Confessions of an English Teacher

There have been many assumptions about being a teacher, especially one with a bachelor’s degree in English: you never mispel a word, you never forget a comma and you’ve read every Harry Potter. Well, folks, I’m about to meet at least one of these criteria: I’m on book five of the Harry Potter series! I’m so entranced by this series, I’ve read the first four in two months. It’s bewitched me (pun intended). J.K. Rowling has impressed me with her realistic fantasies that I dream of hiding, running from, and fighting “you-know-who.”

Rowling knows her audience. She knows how to make a boy, who becomes the savior of the world, a most relatable adolescent and teenager. She knows how to remind the reader throughout her books about small details that she may have introduced earlier in the novel or even earlier in the series. Anyone can pick up any book in the seven book series and know what’s going on. She makes this fantasy world a reality for the simplest of imaginations to expand and dive into the magical world. Ms. Rowling, I tip my cap to you.

#sliceoflife #ChallengeAccepted


HP Order of the Pheoniz


The Open Window by Saki

A man is stressed.

The doctor recommends time spent in the country.

His sister recommends visiting a friendly rural family.

A young niece entertains the new comer with a spectacular story.

The story electrifies the man’s nerves to cause his sudden exit.


When you enter another person’s home, you are at the mercy of his or her hospitality. A great deal of trust is required by both parties: for host to trust the guest to demonstrate cordiality towards his or her property and for the guest to trust the host to provide for his or her needs.

In Saki’s short story “The Open Window,” a junior host takes advantage of such trust. By weaving her tale, she leads the listener to become engrossed and shocked by the information. Mr. Nuttel trusts his little hostess to tell the truth about the house he is visiting. In contrast, Vera sees his trust and seems to have challenged herself to see what extent she can increase his anxieties. Though the conflict is throughout the short plot line, itself is not revealed until those closing lines, “Vera loved to make up stories on the spot. She was really quite good at it.”

This internal conflict can be seen in this “very calm young lady of fifteen” as she intentionally increases the believability of her story with information that is later seen as the men return from their hunting trip exactly as she described. Vera describes, “She has often told me how they went out. Her husband had his raincoat over his arm. Ronnie, her younger brother, was singing, ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary.’ He always did that to tease her.”

How far will her fable take her? Far enough for the ill man to sprint out of his hosts house and head for the hills.

Vera’s intentions make the story. Vera’s intentions, though they are not explicit, give the story purpose. If her version of her uncles going hunting were true and Mr. Nuttel still was scared, there would be little purpose in the tale. Appreciatively for us, we have a cautionary story about “truths” as one should always be critical of what one hears.



Greek gods, goddesses and then some

The Greek gods have changed my perception of “gods.” The word “god” makes me think there is perfection and justice, but these gods are nothing close. There is quarreling, dissension, vengeance, murder, infidelity. Every moral law seems to have been broken by at least one god.

Our class has started to read Greek myths and most recently read the Creation Myth. In this tale, Gaea procreates with Uranus, her son. After banishing his superficially unattractive spawn to an unescapable pit, they then retaliate against their vain father, with encouragement from their mother. This tension between fathers and sons continues for generations.

Every story has a lesson, a theme, a central idea. Though those who act in a more righteous manner do win at times, these myths set a pattern of distrust. These seemingly absurd and extravagant tales of Greek gods and goddesses have roots in so much of our current culture. There is much to be studied and learned from them.

An interesting and lengthy documentary on Greek Mythology, but would be helpful for our study of Greek gods and goddesses in our seventh grade classroom.

Video post.

Source: Documentary Greek Mythology God and Goddesses

Welcome to the Monkey House

Welcome to the Monkey House. The title itself sounds like a fun and whimsical tale about a tail or two. However, this book lends itself to deep thinkers and revolutionary ideas. This book is a compilation of stories by the artist, Kurt Vonnegut. His black humor and satiric voice turns even the happiest of endings into a thought and conversation provoking piece. Vonnegut writes with passion, detail, wit, and wisdom. Each story makes the reader turn the page. Every ending begs for another. Though this book compiles several of his stories, they each weave the same picture: life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Life is not perfect, but best lived with gusto, mistakes, triumphs, and humility.

Remembering Claudette Colvin

This is very interesting information to add into our class research and discussion of “Freedom Walkers.”

Today is the fifty-sixth anniversary of the day that Rosa Parks was asked to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama city bus, and refused, sparking a movement that would change America.

But Claudette Colvin is worth remembering too.

In the spring of 1955, Claudette Colvin was a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery. On March 2 of that year, on her way home from school, she was told to move to the back of the bus to allow a white person to take her seat.

Like Rosa Parks nine months later, she refused. Like Rosa Parks nine months later, she was arrested.

So why do we know Parks’ name and not Colvin’s?

Because where Parks was a 42-year-old civil rights activist, Colvin was a 15-year-old schoolkid.

Because where Parks was a respectable married woman with a good job, Colvin was poor … and would shortly…

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The Devil’s Arithmetic- Too Many Equations to Solve

Reading through any historical fiction Holocaust novel will undoubtably incur questions about the events surrounding the literatures inspiration. Currently my class is reading The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen and one of my classes is exceptionally inquisitive: Why did Hitler hate the Jews? Why did the Nazi’s blame the Jews? Where were all the concentration camps? Why weren’t they stopped sooner? How did this start? Despite doing a background research day, students are still curious. There is a multitude of information on the topic, but how does one know where to find an answer? Let’s see what is out there.

Though he was an excellent public speaker, Adolf Hitler’s speeches were not the only thing that got people to join his crusade. World War II started because Germany invaded Poland, which in turn was a violation of the Treaty of Versailles which was what ended World War I. Germany invaded Poland because they wanted to spread their ideology with the rest of Europe and the world. The war progressed: Germany expanded, then Soviet Russia expanded, then the Allied Forces retaliated and tried to get them to stop. This cycle went on for a few years until finally Soviet Russia and the Allied Forces ended Germany and the Nazi party’s control.

There are many rumors that Hitler might have been Jewish. George Mason University, and other sources, say that the rumors stem from his grandmother having an illegitimate child (his father), but there is too much proof against the theory that Hitler’s grandmother had a child with her Jewish employer. Other sources, one being The History Channel, say that DNA tests from his living relatives show that he had Jewish and African ancestors.

The rumors of Hitler’s heritage feed into the reasons why Hitler hated the Jews, but do not support his main source of wrath. There are many, many reasons to explain why he was on a campaign to expel the Jewish population from Europe, however in summary, Hitler blamed the Jews for many malfunctions in society. The term “scapegoat” is often used in describing how the general German population came to support the Nazi political party and their newly elected leader, Adolf Hitler. Hitler was not the first one to harbor hostility and therefore racism toward the Jews, also known as Anti-Semitism. They were successful in business when others were not. They were popular as artists and others were ignored. As silly as that may sound, that is what evidence has shown in his writings and speeches.

Hitler wasn’t the first to believe in a perfect people, and he won’t be the last, but his belief that the Germans had evolved to be the top of the human race fueled his emotional and political state. Nazis are big proponents of Darwinism, believing that they have evolved to be the “fittest” in this “survival of the fittest” life. According to Hitler’s sources of research, Germans were this Aryan race which held all the esteemed traits for an ideal human, both mentally and physically. If you were not of this ideal human race, then you were otherwise considered against this belief and therefore not a valuable in this life.

A few paragraphs can’t cover all that went on within the years 1939 to 1945 of WWII, nor the events surrounding the most significant crime against humanity. However, some answers to some questions will ideally fill some holes as you may be reading a Holocaust novel, like my class. Or perhaps encourage you to follow the links in red and find out more information. For there are too many questions and sometimes not enough answers. Unfortunately, not all “reasons” why a person is motivated, why a person acts, why events begin, or why tragedies happen make sense.

Twain & Twenty Years From Now

Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

If you know some things about Mark Twain, you may know that he used the written word to criticize and expose human folly in a humorous and often exaggerated way. Some people call satire, using the pen as a scalpel. It cuts, but for a purpose. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain exposes society’s pitfalls to make a point. People aren’t perfect. Leaders are hypocrites. The education system is flawed. Religion is less about faith and devotion, and more about fear, ritual, and superstitious. Trends come and go, but the bad boy remains the same. Twain tells tales about Tom that weave in and out human’s vice and folly in a subtle way that may not be detected in the first or second read. 

Religion is considered a solemn affair. In Tom’s town, everyone dresses in their “Sunday best” and sits in silence as the minister reads his sermon and prayers. However, when the pinch bug and puppy play quietly, children and adults are eager to be distracted by this simple pleasure. No one tells Tom to get rid of the insect he brought to church. No one shoos the pup out the door for being a distraction. They all would rather watch the creatures play. 

Education is the key to success. Tom’s teacher, Mr. Dobbins, rules is school with a wooden whipping stick. He may hold strict “order” in his classroom, but his students do not absorb the knowledge. The spout facts and speeches, but have they become a more enabled citizen? Have they improved their own life or the life of another with this information or data? Mr. Dobbins had aspired to be a great doctor in his lifetime, but it seems fate did not bring that for him. At the end of the school year, each student must memorize a speech and perform in front of parents and peers. It’s the school master’s big night to shine! His pupils turn the evening into an act of vengeance by stealing Mr. Dobbins wig and embarrassing him in front of his biggest audience.

Not only in the classroom, but in the Sunday School classroom, the same policy is applied. The main objective is to memorize as many Bible verses as possible, however, not once do the students study or learn about it. Tom does not understand it. Aunt Polly doesn’t seem to translate the text, but still she pushes him to commit it to memory. The more verses you learn, the more tickets, to sooner you earn a new shiny Bible. And the point is? The Bible was written as a guide for life. Instead, these people turn it into contest for who can spout off enough words. What is the point of memorization, if you don’t understand what it is actually saying? Rote knowledge becomes useless if not applied.

Twain weaves this tale for a point. Adults can be just as misguided and mistaken as their children. The best education you can receive is one that you fight for. Knowing what you believe is stronger than believing what your told. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” (Twain). Tom and Huck were mischievious boys, but despite their flaws they always seemed to succeed in the end. They lived with passion and were always pursuit of those passions. Misguided as they were, they lived life with enthusiasm, unlike the many family members or figures in their life. 

What will you say in 20 years?