Saturday’s Book: “Run” by Ann Patchett

After my lack of success with my previous library book, I decided to wait no longer. I checked out the third and last Ann Patchett book that the library owns. I really enjoyed the previous two.

What a great choice!

Its difficult to describe the book without spoiling it, as part of its charm is the unpredictable manner in which the story progresses. It takes place in BOSTON (that’s kind of an added perk -I spent my childhood in a Boston suburb with Irish Catholic children) and thereIS an extended family whose lives the reader gets involved in. But just when I feel I know how the plot will play out in the next chapter it veers away and surprises me. Yet it all ties in and does move forward.

The best image I can think of is a searchlight, surpising you anew with each thing it illuminates.

I suppose it is just as well that I will probably finish this book before the trip to Liverpool. I really should try to sleep on the flight and I have trouble stopping and turning off my night light with this one!


Saturday’s Books: From Baldacci to McCall Smith

I’m not the least bit against reading a book with a happy end. I mean the kind when you know there’s going to be a happy end from page one. In fact, I need it from time to time.

And I’m perfectly willing to let the hero ” have” a miracle if the writing is good. Even if it happened on Christmas.

But I will absolutely not put up with books that adhere to a mold and are so predictable. I found David Baldacci “One Summer” to be laid out as if ready for a film with Jennifer Aniston (though not sure she is right for the heroine in this case). Person remains alone with 3 children (won’t spoil the miracale) and has to learn to deal with them. Enter person of opposite sex alone with a child. All learn to live again and love again. He DOES write nicely but I couldn’t stand it and abandoned the book.

I moved to “The Full Cupboard of Life” by McCall Smith, from the “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”. It is also a book where I know there will be a happy end but so very different! I smile and chuckle and can never predict how Mma Ramotswe will deal with something. I just know that she will!


So WHAT if I Missed a Lesson (or FOUR)?

We (thank goodness! ) are on vacation now.

Photo by Omri Epstein

The moment I return to high-school, it will be “reckoning time”. The whole time left till the end of the year is basically about tests, literature logs to be handed in and grades.

The time when students finally see the results of being physically (or mentally!) absent from the lessons. Some students are quite amazed that it matters.

This time of year reminds of an incredibly apt and wonderful poem by Tom Wayman. I would like to thank Steve Hellmann for introducing me to it.

Wouldn’t YOU like to say such things to a student sometimes?

Did I Miss Anything? by Tom Wayman


Saturday’s Book: “The Heritage” by Lenz, Part Two


I began the week, Sunday morning, with only fifty pages left to read. When I get this close to the end of a book, a good book, I have been known to drop almost everything and read.

This week it only happened today. Now that my talk on Sunday has been given, 3 different staff meetings have been attended and dinner for 15 people is behind me, today I “resigned” from everything, sat and read until I finished the book.

Good book.

Lenz so very cleverly manages to paint a universal tale by telling a very personal tale, rich with details. He deals with the extremely hot rod of a subject of defining homeland, of the beauty and dangers of patriotism and the price of rewriting history. Although one recognizes World War 1 and 2, he does not give time-lines or maps. In fact he does not directly name things you would expect

If I said, when reading part one, that parts of the book reminded me of an Emir Kusturica film, the second part reminded me at times of the POWERFUL movie “The White Ribbon” (Michael Haneke, the one who just won an Oscar for “Amour”). The final 50 pages are dramatic. While the book opens with the fact that the hero burned down The Heritage Museum, and all through the book one has suspicions, but only at the very end does Lenz make it crystal clear why it was done.

A book that highlights the power of understatement.

Off to the library tomorrow – holiday coming!


Crowdsourcing a Talk – A Heady Feeling

There’s something absolutely exciting about getting a large number of poll responses from people. It begins with a feeling of awe at the number of people who spent some time thinking about what I had asked. It’s as if I had spoken briefly to each and every one of the ONE HUNDRED AND TEN people myself.

Then came the drowning sensation. I’ve prepared many talks and usually have a very clear picture of what I want to achieve. Suddenly there was so much data! I could take it in so many directions! For a while I was stuck.

The talk was for “Shema” itinerant teachers. These are qualified teachers who tutor students with a hearing loss in elementary and junior high-school. They teach whatever subject the children  need help with, including English when necessary. But they are not English teachers and most of them aren’t Native Speakers either.

I posted survey questions in Hebrew for these teachers, both as a wake up call to be more aware of services and support they could be getting and aren’t utilizing, and as a way to get more information for myself regarding their needs.  93 itinerant teachers answered the survey questions.

I also created a survey for English teachers, which I posted on our wonderful local network, ETNI. 12 teachers answered the survey in English

I must point out that the part of posting the surveys was very easy indeed, thanks to Adele Raemenr, who introduced me to Google Docs in a session at the Jerusalem  Summer ETAI Conference.

Here are some of the results (note that the numbers refer to actual numbers, not percentages. They don’t always add up to 110 as not all the teachers answered all the questions).

The English teachers did not agree whether or not it was important for a Shema teacher to have her own copy of the teacher’s guide. There was a question of how helpful it could be for someone who was not a qualified English teacher.

Teacher’s Guide

Of the 30 Shema teachers who attended my talk, only one had ever looked at a teacher’s guide in English. In other subjects they had done so.

The Shema teachers, who travel from school to school, were also unaware of what they might find in the school’s “English Closet”. Here is what the English teacher’s had to say:

English Closet

It was very clear from the survey that many Shema teachers do not feel comfortable aksing the classroom teacher to explain material being taught. 61 of them said they would prefer to have a special            reference/resource site for them instead of asking the teacher.

asking the classroom teacher

Considering the Shema teacher’s interest in having a site tailored to their needs (which already exists in a smaller format, yet hasn’t been used much!) I was surprised by the number of teachers who said that they prefer their resource material to be in printed book form – 36!

printed vs online

The explanation was that grammar is the topic most stressful for Shema teachers. They want to own a good book that not only has explanations in Hebrew but also has exercises for the students. They want to have it in printed form, readily available whenever needed.

I asked for information, now I can’t ignore the answers. So, now I had better get cracking on expanding the online resource material for Shema teachers. I just hope they will use it!

It’s Saturday! Discussing Reading Habits on a Nature Hike

Today was a BEAUTIFUL day, perfect weather for a nature hike in the Carmel Mountain. Its been a rainy winter and the flowers are in full bloom. Our timing was good, and we had already started walking when the ground warmed up enough for the storks to rise in the circular fashion that allows them to take advantage of the warm air and use it as an elevator. I’m not exaggerating, thousands of storks passed over us! Its migrating season! So very very impressive! No pictures though, very hard to catch.

Unsurprisingly, our friends tend to be people who enjoy reading too. This time we were discussing different reading habits. We seemed to be neatly split down the middle. Half of us (including me!) have to read every single day. Some days less, sometimes more, but every single day. I find that all day my thoughts are darting in a multitude of directions. Reading is a time of focusing on something outside my daily life. I find it very relaxing.

The other half feel that when they read they want to spend a lot of time reading and have continuity (read the book often). They feel too tired to read every day and prefer to save their reading for holidays and vacations.

Which group do you identify with?

Thank Goodness! iTDi Has Turned the Lights ON!

In the past two years in which I’ve been on “blogosphere” and “twitterverse”, I’ve searched continually for mentions of special needs students in ELT.

I’ve found precious few mentions.

And it doesn’t make sense. They are out there. Why isn’t attention being paid to them?

Well, iTDi has stepped up and pointed a spotlight into the farthest corners of this void. Six writers from all over the world approach the issue from different aspects.

I’m a Special Ed teacher. I knew this issue would come out as I was asked to write one of the pieces. Yet I didn’t have a clue that I would be both surprised and moved by the other posts. I sincerely hope that teachers who read these posts will express an interest in special needs students, so that more relevant information will become readily available to them.

I sincerely hope that many other lamps will be lit to strengthen the spotlight  iTDi has aimed at the void, and that the topic of special needs learners will become part of every teacher’s toolkit.

You can find the Special Needs Issue at the iTDI Blog here.


It’s Saturday! “A&P” by John Updike

If you had asked me to name some important American Writers I would have mentioned John Updike.  But the sad truth is that I hadn’t actually read anything by him (the fact that I watched “The Witches of Eastwick” on TV doesn’t really count).

It turns out that there are free New Yorker Magazine podcasts of short stories that appeared in their Magazine years ago. Each story is read by a different author and there is a discussion about the story with the paper’s literary fiction editor.

My first choice was Updike’s story. I listened to it and then found it online too (I’m not linking to it, don’t know about copyright here). I really enjoyed it. You see the scene so clearly, even though the story depicts a time period long gone. I could easily imagine it, the characters are so believable.

Since then, in the first two days after I listened/read the story, I encountered mentions of it! First there was the article about Brendan O’connell – an artist who paints Walmart (sounds awfully odd, doesn’t it?). He mentions the story as one of the sources of his inspiration.

When I began telling my older brother about this, he just heard the name Updike and told me that he’ll never forget the first short story he had learned in college, which was A&P.

I’ll see what the library has of his – any recommendations? In any case, am still reading “The Heritage Museum”. My friend Dorit surprised me with a copy of the book in English so I immediately abandoned the archaic Hebrew translation in two volumes. It is really good!