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Friday, September 13, 2013

Creare: To Create

I made my wedding veil. Just wanted to brag, since I haven't posted anything I've made in a while.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series)

Title and author: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan

Summary: This is a series of five books. In the first book, 12 year Percy Jackson discovers that he is a demi-god: half-god, and half-human, and that there are many kids like him all over the world. As it turns out, the gods of ancient Greece never faded away, they just moved to New York, and have been up to their usual activities, albeit with modern twists, ever since.

The demi-gods are targets for ancient monsters that still roam the earth, and so take refuge in the safety of Camp Half-Blood, where they are trained to become heros. Adventures ensue.

My Review: Anytime a book alludes to Greek mythology, I watch closely to see what mistakes the author makes. Riordan makes very few. I've found that I can actually tell which of my students have read the series because they know their Greek mythology so much better than the one's who haven't.

The biggest criticism I've heard of the series is that it's a rip-off of Harry Potter, but I don't find that to be the case. Instead, it's a simple matter that both books clearly and deliberately follow the quest cycle common in ancient myth.

The characters are likable, the pacing is excellent, and so is the writer. Riordan is a masterful storyteller, and he knows his material well.

Age appropriate/kid friendly/morality: This book is intended for middle school audiences and above. It has the usual issues one finds in ancient myth (gods having children with mortals, etc.), but the human characters are all very well-behaved. Mature kids ages 7 and up will probably be fine reading these books.

Recommended: If you like myth and fantasy, this is for you. If not, then you probably won't like it. Adults may find the books feel a little young, but the adventures are exciting enough to keep older readers interested, and it's always intriguing to see which myth Riordan is going to take on next.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't Smile Until December! And Other Bad Teaching Advice

I've be given the advice "don't smile until December", or the similar "start out really strict" advice more times than I can count. I was given it my first day teaching at my current job, when I first started teaching as a Graduate Instructor, and most recently in a coffee shop by a stranger who overheard  me discussing my syllabus with a friend. And I have always blatantly ignored it. 

As both an adjunct at a community college and a part-time teacher at a middle school, I have experienced a vast range of students and instructors. When I first started teaching grad school, it was almost a competition amongst the grad students to see how many students they could scare into dropping their class the first day. In middle school, of course, students don't have that option. Instead, 'don't smile until December' is about setting the tone of your class, of making sure that students understand that they are going to have to do the work if the want a good grade. 

But I can't help think that this idea supports several statements I strongly disagree with. It says "learning is serious business", "this is work, being a student is your job", and worst of all, "learning isn't fun". 

But the truth is, learning should be fun. Learning is exploring new ideas, new places, new ways of thinking. School is where children learn how to become adults, how to communicate with one another, how to make friends and socialize, and how (hopefully) to one day make the world a better place. And if your teacher isn't smiling, well, who can blame kids (or adults!) for not liking school?

Don't get me wrong, learning is serious business. And it is a student's job to do the best they can at school. But any employer can tell you that they would gladly take one employee who loves their job over a half dozen who don't.

It takes a lot of energy to smile day in and day out. Students can be exasperating. It takes a lot of work to make conjugating verbs into something fun and exciting (believe me... it takes a lot of work), but the pay off can be worth it.

I have noticed that some of my students (college and middle school), are taken aback by my teaching style. They aren't sure how to react to the teacher jumping up and down in front of the room shouting, "aren't Latin nouns cool!" or "Maps are great!". But eventually they loosen up, and many are surprised to find that learning can actually be fun. 

Legall-ly stuff: This are my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employers. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store

When I posted a recommendation for this book on Facebook, I was surprised by the number of my friends who asked me for other recommendations. Which leads me to think (perhaps mistakenly) that people are interested in my views on books. So, for those of you who are, here's my first book review.

Title: Mr. Penumbra's 25 Hour Book Store

Summary: Set in post dotcom boom America during our current recession, the unemployed Clay Jannon accidentally finds a job working the night shift at a 24 hour bookstore. He's entranced by the atmosphere of the small shop, but is most interested in its unusual clientele. His investigation leads to a quest of not-quite-epic proportions, as he recruits the help of his unusually talented friends along the way to solve an age-old mystery. I'm afraid I can't say more about it without risking spoilers.

My description: When I attempted to explain this book to my husband, I said, it's science-fiction without the science fiction, fantasy without the fantastic, and epic without epic-ness (is that a word?). But mostly its about books, technology, and the people who love them. This may sound boring, but trust me, it isn't.

Age appropriate/kid friendly/morality: There is some alluded to pre-marital sex, but I have read YA novels that are more graphic. I would say it's appropriate for 7th grade and above, but I don't think they would enjoy/appreciate it. This is an adult novel, not because it has adult themes, so much as there is a certain level of maturity and life experience to really love it for what it is.

Recommended: Absolutely. A must for anyone who loves books for their own sakes, this book is in someways a love letter to its readers. Don't be surprised if you feel guilty reading the electronic copy.