Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grad School From Home

I just started my first graduate class in over three years earlier this week.  I can not begin to tell you how nice it is to work on a class completely online.  I used to dread driving down to Wayne State once a week for three hours when I first started working on my second Masters degree.  I am back in school now because the state forces educators to go back every six years to keep our certificates up to date.  Now, almost every class in the Library Science Program is available totally online.  I just spent the last hour having an online chat with my group regarding our group project due later in June.  In the past, I would have had to spend time away from my family going to class or meeting at a library to discuss the project.  Tonight my largest problem was sliding away to re-fill my glass of Rock and Rye without the group realizing I was gone.

Now do not get me wrong.  An online class does involved a lot more discipline.  But I love the ability to hop online at 3:00 a.m. to finish my course work (a major bonus with two little ones running around at home.)  I know I am going to sound "old" saying this...but wow, college would be so much easier now compared to the "old days" when I first started at Eastern Michigan University in the Fall of 1993.  I love taking classes, and would always be doing so, if they were not so darn expensive. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reading, This is Fun

This past week, my oldest daughter started taking Accelerated Reader tests at her school.  She is in kindergarten and quite young for her grade, but she loves to read (big surprise there, daughter of a librarian and all).  What I thought about as I watched her read over a new book each day was what happens to this enthusiasm about reading as children grow older?  My daughter could not wait for a new book to bring home each day.  She loved sitting down with me to prove she could both read and understand the book.  This is the case with so many elementary aged children.  They love going to the library to pick new books, they love story time.  Meanwhile at the high school, I have a handful of students that pop in and ask about new books or make recommendations for additions to our library.  Most of the other requests I have are "what is your shortest book?" or a statements such as "I hate reading."  When do things change?  What happened to those excited elementary students?

I have a feeling I may know what changes.  First, as children grow, they are exposed to many other hobbies and activities (team sports, organizations, video games, music, etc.).  However, we all have interests that take our time, yet many of us still find time to enjoy reading.  I think the major "turn off" for students as they grow is simple; books eventually change from "pick your own and enjoy" to "class we are reading this book, like it or not."  Soon, some readers start to believe every book out there is just as bad as the forced read that was just introduced.  I remember my days back in the classroom teaching hour after hour of high school juniors The Scarlet Letter.  Wow, not to offend any Hawthorne fans, but not the most exciting piece of work for a bunch of 16 - 17 year old students.  

I believe we need to keep choice as an important element of teaching reading in our schools.  While a required novel is necessary, once all reading becomes pre-selected required reading, we soon start chasing away those excited readers.  This is just one of the many reasons to have a well stocked and staffed school library.  As a father I have many hopes and visions for both of my children, one is that they both continue to love books and reading as they grow into adulthood.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The News Herald Track and Field Championship

I know this blog is supposed to focus on literacy and technology but today I decide to take a little sidetrack.  That is just the way my mind works actually.  Today I would like to write about The News Herald Track and Field Championship meet at Grosse Ile High School.  Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of this fine event.  I guess this is related in a way, since I am blogging for The News Herald.

Yesterday marked my 13th News Herald meet as the Boys' head Track and Field Coach at Carlson High School.  For the past 13 years I have spent the second or third Saturday in May at this wonderful event.  I still remember walking into the stadium as a 23 year old rookie coach, knowing little to nothing about track and field.  I was scared to death as I walked into the pre-meet coaches meeting.  However the late, great Mr. Steve Sims, the girls' track and field coach at Grosse Ile at that time soon put my fears to rest.  He welcomed and accepted me as an equal immediately.  This from a gentleman that had been coaching for years, including running an impressive undefeated streak in the Huron League.  I was just a 23 year old "kid" trying to figure out what was going on at this huge championship meet.  Steve was always a gracious host, along with meet manager Bill Stevenson (full disclosure, Bill is my boss at Carlson High School, however I felt this way about Bill for years even before he came over to Carlson).  Even Ray Geist (who thinks my photo on The News Herald page looks like a mug shot) was always good to me whenever I came over to coach at the meet.  Ray was the boys' coach for years at GI and today still helps manage and score the meet.  Grosse Ile athletic director, Jim Okler who works so hard on this meet also treated me so well throughout the years.  The managers of the meet, as well as all of the volunteers make this one of the best track and field meets in the state.

I walked into this meet yesterday with full intentions of it being my final News Herald meet as the boys' track and field coach at Carlson High School.  I love my team, the sport and my fellow coaches on staff.  I just started feeling "burnt out."  I know, that is a lame cop out, but it is true.  My own children are getting older, and I have their activities to attend.  I also was beginning to question if I was even that good of a coach due to some issues in the past month.  There was no doubt this was going to be my last season.  I had made it clear to my staff (they were already talking with coaches from other schools to try and recruit a replacement) that I would be submitting my papers at the end of the season.  Then it happened, Saturday turned out to be one of the best meets of my coaching career.  Of course the day started off very well, enjoying one those fine Italian Sausages with peppers and onions for lunch.  Since it was my final meet I bought one for each of my coaches.  In the past 13 seasons I have ate so many of these things.  I still think I have the record for earliest sausage consumed, 9:43 a.m.  Not too sure though, I will have to get Scott Held to pull up the News Herald record sheet for that information.

The weather was perfect all day and my team performed exceptionally.  My boys' finished in 5th place bringing home a trophy for the showcase in Gibraltar (this matches the teams best performance in the past 13 seasons).  My top distance runner had an excellent day, winning the mile and two mile while bringing home "Athlete of the Meet" honors.  The meet ran so smooth (shout outs again to Ray, Jim and Bill and to all the volunteers).  We were finished by 3:30.  A great day like this really makes me rethink my decision to retire.

To wrap up, I just again want to say thanks to Jim Okler, Bill Stevenson, Ray Geist, the staff of The News Herald and all of the volunteers.   I also wish to send a special thanks to the late Steve Sims.  You have all helped shape me into the coach I am today.  Whether this is my final News Herald meet or not still has to be determined, but one thing is for sure, when I do go, I surely be missing this fine event.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

That Is One Way to NOT Improve Literacy

Thanks to various professional association memberships, I receive a number of emails each day pertaining to the world of libraries and literacy.  I know, sounds like exciting stuff right?  Well most days I tend to just hit the delete button quite quickly, but today something really caught my eye.  It appears that an upset mother was not happy with some of the books her daughter brought home from the local public library.  She contacted the library, and asked for "warning labels" to be placed on the certain books.  When the library rejected her request the concerned parent decided to, well you can read the story for yourself here. 

Ms. Harden seems to think she can make decisions not only for her children, but for all of the readers in this Orlando suburb.  For me, this is simply theft; she took something that does not belong to her, and will not return the item.  I think the library has been as cooperative as one would expect.  They decided to pull the materials from the young adult section.  A parent has every right to decide what is best for THEIR own children, I just do not think that a parent has a right to decide what is best for my children or any other children other than their own.  Actually, Ms. Harden seems to think she can make the decision for all the patrons of Seminole County's Northwest Branch Library.  What would become of all libraries if one upset reader wanted a title removed?  I think there would be many bare shelves.  Keep reading folks!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Favorite Books on "The Big Screen"

A few months ago we read Dear John for the Carlson High School Book of the Month Club.  We discussed the novel the same month the film version was released and wow, so many of our readers were disappointed with the film.  This sent me thinking about my favorite books that have made their way onto the big screen.  So many films start off as plays and novels.  Of course it is much easier to take a novel, and change it into a screenplay for a film than to create a screenplay from scratch.  It is even easier to take a play and put it onto the big screen.  I will share my top five reads that have found their way onto the big screen for you.  Note I am ranking the literary work, not the film (films usually do great books little, to no justice).
Along Came a Spider, by James Patterson....I love the Alex Cross novels.  They are great summer reads. Very quick chapters with an exciting story line.  I have read many of the "Cross" works, but it has been a few years since my last attempt.  I will admit, I am a huge Morgan Freeman fan as well!

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  Of course, Harris is probably best known for writing The Scilence of the Lambs, however I found Red Dragon to be a much better literary work.  I still recall reading this book relaxing on the sand in Myrtle Beach years memory burn.  The book was so good, they actually made two movie versions: Man Hunter released in 1986 and Red Dragon in 2002.  

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  I have to admit, I am a huge Steinbeck fan.  I loved teaching Of Mice and Men when I was teaching English 10 years ago.  Such a great story (there are very few classic novels that teenagers are be interested in, and this is one of them).  Such a great, yet tragic story about friendship.  I will state, this trailer is actually a project a student completed for an English class and not an official trailer, very well done however.

I first read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby as a junior in high school and fell in love with the work instantly.  I find myself re-reading this book about once every three years.  It is just a great summer read, takes me away and I day dream about living life as one Jay Gatsby.  A great life for sure, (until the end of the novel).  I know there is a newer film version, but I still prefer the classic Robert Redford version from 1974 (however nothing comes close to topping the novel!)

Number one on my list, well when it comes to number one it is both a play and film that I love, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by great American playwright Tennessee Williams.  Wow, what a play and what a film (although the film tends to avoid the crucial "character fault" of main character Brick.)  It is clear that Williams did not appreciate that there is little to no mention of homosexuality and Brick's character in the film version.  I must assume that back in 1958 homosexuality was much more of a taboo subject than it is today.  Still I love both the play and film.  Burl Ives, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor (WOW) in her prime make a great combination.

I love reading all of these works, so I found myself liking most of the film versions.  I find myself enjoying the Ed Norton Red Dragon a little more than the William Petersen Man Hunter.  I still think when it comes down to it, all of the books/plays were much better than the film  A movie can never capture everything that is in a book (the movie would have to be six hours long or so).  Plus, reading allows you the freedom to come to conclusions on your own, not have them forced down your throat.  So, which of your favorite reads have hit the big screen?  Have you been generally satisfied or disappointed when leaving the theater?  Wow, and how can we have a book/movie blog post without a "Harry Potter" sighting?  Well, that is simple, while I love the Potter films, I have still yet to read any of the Potter works.  I know, what kind of librarian am I?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Read for the Month, May 2010

So, I figure to start each month I will share whatever book I am currently reading.  I started reading Darker Than Night by Tom Henderson about a week ago.  Henderson, a former writer for the Detroit Free Press, covers the mysterious disappearance of two suburban Detroit hunters in 1985.  The case took 18 years to solve, with clues and information pouring in from all over the country.  I am about half way through the book and it is riveting.  I should have no problem finishing this book before the end of the month (even with a graduate class starting up at Wayne State shortly).

I usually read about one "True Crime" novel per year.  Now, I do not read them because I am a big fan of serial killers or criminals in general.  Well written true crime works are usually better than fiction.  My interest is always with the detective work that goes along with the story.  Most of the time, the reader will know who committed the crime before they start the book.  True crime novels are not mystery, yet there is still plenty of suspense.  I also enjoy true crime works that are local in nature.  That is why I selected Henderson's work.  There is something chilling reading about nearby places and towns.  When I was an undergraduate at Eastern Michigan University I took the time to read The Michigan Murders.  This true crime piece documents the crime(s) of John Norman Collins in Washtenaw County in the 1970s.  It was so interesting to read about all the areas I was familiar with as a student.  It appears that Henderson has a few other true crime titles with local connections.  After reading Darker Than Night I am sure I will be reading them in the future.  Hope you can find a new read with me each month.  Remember, free books are just a trip away to your local library!