26 September 2009

The book I just read

A hot September Saturday. An entire month of brutally hot days. Hard to believe that these are the dying days of summer. Had a terrific swim at the pool to start the day. Strange to say, we aren't frantically running around trying to get things done. I had time to read the paper. I know what's happening in the world - superficially, of course. G20 summit in Pittsburg, Obama and Brown blathering on about Iran, Ralph Nader has a great, fat book out, Michael Moore's new movie is about to descend, and the Republicans are still crazy. Oh yes, and Edwards fathered a child - OMFL!

Met with my new book club this week. Great group of ladies. Our book THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST lent itself quite well to deconstructing. Everybody thought the book was good overall. It's the story of a man named Changez who grew up in Pakistan, then moved to the US where he graduated from Princeton and then went on to work for a successful company. Changez embraces America and a western lifestyle. He falls in love with a woman -Erica - who remains fixated on her dead boyfriend. September 11 happens and the books characters are so profoundly affected that their lives get turned around. Erica's mental state goes on a decline. Changez re-examines his identity and loyalties and finally makes the decision to return to Pakistan.

I expressed a dislike for the format of the story, where the narrator tells his experiences to an American traveler, whose voice we do not hear in the book. Linda, who hosted the meeting, agreed with me. She said she found it irritating. But most of the others weren't bothered by this style and actually enjoyed it. Somebody pointed out the significance of the choice of names - Erica, meaning America - and therefore the character representing America. Changez, representing change - brought on by 9/11. So, of course, the unfulfilled, frustrating romance between Erica and Changez was a metaphor for the relationship between the US and Pakistan (?) or could it be the muslim world?
We mused about Changez' persistance in pursuing the elusive, unavailable Erica. Was it because he was used to succeeding in everything he set out to get, and couldn't concede failure? Or was it simply a plot device for the metaphor to be effective?
Then there was the business of the ending. Who killed whom? Why was this left unclear?

Well, a good book all in all. The style of telling the story didn't work for me. I found it dry. boring. But the theme of wrestling with identity is one I enjoy. Great insights and well framed thoughts on this in the book.

12 September 2009

New School Year!

I'd like to have my blog be more current, but I don't have anything wonderful to say! Oops! The garage. Yes, yes, Daryl has done a phenomenal job with our garage. It's now so clean and organized it's easily the best part of the house. There's even a sink in there now ... No, no, don't let your imagination get you too carried away ...

School - three weeks of it - three pretty, bloody insane weeks. There's a level of stress permeating our school that is suffocating the fun out of teaching. It's all to do with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Our school didn't meet the required goals. Well, duh! How can you expect to go up by 10 percentage points every year? If this not reaching the goals trend continues we'll get that humiliating label too - Program Improvement!! We will have - shudder, shudder - PI status. OMG! We can't let that happen.
We, teachers, shame on us, we didn't work hard enough; hence our scores. We better pull up our socks and devote every waking moment to performing miracles. We've got to figure out the right potions. We've got to learn magic. We've got to - what? Turn to the supernatural? I can't tell you how awful it is to feel so unappreciated. Why doesn't someone have the guts to point out the absurdity of NCLB?? All kinds of ridiculous assessments pile up. Between figuring out what they are, how to administer them, and then actually doing them, I've got even less time to get to know my students and to make learning enjoyable to them.

Anyway, on the bright side, I have a sweet group of 27 kids. They seem motivated and eager to learn. Hopefully, things will settle down and I'll be able to enjoy them soon.