, ‘date nights’ if you like. And the house is still his house, even if he can’t move forward on his big projects. Times will improve, life hands us that as well.

All in all, the choices we make really do keep us moving along this path called life. We just need to keep our eyes open for the possibilities waiting around the next bend.

 

Taking It To the Movies!

Today as I began to read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to my class I shared with them that Mr. Scannell and I were halfway through the first part of the last movie. We have been working our way through the movies before visiting Harry Potter World this April. Many of the children have watched the movies and/or read several of the books.

It was then that the murmurings began.

“Some of the movies get confusing,” spoke one.

“Yeah, I don’t always get what is going on,” added another.

“And they skip so much, it’s hard to figure it out,” a third replied.

That teachable moment had arrived!

“Boys and girls,” I intervened, “It sounds like you are having trouble following some of what is going on in the Harry Potter movies and books. Let’s talk about that for a minute.”

We then began a conversation we have had many times before; sometimes you are just not ready for a book. It is too grown up for you. And it is ok if you read it but you probably won’t get everything out of it that you will if you read it again when you are older. A lot of heads were nodding because we have discussed this often and they really do seem to get it.

Then a new thought dawned on me! All year we have been working on reading strategies to aid in the comprehension of the books they are reading. But they also need to use similar strategies when watching movies! Movies deliver a story in a whole new way. There are no captions or word bubbles telling us what a character is thinking , feeling, or planning to do. We need to gain that information from the actor’s performance. And it is up to the director to help the actor show us what we, the viewer, needs to understand! We depend on authors to show us what we need to know when we read a book but in a movie it is the director and the skill of the actor.

Well my class really seemed to grasp this idea! We related it to the way we read books, as if they are gold or as if we are an old curmudgeon. Movie watching requires a similar attitude. Do we just lay back and watch what is happening on the screen or do we sit up and pay attention to the story? They seemed to really be interested in trying this new idea, of applying their reading skills to the watching of movies.

And since it is the new “Beauty and the Beast” movie weekend, what better time than now to try!

 

On Books

A book: means you will always have something to do

A book: never judges

A book: feels like the beginning of an adventure

A book: delivers knowledge, ideas, dreams

A book: opens your mind

A book: gives movie makers their best ideas

A book: can enchant

A book: means you will always have something to do

A book: never grows old

A book: feels like an answer to all questions

A book: delivers wanderings, escape, understandings

A book: opens windows on the world

A book: gives bedtime a warm closure

A book: can enlighten

A book: means you will always have something to do.

An Hour Lost

Somewhere, in a book, I read a quote that has stayed with me. I stand on both sides of the quote, batting back and forth its worth and its folly. I am nearly positive I read it in “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell. I’ll need to do a little digging to be sure but for now that is the book I will go with. The quote went something like this:

“An hour wasted and lost in the morning will be chased all the rest of the day.”

Sad but true, don’t you think? And yet, is it really a sad truth or a myth, a fallacy, a cruel trick to make us feel guilty for an entire day! I’m not sure and that is why I bat it around in my head, all the time! I do, I think about this all the time. I feel proud of myself on days when I get up and get going right away, not leaving a moment idle. Not getting distracted. Not indulging…

And yet there are days when I say, “Be gone, disturbing thought! Be gone and let me tarry! (Hahaha, I guess I don’t actually think those words, but you get the idea.) Sometimes one just needs to be idle, distracted, and indulgent. And I think that is what snow days are for! They are bonus days. They can be spent catching up on anything you like, work, fun, idleness, distractions, indulgences…

And today was a snow day, and I don’t feel the need to chase an hour down. Even though I probably did dilly-dally away a bit of my morning today! And it was good!

When Monday Becomes Friday

Today was the strangest day. It was Monday (obviously, you say) yet it had the feel of a Friday. A storm is looming and all of New Jersey was under a Winter Storm Warning at the beginning of the school day.

Ok, been there, done that. But then the change came.

Blizzard Warning. Well this is different. And the snow totals! 18″, 24″, 30″

Wait a minute, this is New Jersey and it is March. We have already danced with 70 degree temperatures. This was the winter of one snow storm, one and only one. It gave us a snow day and that was fun and now we are done.

Think again, New Jersey! As the morning wore on it became clear that we were not going to be in school the next day. It stopped being a question. Even the children knew it. And yet there wasn’t that boiling over of behaviors that we see when a big weather event is brewing. It was a relatively calm day both inside and out.

It felt just like a Friday. There was that relieved Friday feeling of, “It’s Friday, I can manage anything.” And we all did just that. We walked through our Monday that felt like a Friday and made our plans for when we would see each other next. And that brings up our next question, when will we see each other again? Interestingly enough my colleagues were banking on a two day “weekend” but my class was leaning towards Wednesday as usual.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see! In any case, TGIF!

All Things Harry

I bought my first copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling after hearing about the book at a workshop called “Winners! The 100+ Best Books Published for Children”. Judy Freeman presents her list each year at all day workshops across the country. In this particular year (it must have been books from 1998 but I’m not sure) Judy absolutely gushed over this new book (Sorcerer’s Stone) and lamented the fact that the only reason it did not win the Newbery was because it was not written by an American author. Well, I was sold and promptly bought the book right there and then. The workshop is a very dangerous place, by the way, because all of the books are for sale on site, talk about instant gratification.

Well, I read the book and, no surprise here, fell instantly in love with the boy wizard. The book immediately became my number one read aloud in my third grade class. As a matter of fact, I have read The Sorcerer’s Stone every (except for one) year since. I start the book on the first school day and by the time I am finished reading it the children are HOOKED. They play Harry Potter on the playground, read the books over and over again, and simply become readers because of Harry. Parents have remarked to me over the years on the positive effect that book had on their child. I just smile because I know!

I chose to keep reading the book year after year for two reasons. First, because of what it becomes for my third graders. And second, because I feared Harry would disappear one day like so many other favorite characters and books. I felt like I was contributing in a small way to keeping him ‘alive’ in the eyes and minds of readers. I couldn’t bear the thought of the books ending up in every used book store, entire sets of the stories not loved, not wanted, not being read.

Man did I underestimate the wizardry of not Harry, but of the amazing J.K. Rowling! Harry is everywhere today. There are reissued sets of the Harry Potter series, there are ebooks (along with the enhanced ebooks for the iPad-the illustrations move!), there are Harry Potter ‘Pophead’ dolls, and of course the movies still remain popular. If you have been to Disney World you know Harry Potter World at Universal Studios is its closest rival. Recently an illustrated version of The Sorcerer’s Stone came out, followed by The Chamber of Secrets with Prisoner of Azkaban taking pre-orders as I write. Last year Rowling co-wrote a book, The Cursed Child, which became a huge success on the London stage. She also wrote a screenplay based on the author of one of the student textbooks, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’. The Pottermore website feeds the need as well as the Harry Potter Lego video games (both digital and actual).

My list is far from comprehensive but you get the idea. From one woman’s dream has sprung a seemingly never-ending fountain of wonders and amazement. I needn’t have worried about Harry, but I’m proud to have been a believer. My dog’s name is even Harry. So if you haven’t already, give Harry a try. He’s not everyone’s top choice, but he certainly is magical!