Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Long Way Gone - A Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

I saw this book in Starbucks and couldn't resist the cover. At first I thought it was about one of the lost boys from the Sudan, but it is not. It's Beah's memoir about his life in Sierra Leone. His family falls prey to the rebels who are trying to overthrow what they consider to be a corrupt government. Ishmael, who is 12 at the time, is away in a neighboring village getting ready to perform American rap music with some buddies. He hears of the attack from people who are able to escape. Thus begins his journey from a child to a refugee of war - facing imminent death at each new village until the villagers realize he is just a boy searching for safe harbor.
If memory serves me Sierra Leone is the place depicted in Blood Diamond. And in fact the methods used by the rebels seem right on target with what was depicted in the movie. Beah is terrified of being caught by the rebels (his brother is and he never sees him again) because even if he escapes they will mark him if he is captured by branding their initials in his forehead or cutting off limbs - so even if he escapes, he would be exiled as a member of the rebel forces. The rebels routinely kidnapped young boys and forced them to join the movement and kill - like in Blood Diamond.
I'm not sure if he gets captured but by the title "a boy soldier" I'm guessing he does. It's been a pretty good book so far - AND if you buy it at Starbucks, they will donate a percentage of the proceeds to UNICEF (though it does cost more than on Amazon).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blog Musings

I've spent several nights surfing blogs using the "next blog" button. I'm surprised by the assortment of "stuff" out there. The number of entries in languages other than English definitely make one aware that WE are not the center of the universe. I'm also surprised by the sheer variety of posts: everything from gardening, to gadgets, to publishing poetry, to exploring one's sexuality. I must admit I have clicked on several and felt totally uncomfortable with the pornographic images displayed for the world to see. I'm questioning the uses of blogs in education because of this. If I can sign onto a blog and use the "next blog" button to see what is out there, I can imagine students can as well. I would not be comfortable with my students clicking on some of the sites I have seen. How do we address this? Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

My Life as a Freshman

I just finished this book for a study group. It is written by a college anthropology professor who went undercover at the university where she taught to try to better understand the change in her students. She enrolled as a freshman in the dorms with classes where she would not be known. She then went about the business of going to class.
What she found reminded me of my eighth graders. College freshmen didn't speak up in class for fear of being seen as too smart or because they didn't see the point - what does it matter the teacher only wants the answer they have in mind; they don't care about our opinions. Most freshman didn't do the reading or even if they did they skimmed it with little or no comprehension. Kids were more concerned with partying and social connection than academics.
I was so depressed! I have been telling myself that my 8th graders would somehow grow out of this and would someday become engaged in their learing - I don't know some kind of in the end it will all matter type of deal - but then I read that when they get to college they are basically just 8th graders who can drink!
Then I started thinking about it and realized that maybe it is just a transition from one stage of their lives to another. Just like 8th graders are transitioning into highschool - freshman are transitioning into college. Could this be something? The first time I went to college, I was right out of high school, but I had a child and was extremely shy - I dropped out when my dad died of lung cancer. The second time I was a non traditional student hell bent on doing well and proving something to myself. What's my point?? I can't really relate to the book's freshman experience.
So I'm wondering? What were your college freshman days like? Is it all about partying and friends? When did you get serious about studies?