Saturday’s Book: “The Goldfinch” by Tartt

Not a Goldfinch (it's a Jay!) Naomi's Photos
Not a Goldfinch (it’s a Jay!)
Naomi’s Photos

I always feel, when beginning a new book, that a book takes me by the hand and tries to lead me somewhere.

This book gripped my hand rather tightly. The cover did refer to the book as “gripping”, right?

At first, even though I was bothered by too many descriptions, overly-stating things, I couldn’t stop reading. I was hooked. Tartt knows her craft.

But as I kept reading, my hand, the one held by the author was starting to feel numb. Too tight. There were the stereotypic characters, the platitudes. And more of the over-stating.

By the time the hero was hanging around Las-Vegas, I began fighting for air. Reading, as you know, is not something I dread doing.

I broke free after he made it back to New York. I skimmed a few facts (another death, yes – that guy was connected to shady things, right,) and read the last 15 pages.

I read 415 pages of the book, it’s not as if I didn’t give it a chance (it’s over 800 pages!). If it had been of average  length I may have travelled the disance with the author despite the things that made me unhappy.

And yes, I AM one of those people who believe that despite life’s ability to throw cruel curve balls, stopping to look at raindrops on the petals of a flower, really look, is good for you.

Visualising School – Photo Pause

A teacher gets “new eyes” with camera in hand!

On Fridays, at noon, students disappear from the school yard in record time. That’s when the animals take over.

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


Yes, I know you have seen this bench before. But not only is it a new version, this IS the view from my classroom whenever it rains…

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


How do curved shapes create straight shadows?

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos


Note: This is an educator’s blog, so only school related pictured are posted here. To see what this teacher comes up with when pounding the pavement of her hometown, see here:

Pounding The Pavement in Kiryat-Ono

Combined Book-I’m a Teacher- I’m a Parent Post

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

It’s not very often that I read something that strikes me as so powerful that I have to put the book down and think about it. I can’t NOT think about it. And if , when thinking about it, it ties in with so many different perspectives, then I know it really must be powerful.

That’s how I felt after reading the first part of the book “Thus I Have Heard” by Jacob Raz (in Hebrew). This is the part that is about the birth of his child who has special needs.

Raz begins in a shocking manner,which becomes clear as you continue to read. He writes that his son came to him from his own death. Death and childbirth seem such a contradiction!

But actually, it is a double death. Something I never thought of before now makes perfect sense.

Raz writes how when the doctors lined up to tell him all the details of his son’s condition, and all the things the child was not going to be, he keenly felt the loss of the child he had imagined he would have. The one he had visualised growing up many a time, doing certain things, having a certain future.

Now the doctors had visualised a different child for him. Someone with a different future mapped out.

But Raz managed to do an incredible thing. He convinced himself that not only must his original imagined version of the child he thought he would have, disappear and “die”, the visualised child with the future his doctors had mapped out, must “die” as well.

Because he won’t be raising any of those children. He was going to get to know and raise the child he had, the one in front of him.

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

While Raz is writing about a situation, thankfully, that many parents do not experience, I believe his approach is nonetheless very true for every parent.

I believe that all parents have fantasies, thoughts and visualisations of what their child will be like. You don’t have to have a child with special needs to know that it never works out that way. Children are what they are and don’t have the characteristics, abilities and preferences we would like them to. We have to let go of that fantasy child in order to really see the child we have actually got.

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

To a lesser degree, it is the same in every classroom in the school system. You, the teacher,  probably heard all about  your student before the first lesson. Maybe you know that his brothers were excellent students and expect him to be one too, or that he is a troublemaker, or that she is an unmotivated student who doesn’t care about anything. We teachers must  let go of the “student” created for us in the staff room. That image must “die” before we can really teach the student in front of us.

A powerful thought.

Aches & Pains in Using the Friendliest EdTech – Quizlet


Smiley Crane (Naomi's Photos)
Smiley Crane
(Naomi’s Photos)

For me, the clever flash card app (and website) called Quizlet, is about as convenient as educational technology can get. Not only is creating study sets simple, the fact that there are auto-defintions to choose from (no need to switch languages!) and built-in picture options saves a lot of time. So easy to learn to use!

Add to that the fact that my deaf and hard of hearing high-school students are completely (and understandably ) addicted to their cell phones. Some of them don’t even have working computers at home anymore. Everything is done on the cell phone. Since my students also have a lot of trouble remembering vocabulary, I decided to add Quizlet to our program. It works on Android and Apple phones. I even treated myself to the paid version so I could easily track students’ progress.

Beware! Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

I’m ashamed to say that I thought there wouldn’t really be any woes worth mentioning when implementing THIS Edtech.

Ha ha.

First there were a lot of problems getting the students to join the classes I opened on Quizlet. Those who opened an account and joined the class on the class computer BEFORE downloading the app on their phone had no problem. However, those who downloaded the app before I sent them the invitation to join the class did not find the invitation when entering the app and did not join. I tried telling them to refresh the app to see the invitation but some had promptly forgotten their login information (despite my requests to write it down). By using the classroom computer we solved that problem, one student at a time. Good thing I only have 45 students in all three grades!

I have an Android phone. Students using Apple phones didn’t find the invitation link I sent via WhatsApp to be clickable. Luckily a student showed everyone that when they forward the message back to me, the link becomes clickable.

Fishing Net Naomi's photos
Fishing Net
Naomi’s photos

Some students registered using the Facebook account. Which is a huge advantage over losing your login information every lesson! But the user name students receive by registering this way is a number, not their name. I had to make a list in my diary of the students who registered through Facebook and their corresponding names (except for the ones with a very clear picture). A one time thing, to be sure.

Only two students immediately deleted the app after class, being annoyed that I’m taking up space in their phones. But many didn’t pay attention to the app (even though I told them that I’m using words and phrases from their exams!) until I began showing them Quizlet’s reports on student progress. The fact that they can’t just argue with me that they DID use the app when I said they didn’t is powerful. I get a report detailing students’ activity on the app. This fact has begun to sink in!

As of today I have a new “woe”.  After some time has passed, I remove old sets of words / phrases from classes when adding new ones. I get a progress report for each set. So I don’t look at sets that have been removed. However, it turns out that unless students refresh the app, the previous sets remain. Some students practiced the old sets and I thought they hadn’t used the app at all because I no longer checked those sets.


I still think that choosing Quizlet was the right decision. But implementing it is not the “piece of cake” I expected.

Saturday’s Book: “The Rosie Project” by Simsion

A red moon in honor of Halloween? Naomi's Photos
A red moon in honor of Halloween?
Naomi’s Photos

Just a pleasure to read. I just let myself go and enjoyed reading, read it in a few days. I didn’t try to think too much, or use my knowledge in special education to analyze the likelihood of certain things.

I enjoyed the comic aspects, enjoyed the fact that someone who is different is being celebrated and enjoyed knowing there would be a happy end (that’s not a spoiler, it’s quite obvious).

I also enjoyed the fact that the timing was perfect. I went to the library to return Primo Levi (which was awesome but hardly a happy book) and “The Rosie Project” had been returned minutes before. Just what I needed!

Saturday’s Book: “If Not Now, WHEN?” by Primo Levi

Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

What an amazing book! I was completely blown away by this one. The author got me hooked by page 2. His style is different from any author I have read before and he presented me with a whole new perspective.

The thing is I had absolutely no intention of reading a book about Primo Levi. I knew the Italian author had written “hard-core”  books about surviving Auschwitz and I didn’t think I could deal with that. I do read about the Holocaust and have read many books about WWll but Levi scared me.

Then I read a very convincing article about Primo Levi and his books in the New Yorker Magazine. The book that caught my attention the most (it was highly praised) was one called ” The Periodic Table”. From what I understood the author (who was a chemist) used various elements as a tool to describe members of his family and other people in his life.

“AHA!” I thought and set out to look for the book. The library doesn’t carry it. “If Not Now, WHEN” was the only book by Levi in English they had. Since it was also mentioned favorably in the article I decided (gulp) to try it.

I’m so glad I did. It’s about people. I know that’s odd to say, most books are. But it’s about people on the move, partisans, refugees, soldiers, peasants, people of many nationalities, thrown into unexpected encounters because of the war. The perspective of a Jewish Partisan, coming from Russia and crossing parts of Poland, Germany and Italy is not one I have encountered before.

Most importantly. Levi did not overdo anything. He didn’t attempt to spoon feed the readers, particularly with gory details. One sentence can often be more powerful than supplying too many details. Levi managed to be engrossing while saying just enough.

I don’t want to say any more and spoil it for you. Just read it!


Lessons I Learned from a Chocolate Chip Cookie in Class Today


Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

Who said only students learn things in class? Today I learned quite a few things! Here they are, in no particular order:

* Everyone DOES know what a chocolate chip cookie is. Even my 11th grade hard of hearing students who display dismal language skills in their mother tongue. However, it seems that the concept of a “chocolate cookie” is unfamiliar. It makes it hard to argue the point that Mrs. Wakefield was surprised when she took the first batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven.

* It may be 2015 but it still makes the most sense to the students that Mrs. Wakefield baked for her husband. The text does mention a husband, what more information could possibly be needed? That’s what women do. Duh.  True, to find out that she ran a hotel with her husband and baked for the guests would have required a lot of painstaking reading and translating, which seemed a waste of effort when the answer was so very obvious.

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

* Candy bars manufactured by Nestle are actually sold in the school vending machines. I have never been interested enough in the company to follow which of their products are sold in this country. Or in what is sold in the vending machines. A student discovered the name on the packaging of her candy bar and showed it to me. The other students were convinced “Nestle” was “Nutella” (sweetened hazlenut chocolate spread) which made perfect sense to them. I’ve complained bitterly about the machines, I won’t let one useful candy bar change my opinion about them, right?

Iddo Epstein's Photos
Iddo Epstein’s Photos

* The word “like” goes with the word “popular”. Another “duh” moment for me. If your post on Facebook/Instragram gets a lot of likes, it means its popular, right?! Students were asked to copy 2-3 words which show that the writer likes chocolate chip cookies. Why bother translating a long word such as “delicious” when there now are “hundreds” of such cookies in the market? The description “hundreds of cookies” sounds like a lot to them, without regard to the fact that the reference is to hundreds of recipes…

I must admit I think these cookies are  delicious, too! It’s a good thing the next text isn’t about them, all this analyzing of chocolate chip cookies may make me reach for the cookie jar!


Saturday’s Book: Paying my Respects to the Late Oliver Sacks

He gave us a window to look through. (Naomi's Photos)
He gave us a window to look through. (Naomi’s Photos)

I know such posts usually start with the line “I first encountered a book by Oliver Sacks in….” but I would rather begin with the last thing I read by the famous neurologist-author, written shortly before his death.

It’s a wonderful and moving short piece in The New Yorker Magazine called “Filter Fish”., Sacks shares his “romance” with Gefilte Fish, beginning when he was very young, and ending as a sick old man. In between there was an African-American housekeeper who absolutely excelled at the art of Gefilte-Fish making, but understood (and stuck to it!) that the name of the dish was “Filter Fish”!

When Sack’s book about deafness “Seeing Voices” came out, I was given it twice! I was pretty young in those days and found it difficult reading. Not the top part of the page, but dealing with the huge amount of footnotes on every page! Sometimes there were more footnotes than text on a page.

For years I was afraid to read anything else by Sacks, until I started reading The New Yorker Magazine regularly. Then I began avidly reading each of his pieces. I believe I read his book about Music as well, though my memory is a bit foggy on that one.

There was always a bit of disappointment that he couldn’t cure any of the cases I read about it. But his curiosity about everything and his article writings (without the footnotes!) were contagious and I always ended each piece in awe of the intricacies of the human body and brain.

It is a gift to be curious and he shared that with us.

Maximizing Classroom Space – The “French Cafe” Way

The French cafe classroom
The French cafe classroom

It was the day before school began. Another teacher stood at the doorway, surveying the complete facelift the little classroom had undergone. She didn’t say a word.

“It’s too red, too loud, isn’t it?” I prompted worriedly. I hadn’t really planned on red table coverings for the different work stations. Especially as some of the coverings (some!) have polka dots. But I’m not known for my taste in matching colors and we already had some red coverings available so I was convinced red was the way to go. By August 31st  we had the stations all set up and I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the red and worried that the whole idea wouldn’t work.


I had been teaching in the format of a learning center for many years. In fact, a great many years if you count all the years I didn’t call it that. To me it seems the only way to deal with the absolutely huge differences in level and ability in every class of deaf and hard of hearing students I have ever taught.

But for a large portion of that time, I had a large classroom. It was easier to have students working on different things at the same time without bothering each other.


The whole system was in risk of collapsing last year when we moved to a much smaller classroom. All my efforts to resist having the tables arranged in the traditional semi-circle facing the board (so students who can’t hear well can see each other as well as the teacher) failed.  The students would push them back, the cleaning lady would push them back. There didn’t seem to be enough room – it was too distracting.

And now I was worried that the red (especially with the polka dots!) would be distracting!


“It is a bit loud” she said. “But just tell the students to imagine they are in a French Cafe. It will be okay”.

And it is. Really. The room feels much bigger. Even when I have students going off-task and the classroom is full, they don’t bother the other students. The distance between the students has grown and the whole atmosphere is more relaxed. The red doesn’t seem too loud anymore, just cheery. Much of it is, of course, covered most of the lesson with papers and books.

The strangest thing to me is that almost none of my students commented on the change or the colors. EVERY SINGLE ONE commented on the fact that we had finally gotten a new, good quality door to the classroom, but most ignored the changes! Meanwhile, students from the “hearing” classrooms stop by to peek in and go ecstatic, saying that they want to study here too…

Station Tracking Charts
Station Tracking Charts

That teacher was absolutely right about the French Cafe image. On a recent family trip to France we stopped to eat lunch, and the sidewalk tables had  THE EXACT SAME TABLE COVERINGS!

(Belated) Saturday’s Book: “Never Cry Wolf” by Mowat

It's a Puka, not a wolf, but we are rooting for them too! And I haven't seen any wolves... (Naomi's Photos)
It’s a bearded seal, not a wolf, but we are rooting for them too! And I haven’t seen any wolves… (Naomi’s Photos)

I’m somewhat confused by this book.

On one hand it was a great read – easy to get into, funny and informative. A very engaging tale about the author’s adventures as a young man, about half a century ago, when he was sent by the Canadian government to research arctic wolves and their impact on the dwindling Caribou population. The author knows how to tell a tale and is very convincing about how we should care about wolf conservation.

On the other hand, it is very disconcerting that the tale is presented as true, while there is lots of material online that explains that much of it isn’t. The author meant for the book to be pro-wolves and many scientists recognize the importance of the book in stopping systematic decimation of the wolves. But if lots of the facts are inaccurate, that would mean that beyond reading a well told tale (which is a good reason to read a book, though not a non-fiction one) what have I actually learned about wolves? I don’t have time to research online what was accurate about the tale and what wasn’t! The author freely admits that the point is what counts, not the accuracy.

Confusing. Still, it was a fun read!