Ubiquitous End of the Year Post
Okay, so 2011 is a year that can be summarized in writing/publishing steps and milestones. I'd like to (happily) say that there was other stuff in there too, much of it good, some of it stressful.
Overall, my kids were happy, healthy, brilliant, and beautiful, with the exception of Ezra's face-plant in his school parking lot, which resulted in a few hours at the emergency room and having his tooth repaired. We took small trips this year, two trips to St. Louis, a trip to Indianapolis. A day trip to Cincinnati. Next year I have plans for bigger trips, but this was a year of small steps.
We put our house up for sale and spent 6 agonizing months keeping it clean, only for it not to sell. Lee lost his job and started a new job. A certain amount of uncertainty there, and looking at houses, and making important grown-up decisions, keeping track of things for taxes, eating my vegetables (I put on weight this year, but this isn't a list of resolutions, so I'll just keep my thoughts on that to myself).
But all in all, writing milestones dominated 2011.
January 2011- I was hard at work on a manuscript- my agent sent me an email in December saying he loved the pages I had sent him, and asking when it could be ready. From that point, until mid February, I wrote non-stop. In February, we wrote a description of the book for the DGLM newsletter, and at the same time I was polishing like crazy.
I've just scanned over email from that time period, which was super-fun. The difficulty writing a synopsis for book 2, the agony of waiting, the phone calls, the excitement. Wow!
So, Masque of the Red Death officially sold to GreenWillow books on March 3. After that came rounds of editing, and I have to say that it's a much better book now, much better for the editing with no changes in mood or story. Lots of revision during the summer, with short stints of working on book 2. And then there was the excitement of the cover, the ARCs, so much happening (though, at the time it didn't always seem that way.
I really am amazed, here at the end of the year, I have two careers that I love. I have two beautiful children, I have Lee, who is supportive and amazing, I have good friends, and family, and 2012 seems like it will be an even more amazing year. So great, that I wouldn't be completely shocked if the world did end in 2012.
Eat better- exercise more
Spend quality time with the kids instead of auto-pilot time. Ezra doesn't notice, but Noel does.
Don't stress about the things I can't control.
So, goodbye 2011, I will remember you fondly.
Labels: 2011, 2012, end of year, publishing, resolutions
Lots of Free Copies of Masque!
Wow, got up this morning and signed into the hotel internet (we were visiting friends in St. Louis) only to see that HarperTeen was giving away 50 copies (yeah, I had to stare at that number for awhile, too) of Masque of the Red Death on Goodreads. http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/18690-masque-of-the-red-death
Labels: ARCs, give away, Masque of the Red Death
Is Education Broken?
After blogging last week about why we even go to school, I found myself less enthusiastic to write about education than I had expected. I think because of the time of year. Finishing finals, ready for a new batch of students (we're on semesters) gave me a certain sense of exhaustion and great happiness to have two weeks off.
But as election season heats up, it's inevitable that we hear the phrase over and over, 'our education system is broken'. And that combination of words makes me furious. How can something so big, so experimental, so unique to each student, be broken? And yet, it's a buzzword that gets repeated over and over.
So, let's start with some facts. The idea of educating every child in America didn't come about altruistically. Child labor laws were written to keep kids from 'taking' the jobs of adults, and resulting in gangs of youngsters roaming the streets of big cities. That was when it became mandatory for students to stay in school until the age of 16. The moral of that story is that not all laws were made with the best interests of the kids in mind, or at least not to specifically benefit the kids. And that to this day, you have a certain segment of the population being educated who are a little more than...resistant to the idea of being educated.
I've never been one to wring my hands and lament the state of kids these days, or the way parents have changed over the years. My philosophy is to take the things you can't change in stride and to keep going. But lately I've become more frustrated than I've ever been with apathy. I understand kids who miss homework assignments and even kids who stubbornly refuse to do difficult papers. I understand students who do a first draft and refuse to revise. I've been there and done all of that. What I don't understand is kids who are not interested in anything. Who, when given a chance to research, stare blankly at the computer and ask, 'what should I do?", when asked 'what are you interested in?" their answer is "nothing."
To be fair, this response is not the norm. I love seeing classes get off tangent asking about things that interest them (not that I let them get off tangent, of course). This year when we began research, one of my Sophomore English classes was fascinated by Jack the Ripper, the other by Waverly Hills (a local abandoned sanitarium that is regularly listed among the most haunted places in America). I love seeing their fascination with events and places and people that until this point they may never have heard of. (we basically discuss papers from the past and topics and ideas in a big brainstorming session).
But, back to apathy, we have always had people in the population who were uninterested in learning. The difference today, is perhaps a push to educate them to the same level as the people who want to learn. My solution (which no one will ever pay attention to, but still) is to allow the apathetic to go work at McDonalds and then provide them with incentives to finish their education when they are 25. Not a GED test, but some actual classes that could prepare them for college. And, since that's too complicated (though I do think that a good many young people would do better in high school and college if they weren't so young) to offer more and varied vocational classes. I'm all for creating an educated thoughtful citizenship, but...when learning is what the kids decide to rebel against, and when fundamental rebellion against the ideas of others is so much a basic of what our nation is about...well, you get a segment of our young population who simply do not do well in school, and who baffle and frustrate even the most well-intentioned of educators.
I wish I had a magic want that would fix education problems, but it comes down to....every student is different, every day is different, every learning opportunity is different. And when you are fifteen, staying up all night playing video games, dieting on Mt, Dew and crackers, and using all of your brain power during class to think of ways to sneak out your phone and send a text, all seem like good ideas.
Oh, to be young again....
Labels: apathy, education, frustration, vocational studies
Teaching Wonder part 1- Why do we come to school?
Okay, so I've been thinking about education lately. My role (as teacher), the role of the students and of assessment and how and why education is changing and should change in the information age.
And what I've come up with is...(drum roll please) a sense of wonder. A sense of wonder is...what drives people to learn new things. Because let's face it, if you only learn things for 13 years (counting Kindergarten) or for six years of college (which is how long it took me to earn my five year Master's Degree) then how sad would your life be? A sense of wonder is what makes us read books and magazines and articles and sometimes look stuff up on Wikipedia and *shudder* Urban Dictionary. A sense of Wonder is what makes us want to know more, it's the basis for science and for philosophy and probably for math even though I rarely wonder about that. The math I do, however, is about wondering. How much house can I afford? How much will I be paying for it? Wonder is what makes us expand our minds, even when we don't have to. And if we as humans, weren't willing to do that, well, we'd probably still all be working little patches of farm land and never going beyond our personal horizons.
Little kids have an abundance of that sense of wonder. How many questions can a child ask per minute? The number of questions is limited only by the complexity of the question, the pause as the adult tries to answer the question, and the speed at which the child can articulate the thoughts that are tumbling about in the spin cycle of their mind. Ezra and Noel come home from their Montessori school fascinated by plant systems and parts of trees and this last week synonyms (which Noel pronounces in a way that makes me vaguely hungry for Cinnabon). But by the time students get to high school, that sense of wonder seems to mostly be gone. I'm going to argue that it's still there, albeit under the surface. I'm also going to argue that cynicism is not necessarily the antithesis of wonder. (Just a good way to camouflage it). This may be self serving because I tend to be cynical and like to be around other cynics, but I will argue in nonetheless.
This week, I'm blogging about education, with a focus on that illusive and marvelous sense of wonder, because I think it's what education has to be about in the information age. Now, there must be more tangible results to education than just the sense of wonder. Education must be about comprehension, and analysis. But in reality that's just creating a framework for understanding all of the things you discover as you wander through the subjects that entice you.
Let's take history, one of my favorite subjects, as an example. There is no possible way that your history teachers can teach you every facet and fact of American history, or Western History, much less the history of the rest of the world. And hopefully the role of the History teacher is not just to make students learn lists of dates and meaningless facts. It is to connect those facts in a way to make sense, to give students an overview of enough history that they understand how to make sense of history. So they understand the broad implications of historical events as well as the more individual repercussions of change.
The same concept applies to literature. As an English teacher, my job is not to teach all the books and stories in the world, it's to teach students how to understand literature. That's where the balance comes in, and it's a precarious one. How do you teach without making the wonder go away?
Labels: education, teaching, wonder