SUICIDE PREVENTION–thoughts worth sharing

I was VERY NERVOUS, to say the least, when I found out we teachers would be teaching suicide prevention in January. Let me emphasize, WE, THE TEACHERS…I.E. NOT THE COUNSELORS (!!&*). But now that our first of such trainings is complete and the next one is quickly approaching, I can honestly say that I’m actually looking forward to leading the next session. Here’s why:

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for people between 10-24 years of age. Other statistics vary slightly; according to the CDC, suicide ranks as the 3rd leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. Moreover, for this same age group, it accounts for 20% of all deaths annually. I don’t know how it felt for you, but when I read the word “all,” my ears burned. I’m saddened to know how large of a group of persons the world misses out on knowing only because their shouts for help when unanswered.

Is your head swimming with all these facts and statistics? Are you feeling as weighted down by the burden of this knowledge as I am? Here’s the take-away I hope you gain from my blog: no matter which age-group or whose statistics we go by, the fact remains that this cause of death is PREVENTABLE. In fact, I have heard it said that suicide is treated like it’s a solution to a problem, but it is unfortunately a PERMANENT “solution” to a problem that was only temporary. Young people need help through their struggles and tough times. If they’ve been battling suicidal thoughts for a long enough time, the reality that their struggle is only temporary may sound absurd to them. In fact, telling them that it’s only temporary may sound more to them like you are not taking them seriously. If you are or know of a young person who is struggling with this, PLEASE GET HELP! Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Continue reading SUICIDE PREVENTION–thoughts worth sharing

SRP–an Interlude and Gratitude

I want to briefly interrupt my chain of “SRP” (Summer Reading Program) installments to share a word of “thanks” to a dear friend of mine, Linda R. Recently (or rather, not so recently [sorry I took so long with your book, Linda!]), my friend, lent me a book she had just read with her book club. She thought I might enjoy it–and WOW, how right she was!

The ad I posted above is one of many, MANY fun snippets of advertisements and artifacts to be found in Unmentionable Therese Oneill’s book on Victorian practices. This noteworthy book is packed with fun facts from cover to cover and is also a unique read for Oneill’s writing style. She writes using the 2nd person Point of View–in other words, she writes somewhat conversationally so that she is talking directly to YOU, the reader. While this sometimes made for an awkward read in that she could not possibly correctly presuppose her reader’s every thought, it was fun to break out of the mold. Further, Oneill used this 2nd person POV to encapsulate the tone and ironies she aimed to expose in our supposed ‘prim and proper’ Victorian history. Oneill frequently chided her readers for their silly misconceptions of history and their spoiled gift of modern conveniences. Speaking to readers as if giving us a tour through history, she declares:

"I'd best break it to you early: you're going to be wearing a lot of things under your dress during your time here--but none of them will have a crotch...

Ever wonder why the saucy, high-kicking can-can dance of the Moulin Rouge was so popular? It wasn't because the dancers were showing their stockings, or even their legs."

Following this quote is a quite revealing example of a pair of women’s “drawers” (underpants) from approximately the 1890s.

Such a fun read! Thanks for sharing this book with me, Linda!

Summer Reading Plan, installment #1.

After finally sitting down and committing to the first book on my SRP (Summer Reading Plan), Sarah, Plain and Tall was a sweet book. It was a very quick read and  heart-warming, to boot. Whoever described it in terms of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie certainly set me up for the theme well. Being from the country (it was 30 minutes to the nearest town) in Oklahoma, I appreciate taking such mental vacations back to my origins, now and again.

After making mention of my country origins in somewhat of a comparative fashion to this book (as well as comparing it to Little House on the Prairie), however, it seems appropriate to draw a few distinctions; Wilder’s book is narrated by a young female character (Mary), while Sarah, Plain and Tall centers mainly around the youngest child in the family–a little boy named Caleb. Further, Little House… took place mainly in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. And while Sarah, Plain and Tall takes place in the Midwest generically, no specific state is mentioned as the location of Caleb’s and his family’s home. We only know that it is in the Midwest in a prairie atmosphere. We also know that it is somewhat far from Tennessee, where another of the characters in the book originates. (Maggie is a neighbor from Tennessee who provides a little bit of comfort to Sarah, as she relates with the concept of being a mail-order bride and missing one’s origins.)

So, enough of all this rambling about Sarah, Plain and Tall. The fact of the matter is, it was a breeze to read, and as soon as I finished reading it, I rushed to return it and check out other books on my list! Hence, I need (“need”) to get busy reading.

Next on my list:

  1. The Phantom Tollbooth

And #2: The Whipping Boy

(Who cares what order I originally said I would read them in. That was before the excitement of actually completing a book set in!!)

By the way, I am still waiting for some book recommendations from my teacher and reader friends!! Hint, hint!

My Summer Reading Plan (SRP)

It probably does not surprise anyone that I, as a literature teacher, have a stack of books I plan to devour this summer. Reading through them, they shall each show up in my blogs in one way or another, no doubt. As an initial post on the topic, I thought I’d start off on a silly note: how I selected the books as well as how I determined my plan of attack. Being a teacher, naturally I did a quick Google search for the recommendations of other teachers. Here’s the list I started with.

My next step was to narrow down the list. First of all, I have taught Item #9 on the list, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, for over 6 years. So if I read it again over this summer, it will only be because I have run out of reading material and might appreciate getting to read the book for enjoyment, not simply to keep ahead of the pace of my students. Unfortunately, eliminating (or postponing) this book still left me with 9 books. Returning to the main list once again, item #10, The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, can be eliminated for much the same reason–I teach portions of it every year. Thus my list was down to 8 books. While reading eight books over the course of 1 summer out of school is not unrealistic, at this point I feel it best to be honest; some books I am just not interested in reading. Therefore, here is the list of books which I aim to read before this summer is gone and I am back within the confines of the prescribed curricula:

  1. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (Honestly, I’ve taught an abridged version of this for 6 years, and I CANNOT wait to read the full-length version!! Too bad it’s currently checked out at my local library…)
  2. Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis (I love his other books!)
  3. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (No, I didn’t see the movie. It just looked so ‘girly’ that no one in my young family was interested in seeing it.)
  4. The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt (I am SOOO EXCITED to read this! But again, can’t find it at my library. That’s probably a good sign…)
  5. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare (Another one I cannot wait to read, but can’t find a copy of!)
  6. Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech (Dang it! Why didn’t I read this before now! It’s been on the book shelf in my previous classroom for the entire year!!)
  7. Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli (I just know his writing has made a huge impact on the students within the age group I teach…but his writing is not really my favorite–though this one might impress me, as it claims to be dystopian!)

And now for my own contributions to this list (based on their award-winning status and the fact that I have never read them before):

  1. Sarah, Plan and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
  2. The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman
  3. Sounder, by William H. Armstrong (Sorry, Debbie, I don’t mean to embarrass you by not having read this yet; remember I was not privileged enough to be in AP English for every year of my primary/secondary school career!)
  4. Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Neylor.
  5. Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell (This one has been highly recommended to me throughout my teaching career from my female AP students, and, though not on the list of 10 must-reads I shared in this article, it does appear on numerous other important middle-school readers.)

So now that you see my reading list and how I have gone about compiling it in a somewhat academic fashion, here’s my non-academic approach to selecting the order in which to read them: length and availability at my library. (While I like to think of length as a common-sense approach to which gets read first, my daughter snickered at me saying, “It figures.” My ego appreciated that she followed her comment up (after a brief pause) noting, “That’s probably how I would do it, too.”

So that’s my list of 12, how I chose them, and in what order I plan to read them. This brief post is meant as a teaser of sorts for any of my upcoming posts which might potentially be inspired by said reading materials. Additionally, it is meant to solicit the recommendations of my readers. If you know of some great middle school or high school reading material that does not appear on my list above and should be listed, please send me a quick note with your recommendations!

Thanks for your input!

 

“Down by the SEE-EA, yeah!”

I recall the first time I ever saw the salty spectacle known as the Texas Gulf Coast. As far as I was concerned–to this 13-year-old starry-eyed teenager from land-locked Oklahoma, this was the OCEAN! Forget about its coordinates and such paltry details as its being surrounded on 3 sides by land; the water is salty, there are seagulls, Lee and the Seagulls and you can’t see land on the opposite side! South Padre Island was the ocean. And it was heaven to me!

Texas Gulf Coast
“Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun, I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come; watching the ships roll in, and then I watch ’em roll away again…” *Otis Redding, “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay”

To my mind, that was all that was required to qualify something as the OCEAN. I had never seen it before, and might never see it again! So I had to experience all it had to offer.

I threw handfuls of bread to the seagulls. Sand Dollar

I collected sea shells and sand dollars.

I drew hearts in the sand.

I wrote my and my boyfriend’s names in the sand and watched as the ocean washed them away with its next surges.

I breathed in the beautiful, misty air as I imagined that the ocean hadn’t washed away my boyfriend’s name. No! Of course not! Elimination is not how the ocean plays. Not at all. Rather, it had collected my and his names safely into its eternal archives of forevermore! There our names would be safely stored away for all of eternity.

Ahhh... Touching, right? Continue reading “Down by the SEE-EA, yeah!”

Look Deeply Into My Eyes…

A few days ago a coworker and friend of mine told me about her dog, a boxer, named Sable. Sable had a small growth on the side of her belly she had noticed recently. But the very next day, it had doubled in size. My friend was worried. I completely sympathized and encouraged her to take Sable to the veterinarian. But she had needed no encouragement to do so; Sable is part of her family. And though my friend is a secondary public school teacher, she comes from a medical background. In other words, NOT taking Sable to the vet was unthinkable.

My Brown-Eyed Girl
Sugar is a Sharpei/Husky mix.

I knew my friend and I had already shared enough with each other about our backgrounds for her to know that I have two degrees in religion, but I was not sure if we had discussed our personal philosophies as they might apply to this particular situation. So I took a risk:

“You know, Gwen,” (not my friend’s real name), “I know you know I have religious degrees, but I don’t know if I’ve told you my favorite piece of text which kind of applies to this situation.” I paused to give her a moment to indicate whether or not she was even open to hearing what I had to offer. Since she was looking at me as if wondering what else I would say, I continued…

Continue reading Look Deeply Into My Eyes…

Oh, the Places my Shrewd Students Will Go!

Every year my students surprise me with their insightful comments. I usually only take mental stock of whose comments were my favorite(s) without subjecting everyone who reads my blog and/or who listens to me ramble aloud about whatever thought crosses my mind to be forced to either fain agreeing with me or pretend they ‘accidentally didn’t see/hear/read’ the brilliance (!?!) I shared. This year, however, I can’t pass up the opportunity to potentially amuse a few of my like-minded and literature-loving friends. Here’s this year’s “Quote-of-the-Day”:

When asked by the Teacher of Record [not me] what method is used to ‘tame’ Katherina in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, my favorite answer goes to a studentDr. Seuss - Copy in B5 who confidently answered: “Stockholm Syndrome”–which was NOT one of the answer choices he was supposed to select from. Still, nearly any teacher will admit was, indeed, the MOST CORRECT answer possible. Congratulations to this student! Not only are you brilliant, but you will not be forgotten! Good luck with the rest of your high school career. May it be the firm stepping-stone you need to launch yourself into a highly successful college career! And then, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

One final comment as promised for my like-minded friends: if you could only have been as privileged as I was to have witnessed the tone in this young man’s voice when he made his comment–you, too, may have been instilled with a small amount of hope for our future in an egalitarian world! He was appropriately disgusted by the behavior Petruchio displays toward Katharina while also simultaneously awed by Shakespeare’s writing and ability to be critical of society on multiple levels  at once.

 

Inspirational Thought…

While updating my membership to THE MOST FANTASTIC EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY TOOL I’ve seen in quite some time, I came across this quote, and I had to share it with others:

The hardest part about doing things that matter

Is that they are mostly optional.

And not mandatory.

You don’t have to do them.

Ever…

And that’s why most people will never do them.

Ever…

Because they’re optional.

And not mandatory…”

 

Yann Girard (the author of the quote above) may not always be PC, but his efforts to “challenge current thinking patterns” are just exactly what my exhausted heart sometimes needs to hear in order to feel welcomed into joining a new platform. Thank you, Y. Girard!

And on a related note, I am challenging all who read this post–INCLUDING MYSELF, AS THE AUTHOR–to make it a point to DO THE THINGS THAT MATTER.

Ever day.

Just one thing.

And perhaps from there we can change the world.  😉