Month: August 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading?–Special Edition–Summer Reading Report 8/19/13

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It’s back to work tomorrow, and as I reflect on this past summer’s reading (while listening to City of Ashes on my newly renovated patio, a pleasant, steady breeze wafting under the cedar pergola) I feel like I’m saying goodbye to my summer camp friends.

I remember  back in June when I loaded up my bags with books that I had been promising myself (and my students) I would finally spend some time with while school was out.  I’m so excited to recommend these books to students this year and to chat about my reactions with my regulars who have been hounding me to try them.

Books I read:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  5 stars.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.  This one took some investment and a lot of faith for the first 100 pages.  Despite the non-linear plot with dual narrators, I felt a tiny ember take root in my heart after the first few pages for the main character, Taylor, and her entourage in the Australian bush.  It’s mysterious, heart-breaking, and ultimately–healing.  When recommending to students, be sure to touch base with them frequently in the beginning and support their “wanderings” and wonderings early on.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  4 stars.  Crazy. Creepy.  Sinister.  This was my indulgence in an adult best-seller with a soon to be released feature film (Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris–perfect casting. I found myself picking up my jaw more than once during this one.  Although I did purchase it for my library, I’m thinking that it might find a comfy spot in my office for special recommendations to mature and older teen readers due to several graphic and sometimes violent sexual scenes and situations.

Legend by Marie Lu.  3 stars.  I’ve heard this series likened to Hunger Games on several occasions.  There were many things I enjoyed about Legend.  As a dystopian title for teens, it delivers on pacing, character, plot, and romance.  With a male and female narrator, it has wide appeal for teens and a nice gender-neutral cover.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  3.5 stars.  Also a feature film due out in theaters this week, C of B was a demon-killer book I could get behind.  I enjoyed the mix of supernatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, warlocks, demons, and a race of humans descended from Angels).  I had to joke with a friend who had read them before after the first 50 pages that I had the story line for the next 3 books down.  Predictable?  Yes.  Even the twist of fate between the star-crossed lovers can be deciphered early on in the first installment.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth.  4.5 stars.  I finished this title yesterday during my last day of vacation in Galveston with my family.  I can say that it is perhaps the most honest book I’ve read in a while.  I’ve wanted to recommend this book with its odyssey of a young girl whose parents are killed in a car accident the day after she kisses a girl for the first time in rural Montana, but I don’t want to sell it as just another LGBT title like I sometimes can when recommending dystopia or fantasy.  Cameron Post is so much more.  It’s a moral tale on empathy, identity, and friendship.

Book I’m reading (listening to ):

Books to read (before the kids actually start in 9 days!)

Who did you meet this summer in your books?  Which characters will stay with you, leaving that lasting and warm impression like the first friend you found at summer camp?

Covey and Community: Being mindful of all areas of our lives as learners and educators

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I’ve been (shamefully) silent in the blogosphere and Twitter landscape since May.  I wish I had a clever, original rationale for my sudden silence.  I don’t.  So, I’m not going to even pretend.

What have you been doing all this time, Audrey?  Well…let’s try one of these on for size:

I’ve been _________(fill in the blank with your favorite).

“On sabbatical”
“Renewing my energies”
“Investing in ‘me'”
“Cultivating my inner goddess”
“re-inventing myself”
“re-directing the inner-eye”
“drinking pina coladas on a pristine Caribbean beach”

Eh,  that’s not quite it.  Instead, let’s borrow a turn of phrase from Stephen Covey that might shed some light on my life in the cyber shadows these last few months.

Sharpening the saw.

Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal–a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill. ~Stephen Covey

It’s all about maintaining balance.  My unexpected and thrilling foray back into graduate school to complete the school library certification program left me somewhat imbalanced (i.e., tired, exhausted, stretched-thin, mentally full…and a little paunchy around the middle from too many late-night chocolate binges to fuel the demands of an online student).  I’ve neglected many other areas of my life while my learning self was in full force and often in over-drive.  My physical, emotional, and social selves were put on the back burner.  But, self-preservation seemed to kick in the moment that summer school ended–yes, I did that, too–and I focused on how to “sharpen my saw” so that I could continue to grow and change.

Physical.  Sleep.  I slept this summer.  It’s so simple, but when my two-year-old napped, I napped!  And, it worked.  I started over for the *cough* fourth time on my couch to 5k app.  I got out and walked/ran with my son in tow, enjoying those few precious moments early in the morning when you can not only bare but enjoy being outside in Texas during the summer.  We explored; we sweated; we got tan at the pool; we watched the deep blue expanse of sky turn shades of gray, white, and green while afternoon storms rolled through.  I dusted off my yoga mat and enjoyed quiet, peaceful practices in my living room on Sunday mornings.  Activity-induced endorphines coursed through my blood stream…and it worked!  I returned to a vegetarian profile and saw my complexion clear and my mid-section become less like a pudgy hill and more like a gently rolling plain.

Wow..come to think of it.  While I did “nothing.”  I did everything for my physical well-being.

Social/Emotional.  I made sure to carve out time and space to just be with friends.  Whether trekking to the zoo with our toddlers or splashing at the pool, I enjoyed having no expectations for our friendship other to enjoy.  One of my favorite things to do is to host parties, and this summer I hosted a family-friendly baby shower for a dear and lovely friend and her husband.  Having our friends together in one place to celebrate this next phase of their lives reinforced for me how much I value the women in my life and their families. They are my family in every sense of the word.

Without the relationships in my life that sustain me, why would I do what I do?  Who would I share the experiences they bring with?  Who would be the witness to my life?

Mental.  I was in graduate school…nuff said. But, in addition to being a learner, I also had the pleasure of being a teacher to 20 teenagers during our summer intervention program.  It’s been three years now since I’ve had my own classroom.  The sheer joy of watching these students discover themselves as writers was enough to energize me for the next year.  I was reminded of many things one of which was the importance and value of talking to students about their writing.  Simple. Sweet. I also allowed myself the time to catch up on my TBR stack–I’ll be showcasing my favorite reads from the summer pile in a couple of days on IMWAYR!

By cultivating the parts of my academic self that I was passionate about (reading young adult literature, teaching writing, writing for pleasure), I remembered the importance of time, choice, and authenticity for all learners.

Spiritual. This summer I took time to heal some fresh (and old) physical and spiritual wounds.  Watching my son during his first trip to Colorado, taking our first (turbulent) horseback ride, breathing in the thin, sage-scented mountain air, and reflecting on the past year free of the distractions and demands that often come across my desk and inbox, allowed me to greet myself.  In the quieter moments on that trip, I wrapped my arms around her congratulating her on a job well done, forgiving her for those things that could have been done better, and letting her grieve for those things that she had lost.  Physically removing myself from familiar surroundings allowed me to spiritually forgive myself and others who I felt disappointed or rejected me, allowing for the room to renew those bonds.

Here’s my challenge to myself (and you should you choose to accept).  Find moments to sharpen the saw everyday.  You may not have the opportunity to attend to all four areas of your life, but make it a goal to attend to at least one each day.

Take it a step further–be mindful of when and why your students begin to check-out.  For both teachers and students this often happens around the holidays and into the Winter months.  When building your communities this first part of the year build in practices that are mindful of the areas of our lives and students’ lives to counter the burn-out before it begins.

How do you tend to these areas of your life?  What routines and practices are part of your communities that allow students to attend to these areas in their own lives?

Photo credit: <a href=””>papalars</a&gt; / <a href=””>Foter</a&gt; / <a href=””>CC BY-ND</a>