Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Recommendation: Radical

Image credit from Barnes & Noble
Book: Radical: Fighting to Put Students First 
Author: Michelle Rhee
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Type: Teacher Reads -  thought provoking ideas, inspiration, good for discussions/book clubs 
Where to get it: library (hold list may be long right now), Powell's, Barnes & Noble and

More information related to this book:
Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst grassroots organization - about reforming education
About Michelle Rhee and her educational career from her StudentsFirst website
The first organization she created called The New Teacher Project


Over the weekend I finished this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Radical and could not put it down. Not only did I enjoy how Ms. Rhee wrote the book, but I was captivated by her passion for educating children in America. I will warn you, this book is controversial. However, with any education book that tries to address the issues in the public school systems is going to start debates and discussions. With that said, I think most can agree with her on her main point: all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status deserve an excellent teacher and education. Depending on your opinions and even role in the education system, you might have a different solution in mind. Rhee defends and explains her views on how she has tried to solve the problem -- as she was chancellor in the D.C. school system for 3 years.

So why should you read this book? Well, it is important to be knowledgeable about what is happening in America's schools throughout the country. After all, the choices adults make affect the lives of children positively or negatively. Perhaps this will inspire you to be a better teacher. I know I feel even more compelled to learn all that I can so I can be the best for my future students. Maybe you will feel the urge to advocate for children in some way or even join in Rhee's StudentsFirst movement. Or maybe you will have a deeper sense of empathy towards children who suffer academically because of their race or low socioeconomic status. For me, this book makes me want to act.

 Here's a profound quote I'll share with you, that will always stay with me (a special preview!):

"That said, I do believe that schools and teachers can make a tremendous difference in the lives of kids who face these challenges every day. Do our children face significant obstacles that impact their ability to learn? Absolutely. Can we, as educators, still make an enormous difference in their lives, if we're doing our jobs well? Absolutely. These are not mutually exclusive notions. The research is very clear: teachers make a real difference. In fact, of all in-school factors, the quality of the teacher in front of the students every day has far and away the greatest influence on student achievement." (p.109)*

*Except for the not, colors and bold words were added for emphasis.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Reading

This morning...

This was how my morning started out and rest of the day was quite similar. While waiting for a repairman to come to our house, I sat on the couch and read. Since the repairman did not show up till much later I ended up reading all day, which was lovely. I want to finish the book I'm reading, Radical by Michelle Rhee (fantastic!) soon as I have one on hold at the library. Ah.... a day of reading and with a sweet kitty. Friday has been good.

Did you read today? If so, where? Or are you planning to later?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Applying Those Bookworm Research Findings

You read quite a bit of compelling information in the previous post so now I am going to share with you a simple way to incorporate writing into your life. Right after I read Marina Koren's article, I thought to myself, "Why haven't I been journaling while I read?" I'm not talking of writing pages upon pages and reactions to everything you read. No, I am talking about writing down quotes and words that you want to remember.

Maybe you won't find something to write down every night or when you read, but hopefully you can get in the habit along with me. 
  • Keep a journal of some kind along with your book and whenever you come across words/sentences that speak to you, write them down! 
  • Share what you have written as that will further engage your mind with the book. Talk with a friend/co-worker/significant other etc., share via social media (I love using quotes as statuses!), use the words in a letter or note to someone, or create a piece of artwork inspired by those meaningful words, or your own unique way of sharing!
  • Enjoy going back and seeing what you have written. 
Here is what I'm doing:

Happy reading AND writing! Work that brain! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bookworm Benefits for the Brain in Old Age

Recently, on Facebook, a friend of mine shared an article about how being a bookworm can boost brain function in old age. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, "Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age."  The author of this article, Marina Koren basically summarizes the findings from a brain study, published in Neurology. I suggest you read her post as it is only a page long (and reading is good for you!) and I'm only going to share a few tidbits*.
  • "In particular, people who participated in mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes, both in young, middle and old age, had a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities than those who did not."  -- Makes sense! Use it.... or (say it with me) lose it!
  • "Those who didn't read or write often later in life did even worse: their memory decline was 48 percent faster than people who spent an average amount of time on these activities." -- This is a profound finding. Wow. 
  • "Reading gives our brains a workout because comprehending text requires more mental energy than, for example, processing an image on a television." -- I want to post this everywhere in addition to the above quotes from this article. How many hours do you, me, children in this country spend in front of a TV? We have got to get our brains churnin' and burnin'! Reading and writing are the gym for our brain. Both develop our memory and stimulate it in critical ways. From what I gather from the article, reading is like running and writing is like lifting weights/doing weight bearing exercises.
  • Koren ends her post with a finding from a 2009 brain research study and leaves us with this scary finding: "By 27, mental processes like reasoning, spatial visualization and speed of thought begin to decline." -- So.... who fell off their chair with this? Our brains going downhill at 27?! I'm just about 26.5 years old. Yikes!
So I think the evidence is clear, folks. I know this is one study but it has some excellent points: READ and WRITE often! Do it for your brain now and when you are older!!!

Think I'll go pick up my book now :)

*bold words and emphasis was added by me for fun effects