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Riveting Memoir of a Romanian Lawyer– Could be Used in Christian High School?

Saving My AssassinSaving My Assassin
by Virginia Prodan

Virginia Prodan has written a riveting memoir Saving My Assassin. It was difficult to read many parts of this book because of its troubling, torturous content, but the triumphant spirit of this tiny powerhouse of a woman kept me returning to discover how God could possibly use the evil that surrounded her for His greater purpose.

Virginia Prodan was formerly a lawyer during the cruel Communist dictatorship of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu. Currently she is an international lawyer residing in the U.S. where she continues her work representing Christians who find themselves in legal difficulties because of their stand for Christ.

Saving My Assassin begins with a brief glimpse at a pivotal moment in Prodan’s life. That part of the story ends abruptly, but is repeated and continued later in the appropriate time sequence. This is a technique which could be annoying, but is used here to skillfully draw the reader into the critical nature of the happenings in Prodan’s life. Next we learn of mysteries and events in her younger years which help us understand how she became such a determined adult. She endured a cruel childhood which left her determined to discover the truth on all levels. Why was she so mistreated by her own family? Why did she look so different from them? Why were people in Romania not allowed to worship God when their laws said they could? What motivated the cold violence of the Securitate, the Communist government agents who stalked her, interrogated her, and threatened the lives of her and her children? Why were they so willing to torture and kill their own citizens, innocent of crimes, many of whom apparently disappeared into the night?

Although this book is written for adults, I think mature high school students would appreciate it as well. I taught high school English in a Christian school before I became an elementary public school teacher. This is the kind of book I would have used with my seniors. It would be particularly appropriate for reading in conjunction with a history or civics class as it deals with a Communist dictatorship during the Reagan era and shows the power and influence the U.S. can choose to wield in supporting Christians around the world. Because Saving My Assassin has a strong Biblical message, I assume it could not be assigned for reading in a public school setting, but I would be interested in feedback from teachers with more recent public high school experience than I have.

Saving My Assassin has a proposed publication date of June 7, 2016. I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to the publisher Tyndale House for allowing me to read and review this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Perfect Chapter Book for Beginning Readers

pedroAs a teacher of early learners, K-2 in particular, I was always on the lookout for useful books for the classroom.  I have found one that is great for students to read at home and at school.  I am not a fan of the “guided reading” programs currently pushed in many school districts.  A large number of the book selections are frankly boring. Reading should be fun!  Pedro, First Grade Hero is a book young readers will enjoy.  Its anticipated release date by Capstone Press is September 1, 2016, and I highly recommend it!  I personally would use it in reading groups and then send it home for kids to enjoy there as well.

 

 

Pedro, First Grade Hero

by Fran Manuskin

Pedro, First Grade Hero, is a delightful “chapter book” for early readers. Children usually want to read chapter books like their teacher models for them.  Unfortunately most chapter books are just too difficult for them to read independently. Pedro, First Grade Hero, however, comes to the rescue for the beginning reader.  It is actually a collection of four stories, all about Pedro.  The readability level, length of the stories, and interest level is perfect for first graders as is the focus of each story.

Pedro is a very likable little boy.  In the first story, “Pedro Goes Buggy,” Pedro has to find a bug to write about in school. Discussions about the best bug ensue in the classroom and at home.  Even his little brother Paco gets involved in the fun.  The story has a nice resolution and ends on a humorous note.  For the teacher who likes to integrate learning strands, language arts, math and science provide easy tie-ins.

“Pedro’s Big Goal” draws in boys and girls who love soccer.  This chapter has “bigger is not always better” as well as “keep trying” as its themes.  Children will enjoy the ending and teachers can help them appreciate the play on words.

Most people love a good mystery as do Pedro and his friends who form a mystery club in the third story, trying to find a missing locket and cell phone.  Good vocabulary words include sparkle, locket, and chirping.

The final story, “Pedro for President,”  teaches Pedro and his friend Katie Woo what is involved in being class president.  As they ponder what they have to offer the class, little brother Paco “helps” with the election poster and Pedro creatively turns that effort into a positive.  Pedro, who always encourages his classmates and promotes fairness in the election, is the obvious favorite for president.

The illustrations by Tammie Lyon are colorful, appealing, and depict well the characters’ emotions and reactions.  Teachers interested in promoting multi-cultural cohesiveness in their classrooms will appreciate the inclusion of children of various backgrounds.  At the end of this book are four pages of jokes in the riddle format that will delight first graders.

I would like to thank netgalley.com and the publisher, Capstone Press, for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I Am That Teacher Too (Letter 5)–Reading is a Passion, Not a Learning Objective

reading

Dear Former Students,

What do I hope you remember about me?

Reading, of course! Together we fell in love with the books we read. If you were in my recent classes, you will remember the magical repetitions of Pete the Cat books. For a more sophisticated enchantment, we devoured several books in the Magic Tree House series, sneaking social studies and science into our day. Who could forget the adventures of Jamie and Tom at Dinosaur Cove or Dorothy and her friends in the Wizard of Oz? Some students may be reminiscing about the aliens in The Sand Witch and the mystery and history found in Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library. Bunnicula, a great children’s mystery, was a favorite with some classes.

As a young teacher, I had experts tell me that first graders are not ready to sit and listen to chapter books. Not true! Storytellers have been recounting their tales without benefit of visuals since before the written word. Perhaps you were in the class that listened at story time to several picture books, at least one chapter in a longer book, and then BEGGED for more. I usually introduced classes to chapter books with Judy Blume’s short chapter book Freckle Juice followed by Chocolate Touch and Chocolate Fever.

We had many special literacy activities related to stories we read. For example, we discussed the meaning of Bill Martin Jr.’s Knots on a Counting Rope and made our own counting rope. In the 1st/2nd grade multiage class, we read the original version of 101 Dalmatians learning the meaning and use of many British words and enjoying playing with the unfamiliar words. We made a huge mural containing 101 Dalmatians just in time for the 100th day of school. Drama, dancing, art, music, and writing were all pulled into the process of learning to read and learning through reading. Activities did not begin and end because of the clock on the wall or the threat of an administrator’s possible walk-through. We had reading buddies once a week from the upper grades, working on social skills as well as reading skills and giving you the opportunity to read your favorite books as many times as you liked and have a positive emotional connection to reading. Our buddies benefited in similar ways with the addition of an opportunity to practice leadership and demonstrate maturity.

You amazed your parents with your beautiful poetry recitations—poems that move the soul like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and poems that giggle the spirit like “The Purple Cow.” You recited the poems by yourself before the whole class exploring the sounds of language and gaining self-confidence. You learned to appreciate language by playing with rhymes, patterns, meter, and figures of speech. Often whole families memorized the poems, and some can still recite their favorites. Reader’s Theatre and musical Reader’s Theatre provided fun opportunities to practice reading with fluency and expression.

My philosophy was “I teach reading all day long.” It worked. I had parents tell me that their child loved reading because of me. I hope you were one of them.

Detective Gordon, The First Case

Move over Holmes and Watson! Move over Poirot and Hastings! Another Detective duo is incover_Detec_Gordon town: Detective Gordon, the aging police chief toad, and his sidekick Buffy, a very young, energetic mouse. Use Ulf Nilsson’s book, Detective Gordon, The First Case, with readers who are ready for chapter books or to introduce mysteries as a read aloud. The story is a kinder, gentler type of mystery with easily understood messages. It also contains some word fun that students will enjoy exploring and repeating. For those who love drama, the characters are unique and lend themselves to creative expression. The illustrations are sweet, appealing, and as soft as the snow covered landscape of the book’s origins in Sweden.

Will Great Scores on a High Stakes Test Land You a Job at Goodreads?

Goodreads is a website that has created a huge community of readers, and their goal is to hook up readers with books they will love. In browsing today, I came across their Jobs page. I’m not looking to come out of retirement, but I was interested in their values:

  • Ownershipchild_books_fr
  • Create Fun
  • Be Humble
  • Think Big
  • Customer Obsession
  • Be Passionate
  • Help Each Other
  • Always Be Learning, Always Be Teaching.

Goodreads says they want people that are creative and care about the customer. Reread their list of values. Are any of those items on a standardized test? Are any of those values part of the Common Core State Standards? Would they be integral to a private school education where neither the CCSS nor standardized testing is required? Then WHY are we not including them in a public school education? All of our kids deserve a first class education.

If you want to see the source, go to:

https://www.goodreads.com/jobs?utm_medium=email&utm_source=ya_newsletter&utm_campaign=2015-05&utm_content=hiring

Interested in World War II ? Dobryd is a good read!

dobrydThe period known as the Holocaust is a frequent topic of books for both adults and young adults. The book Dobryd is different in that it does not focus on characters who are arrested or imprisoned. In fact most of the story occurs in the years following the war. Told in the first person, this story details the struggles of a five year old girl as she emerges from over two years of hiding in a space too small for a standing adult. Most of her family is dead, but she still has her mother and an aunt. The reader is soon absorbed by their relationships as they begin to integrate into a Poland that is very different from the one they hid from. Their rescuer is Yuri, a Russian soldier who plays a pivotal role in helping young Ann relate to her new world and provides stability for her. Dobryd shows us the best and the worst of people and how they have a long lasting impact on Ann and her family.

Dobryd is classified as an autobiographical novel as the author was very young when the story begins and much is retold from the memories of others. It reads like fiction, but has the authenticity of history. Dobryd would be an excellent addition to a unit on the Holocaust or World War II. It invites comparisons to books such as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank that are typically enjoyed by students in learning about this period. Dobryd offers opportunities to feel with Ann the discrimination she experienced based on religion and her family’s former social standing. We get to learn of her rapidly disappearing Polish heritage and of the geographical struggles Poland underwent as a nation being divided by its neighbors as one of the spoils of war.

I Am That Teacher Too (Letter 3) Thematic Learning—Where the Pieces Work Together

Dear Former Students,chicks_fr

What do I hope you remember about me?

Reading, Math, and Science, Oh My!

Social Studies, Art, and Music, Oh My!

I hope you remember the special activities and projects that made learning so much fun—different activities for different years. Some of you raised calves and others hatched baby chicks or silkworms. We grew plants. Lots of you will remember our parakeet and our gerbils. You took turns letting Little Bird sit on your shoulder. You cleaned out cages and pens and learned a lot about life and a little about death. Some first grade classes researched dinosaurs and created individual reports on their work producing the most fantastic books.

Our whole day was about learning how to read, but you didn’t know it. Reading was in everything we did. I cocooned you with the look, sounds, and feel of language. When you emerged from that cocoon at the end of first grade, I had succeeded if you loved to read and to learn. I had succeeded if you had found a passion in some of the many things we explored: math, science, social studies, art, music, and of course language itself. We sprinkled in movement, drama, and dance. Was there anything you couldn’t do? I remember one of you telling me, “I am UNSTOPPABLE!” When the year began, your behavior was unstoppable, but when the year ended, your desire to learn was unstoppable. That was success for both of us.

Fiction Becomes Reality in the Classroom: “If you are having fun, you are not learning.”

Schedule Required Time Blocks Required Details Required Creativity Optional Flexibility Discouraged

Schedule Required
Time Blocks Required
Details Required
Creativity Optional
Flexibility Discouraged

Matilda, a book by Roald Dahl, then a movie. Somehow I missed both in my earlier, busy life as a teacher. Now as a retired educator, I can indulge in so many things I missed.  By day, when the Mexican light is good, I pursue my pleasant goal of reading all of Agatha Christie’s eighty-eight plus works. By night, I explore Mexican Netflix which is limited compared to availability in the U.S. Last night I watched Matilda, and I was caught up at once in the fictional tale of the precocious preschooler who taught herself to read and then went daily by herself to the public library to devour its contents.

Innocent Matilda has her dream come true as she is finally enrolled in school. The principal is terrifying, but her teacher is the sweetest you can imagine, seeing potential in children and valuing their dreams.  At this point the movie becomes a horror story for me.  I gasp as I see the motto in large letters at the top of the chalkboard: “If you are having fun, you are not learning.” Then as the principal arrives for a visit, the teacher and children spring into action as a team. Shades are quickly pulled down and charts flipped over to cover the meaningful and colorful projects that are the result of engaged learning. I could feel the stress of my last years as a teacher return. I could hear the sucking sound of laughter being withdrawn from the classroom.

The evening over and the lights out, I lay awake with memories of real charts that had to be in place on the walls in my classroom.  Curriculum and Instruction let them drift down at intervals all year from the ivory tower with specifications as to their importance. The principal directed that they needed to be displayed; to do otherwise would mean a label of “ineffective”  on the teacher’s evaluation.  Every new workshop that administrators attended resulted in new mandates with accompanying visuals.  We were to implement post haste this hodgepodge of procedures received third hand from experts who didn’t have a clue who our students were or what they needed.

For me, the nightmare is over, but I can not and will not forget those brave teachers still fighting the good fight and struggling to do what is right and best for their students. As a teacher I took unpopular stances and now I continue the battle against the forces of educational destruction which are directed by politicians, funded by big business, and implemented by misguided administrators.

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