Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Loud and Clear!

I have a new toy.

As I mentioned previously, they finally hooked up all my gadgets and gizmos the other day and it's been great. No more whining, "but I can't see the TV" when I'm showing videos, doing PowerPoint notes, or running a BrainPop. The document reader is a blast and I can do things like put up the weather map from the paper and talk about weather forecasting (gotta hit those standards!) and the kids can see it larger than life and in full color. (They also get a kick at seeing my hands magnified at a gazillion times which reminds me, yet again, why I wish I could afford a decent manicure).

However, the gadget I'm starting to like the best is the microphone.

Yup, this set up came with not one, but two microphones! One I can wear around my neck and turn on, and then my voice is broadcast through speakers in the ceiling and throughout the room. The other one can be used by kids when they're reading aloud or doing a presentation or whatnot. (Although I rarely have them read aloud.) Mr. Social Studies has started to use the student one and all of a sudden he's got kids frantically waving their hands wanting to volunteer to read and use the microphone. He actually started to use the teacher one last week, (and discovered that he can actually stand in the hallway outside his door and yell at a kid to sit down and get quiet, and it booms throughout his room). For some reason I held off, mainly because I have a pretty significantly loud teacher voice anyway.

However, on Monday of this week my throat was scratchy and raw for some reason (seasonal allergies most likely) and I decided to try the microphone.

And I'm hooked.

This thing is absolutely wonderful. I don't have to raise my voice at all. Everything I say is broadcast loud and clear and all the kids can hear it. And to be honest, it really sets them on their toes when they can hear me through six speakers. There are a couple of things to get used to, however. Feedback happens if I get too close to the control equipment (but that's not a big deal). I also have to remember to turn it off when I'm talking with a kid privately.

And remember to turn it off when the allergies hit and I have to sneeze. (Nope, hasn't happened yet, but I've come close).

The best thing is that I don't feel as worn out at the end of the day. I can actually teach a class of 29 (my largest class, and I have lab seats for 28), and never have to raise my voice. I can actually talk with them in a normal conversation.

Sometimes technology is just wonderful.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Divine Comedy

I found this link on several of teacher blogs I read (and you should all check out), and couldn't resist adding it - let's just say I haven't laughed this hard in ages!

The First Test

As a rule, I rarely give a test on a Monday. Face it, the kids go flying out of here on Friday, nary a book in hand, and they don't even think about school until Monday morning shows up. However, we have this thing called scope and sequence and a pacing guide which basically gives X amount of days per unit , and Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I are behind by about two days. So...instead of waiting to give our first test later in the week, we had to just suck it up and give it on Monday. And to make it even worse, we did our first attempt at authentic assessment as well.

We got the bright idea (and I still think it's a good idea) that it would be more effective and real if, instead of having the kids answer multiple-choice questions about measurement, we actually had them doing it. They actually did this test in the form of a lab the week before, they had 2-3 homework assignments on density, volume, and area, they got a study guide telling them exactly what to expect, and they could use a calculator. How hard could this be?

Apparently quite hard if you don't care enough to even attempt to study.

Out of 130 kids, I had 6 that actually passed. Most of them couldn't remember the formulas for volume, area, and density. A lot of them used inches, rather than centimeters, despite me telling them for two solid weeks that we ALWAYS use metric in science. Many of them, even if they had the formulas right, couldn't do the math. With a calculator.

And then there was the vocabulary test. Sixteen words, two weeks, an easy 100% if you try. We're talking the lowest level of learning and they couldn't even do that.

And I'm wondering why I'm surprised. It's the typical seventh grade mental melt-down. I keep hoping that maybe, just once, I'll get a group of kids that actually put forth the effort to pass a test.

I'm going to go bang my head against a wall.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Southern Gentlemen

Sometimes my kids do something that not only surprises me but gives me hope for their generation.

Case in point.

On Friday we had a fire drill. It was the first fire drill of the year and the kids did really well. I did have to calm down Nuevo a America Boy (my non-English speaker) who thought for a moment that the fire drill was real. In between me saying, "It's practice, it's practice!" and whatever his cousin, El Primo Boy, said to him, he calmed down quickly and got into the swing of things. The kids were great - they went out the back door, walked down the sidewalk out to the parking lot, and lined up quietly.

As an aside, I am continually amazed at how well this group lines up and walks quietly to wherever we're taking them. It's kind of unnerving in a way. I'm guessing their sixth grade teachers really pounded this into them and it stuck - bless them!

So, the all clear is sounded and we're heading back to the rooms when I look and notice something amazing. We have a girl on our team, Scooter Girl, who has cerebral palsy and who uses a scooter to get around. Scooter Girl was having trouble getting her scooter up over the lip of the ramp to get on to the sidewalk and back to the rooms. In a flash, five of our boys are there helping her by lifting her and the scooter up over the ramp. Scooter Girl, with her big blue eyes and curly blonde hair, flashes her smile at them and thanks them before zooming off. The boys, of course, act like it's no big deal.

But it is a big deal. At least to me. Because no adult told these kids to help her. They saw there was a problem and stepped up and acted like gentlemen and helped a friend solve a problem.

I'm so proud of them.


During an in-service right before school started, The Principal showed us our results from last spring's state tests. I haven't written about it before because I had to leave early for a speaking engagement, however Mrs. Eagle called me up and filled me in.

In short, our school rocked - again. We hit the mark in every single category, especially in the special education category which has caused problems for some other schools in the district. And, thankfully, 7th grade science was just phenomenal. That always surprises me to some extent because there are days, many of them, when I think the kids just aren't getting it.

Anyway, this morning Mrs. Eagle and I went to a pancake breakfast put on by a church youth group run by a fellow teacher. Many of the members are our kids so we wanted to go support them. (We then paid for it by taking a two mile hike through a local recreation area - most of which felt like it was uphill and its hot and humid today). A number of other teachers were there, including Mrs. Cool, Mrs. Goldilocks, and Mrs. Angel. So we stop to chat a bit and all of a sudden Mrs. Cool goes, "Hey, about those science scores! You guys are doing amazing things with these kids."

Mrs. Eagle and I say that we're always surprised at how well they do since they certainly don't give us much indication that they're actually paying any attention.

"Well I asked my classes what it was you guys did, " she says. "I told them that I saw their science scores and if they could do that well in science they could do that well in social studies."

We are intrigued at this point. "What did they say?" we ask her.

She starts ticking it off..."They say that they do a lot of group work. That you guys do a lot of labs and demonstrations. That you just make it fun."

It's nice to know that we're on to something.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Games anybody?

Mrs. Eagle and I decided that we needed to get our butts in gear and get the application forms out for the chess and boardgame club. Especially since 5 kids have already found applications (I have no idea where unless guidance had some from last year) and turned them in. So before I left for the day the applications were out and the announcement printed for The Principal to announce tomorrow.

We ended up with about 60 kids total last year which I was pretty amazed at considering that most of these kids had to arrange for someone to pick them up after school. And we had a lot of sixth and seventh grade members, many of whom have already started asking when the club is going to start again. And, truth be told, I'm kind of looking forward to it.


We have learned some things.

1. Make sure you have a large enough room so you can accomodate everyone.

2. Make sure that the chess players (our thinking kids) have either a quieter room to play in or a corner that's off limit to the others. It's hard to focus when the Risk players are dominating the world and screaming about it.

3. Remind them, remind them, remind them about manners and sportsmanship.

4. The people who make games like Risk need to rethink the plastic pieces. Hubby brings his 1959 Risk game, with the wooden block pieces, and the kids would rather play on that version. Twelve-year-old fingers don't like plastic pieces that fall over all the time.

5. Have a good janitor who will return the pieces to you. I don't care how many times the kids check the floor, we check the floor, heck, even Mr. Bluebird checks the floor, we somehow always miss a piece. I find that piece on my desk the next morning, curtesy of my janitor.

This club turned out to be hugely popular and we served a population that doesn't normally get into clubs. We had kids with high grades, and some with low. We had a kid with autism. We had kids who didn't speak English very well. We had popular kids and we had the dweebs. We had kids that just didn't fit in much of anywhere else, but they fit in with us.

It rocked.

I got an email from a former game club member who's now up in high school and can't believe that there isn't a chess club there for him to join. If he could, he'd come back and play with us back in middle school once a week. I'm almost tempted to ask if we could arrange that.

Kids need a chance to play games - real games that involve conversation and not just blowing thinks up with a button- with other kids (and with grown ups who still act like kids, like the Guidance Goober and Mr. Bluebird). And obviously, they don't outgrow this when they suddenly go to high school.

Heck, I don't think I've ever outgrown it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A case of the hormones

We're doing a building-wide writing activity tomorrow at the end of second period. Basically we show the kids a video on the character trait of the month (responsibility) and give them the writing prompt and they go to it. It's all part of the 6+1 writing we do, and it really does give the kids more practice in writing.

The only problem was that the 10 of us who got lucky and had the LCD projectors installed in our room didn't have a way to show the video (our TV's on teacher work stations were loaned out to other teachers). Basically the tech folks simply installed the projectors and didn't bother installing everything else such as the the cable box, the VCR/DVD player, the microphones, etc. So I dash off an email to Mr. Enforcer, who's sort of our tech guru and let him know that we're in a bit of a bind.

Mr. Enforcer, great guy that he is, gets the tech geeks on the phone and asks how come the entire system didn't get put together and is informed that they're waiting for some shelf units they ordered (to set the equipment on) to come in. Well, we can't wait any longer so they come out and figure that we can move file cabinets around to set the stuff on and it will all work.

So, of course, the tech guys come down and hook everything up in the middle of my fifth period. The kids, of course, are paying more attention to the tech guy than they are to the Cornell notes which they are trying to learn to do so I'm having a bit of a time keeping them focused.

The tech guy apologies and says he needs to do some program checking and would I mind if he interrupted my PowerPoint for a moment? Well, there are copies of the notes on their desks (they haven't seen Cornell notes until earlier this week in Mrs. Language's class and they're completely confused), so I tell them to just copy the next section off as I discuss it. So I'm prattling away about how mass and weight are different and so forth and so on while Tech Guy is playing with my new toys doing his programming thing.

He hits a button and up on my big wide humongous screen is a television show.

It is a soap opera (the kids informed me later that it was All My Children).

It was also a bedroom scene.

The kids erupt in shrieks of hormonal glee and hysteria. Mr. Tech Guy turns absolutely beet red and starts hitting buttons to change the channel, but it's too late. The kids have already completely lost it.

Mr. Tech Guy is profuse in his apologies and rushes out of my room as fast as he can to do the installation next door in Mr. Social Studies' room.

I found out later that he made sure that Mr. Social Studies' cable channel was set to PBS before he did any major programming.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Welcome to Our World

For those readers who are not participants in the wacky world of education, there is something out there called an "inclusion class". An inclusion class is, quite simply, a regular education class (say, math or reading) that has special education students in it. The goal is to move special education students out of special education classes (where their classmates are all special ed as well) into inclusion classes where there's a mix of kids. To help, a special education teacher comes into the room to help the special education kids with a bit more one-on-one assistance.

At The School there are three seventh grade teams. This means that the inclusion classes are rotated from team to team so that one teacher doesn't get stuck teaching the inclusion classes year after year. I say "stuck" because many of these regular education teachers don't teach special education students on a regular basis and, as a result, aren't used to having them. In fact, most of them are used to teaching at least one advanced class every year so having a slower class tends to freak them out.

This year my team has the inclusion classes and Mrs. Math, Mrs. Language and Ms. Reading are freaking out big time.

Granted, we have some low kids. Painfully low kids. Kids who have an awful time just getting their agenda filled out at the beginning of class.


Mr. Social Studies and I teach special education kids EVERY YEAR. After all, science and social studies are two subjects for which there are no special education classes so the special ed kids "come out" for our two subjects. And we have NEVER, EVER, seen a special education teacher or an aide grace our doorway. Each and every year we have these kids, each and every year we modify assignments, come up with notes for the kids to highlight or copy from their seat (since many have trouble copying from the board), make modified tests, try to give the kids a little one-on-one time and hope the rest of the class doesn't go insane in the meantime, and so on. And each and every year we do it all by ourselves, with just us and the kids. And even though there isn't, technically, an inclusion class for our subjects there might as well be since a lot of the special ed kids are taking the same classes and therefore have similar schedules. It's not unusual to have 3-6 of them in a class. Most years we end up with a few that are hard workers and then a few who've figured out that they can do nothing and pass because it's written in their IEP that we have to pass them.

And this year Mr. Social Studies and I are thinking we're really lucky because we ended up with a good crop of special education kids who work, who try, who ask questions, and who are as nice as could be. They are a dream!

And we sit there at lunch and listen to the others on the team whining and complaining about how low these kids are, how hard it is to teach them and the other kids in the same class, and on and on.

So today the whining and wailing and gnashing of teeth are in full form and Mr. Social Studies and I are sitting there with big huge grins on our faces. We are truly enjoying wathcing these three get worked up over something that we do all the time with absolutely no help whatsoever. Mrs. Math sees this and snaps, "What?" (I'm sure we were looking rather smug.)

"Welcome to our World," we say.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The First Lab...My Last Nerve

We did a lab today.

I am drinking wine tonight.

Anyone wanna guess how it went?

Two years ago our district science consulting teacher had a planning meeting over the summer and it was decided that kids really take to science a lot better if we can hit them over the head with a bunch of fun labs that get them hooked in the beginning. The idea is that we hook them and then we can, hopefully, keep them hooked throughout the year.

The drawback is that they're a bunch of immature goobers at this point in the year. And I'm not so sure that labs and immature goobers is a good match.

Now, I know that our sixth grade teachers do labs. I know this because, accordingly to Mrs. Eagle who's the science department head and sees the budgets, they buy consumables (which are, we assume, consumed) and order things like owl pelletts which they supposedly disect and gross kids out in a lab situation. However, when we asked them if they've ever done labs before they all looked blankly at us and swore they'd never, ever, done a lab.

They had trouble following simple directions. They had trouble cleaning up. They had trouble keeping their voices in "lab" range (in other words not screaming). They also were the klutziest group of kids I've ever had. I've done this lab for four years (it's a density lab where you pour different liquids into a clear container and watch it form in layers which never vary their position) and I've never had a single cup of liquid (whether it be water with food coloring, corn syrup or corn oil) knocked over.

This group knocked over FIVE.

We're talking two full cups of oil, two cups of colored water and one cup of corn syrup.

All over the place.

What a mess.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Infirmary

We're in the process of collecting all the dreaded back to school forms...the emergency cards, the student information sheets, the free and reduced lunch applications, the science lab rules, the health information form, and on and on and on. I absolutely hate this part of teaching. I feel like all I do is collect paper all morning long. It drives me nuts and I'm sure the parents are sick of signing things, most of which I know they're not even reading.


Each of us usually puts together a list of kids with medical issues for our homeroom and share with the rest of the team. It's a nice resouce to keep so you know there's a kid that may need some special consideration or you may need to watch out for something (I'm particularly vigilant about the dreaded peanut allergy since so much of the substances we work with in science class involve food). Usually this list, for a team of about 130 kids, is maybe 2-5 kids long.

Mrs. Reading got her list together and gave it to us at lunch.

Her list had nine names on it. Nine!

We had asthma, ADD, ADHD, seizures, and some stuff we've never heard of. Thank goodness The Nurse was there to help translate some of these. What's frightening is I haven't even put my list together yet and I know, just from glancing at some of the forms, that I have at least one on meds for ADHD, two with inhalers for asthma, and one with cerebral palsy (who rides a scooter). Some of the other teachers on the team said they were noticing awful high numbers of kids with medical conditions as well.

Last year I didn't have a single kid in my homeroom with a medical issue, so this is a huge jump. The team overall looks to have about 20+ kids with some kind of medical thing going on.

Good this a sick bunch of kids or what?

A chill in the air...

The room was hot and stuffy this morning, of course, and we were all gearing up for another hot and unbearable day. We figured it would be late afternoon before the parts arrived and were installed and the AC was back and functional.

And then....around 9:00 am....a little voice from the far side of the room shrills, "Mrs. Bluebird, I feel cold air!"

And there it was, blowing into the room in all it's glory.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why I Hate August

When I was a little tyke going to school out in Southern California we started school around my mother's birthday which is September 23rd. I always thought this was a pretty good deal, even if it meant we didn't get out of school until mid-June. After all, the real meat (and heat) of summer is July and August and we had that time off to go to the beach, cool off in the pool, whatever.

However, since I've relocated, first to the Midwest, then to the Glorious South, I've discovered that school starts much earlier. My friends up North will start this next week, and, as you know, we started last week. There are districts nearby who started even earlier. (And the public isn't necessarily happy with this judging from the local letters to the editor.)

So here it is, with temperatures in the 90's, heat indexes in the triple digits, and we're holding school.

And the new air conditioning unit is not working.


But of course, this time it's only affecting ten classrooms. Can you guess who has one of these classrooms? I'm sure you can! Mr. Social Studies and I noticed this morning that the rooms were stuffy and no air was blowing. We've noticed that they turned the air off over the weekend, and thought maybe it was on a cycle that turned off at night and kicked in the next day. However, by 8:30 we realized that it was definitely not going to kick on.

By 10:30 the kids are sleepy, whiny, fanning themselves with folders, and generally acting grumpy.

At 12:30 Mr. Enforcer comes by and tells us two fans and motors have blown and they're ordering parts.

At 2:05 The Principal announces that it probably won't get fixed until late tomorrow so "dress comfortably".

Oh whooooppee.

Friday, August 11, 2006

So far so why am I nervous?

The first full day of school is now officially past us.

And it really wasn't so bad.

Oh yeah, we had the usual roster changes, and new kids who weren't enrolled in time showing up, and then some more class switching, but overall it wasn't too bad. The new lunchroom arrangement caused some problems, but it was livable. I had been hearing that this was a nice group of kids coming up, and I'm beginning to believe it. Mr. Social Studies and I were both commenting that no one kid stood out with a neon sign that read "I'm going to be your biggest nightmare this year!" This is a good thing. Last year I was able to tell by the first day who was going to be disrupting my sleep patterns.

Of course, they could just be planning to surprise us next week.

This is not to say that they're perfect. They aren't. My 5th period wants to talk constantly and is, in fact, the only class I've had to get cranky at. Most of my other classes are fairly quiet. For now.

Or perhaps that's because they're shell-shocked. The first few days we throw a lot at them - all the required school paperwork to be completed and signed, lab rules, syllabus, state standards, etc. I probably do more talking in the first day of school than I ever end up doing again. But's it's the stuff you have to get through in order to get to the fun stuff.

I did get a new student today, who was originally on Mrs. Eagle's team, who does not speak a word of English. They gave him to me because his cousin, who's been here a bit longer, speaks it well enough to figure out what's going on and they thought it would be a good idea to keep them together since we have a part-time ELL teacher and no one to translate most of the time. My Spanish is not that good (my husband is close to fluent having lived in South America for a few years so I may have to drag him in one day), but I was able to tell my guys, in Spanish, that I speak it a little and very badly. They thought that was pretty funny. Besides the cousins there's another boy from Panama who's a Spanish speaker, but he's been here a few years and his English is pretty good. So basically I have one lab table that's speaking Spanish and translating (which is, honestly, quite distracting) and the rest are, we hope, able to figure out what's going on.

Apparently there's a sixth grader in the building who speaks nothing but Thai. Korean we could have handled fairly well (a number of our students are part Korean, seeing as we're in a military town), but Thai leaves us at a loss. Poor kid. He's absolutely adorable though so I'm sure all the girls are going to fall in love with him.

For those of you who've been loyal readers for the past year...some of your favorite characters have been by to say hello and demand a hug. Goth Girl (who's hair is a lovely shade of black) has been by, Stoopid Boy has been by at least three times along with Stoner Boy who's busy telling me about the new songs he's working at on the guitar. I've also seen Fabio Boy a few times. All the kids are way taller than they were two months ago and some of them have really, really sprouted. One fellow I haven't seen, but who's here because Mrs. Cool has him (lucky girl) is Poop Boy. There are small favors in the world.

As for the new cast of may take a few more days to get to know the kids but I can tell there's a few you'll be hearing about shortly.

Just give them time.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day One Is Done!

The first day has come and gone. And amazingly it went so well that everyone, from The Principal down to every single teacher, was wondering if something really weird was going on.

Last year, for example, we had the computer system go down, which brought the phone system down, we had kids without schedules (and no way to find schedules because of the computers), and it was mass chaos. We also had a guidance counselor that was worthless which really didn't help matters. (I thank God daily we now have Guidance Goober).

This year all the computers worked. The phones worked. The air conditioning worked. All my kids had schedules. Everyone knew their bus number (Well, okay, I cheated on that - a bunch of us boarded the buses before they unloaded and took markers and wrote bus numbers on the backs of their hands). It just flowed. The Principal looked at me while we loaded buses later that day (which was a little crazy because the bus drivers didn't park in the order they were supposed to - when you have 26 buses to load, it's important that the kids know where to find their bus), and said, "It's almost going too well."

We only do a half day on the first day. Your homeroom spends most of the time with you, and then we do an abbreviated schedule where the kids spend ten minutes in the other classes, basically so they can meet the teacher and find the room. It's pretty hectic and crazy - you only have enough time to call roll, introduce yourself, and then they're off.

The kids were really, for the most part, quiet and well mannered. No one really stood out as a potential troublemaker. My fourth period, the class that's a high mix of both advanced kids and special ed, may be interesting. It seems that the special ed kids I have were known as some of the hardest workers last year. That's good.

Right now I just want to kick pack, drink my Diet coke, and chill. It's 101 outside.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ready, Set, Go...

Oh boy.

Tomorrow at 4:45 my alarm will go off and I'll start the school year. I've spent the past few weeks, as you well know, getting ready and now it's here.

For the first time, I didn't have to change classrooms, which means I didn't have to pack much up, and I didn't have to haul it from one end of the school to the other. You have no idea how nice that is. However, it made me a bit uneasy because I actually kept thinking there was something I was missing.

What I was missing was the stress of not having enough time to do anything because I didn't have all that stupid stuff to do. Hauling stuff up a flight of stairs in 98 degree heat is something I'm glad I did without.

Today we had meetings in the morning and the rest of the day in our rooms, and that was nice. The Guidance Goober, who's also a bit of a techno-nerd, introduced a new Guidance tracking system that is just wonderful. He builds a computer program this summer and I didn't even manage to get my bathroom painted.

My fourth period class looks, well, interesting. There's ten advanced kids in there, about 8 special ed, a couple who are low and unmotivated but not special ed, and the rest are just average. We will see how that pans out.

So, I'm off to read a bit, go to bed early, and get a good start on the year.

Wish me luck!

Happy Birthday...a Day Late!

Happy Birthday to my was officially a year old yesterday. Quite honestly I can't believe that I've managed tokeep this thing going without having a major brain cramp here or there, but I've pulled it off. I originally started it because a few friends suggested I do so - they were getting email updates about the craziness of teaching middle school and thought it would be amusing if I blogged it.

So I did.

I figured a few of my friends would read it now and then and that would be it. I was wrong (again) but that's a good thing - I never thought someone would read this who wasn't a personal friend, but lo and behold, you guys are all out there. Thank you from the bottom of my little feathered heart!

And honestly, having readers like you is what makes it kind of fun (and a great stress reliever). That and the fact that I better be writing all this silly stuff down because I'll look back years from now and won't even believe it myself!

I think it calls for cake and ice cream, don't you?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Full of Hot Air

It's around 2:30 this afternoon. Most of the lights in the core of my building are off because it's so darn hot. We're talking heat index of 105. I've been in my room most of the day working, sweating, and then gave up and sat in the reference room with some other heat refugees and worked on a project we're doing on middle school boys and how they learn.

I'm walking back to my room and The Principal calls me over. "Stand by that vent over there and tell me what you think."

I stand on the vent and feel - gasp! - cold air! Could it be? We have air conditioning??

"It feels great!" I tell her.

"It should. It only took them three months to figure it out." She shakes her head, thanks me, and walks back to her office.

There's no way on this earth I would ever want her job. It's bad enough dealing with nut job parets, unruly kids, budgets, and politics, but having to deal with a building and contractors who just can't get it together would turn me into a screaming freakshow.

Mrs. Eagle and I went to Sonic and celebrated the fact that we have air conditioning (at least temporarily) and got giant sized lemon berry slushies. They really hit the spot.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A literary thing going on...Or, Tag, I'm it.

Fellow blogger, California Teacher Guy, posted today a series of questions about the books that have affected our lives. Well, I'm taking him up on his "tag" and here's my responses. (By the way, if you don't check out this guy's site you should - he's wonderful!)

1. One book that changed your life: The Gulag Archipeligo, 1918-1956, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I read this way back in High School and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I've never taken the freedom our country offers us for granted from that moment on. It also taught me a lot about the human spirit.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The first sentence is a classic - "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife". I adore this book and read it once or twice a year.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: That would have to be Pride and Prejudice again. Kind of funny since I can practically recite the entire thing.

4. One book that made you laugh: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. This was the book the John Cusak movie was based one (with a location change from London to Chicago), and it is even funnier than the movie. If you've ever known anyone really, really into music (I married him), then you must read this book.

5. One book that made you cry: The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. I am still astounded at the people who lived, faught, and died during WWII. The memories of these people are tresures to me.

6. One book that you wish had been written: How to teach kids to content area read and have it really, really work.

7. One book that you wish had never been written: Perryville, Battle for Kentucky by Dr. Kenneth Hafendorfer. It's not often I find a book that I can't finish, but this was it. And I'm really interested in the topic, so that was a double whammy.

8. The book you are currently reading: Boys and Girls Learn Differently: A Guide fo Teachers and Parents, by Michael Gurian and Arlette Ballew. I'm part of the action research time working on understsanding middle school boys so I'm reading this as part of my research. I'm also reading Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill by Richard M. Ketchum which is wonderful.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston. I loved his book, Demon in the Freezer, about smallpox and since I have this weird fascination with disease and biological warefare (I read books on the 1918 flu epidemic for fun) this is on my to-do list. Of course, I have about 3 bookcases full of stuff I need to get to.

10. Now tag five people: If you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged. What are the books that have shaped—and are shaping—your life?