Situation: 3 classes of kindergartners (each with 20 or more students) learning how to login to the computer network on their first full day of school
Comment: As the Red Queen said to Alice, "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same
place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. "
Imagine yourself a kindergartner on your first day of school... a kindergartner with a loose tooth... you’re already a little nervous... a little scared... alone in a new place without your mom or dad... stuck in a classroom with 20 or so other nervous, scared five-year-old strangers... and you’re sitting on the oval rug with the ABCs... on one side of you there’s a boy who’s picking his nose... on the other side of you there’s a girl who’s whining about having to go pee... and it’s hot and sticky because the air conditioning isn’t working... and you start working at that loose tooth with your tongue just to comfort yourself, to occupy your mind, keep it from running wild and telling you to get up and run wild out of that room, like a worry bead in your mouth... and all of a sudden that tooth pops out of your gum... and there’s some blood and you spit it and the tooth into your palm and you stick it up into your teacher’s face... she’s nice and calm about it and calls over to the next door classroom for a first grade helper to accompany you to the office so the nurse can give you a little case to keep that tooth safe until you get home and put it under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy... and you are so happy with the tooth in its little tooth-shaped vault... you are already thinking about the cash that you might get from that Tooth Fairy... maybe a whole dollar... sweet... and you are on your way back to your classroom when all of sudden you stop and realize that you don’t know where you are going... that stupid first grader left you in the office and went back to class and you must have taken a wrong turn... and now YOU’VE LOST YOUR SCHOOL!!!!!
“You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”
Luckily, a kindly librarian happens to be walking the hallway... and she's even better than Google Maps, because she can put an arm around your shoulder and calm your sobbing and actually accompany you back to your "school"... where that gross boy is STILL picking his nose and the little girl has peed on that pretty ABC rug...
Submitted for your approval... the first day of school.
How is the teaching life sublime? Let me enumerate the ways:
The palpable excitement of my colleagues as the new year begins ... it is indeed ELECTRIC...
The incredible wide-mouthed joy of a kindergartner meeting her teacher for the first time...
Getting the "do-over:" the chance to really improve your practice every year -- and seizing the opportunity to do so...with relish...
Meet the teacher day... when every student shows up with parent(s) in tow ... even in the pouring rain...
Alumni who return with their younger siblings and still oooh and aaah over the changes they see in their old school ... especially newly-minted sixth graders who then proceed to gush about their new middle school... enthusiasm is contagious...
The well-earned exhaustion that hits at the end of a frenetic day...
The beginning of a new school year -- crunch time... and all the wonderful possibilities of new beginnings.
Dealing with roof leaks in both of my libraries. Too much rain in July and early August, and the last two storms brought the ceiling down (not in its entirety). I sense the mold already festering in the wallboard.
Arrggh -- cleaned my desk yesterday, only to walk in today to find a large box of ceiling tiles and their white crumbs sitting on top of it!
And yet, all I had to do was remember the lovely chat I had yesterday with a brand new student who was so eager and happy for the start of school ... it lifted my spirits.
Roofs get repaired, mold eradicated, ceiling tiles replaced... and learning goes on!
Be forewarned: this post has nothing to do with books. But it does examine some specious, ridiculous writing, so allow me my rant.
Yesterday a curious catalog came over the transom: wishcraft produced by a company called chasing fireflies (lower case theirs). It consisted of 72 glossy pages of high concept, extremely overpriced Halloween costumes. OMG! Are there really people who would pay $198 dollars for a "Vampiress of Versailles" 3-piece get up? By the way, that does not include a "coffin cape," for which you would have to fork over another $78. Nor does it include the requisite tiara ($24), bat earrings ($9) or fangs ($5). For your vampire mate, you can get a five-piece set, which includes black velvet coat, brocade vest, lace jabot, top hat and boot covers, for a mere $178. You can also attire your vampire ankle-biters in similar fashion at similar cost. And according to the catalog copy: "out of the crypt beneath the French palace you sashay, dressed to kill..."
Vampiress of Versailles and the Empress Josephine
Other costumes for children include the Empress Josephine, an unamed Russian czarina, a Renaissance princess (also nameless) and Marie Antoinette. Show me a first grader acquainted with the existence of Josephine and poor Marie-sans-tete, and I'll show you a unemployed history professor in the making. And none of these get-ups can be got for under a hundred dollars
Yo ho ho, here's to rum, kibble and the lash .... uh, make that leash.
If you are the type of person who dresses your dog for Halloween, you can also purchase attire for your pooch, including Yoda and Princess Leia costumes -- a steal at $18! If your pet walks on the wild side, he (or she) could be a pirate this year, complete with a hook! (I think if the ASPCA saw the photo of the poor bulldog in this get-up, it would descend upon the photo-shoot and swoop the beast away.)
Princess Leia and her pal, Yoda
And the ultimate degradation? Here's the catalog copy: "Your 'Toto' can be Dorothy. Just slip her into this blue-and-white costume with attached arms. Comes with a pigtail wig." Yes, it's a some tiny, sad excuse for a dog dressed as Dorothy Gale. But what, no ruby slippers?!?! I'm shocked, simply shocked...
I love Lenny Abramov, the protagonist of Gary Shteyngart's wicked satire of a tech-crazed, dystopian America in serious decline, Super Sad True Love Story. Okay, so he's a bit of a loser. His taste in clothes is horrendous. He's out of shape. He's definitely not fashion-forward in his choice of tech gizmos, either. So what attracts me to Lenny? He loves books -- or, as the novel calls them, "bound, printed, non-streaming Media artifacts."
In my libraries this year, I will be celebrating these amazing creations that have been around for over 500 years (in printed form, thanks to J. Gutenberg) and will, I hope, be around for at least another 500 (though I won't be around to enjoy them). I am no Luddite, but let me sing the many praises of the low-tech book.
I have long been curious as to differences in reading on paper as opposed to reading in an electronic format, and, frankly, I am concerned that e-readers (in all formats) do not promote "deep" reading. Now the results of studies are beginning to trickle in. For example, a grad student at the University of Washington, Alex Thayer, completed research on the use of Kindles among academics. His findings indicate that e-readers were useful for what he calls "receptive reading," that is, simply reading from start to finish in a straight line, without much depth. (Think summer beach book). However, the e-format was not very good for what he calls "responsive reading," which involves a deeper interaction with the text to build knowledge. Hmmmm... For further reading on this provocative topic, I suggest Nicholas Carr's examination of the Internet's effect on our reading and thinking processes, The Shallows.
Then, there is the matter of all the electronic waste we are fast-accumulating. What's going to happen to all those old Kindles and Nooks and iPads, when the next generation comes along? Something tells me they will wind up smouldering in a dump in China (after the precious metals have been extracted).
Books have been and always will be fully recyclable.
So let's hear it for something that:
1. is portable.
2. won't break if you drop it.
3. you can loan to friends and if they lose it, well, it's not the end of the world.
4. you can use a cute bookmark to note where you left off.
5. doesn't need batteries or recharging.
6. are free (at your local library).
7. lightweight yet durable.
8. come with attractive covers.
9. come in all different kinds (think genres).
10. let you use your imagination.
11. can take you all over the world (and to new worlds).
12. help you learn how to FOCUS (maybe the most important skill of all).
So thanks, Lenny, for appreciating those "bound, printed, non-streaming Media artifacts." May they live forever.
To find out more about me, click on the Not Your Average Jo tab.