I read this book in three days. I couldn’t put it down.
Obviously, when you recognize the author’s name you compare it to “The Glass Castle”. No, it’s not as good as that book, which was really powerful and memorable. But there’s no need to compare – I really enjoyed reading this book.
First of all, Walls’ writing style had me totally mesmerised from the first page. There’s something about the way she writes that makes me feel that those two sisters, their unstable mother and even the two emus are so real. Yup, emu, the animal. Two of them. The fact that the author combines the backdrop of racial tension following the integration of schools in Virginia, along with prevalent norms and different perspectives playing out in a small town vs. “city folk” add many thought-provoking dimensions to the story.
I must also admit that the “teacher side” of me also kicks in. It could be a great book to discuss with high school students. Many issues that are relevant to all teenagers come up, with the wonderful message that running away from your problems isn’t going to make them go away.
“I led the pigeons to the flag” – do you know how many American first graders, native speakers, solemnly recite that each morning while pledging allegiance to the flag? As William Saffire presents it in 100 Years of The New York Times: On Language :
“The most saluted man in America is Richard Stans. Legions of schoolchildren place their hands over their hearts to pledge allegiance to the flag, “and to the republic for Richard Stans.” With all due patriotic fervor, the same kids salute “one nation, under guard.” Some begin with “I pledge a legion to the flag,” others with “I led the pigeons to the flag.”
Fanselow’s section on Active Listening reminded me of this article, because he focuses on understanding how difficult it is for native speakers to understand / repeat / write correctly words they aren’t familiar with when they hear them. Then he highlights the question: what are learners of English as foreign language actually hearing when we model language? Is it what their teachers expect? Or are they blithely leading pigeons to the flag some of the time?
I’m so glad I read this section of the book too. Obviously, I can’t comment or try the suggested activities as they are not suitable for my classes of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. But Fanselow answers the perennial question that teachers, who have a hard of hearing student in their regular English class often ask:
“Why does my hard of hearing student do so much better in his/her other subjects? When I have a conversation with him/her outside of class the student seems to understand me well! Perhaps the student needs to listen harder?”
You can’t “listen harder”. The hard of hearing student understands you better in his/her native language because he knows the language better.
Fanselow doesn’t mention this in his book but I would like to point out the issue of acoustics. Poor classroom acoustics doesn’t help anyone and is certainly a big problem for a student who doesn’t hear well. Acoustics affect the teachers as well! Here is an extremely short (and teacher friendly!! ) Buncee presentation with some useful tips that could help make your day less tiring and make a significant difference to students: “The Sound of an “English Room”.
It may very well be that “all the world’s a stage” but somehow it seems to me that the stage is actually a classroom. Not only does life give me “private lessons” on a daily basis (with no “opt out” option… ) everything I learn seems to connect to being a teacher and to my own classroom.
The latest case in point is a lecture I recently attended, supposedly having nothing to do with the classroom. As you may have noticed, I’ve become fascinated by genealogy research since I received those letters from pre-war Poland and began my “Who Were You,Dora?” series of posts. It was a panel on historical writing from different perspectives with the famous historian Deborah Lipstadt and the historical-novelist Rachel Kadish, moderated by Ilana Blumberg. It was fascinating and I enjoyed hearing both speakers. I would happily attend a much longer lecture given by each of them!!
Frankly, I hadn’t heard of Rachel Kadish before the talk. I made the effort to go to the lecture after a long day at school, just before national matriculation exams, because I had wanted to hear Professor Lipstadt speak – it was worth it! However, it was actually some of Kadish’s words that have been “dancing” in my head all week.
First of all, Rachel Kadish referred to a quote which I later found online, attributed to E.M. Forster “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”
Isn’t that a great answer to the perennial question – “why do I blog?!
I often write comments on education-related blog posts that I read. Only through writing can I clearly work out what is it exactly I agree or disagree with, or which elements will be useful for me in class. That’s why I also reflect, in writing, on handbooks for teachers in my blogging challenges. Finding the right words, or “weighing my words” helps me define my thoughts.
I was so surprised to learn, following the lecture, that Rachel Kadish had a speech impediment when she was a child. It certainly isn’t noticeable today. In an article by Kadish in the New York Times called “Weighing my Words” she explains what words meant to her as a child and ponders the connection between those experiences and her becoming a writer.
As an EFL teacher of Special Ed., examples of real people who manage to turn a problem, which made them miserable as children, into an advantage later on in life are important. It’s particularly helpful to encounter such examples in contexts that are not given in some teachers’ in-service training course.
We teachers need to transfer a great deal of “positive energy” to the students, particularly those who are having a rough time of it. That means our “inspiration banks” must be filled often, from a variety of sources.
And what about the book “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish?
I haven’t read it yet. Planning to get it as an audio-book for my birthday. So a review of that will come later on.
Full title – “The Riddle of the Compass – The Invention that Changed the World”
What a little gem of a book!
This is a great example of what a good librarian can do for you. I’m so embarrassed to admit that I have forgotten the English-speaking-librarian’s name, perhaps because she rarely works during the times when I visit the library. But I do remember what I have learned by reading some of the stranger looking books she has placed on the recommended bookshelf – give the book a chance! It’s a library – you can always return it if you don’t like it.
You don’t have to be a skipper (I hate boats, get seasick) or a fan of how-devices -work programs (I just want them to work, thank you very much) to find this book fascinating. In a simple and very engaging style, Aczel takes you on a trip around the world and through the ages. Not only does he present how people navigated at sea before compasses came on the scene, he shows you how things are related to each other – commerce, war, prosperity, health, education, cultures and technology. In this case the technology is the compass.
Telling you anymore would ruin the experience and Aczel does it so much better! It’s like reading a multi dimensional travel book – globe-trotting and time travel.
It says on the cover that the author wrote more books – I’ll keep an eye out for them.
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students