Tuesday, March 6, 2018

February Mini Reviews

The Alienist (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, #1) 
Rating: 3

This was definitely an interesting story, but dear GOD it was long. And this is coming from the QUEEN of huge book reading!   I love long books as much as the next person, but there needs to be a good reason for it.  There's a reason fantasy novels tend to be thicker books - they need the length to have room to put in the world building.  This book didn't need it - could have easily cut 200 pages of this and not lost anything.  But it does go into an interesting side of history I don't know much about, and if I'm able to watch the series I think it will make a GREAT TV adapation!

The Sum of All Kisses (Smythe-Smith Quartet #3) - Julia Quinn

The Sum of All Kisses (Smythe-Smith Quartet, #3) 
Rating: 4 stars

I've said it a million times before, but Julia Quinn is hands down QUEEN at humor in historical romance.  She's by far the funniest of any historical romance authors I've read, and this book was no different.  There were parts I didn't love of this toward the end - it got a bit over dramatic when it could have wrapped everything up, but otherwise if you need a solid piece full of squishy feelings and hilarious banter, you should pick this one up.

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me 
Rating: 3.5

Especially in the current climate, I could not recommend reading this book more.  If you choose to go audio - and I do recommend that you do - it's read by the author which makes it feel even more powerful.  Now I didn't agree with everything he said, but I feel like this book isn't really here to answer questions, it's here to make you ask more questions.  Sometimes it felt like Coates goes a little over-generalized, but again this is one where I think it's important to shut up and listen.

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs #1) - Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1) 
 Rating: 5 

This book was so delightful!  The mystery doesn't fall into any expected categories - it's not quite a cozy mystery - I usually associate them with a certain amount of humour and this one has a level of sincerity and thoroughness that doesn't quite jive with that.  But neither is it some sort of grim thriller.  It's thoughtful and a little quiet for a mystery novel.  This isn't to say that it's not a very fun novel - it definitely is.  If you like historical mysteries, and I'd say even for fans of cozy mysteries this is definitely one you shouldn't let pass by.

 Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) - Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2) 
 Rating: 4

This one is also quite lovely.  It's looking like the whole series is going to be set post World War 1 (which tends to get overshadowed in literature by World War II so it's nice to see more on this end of things).  What I really love about this is that both stories so far have been connected to the aftermath of the war - how it affected soldiers, families, and communities and how it was treated at the time.  It feels exceptionally relevant now, as we've had a war going for almost two decades and our treatment of veterans is abominable.

Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, #1) 
Rating: 5

THIS IS A TAMORA PIERCE BOOK DID YOU REALLY THINK IT WASN'T GOING TO GET  STARS???  I literally cried before I even started reading the book.  This is not an exaggeration.  I read every single author blurb written for this in the inside cover, and it was 99% authors that I love all saying how much they loved Tammy Pierce's writing and how much she changed their lives. GUYS I'M TEARING UP RIGHT NOW.   Everything is amazing, and if you haven't read any Tamora Pierce yet, all of her series are self-contained so you could start here!

Tortall: A Spy's Guide - Tamora Pierce

Tortall: A Spy's Guide 
Rating: 5

Not for the casual reader obviously. But if you're crazy about the Tortall series the way I am this is super helpful in keeping things straight and has some cute details to add about all the characters you love!

Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs #3) - Jacqueline Winspear

 Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs, #3) 
Rating: 4.5

This one may be my favourite of the lot so far! (Other than the first one).  It feels the most personal of the lot so far and really delves into character depths we haven't seen yet.

Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs, #4)
Rating: 3.5 stars

I didn't love this quite as much as the others, but can we just agree that the fact I've read four of these in a month is a good indicator of how brilliant this series is?  The WWI trend is definitely a thing, although as we get later in the books (there's at least 8 more of these, maybe more) we're definitely going to head into WWII area at some point. 

The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter

The Good Daughter (The Good Daughter #1) 
Rating: 5

HOOOOLY CRAP GUYS. This book is intense and amazing, and I highly recommend the audio. , but when you get to it I highly recommend it an audio.  One of my favourite narrators so far!

Maybe wait on reading this one if you're not up for a school shooting.  I was listening to this and we had a lockdown (not a drill, but nothing on school grounds - there was a standoff in the neighborhood) and I can definitely say that if I know ahead of time a book is going to have a school shooting I WILL NOT READ IT.  There is nothing scarier as a teacher right now than knowing you are in a real lockdown situation...and not knowing why. So I'm glad I didn't know about it ahead of time because I definitely would not have picked it up. It seriously made me think I was having heart palpitations it gets so intense.  If you liked Gone Girl, Girl on the Train - any of those sorts of intense thrillers, this is a book for you.

Dollhouse: Epitaphs - Andrew Chamberliss

Dollhouse: Epitaphs (Dollhouse, #1-5) 
Rating: 2.5

For those of you who don't know, this is a graphic novel based on a show called Dollhouse, created by Joss Whedon.  It's one of my favourites from Whedon (and yes, it is problematic, and yes I'm not sure I can love it as much knowing what we do about him now.  That's beside the point and I feel weird about it, but didn't think I could talk about this without mentioning all of the above.)

This didn't actually flesh much of the time gap, so it didn't feel like it added anything to the story. Which wouldn't have bothered me as much except that it looks like there isn't going to be any more, so what was the point? Sooo...I'd give it a pass.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Day in the Life #52 In which Elizabeth rants, raves, and whines and feels like a grumpy old lady making excuses for herself

Well, this has been a HELL of a week.  And surprisingly - before you ask - no, it was not the kids.  My students have actually been really awesome the past couple weeks (....now that I'm think on this, I should be suspicious.) What has NOT been awesome is communication between my schools and me.  Surprise, surprise.

Actually that might be a surprise for you - turns out I never shared my super special winter concert fun with you. SO.  Let's share!

Things my schools have note communicated with me in the past months:

1. That we were having an in school concert. I found out an hour before the in school concert that we were having an in school concert.  Did I mention that I am the instrumental music teacher?

2. I am supposed to be on the math action team.  You know what a math action team is?  Me either! You know when the action teams were put together and started meeting?  At the very latest early October.  You know when I found out that I had been missing these meetings?  Two weeks ago.

3. Teachers have to submit SLO's in February. SLO stands for Student Learning Outcome, and it basically proves that you are an effective teacher. In October you submit an SLO to get approved by the administration and you spend the following months collecting data and making sure you meet the standards you laid out in your SLO.  This ends up being 50% of your end of year evaluation, which is obviously really important when it comes to being rehired in the county or if you are looking to transfer to other counties.

Guess who found out that we were supposed to submit TWO SLOs a mere day before the due date?

We're going to manage my irritation with cute gifs. Look here's an adorable baby bunny!

To say that I am frustrated would be an extremely mild statement.  I understand that my administrators have a whole building of people they are working with on top of county concerns, parent concerns - they have a ton of stuff going on.  In fact, I'm absolutely certain that I don't even know 50% of all of the crazy things they have to deal with.

But you know what?  So do I.  I am teaching between three different schools, which means three times as many rules and events as most teachers. In one week I'll have to remember that Berkshire has a "red carpet event" that takes place during two classes I will now have to reschedule somehow, that at Seneca they have MAPP testing that will affect half my students but not the other half and that is going to change what I'm able to teach, and that I need to take one specific class to the cafeteria instead of teaching them because it's their cupcake social.  Except that at least two of these three events I have not heard about because no one has told me until I'm actually supposed to be doing these things.

I have to remember that when Glenmar has a fire drill we go to the baseball diamond and the fire drills at Berkshire go to the tennis courts, that at Berkshire I have to text the principal during a lockdown and at Glenmar I turn all the devices off, and that at one of these schools I am not allowed to give any physical rewards but at the other two we do give incentives and that apparently I don't remember any of the safety procedures at Seneca and I need to review them.  This is of course is on top of all of the instruction going on in my class.  So I get that my administration has a lot going on in my schools, but at the end of the day when things fall through the cracks I'm usually the one who ends up with egg on their face.

Adorable cops and robber dachsunds are the best way to manage frustration!

You know what happened when I found out about the winter concert day of?  I had originally planned my dress rehearsals during the concert time (we had an after school concert I was preparing for that I DID know about).  That was going to be the first time the students had EVER performed together.  Usually my students meet with me in small groups for 25 minutes - i.e. my trumpets don't play at the same time as my flutes (but would during the concert) and had never heard each other play together before.  When I approached my principal to let her know that I would figure it out and it would all be fine, but that I might be missing from an e-mail list because I was only just now finding out about the concert?

"Well I would have thought the music department would have communicated with each other."

I mean, she's not wrong about that.  That wasn't on her, but I didn't know that at the time and it seemed logical to go to the principal with a school event concern and this must have been communicated to the rest of the school somehow. But are you really REALLY going to put that on me? 

During my mid year evaluation they discussed their disappointment that I hadn't had more music prepared for the concert.  Well guess what happens when you have to have your students perform for the first time together ever...during the concert?  YOU CUT PIECES.  They also marked me down for not have any vocabulary word walls or rules posted in my room.  Oh wait...did I say my room?  I should have said the Rec Room. In which I am not allowed to leave a single object.  Or post anything on the walls.  I'm not saying that everything else they had to say on improving my teaching wasn't valid - it totally was, and it's helped me with my classroom teaching which really is the whole point of the meeting.  It's also frustrating when you are held accountable for things that aren't on you.

My school that assigned me to an action team without telling me?  I had e-mailed the principal at the beginning of the year asking if I was supposed to be on any teams since I am only at the school one day a week.  He had said no.  To be fair, he didn't put it on me when he said that I had been missing all of the math action team meetings - he said he wasn't sure if anyone had told me.  But it's going to be hella awkward for me to show up to a committee I'm supposed to be on 5 months after the fact, especially as I don't know a single teacher on it.

And then there's the SLO drama which has brought all the rest of this boiling up to the surface.  It's really the topper here.  I even worked on the SLO with the STAT teacher there.  You have to submit the SLO in October.  I mean even if I somehow misunderstood the STAT teacher, I had her check my ONE SLO, and I submitted ONE SLO. I feel like somewhere along the line someone should have reached out and checked why I only submitted one SLO, seeing as I am a first year teacher.  I mean, otherwise what is the point in having them submitted in October in the first place?  Luckily my STAT teachers at one of my other schools ended up saving me and I did have documentation of a pre and post assessment I could use to complete a second SLO.  But I shouldn't have ever been put in that position in the first place.  And I'm still not sure everything is going to be ok, and I judging by every experience I've had at that particular school I have every expectation of the fault being placed on me. 

Puppy pile!

I just....I feel like my frustration has been building and building into what is turning into this deep set ever present sensation of rage.  And I don't like that!  I am not an angry person.  A dramatic person, certainly, but not an angry one.  I don't like being a person who puts blame on other people.  Sure, I don't like hearing negative qualities about myself (who does?) but I feel like I'm honest about myself and I take time to really think about what is being said and then making changes (at least when it comes to my professional life).  It's one of the things I think I excel at.  Fore example, I didn't have cohesive classroom procedures and was marked down for that in the mid-year evaluation, and they were 100% right.  So I took their suggestions, talked to some other teachers, made some changes, and asked my principal at my next evaluation to focus on letting me know if there were any classroom procedure issues I should address.

It's just that each of these situations make me look and feel bad and I went through all the proper channels in all three cases.  I took all the proper steps.  It makes me doubt myself!  I mean I am a really forgetful person, and balancing three schools has certainly been a struggle.  But no matter how I look at it, even if I HAD known the date of the in school concert, someone should have been in touch to discuss what time it was being held, whether the band or orchestra was playing first - I mean there's just no possible way I'm at fault.  And let's say someone had said something about me being on an action team (except that I'd sent that e-mail asking about teams) - it certainly shouldn't have taken until FEBRUARY to be informed that I'd been missing the meetings.  And let's say I had misunderstood my STAT teacher - I have literally lost sleep every night this week wracking my brain, trying to remember exactly what she said to me.  Let's say she did say something and I forgot (again, it seems incredibly unlikely for me to have forgotten something so important.  I literally went and wrote my SLO immediately after meeting with her) how is it that there was not a SINGLE e-mail or written document mentioning TWO SLO's?   Trust me. I went through my entire e-mail.  What if I hadn't decided to get help from my STAT teacher making my SLO? How would I have known then?

So I wrote all this up a few days ago, but didn't post anything because for the most part I like to stay positive (or at least entertaining if it's negative) on the blog and wasn't sure I wanted to post it.  Writing this has been very cathartic and I'm feeling much calmer now. At the end of the day, all of this is out of my control.  Even if something comes down on me about the SLOs, it's done and over.  I've landed on my feet before and I'll figure things out as I have to handle them. I've got to make sure I'm focused on helping my kids and being weighed down or distracted by past events isn't going to help them (or me). 

SO.  I hope you've had a better week than me and that none of you were too affected by the winter storms this week!  And if you had great news, then absolutely share it with me!  I could use a little positivity in my life :)

Bookish News
- Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira Will Adapt Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah
- In case you missed all the news in reference to sexual harassment in children's publishing:
     - Anne Ursu's essay, where it all started
     - Names are named in the comments section
     - Tanita Davis on Daniel Handler's behavior
     - David M. Perry on how the publishing industry plans to handle this
- Spencer Ellsworth argues for Five Threequels That Really Make the Series
- In his fight against female author erasure in SFF, James Davis Nicholl has more authors from the 1970's you should check out
- Pride and Prejudice as told in a series of texts. (Guys this is HILARIOUS)

In Tori Lex has some more awesome bookish links you should check out, including famous author's love letters, novels that subvert gender roles, and famous people's library borrowing history.

If you like booksih links, you should also check out Buckling Bookshelves' list!  My favourite was the list of authors on children's books that still make them weepy.