Friday, March 22, 2013

Teacher Feature: Ms. Ionta

What do you most like to read?  (this could be a literary genre, or a type of material, like blogs, magazines, etc.)
I most often lean toward fiction set in a historical period and/or incorporates mythology or legend. The historical period does not matter as much as the pull of the story, so I have enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl and its series by Philippa Gregory about England under the Tudors, The King Must Die and other novels of Mary Renault set in Ancient Greece, The Mists of Avalon and its series by Marion Zimmer Bradley about the legendary world of King Arthur, Merlin, and the priestesses of Avalon. The best part of this particular series is that Marion Zimmer Bradley tells the legends from the point of the view of the women in King Arthur’s life, all very exciting characters of their own (Bella Swan was not the first young woman to grapple with her own feminine power while acting as narrator!)

I do also enjoy non-fiction. I still feel accomplished if I read The New York Times “Week in Review” on Sundays (it was a class requirement when I was in High School; ironically, I sometimes get to read articles by a classmate and friend who was editor of our H.S. paper and made his dream of working for the Times come true).

I am often drawn to books about organizing anything from my time to my brain to my closet, such as Julie Morgenstern’s Time Management from the Inside Out or encourage me to look at life’s circumstances from another point of view, such as Kurtz and Ketcham’s The Spirituality of Imperfection

I enjoy biographies of people who have overcome truly debilitating circumstances, such as the doctor, Jerri Nielsen, who performed a biopsy on herself at the South Pole and discovered she had cancer (Icebound) or the widow, Lisa Beamer, who wrote a celebration of her husband Scott’s life and faith; Scott was one of the Americans who fought against hijackers on Flight 93 on 9/11 (Let’s Roll).

I enjoy both fiction (such as Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, and every conceivable Beauty and the Beast story) and non-fiction (scholarship by Mike Oliver, Tom Shakespeare, Lennard Davis, Sharon Snyder and the like) that deals with representations of disability in history, literature, art, or society.

And, last but not least, I read what my students tell me I “have to.” I figure I tell them what to read all year, they can return the favor once in a while.  I have read every Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games novel. Although I like to tease, I really did enjoy them!

Do you have a favorite book/author/publication?
Different stages of my life each have been marked by a different, favorite book read over and over again:  Right now, it would have to be Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, a story that reads like a cross between the work of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. In my college years, it was all about the drama, such as Shakespeare’s Othello and Euripides’ Bacchae (in the original Greek of course).
In my high school years, it was The Mists of Avalon (mentioned above) and The Firebrand (also by Marion Zimmer Bradley) in which the story of the Trojan War is told by the princess Cassandra. Cassandra’s curse is that she can foresee the future but no one will believe her. In middle school, S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye were like old friends I kept calling to visit.  And in elementary school, and probably even now, my favorite author was the poet Shel Siverstein, the creator of The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and many other great reads.

What's the last great thing you read?
I quite enjoyed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. The narrator is a little boy who demonstrates traits of Asperger’s Syndrome although he has never bee diagnosed. He is very bright and creative, but has terrible difficulty with social interactions. He copes with the sudden death of his father by taking on a mission that will lead him through every borough of New York City in search of a message he believes his father left for him. It is deeply moving, surprisingly funny, and utterly epic (and I say this as someone who has studied Homer and Vergil most of her life). And it reads like a love letter to the best city on the planet, New York, New York, my hometown.

Where do you most like to read?        Anywhere I can commit to staying awhile: lying down in bed, belted in on a plane, hunched over a table in a café or restaurant (especially if outside), plopped down on a blanket at the beach or in a park.

When you were in high school, did you like to read?  If so, what?  
My love affair with books goes back further than I can remember.  I would covet them and collect them… but not read them. I almost hated the act of reading in high school.  What I know now is that I was suffering from undiagnosed ADHD.  All I knew then was that I was often distracted when reading and felt enormous pressure to finish complicated, often depressing, books for class while keeping up the rest of my honors schedule. Reading for fun felt like a luxury I had to sacrifice to be a good student. I still need to fight off the feeling I am a bad teacher if I read for fun rather than grading on a weekend or an evening, but I am getting better at finding a balance.

What is your most hated book and why?
I despised Lord of the Flies by William Golding when I first read it in the seventh grade. Even then, I realized that I was just too young to appreciate it.  After all, where is the joy in reading about how a bunch of boys my age were left to survive on their own on an island and start turning on each other. In college, I picked it for a research paper because I wanted to give it another chance.  My paper (about how pigs and poop served as symbols of the decline of civilization) was published in a journal, so now all of my memories are good ones.
And I would like to second Mrs. Dawson on Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It was the shortest reading of the semester and I could not bring myself to finish it!

Book Spine Poetry: Mrs. Kent

Dance Dance Dance
Robin Hood
The Call of The Wild

Book Spine Poetry: Amanda Furlong

In the Time of the Butterflies,
Wise women,
Searched for meaning,
And considered Jesus,
As the God of Small Things

Friday, March 15, 2013

How To Use the QR Code Displays

I've been inspired by the AMAZING bulletin board in Ms. Tramontin's classroom.  If you haven't seen it yet, you really should.  Her display uses QR codes, which most of you will have seen in the corners of advertisements in magazines.  Normally, I'm not a fan of QR codes, since they are meant to tempt one into buying more, more, more (and I really don't need any more stuff!).  Ms. Tramontin harnessed this tool to create a display that links students to audio and video using a bar code scanner.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Ms. Tramontin should be feeling pretty good today.  I've created two Library displays that use QR codes too!

To use these bulletin boards (one in the Library, one in the Senior hallway), you'll need a smartphone.  Follow these directions to see what's in store for you in the Library.

1. Download one of the many, many FREE QR code scanners from your app store.  Per Ms. Tramontin's recommendation, I chose ShopSavvy's product.  It's free and it's fast.
2. Use the app to scan the QR codes on the bulletin boards.
3. Enjoy the videos.
4. Come check out the books!

Large-Scale Tile Sculpture: Haley Vanderford

Large-Scale Tile Sculpture: Elizabeth Rojas

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Nest of Readers

I think my favorite moment at FSHA so far happened just now when I walked in on this lovely scene.  Great girls reading great books in a great spot.  Blessed be the bean bags.

Teacher Feature: Mr. D'Mello

What do you most like to read?  (this could be a literary genre, or a type of material, like blogs, magazines, etc.)
My literary tastes constantly metamorphose. My reading swings between pure fictional novels (Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follet, John Grisham, Tom Clancy), to non-fiction (Isaac Asimov, Anita Diamant, Jack Kerouac), solid literature (re-reading the classics), widening out to newspaper and magazine articles (political, sports, entertainment, religion and spirituality, current topics), while also studying and analyzing poetry (classical down to contemporary). I additionally read books and journals on World Religions, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to update my teaching. In recent years I have been attracted to YA stories (J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer). But most of all, I get a huge thrill out of reading historical novels.

Do you have a favorite book/author/publication?
One of my favorite authors has been James Michener. Though some may call him “wordy” (his novels usually run through hundreds of pages each!), his writing style has captivated me. I am always blown away by the amount of historical research he puts into every one of his books. His stories center on characters and locations; they erupt in some obscure, unheard of place and end up in familiar territory. Beginning with a germ of an idea, his pages blossom into meticulously chosen words and delightful historical and fictional descriptions that keeps the reader asking for more.

What's the last great thing you read?
I just completed How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill – a story about how Europe evolved from classical Rome to the medieval era. Cahill is a clever writer who weaves his partisan story around the early Irish heroes: Queen Medb, the warrior Cuchulainn, Brigid of Kildare, and the Celtic slave (St.) Patricius among others.

Where do you most like to read?
I generally read in bed before falling asleep. I also read a lot on weekends, holidays and when traveling. Thanks to our digital age, I also plan on reading books online.

When you were in high school, did you like to read?  If so, what?  
From a very early age, my parents insisted that I read the daily newspaper. In high school I was a “reader” (kind of a book-nerd in today’s lingo); I would then share stories with my friends. I read all the books of Louis L’Amour (Western novels and movies thrill me), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes – I still enjoy the movies and TV shows). I gobbled most of Agatha Christie’s (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple) novels, the “Hardy Boys” and “Famous Five” series, and scores of other detective hardcovers – whose titles I do not remember. I devoured all the books of P.G. Wodehouse – re-reading his hilarious chronicles of Jeeves, Bertie and Blandings Castle still keep me in stitches! I grew up with British poetry and literature. I was later introduced to the prose of Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Steinbeck, and others… who whetted my reading appetite and led to me to graduate in literature.

What is your most hated book and why?
I do not know if I “hate” a book … or maybe I am just being naïve. Either way, if I start reading a book and it does not appeal to me, I simply put it aside and move on to the next. I must admit that science fiction generally does not engage me, nor does the goriness of the ghastly, ghostly, ghoulish genus!!!

But that does not deter me from sampling assorted genres. Frank Zappa was so right… “So many books, so little time!”

- Olympio D’Mello

Large-Scale Tile Sculpture: Amanda Perez

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teacher Feature: Ms. Bauer

What do you most like to read?  (this could be a literary genre, or a type of material, like blogs, magazines, etc.)
While I really enjoy reading fiction, I must admit I spend most of my reading time online. I love catching up on the news via cnn, but more than anything I love reading celebrity gossip blogs like Perez Hilton and Suri's Burn Book. I usually read a few novels during the summers as well.

Do you have a favorite book/author/publication?
Perez Hilton is my favorite blogger. Some of my favorite books from throughout my life include The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneggen, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and God Has a Dream by Desmond Tutu.

What's the last great thing you read?
I am nearly finished with Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride. The characters in this book are so vivid and so well-described that I feel like I know them all! Mrs. Murphy suggested this book to me, and I now cannot wait to go to her for her next suggestion!

Where do you most like to read?
I love to read books on the beach, on my back patio, on a plane or curled up in a comfy chair. I usually read online news and blogs while sitting on the sofa with my laptop.

When you were in high school, did you like to read?  If so, what? 
I have always loved to read, but there were so many books assigned during high school that I found it difficult to find time to read for pleasure. I have always loved reading the classics and read quite a few of those in high school. As far as contemporary fiction goes, I prefer to read the types of books that have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List. 

What is your most hated book and why?
I attempted to read The Life of Pi by Yann Martel on at least three different occasions. The book seems to be super slow and has never been able to pull me in.

Large-Scale Tile Sculpture: Andrea Pavon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I Just Read: I Hunt Killers

Jazz (or Jasper) is 17, smart, tormented by guilt and shame, and the son of a notorious serial killer.  In Barry Lyga's new thriller, I Hunt Killers, the small town of Lobo's Nod is faced with its second murderous fiend in a decade when a copycat killer begins to duplicate the crimes Jazz's dad began committing early in his career.

Billy Dent killed 134 people, mostly women, over the course of his long career.  In the second half of that long stretch of time, he had a son.  Jazz was raised to follow in his father's footsteps, learning tricks of the trade from a very young age.  While Jazz rejects his father's attempts to make him into a second-generation monster, he is plagued by nightmares and self-doubt now that his father is safely behind bars and he is left to pick up the pieces.

Together with his girlfriend and loyal pal, Jazz works to uncover the truth about the copycat killer who calls himself The Impressionist in the hope that he will be redeemed in the eyes of his small community, no longer an outcast or a mini-murderer.

It's a quick, furious read (I read it in two days).  Don't worry, it's not as gruesome as it sounds, although it can be a little scary at times.  I recommend it for fans of Alan Ferguson's forensic mysteries (The Christopher Killer, etc.), as both are chock full of details about the detection and analysis of clues in the pursuit of a criminal.

Large-Scale Tile Sculpture: Alissa Aguilar

Book Spine Poetry: "Whispers"

by Ed Smith

In a blink
the god of small things
whispered to the stranger
that Rosencrantz & Guilderstern are dead.

Check it out @ the Library: The Fault in our Stars