Monday, January 10, 2011

The Classics

Perhaps, high school English teacher is not the job for me. During a lecture today on Charles Dickens--introducing A Tale of Two Cities--I commented that I did not like Great Expectations. One of my students remarked, "For an English teacher, you don't seem to like many of the classics."

This is no surprise to me, but maybe my students shouldn't verbalize this fact.

In my defense there are classics I do enjoy. I love A Tale of Two Cities. I've learned to recognize the value of The Scarlet Letter, Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales. Shakespeare is a blast to teach. But for every fine point in these stories there are many literary avenues to critique. As a teacher, I think the critique is a major part of the fun.

Therefore, when I express my opinion of a book--oh, wait? I'm not supposed to unduly influence my students regarding my personal opinions. There's the problem! I shouldn't have an opinion in the first place. A classic is a classic. On the other hand, I believe it is healthy that my students know and understand that they are not crazy if they do not enjoy a particular "classic."

The key is learning to identify quality literature. Figuring out what is worth reading and why.

Few books, if any, demonstrate all the elements of a great book. If one author truly and completely met all the standards in one book it would be perfection. Ah, but that honor has already been taken, and no one on this Earth can compare.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Worth Reading: Encyclopedia Brown

My son was given a gift card to Barnes and Noble for Christmas. Without delay we went online and began the search. Like many other websites, Barnes and Noble has a multitude of search options. Of course there are the obvious title, author, keyword, ISBN searches, but then there is a nifty selection by age, reading level, area of interest, and price.

But after trying all of the above, we found nothing appropriate for a voracious ten-year old reader.

We tried again a couple of days later. This time, I noticed a title that I recognized, but had never read: Encyclopedia Brown. My husband had read the books as a child and remembered them as some of his favorites. We ordered two: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective and Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch.

The evening they arrived, we (husband, boy and I) read both books!

A few things to note about Encyclopedia Brown. The story is not a straight-forward beginning, middle and end fictional tale. Each book is divided into a series of short stories, always with a continuing thread, but not always directly connected to the story before. At the end of each story is a question basically asking: How did Encyclopedia know? You check your answer at the back of the book.

A few things remain the same in each story: Encyclopedia Brown is the ten-year old son of Chief Brown, Idaville's local police detective. One of his best friend's is Sally, a tough young lady with an eye for clues. Bugs Meany, as his name suggests, is not the nicest of boys.

Best of all, the stories contain a mystery. A mystery in which you the reader have been provided with all the clues to solve. The key is learning to read closely, use deductive reasoning and apply prior knowledge to situations to solve the crime. Most of the stories may be read in two to five minutes.

Donald J. Sobol is the author of more than twenty-five Encyclopedia Brown books. His concise, witty, writing style captivates the reader from the first page. Variety in the stories and solutions keep you reading.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Discover Central Christian

Before I started working at Central Christian School, I had no idea there was a Christian school in Redmond. I couldn't even find the building when I attempted to deliver my application! When I did find the school, I hesitated to even go in. After all, what kind of school would be in a building like that.

Typically, first impressions are not far from the truth. Central Christian needs a new building. The current facility limits the number of students and staff, the classrooms are not state of the art spacious venues for learning, and the lack of a gym and locker room is sorely felt throughout the year.

However, for Central Christian, the building does not tell the whole truth. What an individual can not see from a precursory drive through our parking lot or a quick stroll through the building is the heart of the school. The heart is found in the victories, challenges and spirit of everyone involved in our school.

If you've never visited Central Christian School, consider participating in a Discovery Tour. Each program is an hour long: provides an in-depth tour of the school, information about the history and future of the school, and allows students and staff to share inspirational stories.

This is not your typical sight-seeing tour. This is an opportunity for you to discover what Central Christian School offers.

I for one am quite pleased that God gave me that extra little push and I ventured through the doors that first time. It's not the building that makes the school: it is the people; it is the heart; it is the Lord.