Perhaps like the cliché “No, it’s not you, it’s me”. The book won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 and it’s not that I can’t see why. Banville’s use of language is impressive, his descriptions are rich and I used the dictionary a few times to look up words I had never encountered.
But the skillful use of language was the only thing that kept me reading as far as I did. And that’s not enough.
I found myself not looking forward to my “reading time”.
The combination of the very slow pace of the book, the fact that very little actually happens ( mostly memories and thoughts) and the fact that the hero is mourning the recent death of his wife was too much for me at this time.
Perhaps if the timing had been different I would have been able to hang in there and see where all these thoughts led the protagonist but there it is.
Funny how things work. My blog was “sniffed at” and then mentioned on a list of recommended blogs in the same week! A week which just happened to lead up to this blog’s SEVENTH BIRTHDAY!
The other day I met a teacher who said he has a blog. A blog about a very specific topic, totally not EFL or language related. When I said I also had a blog, he wanted to know what it was about.
And I hesitated.
What is the blog about?
It’s not only about teaching English to Deaf and hard of hearing students.
It’s not only about teaching English.
Sometimes it’s just about being a teacher.
Or even about being a book-lover.
So I hesitated.
Then I replied “It’s about education”.
He looked at me as if he were holding back the words “yeah, right”, sniffed in disdain and walked away.
I can see it from his point of view. How worthwhile could the blog be if the blogger has trouble answering the simple question “what is your blog about”? “Education” is an extremely broad topic…
“Ha!” I thought to myself and smiled. Time works in my favor here, because I happen to know that not knowing what the blog is about works. Seven years have gone by and writing on the blog still helps me put my thoughts in order and reflect. 685 posts have been posted and read by people, even though 98% of my readers do not teach English to Deaf and hard of hearing students. I’ve even passed the 2, 030 mark in Twitter followers…
It seems everything is possible – I wonder if such a talent as mine would enable me to qualify for “America’s Got Talent”?!
Part of the task for the great digital in-service training course I am taking was to use “Tricider” with my students.
Tricider is a digital tool that lets you brainstorm, collect ideas and opinions really easily.
It has several appealing features:
Very intuitive interface – really friendly. Register for free and off you go!
The students do not have to register in order to participate. Nor do they have to install or download anything. That is a really important point with my students.
Tricider allows the user to vote and express his/her opinion in a very simple, clear way. There is no need for lengthy explanations from a teacher before use. Actually, hardly any explanations at all.
This year we are in the process of setting up a work station in our learning center about Deaf people who did /do interesting things. In addition, the work-station is also supposed to include a vocabulary section dealing with words and phrases a person with a hearing loss should know when he /she is travelling abroad in an English-speaking country. The station is intended to be used by all of my Deaf and Hard of Hearing High-School students, at all levels.
I created the following Tricider page with suggestions I had for useful phrases and vocabulary a person with a hearing loss traveling abroad (in an English-speaking country) would possibly find useful. I hoped using the Tricider would serve as a “teaser” – to spark interest in the new work station. In addition, I wanted to tailor the vocabulary taught to the students’ interests and thoughts – in other words, to collect information from them regarding which phrases and words would be useful for them. Finally, I was hoping to gauge the students’ current familiarity with the target vocabulary. Click on the title below to see the Tricider page that I created.
First of all, anyone entering the link given above can see which suggestions were mine, which were suggested by students and how they voted. Those who did so were interested, engaged and glad to have their opinion heard. Students (and people in general) like to be asked for their opinion! Their additions are interesting.
Unfortunately, things are not working out as planned. At the moment, only a small number of students have responded.
For one thing, for some reason the site lists this Tricider as one I’m a participant in and not one I created (though it leaves me with no clue as to who they think did create it!). It is annoying because it makes it harder to find when I log into the site and I wonder if it has anything to do with the more significant problem that I’m having.
I sent the students a link to the Tricider page via WhatsApp. However, since a fair number of my students do not study outside of class, on their own, at home (especially for something that isn’t mandatory and is not graded), I did what I often do – have the online activity open on the classroom computer and send students individually or in pairs to do it. Since the classroom is set up in the format of a learning center, it is quite convenient to do so.
When I opened the link using the share link supplied by the site, only the first student who sat down at the computer could respond. When the next students tried to respond there was a notification that answers have been recorded and no further ones can be added. Only the few students who went into the link by using WhatsApp web were able to respond. The only other option was rebooting the computer and bringing up the shared link again. That was far too time consuming and cumbersome, requiring too much of my involvement. I want the students to be independent.
Not giving up, but this is where I’m stuck at the moment.
One more thing!
I guess I couldn’t qualify for America’s Got Talent in any case, since I don’t actually live in the United States…
Yes, you may wonder where I’ve been. The book was published in 1995. I don’t how I missed it. I must have heard of the book often enough for the title to trigger a reaction when I spotted it, because I reached for the book immediately without being able to recall what it was about. It was waiting for me on the “Book-sharing” bookcase our school principal kindly set up outside his office.
I found every aspect of the book fascinating. What an amazingly clever way McBride used to tell both his mother’s life story (which he did not know for a great many years) and to tell his own, and to connect them in such a seamless manner.
And what a story it is.
But here’s the thing. This book isn’t just about a child of Ultra Orthodox immigrant Jewish parents from a totally dysfunctional family who winds up having 12 African-American children in New York. Despite grappling with poverty and a host of problems, every single one of these children graduated from college and went on to have successful careers.
***Note – that wasn’t a spoiler. You can learn that much from the first page and back cover. Believe me, there’s more to read.
This book is also about people’s need to know where they come from and to figure out their own place in the world.
I feel that it is also about not letting the circumstances you were born in define your destiny. There are real people out there who “reinvent” themselves.
As someone who is passionately interested in education, I was particularly interested in the details related to that subject – one which was incredibly important to the author’s mother (more so than actual food…).
I’ve donated books to the principal’s special bookcase and will do so in the future. I’m not bringing this book back, though!
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students