Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Latest Reads

During my plane trip home from Vegas, I quickly polished off Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein. The story, narrated by Ophelia of Hamlet fame, fills in the gaps left by Shakespeare's play. Ms. Klein mentions on the book jacket that since Shakespeare is not around to write stronger women's characters, she thought she'd take on the task. And she does it beautifully. The story begins when Ophelia is a tomboyish girl of ten and traces the events of her life as she matures and joins Queen Gertrude's court and becomes involved romantically with Hamlet. The events in the novel depart from the plot of the play a bit, but I don't want to give away anything the reader will enjoy discovering herself. Technically, this is a young adult novel, but it does not require that the reader indeed be a young adult to enjoy it. I am, though, planning to pass it along to Swim Chick, who is thirteen, when my colleague returns it. She promptly snatched it up when I finished it during our trip. We both see interesting possibilities for its use in English classes when they are studying the play.

Speaking of teaching and Shakespeare, anyone who is involved in the education process or who wants to step into the world of truly excellent teaching should pick up Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith. Mr. Esquith teaches in inner-city Los Angeles and is the leader of the famous Hobart Shakespeareans. I had heard a spot on them on NPR not too long ago, and I was pleased to receive this book as a Valentine's gift from Adventure Guy. If anyone believes that one person cannot truly make a difference in this world, please read this book. It takes hard work and serious dedication, but teachers all across the country are daily making a difference in the lives of children. Mr. Esquith does not sugar coat the reality of the fact that there are bad teachers, and, oh yes, to my disappointment, bad administrators out there. He's pretty blunt in his criticisms. But he shows what a difference high expectations, consistency, and trust can make in a classroom. I'm planning to start a book study for our staff using this book. It's very timely in that some of our teachers seem to believe that not all students can truly rise to the high expectations we set at All-American High. My answer to that? Ask them to shoot for the stars, truly show them that you believe they can get there, and then be there to support them as they go!

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