Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Common Book

Not sure if you have heard this or not, but there are several changes coming to the Kokomo region in the fall.  One is the move to twice a week daily classes; the other is the Common Book.

There will be Common Time built into the weekly schedule which can be used for a variety of activities or events.  Group meetings.  Special speakers.  Focused seminars.  Study groups.

During Common Time, the Common Book can be discussed by the students, either student-led or faculty driven. 

A committee was formed to select the Common Book and after much consideration This I Believe II was selected..  The subtitle is "The Personal Philosopies of Remarkable Men and Women," and it is edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman.

It has been suggested that ALL instructors use parts or all of the Common Book in their courses in some way, as a reading to relate to content, as an outside assignment, as a springboard for discussion of a topic related to their coursework, or any other way deemed appropriate by the instructors.

I see the book as a way to integrate new discussion into my classes.  Summarizing techniques can also be used after reading selected chapters.  My students can practice note-taking, paraphrasing, and selecting quote-worthy passages from what they have read.  Hopefully their research skills and transferring what they read into what they write will improve.

If you get a chance, take a look at the book. Tell me what you think, either of the Common Book, Common Time, or this year's selection.  Comments are welcome!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another good read

On Friday my husband and I were in Lafayette to run some errands, then we were heading to our youngest daughter's house to help her celebrate her birthday.  We had some time to kill between our last stop at Target and her usual 'return home' time after work.  Where to go?  What to do?

I voted for spending some time at my favorite store, Barnes and Noble, which worked well because my husband could browse his favorite section (DVDs), then walk over to Best Buy and check out whatever he wanted there.

My first stop is always the Bargain Books area, where I picked up a KitchenAid cookbook to look through.  Next I surveyed the New Publications or the New Non-fiction, hoping to find the biography of Pat Summitt, the coach of the Lady Vols from the University of Tennessee.  After I found a copy, I headed to the Cafe, purchased a cup of Hot Caramel Apple Cider, and settled into a chair to peruse the reading material.

The KitchenAid cookbook I quickly decided to return to the shelf; although it offered good recipes and techniques to use with the KitchenAid itself, even at the bargain price of $9.99 it wasn't worth adding another cookbook to my collection. 

The Pat Summitt book intrigued me. I opened the book to random sections and read a few pages at a time.  I have always admired her, and we were lucky enough to see her in action during a tournament game at Purdue one season several years ago.  Recently she resigned (or retired) due to the onset of Early Alzheimer's Disease.  She is very young for that disease to attack as it did---she is in her early 60s. I may have mentioned before that my tastes in reading have swayed to biographies and non-fiction from the usual Bestsellers that I had read for many years.  This seemed like a good choice for my collection.

My husband returned from his stroll to Best Buy, and he asked my opinion of the book. I wanted it.  However, I wasn't going to buy it. While I enjoyed the feel of the book and flipping through the pages (it was a hardback copy), the price was $28.00 as opposed to the $12.99 on my Nook.  Even with my Barnes and Noble discount, the Nook price was too good to pass up. 

Now I have several books on my Nook or Kindle to read once May 12 rolls around.  I am looking forward to sitting in my sunroom, feet up on the ottoman, sipping a glass of iced tea, and exploring some 'good reads' that have been waiting for me.

Side note:  I couldn't find the Pat Summitt book so I had to ask.  When the B and N salesperson walked away after locating the copy for me, he chuckled and said, "Hey!  Great title too!"   What is it?  Sum It Up.   Get it?


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gatsby Parties

One of my favorite novels to teach in the classroom was Gatsby. With a gifted class we decided to do something fun while reading the first three chapters. Gatsby parties!

First they decided into three groups, then the planning began. The longer they talked, the more elaborate the plans became and the more excited they were. I am always ready for anything that promotes learning with my students, those "remember when we Mrs. Siemens' class" experiences. So I was not surprised that we had to get permission to leave the school, reserve the school van, and contact parents about the adventure.

Since we met at the end of the day, we piled into the van and traveled north immediately when class began. First stop was Amanda's house outside of Medaryville where her mother had set the dining room table with the good china and crystal for our candlelit dinner. I can't remember the menu, but it was very good, with small portions because we did have three parties to attend. There was a phone call that "Tom" left the table to answer also. Very nice.

Next we traveled to Francesville to Betsy's house. As we walked in the side door, her mom greeted us and indicated that we needed to descend the stairs to the basement. Her mom, who is usually a very quiet reserved woman, was dressed in a "house dress," smacking her gum, and telling us she had been shooting some pool and decided to thrown on "this old thing" and fix some snacks. In the basement we sat around on beanbags, throw pillows, and mismatched furniture, munching on chips, pretzels, and those yummy ham/pickle/cream cheese roll up things. We chatted while "Tom" flirted with "Myrtle" and eventually witnessed their fight which ended with his smacking her across the face.

The last stop was west of the school at Julie's house. Her parents greeted us dressed as a waiter and waitress who seated us a tables for four, then served a meal that was divine. There was music for dancing and "Gatsby" mingled with the guests.

As we returned to West Central in the school van, the students were very conscious of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the parties, the characters who were featured, and the importance of each to develop the characters and set the stage for further developments in the plot. I was impressed with the ingenuity of the students as they planned and executed the "parties." Plus the parent involvement was awesome!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


My husband surprised me a few years ago with a Nook for a Christmas gift.  I loved that device!  We can debate the demise of libraries and the love of feeling a book in one's hands, listening to the pages crinkle and rustle as they turn, one by one, and inhaling time and mustiness in the pages of old tomes.  But that is not what this is about..not now, anyway.

I don't like to buy books for my Nook that are over $10.  I love to read, but I am cautious about my purchases.  "Free Fridays" were always popular, and I did read a book about Ghengis Khan that I NEVER would have selected solely because it was free.

Since my iPad has both a Nook and a Kindle app, my original Nook has a new home with my youngest daughter.  My Nook and Kindle bookshelves are populated with many books, some free, some cheap, and some just a tad more expensive to purchase.

This weekend an email from Barnes and Noble popped into my Yahoo mailbox promoting a 50% off weekend for selected titles...on the Nook.  Yesterday morning I did some shopping.

I enjoy reading Alex Cross novels (James Patterson) and had wanted to read one of his newer adventures, but I didn't want to spend over $10 for it. 

The same could be said of a David Baldacci book.  Both were on sale for around $5.  Just a few clicks and they were mine!

 Then I saw the book Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly.  I may not agree with the author and his views on some things, but I have heard good reviews of this book, and since I have to admit that I remember when JFK was assassinated, the book had piqued my interest.  And the price was similar to the other two.  K-ching!  Added!

Now I have three books awaiting my perusal.  Add them to my current selection that I am reading for an Online Bible Study, and my reading plate is quite full.

Update on the book on the Navy Seal that I began over Spring Break~~~  I read several chapters and it was just too depressing for me.  I stopped.  I usually don't quit, but the mix of relaxing at Myrtle Beach and reading that book just didn't mix very well for me.  Another time.....

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Here I am...sitting in the recliner, grading the blogs.  I am also watching reruns of The Cosby Show.  well, not really watching, but just having some noise around.

This particular episode is where Vanessa goes out with Jeremy when she told her parents that she was studying with a friend.  Rudy's help was enlisted to lie for her so she could stay out later than her curfew, which of course gave the whole scheme away to Cliff and Claire.  Lying is the topic of the show.  Lying.

My sister and I talked this morning about concerns about our mother.  I talked with Mom on Thursday about two issues that we needed to clarify, which we did, but she told my sister this morning that I had 'chewed her out' and 'used that tone' with her and was upset about something that I wasn't even upset about.  This is not the first time she has twisted and turned conversations or concocted stories to cover herself, and we usually catch her. Of course when we try to talk to her about the 'truth' she sees it as being disrespectful to her and uses more 'cover' to get herself out of any trouble.  My sister and I despise lying, and our father always taught us that lying would do nothing except destroy our character and the trust we had with an individual.  That has always stuck with me, and it is a value that we have taught our daughters as well.

Just when the phone rang this morning, I was ready to read the next post in Julie's blog.  The title? "When is it okay to lie?" with a focus on Huckleberry Finn.  If you haven't read that post, I encourage you to do so. Very good!

My husband and I have always been honest with each other.  We haven't lied to our daughters, and they know the value of honesty.  We know that honesty and trust have been a focus of their relationships with their husbands, and I hear Hilary talk about telling the truth to Landon.

Where do we encounter lying?  Sadly, too many places.  But the place I see/hear it the most is on campus or in my classes.  How often have I heard the reasons for not completing a paper (left it at home, left it in my car then my mom took the car, saved it on the flashdrive but left the flashdrive at home, saved it on the flashdrive but now the flashdrive doesn't work, sent it through BB but for some reason it didn't show up) when the real reason the paper isn't finished is because the student didn't finish it.  I know this.  If I send the student to the LRC for help...he balks.  If I make a deal for the student to send the paper to me IMMEDIATELY when he arrives home, it never arrives.  Why not?  It was left there, wasn't it?  No paper arrives.    The same thing happens with attendance.  A doctor's appointment that can only be made during class time. Other emergencies that just happen and are so complicated  and elaborate when told that I have to stifle the smile.  Very creative!

Is it any surprise that I am skeptical when the excuses come in?  Yes, I like to give the benefit of the doubt, and of course there is always the maxim of "Innocent until proven guilty."  But it is very hard when lying is so natural, so prevalent, and so much of a normal part of our society.  People do it.  Politicians do it.  You know people who do it.  Sad, isn't it?

That's why it was refreshing to read Julie's post.  Coincidence that reading Julie's post, the experiences with my mom, a call from my sister about Mom's 'twisting the truth,' and the Cosby episode about Vanessa's lying all occurred in the same four hour time span?  I think not. Maybe we all need a reminder now and then about this part of our character.

Note:  When I searched for a picture of Vanessa Huxtable, I found one where she was wearing the same outfit as the episode I viewed. How about that!