Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “teachers”

A Librarian/Teacher View on #metoo


Image: Etsy.com (vintage book cover)


Although I am a bonafide English teacher, I remain a librarian at heart and keep an invested interest in matters of school and public libraries. This month’s School Library Journal ran an article on how the #metoo movement has affected the juvenile literature world with the news of authors Jay Asher, James Dashner, and Sherman Alexie’s admissions and accusations. One result of these disclosures is for many librarians to contemplate whether the books of these authors should be pulled from shelves. Bill Cosby’s Little Bill picture book series is part of this conversation.

Banning, censoring–controversial terms that create a myriad of reactions. When books or the authors of books come into question, often the reaction is to pull, box up, and cleanse in the name of protecting young minds and upholding values. This is can become problematic.

At the public library level the response I usually observed was to ride the tide–if patrons objected to the material they had the option of not checking it out. Simple and neat. As one librarian noted: considering Hitler’s atrocities against humans should Mein Kampf remain on the shelf? If you don’t want to read hi as book, then don’t.

Somehow this philosophy of ignore and move on changes when it comes to material found on school library shelves. Social commentary and opinion frequently challenge books based on content, as To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Fahrenheit 451 and other novels fall under scrutiny depending on public mood and cultural times. Yet, this new round of challenging is based on the behavior and actions of the authors, not the content of their books. Their objectionable behavior is in question, as rightly it should be, especially in these times of sensitivity upon the rights of individuals. Young readers aren’t necessarily going to be politically minded when they go to select a book to read. But their parents often are. 

I find it interesting that distance tends to soften outrage. Charles Dickens led two lives, all the while perpetuating Victorian values of domestic happiness, yet we embrace his books and promote them in our literature courses. Oscar Wilde was jailed for his preferences, and his books are not abandoned. Ernest Hemingway, well-known for his womanizing, is still part of the recommended literary canon. 

For me, as a teacher with a librarian’s directives, who is also a writer, I am reflecting on the responsibility I have as I recommend books to my students and as I write them. The #metoo movement, as it drifts over to the literary world, is certainly setting up a new awareness of the impact of words. 

What are reader thoughts on pulling books from shelves in light of the conduct of the authors?

In Between Aah Weekend


As I sit in my lounger recuperating from a week of giving finals, grading essays, posting grades, and planning next quarter’s lesson, I take a moment to breathe an “Aah.”

The weekend in between semesters is rather delectable. Finally–no papers to read and grade and no last minute adjustments to lesson plans. I embrace the leisurely weekend ahead. A good book to indulge in. A nice nap to appreciate. Maybe some shopping. No guilt. I am in between semesters and there is that hint of June frisking in the distance, even as snow falls.

Any other teachers out there feeling that in between “aah”?

Or maybe you’re a student feeling the same way.

Hoping you all have some “aah” time before Monday.

Reader Round Up


As I prime for lots of unfettered summer reading I’ve been able to start my freed-from-grading daze with a few truly amazing books, an eclectic mix of non-fiction and novels.


First up is an Audrey book. I’m not much for reading full-blown biographies because they often reveal aspects of the person which might change my comfortable opinion. So when I spied this petite photo biography about Audrey Hepburn and her style relationship with Givenchy, how could I refuse when it practically hopped into my library book bag? If you are an Audrey fan, this is a must read.


This title was circled as a “want to read” selection in my Book Page circular. Be Frank with Me almost falls into “seen this before” trope of precocious kid, odd famous parent, and the Mary Poppins who is hired to bring order to chaos. Surprisingly, I ended up really enjoying this fast read. One reason is it has that forties comedy film feel to it with its madcap, impossible hijinks, situations, and characters. I simply accepted the break in versimilitude and let the show roll.


Yet another DE Stevenson. My list of her forty or so published titles is rapidly approaching completed unless her granddaughter finds more manuscripts in the attic. This one is post-war Britain and has Young Mrs Savage dealing with widowhood and four children all under the age of eight, and she’s not even thirty yet. There’s mystery, a variety of suitors, and delightful Scottish pluck and scenery. There is even a snarky set of villianesses to boo at.  I also adore the old school cover art.


Another non-fiction involved a flashback to my past, all the way to 1962 and the Seattle World’s Fair. Being a young thing then, the memories are a bit sketchy, so I definitely added this coffee-table photo historical to my checkouts.I reveled in forgotten exhibits, vendors, and magic moments of the fair. There is also that behind-the-scenes info the feeds my  craving for trivia snacking. Seattle remains a top fave for favorite cities, in case anyone is doing a poll. It’s such a unique, iconic landmark and I have some of the best family memories involving that futuristic trademark of the Emerald City. 

As of Monday afternoon I shall be released from the classroom and will gladly kick into summer vacation mode. Woo hoo!

Any other teachers out there ready to get their summer on?

Labor Intensive Days


Well, those laid-back, lazy days of summer break get stowed away with my white shoes after September 2. (Yes, I know I’m showing my age by my stodgy self-imposed fashionista rule).

White shoes for summer

September whites still a no-no? image: theclothingmenu.com

 

What I don’t like about the first day of school:

  • Trying to get through the name rosters without totally slicing and dicing the pronunciation.
  • Going over classroom expectations because even though I need to, I doubt anyone is seriously listening to yet another teacher reeling off the rule spiel.
  • Fretting over what I’m wearing. Hair and wardrobe malfunctions do not create good first impressions.
  • Trying to reason with my stomach that grazing days are done for now, and to please hush it’s malcontent state. Especially since our hallway is slated for second lunch this year.
  • How tired I am at the end of the day. Remember the Barbie clip in Toy Story? Yep, that “it’s exhausting being that up and happy feeling” really does slam a person.
  •  My feet hurt. Stylish shoes still rule over sense. I doubt I will rock Reeboks to school.
  • Timing bathroom breaks. And no, my classroom is not even close to the staff rest rooms. I have line up with everyone else. On the other hand, I do get to hear some unexpected choice bits while stalled for time.
  • Dreading that stage fright feeling of “am I gonna bomb or be the bomb?” Really, it’s like running a three show routine with three different audiences. Are they going to get my jokes? Do they respond in the right places? I commiserate with ever Saturday Night Live host about this time of year.

But the cool thing about September is that I do get to go back to school.

  •  There’s that excited buzz of the new as everyone returns to the hive of learning.
  •  What about the opportunity of “clean slate”–never mind last year, this year is gonna be even better.
  •  New clothes! I took advantage of Coldwater Creek closeouts this year.
  • Renewing and forming friendships among staff. “Old and new faces sharing spaces.”
  • Trying out new ideas on old curriculum. “I can’t wait to release this new perspective of Beowulf.”
  •  Schedule–I like a well-ordered life and getting back into a routine makes me humm like a happy llama.

What are your back-to-school thoughts? What side of the desk are you on?

Just Another Smalltown Fourth of July


 

small-town-parade

image: writeonnewjersey.com. I don’t live in New Jersey, but a small town parade sings across America

Another perk of living in a small town is the Fourth of July celebration. The day starts off with the town parade. It starts at 9 am, rain or shine, and concludes around 10 am, depending on where you are sitting. There are options with this  parade: watch or participate. I’ve done both several times. Both forms are fun. The past couple of years though, watching is much more my style.

In the past, I’ve hauled the kids and bikes to participate in our church’s parade theme entry. I think that year was patriotic. We dressed up in red, white, and blue and I attached the tandem bike trailer so the youngest progeny could ride with his mum. Flag waving, crepe paper streaming, and cycling along made for a great Kodak moment.

Another time (actually a couple of times) I marched with a group of teachers with our signs signifying our thanks to the community. I am blessed to live in a school district where parents and the school board actually love teachers. When I march along with my compadres I usually bring along my bubble wands and make a spectacle of myself. True, I am not the usual English teacher.

After the parade it’s breaking out the BBQ. Past years involve family or church get togethers. Since we are now empty-nesters and the chickadees have flown, a twosome BBQ just doesn’t hold the fun factor like a full out group gaggle. And we admittedly have become rather hermitish in our ways and avoid the big organized ta-dos. I do try to make a special supper, even if it means hauling the plates outside to eat al fresco.

I do love a good pyrotechnics extravaganza so I drag the MEPA out at night for the fireworks down at the beach. Looonnngg ago we would grab our blanket, chairs, and snacks and huddle with our group among the masses. Now as E-nesters we skulk among the secret backsides of buildings and empty lots to feast on the fireworks from afar so we can scoot out before the crowd disperses. The fireworks traffic tangle afterwards always lasts twice as long as the show so making a clean getaway involves strategy.

Somehow once the Fourth of July hits it seems like summer has really begun.

How about y’all? What are your memorable aspects for the Fourth?

The Fiction of Common Core


  • image: Pinterest.com

Common Core State Standards may or may not rock your world, but it has affected you in someway if you are any of the following:

  • Educator
  • Parent
  • Writer

As an educator it has already affected your world. I’m not going there at this time. I feel your pain, and rejoice in your triumphs as we plod our way through this new-to-us (for the most part) curriculum.

As a parent it will affect your kidz education. In a good way. For the most part. Trust me, the CCSS is not as bad as you’ve heard. The main aspect of Common Core is getting our students to understand their world better through the development of critical thinking skills. A very good thing.

As a writer, I’m not sure how it will affect you. That depends if you write fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is getting the big focus in the CCSS makeover. If you think about it, most of what we read is non-fiction, ranging from the back of the Cheerios box to the science textbook to the summons to appear in traffic court. Learning how to break down the text, to synthesize it, paraphrase it, and process the information is indeed an important skill, one needed to be successful in this crazy info-laden world of ours. And yet And yet, we need to feed our minds with the language of fiction as well.  That’s where you come in as a writer of fiction.

You might have heard the doomsayers extolling the death of fiction by the hands of those horrible, terrible, no-good eduniks who dreamt up the CCSS curriculum. Meh. Don’t let them worry you. Keep writing about neverlands, tomorrows, pasts, and todays.  Here’s why: there are specific standard built around students reading fiction, specifically stories, fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures (ELA Standard RL 3.2) Common Core comes down to caring about  how students develop their critical thinking skills, instead of focusing on the content. Teachers can switch up the reading offerings as long as the material meets the standards–at least that’s what we are doing in our district.

  • image: teacherscount.wordpress.com

In fact, to be fair, much of the past English reading/language curriculums dwelt heavily on fiction selections. As in most paradigm shifts, we are now swinging towards the other direction. Non-fiction is now going to be more in the spotlight as  a result. It will all balance out, but give a couple of years at least. After all, skirts have risen and fallen with the times, and so shall reading content in the classroom.

The Wanders of Spillchick


Various flavours of gelato

Various flavours of gelato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second Friday of the new school new year.  And I’m  heading downtown for a gelato–not because I need the endorphin boost, it’s cause for celebration.  It’s basically two weeks into the new year and I’ve decided I still like teaching, even though I have five sections of freshmen instead of the usually two or three.

One thing that does amaze me is the first batch of papers I receive from my freshies.  I encourage them to type because 1) it’s easier to read and 2) they can plug in spell-check and grammar-check.  But do they?  Mmmm, not really.

Here are some true-life examples.

* Names have been withheld in case my students have figured out this is my blog and I end up as a Yahoo News item blurb.

Some of the activities I like do out side of school are skiing, golf, and lacrosse.

My biggest influence would be my dad. He has Ben that for years!

So I would have to say my favorite subject is Band or Jazz Band, it in cooperates gratis faction and challenges.

Shakespeare influenced me because of this plays, it helps me know that even people who started out as regular people can make history.

I don’t want to pick on them too much because I know they are still learning. And I know I make mistakes as well.  My AP students caught this doozy the other day.

Typing is NOT an option. Times Standard or Ariel, 12 font.

Okay, I meant “is not optional”–they gave me the sidewise eye on that one. (“You mean you don’t want the essays typed?”)

Here is the revision: “Typing is NOT an optional.”

Yes, it’s Friday. I need a gelato.

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