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!