Saturday’s Book: ” The Accidental” by Ali Smith

I can’t make up my mind whether I like this book or not.

While I was reading it I alternated between wondering why I’m still reading and it and going ” oh! wow! intriguing!”

I guess what counts that, as a person who will stop reading a book I don’t like, is that I COULD NOT stop reading and had to see how it ended.

The book made me think of a modern, unorthodox Mary Poppins story, without any of the British “proper” behavior of Mary Poppins!

Thoughts about YOU MATTER – Angela Maeirs Powerful TEDx Talk

I found this to be an INCREDIBLY powerful talk. I’ve already listened to it twice.

Just thinking about it has already sparked interesting chains of thought and its only been two days!

My friend, who is a retired kindergarten teacher commented that when you walk into a kindergarten class and feel the calm, relaxed atmosphere, you know that the teacher has adopted the “you matter” attitude. She always used lines such as “you waited patiently for the slide today” “you let your friend use the crayon” and says it made  a world of difference to the kids.

That part of the talk is not new in itself – I believe all teachers know this is important (at least theoretically). And as a special ed teachers I have watched Rick Lavoie’s film “When the Chips are Down” countless times. But Angela Maeirs takes this point beyond education, into our daily life! Now, you may say “duh”, but Maeirs is a really great speaker and I found myself asking “why has the focus only been on the pupils? What about us teachers, and everyone else I meet regularly? Being polite and noticing aren’t the same!

A few hours after I first listened to it I had to go to a stationary store and found myself buying a “noticing notebook”. I got home and stopped myself from putting it into my schoolbag. I was “blown away” Maeirs’ description of the impact of such a notebook on the students. But I’m not Maeirs! I teach in the format of a learning center with five or seven different things going on in class at the same time. In the short breaks between lessons I barely have time to put my stuff back in order or take some bites of my sandwich. I’m also trying to remember to drink more often… How can I write those “I noticed” notes? And if I wait till the end of the day, and it is one of the days of seven classes in a row, who will be insulted by what I forgot by then to write?

But it is such a good idea…

This talk also really highlighted another aspect of the brilliance that is the Y.A.L.P Project, and how lucky I am to have Dr. Judy Yaron helping me implement it. In the project not only do the pupils get individual attention from someone, but because it is structured so that non-teachers can teach, pupils teach each other. And when Maeirs talks about showing the pupils we trust them with important tasks, it really means a lot to some of the kids when I say to one of them “Danny really wants to work at his Y.A.L.P Project now and you are a great teacher, will you teach him now?” I’m hoping to expand the scope of the project this year! (you can read about the project here and here).


I haven’t exhausted all I feel about this talk, but I guess this is enough for one post. I just wish I could get it subtitled into Hebrew – I can’t share it with my Hebrew speaking staff at school and at my counseling job. You may hear about it again…

* note – I say “listening” to the talk and not “watching” it as I have upgraded my mp player and can now do housework as I listen! HA!

Amazing! He Knows My “back-to-school” Dreams!

I was really amazed to read Scott Thornbury’s post “D is for Dreams” – he seems to have looked into my dreams!

Although I am about to begin my 26th year as a teacher, I have bad dreams during the second half of every August, like clockwork, every single year.

I wasn’t aware that other teacher do too. Although I teach in a very large high-school with many teachers, the subject has never come up. When we meet during “preparation days” before school starts one either talks about the fun one had on holiday or gripes about the new timetable or changes that have just been intoduced  for the upcoming school year.

My dreams would fall into the “loss of control” category.

Nightmare on the road

The odd thing is I don’t dream about the REAL “loss of control” issues I am worried about when I’m awake. Such as the 12th grader that goes from being sweet and working nicely to saloon-type fighting in about 30 seconds if someone sets him off.  Or the two 11th graders who kept all levels of the school administration on their feet dealing with their disregard of anything their teachers tell them (for instance – you cannot enter a class that isn’t your own in the middle of the lesson!). And what about all those unknown 10th graders?

Instead I dream that I can’t seem to be able to get to the classroom. The car won’t start, the bus won’t come, there is trouble on the road, people keep obstructing my path and forcing me to stop, etc.

There are also the dreams when I DO make it to the classroom but the pupils keep coming in, more and more and more and they don’t seem to stop. I can’t manage to talk to any of them as the door keeps opening…

So, thank you Scott Thornbury! I found your post on dreams very encouraging!

Saturday’s Book – “Freakonomics” by Levitt and Dubner

I had heard that this book was engaging , thought provoking and even amusing.

Therefore I delayed reading it till the trip to Alaksa.

Four people (two young adults /teenagers ) on the road together for three weeks – nothing like adding some unusual topics to discuss along the way! The chapter “Do parents really matter?” really caught everyone’s attention (it includes the question “Does it matter if parents read aloud to their kids or not!!!! Boy, have I read aloud!!!) . The chapter about the reduction of violence in the USA during the 1990’s was also fascinating!

Even if you aren’t going on the road for three weeks – it IS an engaging, thought provoking and amusing book! Glad I read it!

Have You Ever Dreamed of a Place…

I was visiting my parents this morning and for no particular reason asked to borrow the CD of the soundtrack of “Lost Horizon”. I hadn’t heard it for years. When I was young my mother played it often – it was one of her favorite records (no CD’s then, of course!)

That was before I heard the news.

Terrorist attack. 7 killed. 31 injured.

It’s a very schmaltzy CD overall. But the words of the theme song are SO moving on a day like today:

Have you ever dreamed of a place
Far away from it all
Where the air you breathe is soft and clean
And children play in fields of green
And the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears (anymore)

Have you ever dreamed of a place
Far away from it all
Where the winter winds will never blow
And living things have room to grow
And the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears anymore.

Many miles from yesterday before you reach tomorrow
Where the time is always just today
There¹s a lost horizon________waiting to be found.
There’s a lost horizon
Where the sound of guns
Doesn’t pound in your ears

Surprising Road Sign



I encountered this road sign on our recent trip to Alaska.

I have never seen such a sign before.

While it is true that deaf children don’t hear cars coming (and I know from experience that many special needs children have over-protective parents) my theory is as follows:

* Children at play should be supervised till they are old enough to be careful

* Children shouldn’t play on the road.

This applies to all children, hearing or not.

When the deaf child who lives in that house is old and responsible enough to play unsupervised, I am pretty sure he /she won’t be playing under the sign. And if the child hasn’t yet learned to be highly aware of cars, then supervision is what is needed, not a road sign.

Perhaps the fact that I don’t live there, or in the USA at all, is impairing my ability to understand the context in which this road sign was considered the right thing to have in front of the house.

Because I don’t get it.

Do you?

Saturday’s Book – “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” by Fannie Flag

I haven’t updated this category since we left for Alaska but I have been reading!

This was the first book that I read on the trip. I had seen the movie years ago and didn’t remember too much about it except that I really enjoyed it.

Perfect choice for many hours of traveling – light, engaging, interesting and amusing.


How Can I Bring Personal Travel Experiences into the Classroom?


(click on the photo to enlarge and read)


There is a part in me that objects to the question I myself have just posed. Being on vacation, traveling (or doing something totally different from ones daily activities) is important to any person’s well being. There is no need to translate everything into classroom terms – I believe that a happier teacher is a better teacher!

And yet…

I saw the sign above, with the poem, on the very first day of our family trip to Alaska. Beluga Point was our first stop after leaving Anchorage. I found that the poem “stuck with me” throughout the trip, because it connected to the very strong sense of awe I felt while visiting Alaska. We are not intrepid backpackers who spend a week in a tent in the rain or hike in inaccessible areas. We stayed in cabins or B&B’s with hot showers and went on hikes on familiar trails.

Nonetheless we had awe inspiring experiences.

Not only are the vistas along the roads stunning, the close encounters with glaciers incredible, the bald eagles whizzing past majestic (and of course there are the bears and the moose!) consider experiences such as the following:

* On a guided boat ride in Kenai Fjord we saw humpback whales collaborating together in what is called bubble-net feeding. They all exhale at the same time and create a bubble that sucks in the fish.


* On a small hill next to the B&B we were staying at, we saw (at close range!!!) a herd of about 400 caribou migrating from their calving area to their winter area. The next morning we saw them fording the river.

DSCF1457  DSCF1521

So, I think it is clear why the feeling I feel the strongest from this trip is a sense of awe.

If I want to think in classroom terms I need to define what is it exactly I want to share with my students and a sense of awe regarding nature is not a very clear definition to work with.

I’ve had an unsuccessful experience with travel tales in the past.

A year and a half ago our youngest son went on an amazing youth trip to the ANTARCTIC!  After our son returned, he made a slide show and lectured in different classes at his high-school. In the slide show you could follow the stages of his long journey on the map, see icebergs, penguins and life on the boat. So, I decided to create a suitable worksheet (with answers to be found in the slideshow) in easy English for my pupils and bring it to class. The level of general knowledge and world geography knowledge is pretty low in many of my high-school groups of deaf and hard of hearing students.I had hoped that the fact that this is a true story about my own son would capture the student’s interest and something about the Antarctic might sink in.

The results were mixed. Some pupils did react as I had hoped. But others basically only reacted to the fact that the teacher’s son was lucky enough to get a full scholarship and THEY would never be so lucky (luck, yeah, my son found the organization himself, filled out forms, wrote essays, got recommendations, got the scholarship only the second time round, but for them it was like winning the lottery). They weren’t interested in the rest at all.

So, any suggestions (beyond sneaking some of these photos into online worksheets) on what to do in the classroom with my strong sense of awe of the natural wonders of Alaska?