Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThe Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

On a whim, I decided to read this book I added to my to-read list way back when I was deep into yearlong challenges and pursuing happiness - if you're new to either topic, maybe check it out. If not, go ahead and give The Happiness Project a pass.

First thoughts: Yup, these are all ways to pursue happiness. I've done quite a few of what Rubin suggests - some "resolutions" I'm still practicing, others didn't work out for me. So I guess seeing that her journey was similar to mine was validating. I did keep waiting for something bad to happen, as per usual when someone undertakes a happiness quest...but Rubin's life is pretty good to her.

Favorite quote: "It isn't goal attainment but the process of striving after goals - that is, growth - that brings happiness."

Recommended for: Those with an interest in happiness may find some new things to think about here, but many readers will likely be turned off by Rubin's surface-level conclusions and charmed life.

Final thoughts: Rubin's happiness is never really tested - not that I wish misfortune on her - I think I'm more curious as to why someone decided to publish a book about a well-adjusted woman with a home, family, job, health, etc. pursuing happiness. I get that all of these things don't mean you're automatically happy with your life, but shoot. You should be. I wanted more depth - why should I care that a seemingly happy person craved more happiness? Why wasn't she as happy as most people in her shoes would be?

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Night Links 39

I'm one grad school class down, with 11 left to go. Class readings, discussions, and papers don't leave a lot of time for reading (or writing) for pleasure, which is a bit ironic, but at least homework assignments are interesting. Here are a few resources that I found were pretty legit substitutes for my typical reading:

I definitely had Library Anxiety my freshman year of college.

This is a lengthy survey, but I enjoyed reading the descriptions of different types of library users.

I learned a lot about teen services by reading about what goes into creating it from scratch.

Who knew? Full-time school librarians boost student achievement. (Librarians, that's who.)

Advocacy matters. All librarians have a responsibility to tell the story of what libraries do.

Especially in times of cuts to funding almost everywhere, what libraries do is important to our most vulnerable citizens.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Things My Students Say 7

For the last day of school, my final installment of this series:

Student: Ms. Kaiser, pretend you are an 8th grade girl
Me: ...okay...
Student: What would you want your crush to say to you?
Me: You're a cool girl! I think you're neat! I like you more than Pokemon!
Student: ...Have you ever been in a serious relationship?

Teacher: How would you explain majority rules in simple terms? ...Think of when your family is deciding where to eat.
Student: Mom rules and she says there's frijoles in the fridge.

Student A: Ms. K, do you have a kid?
Me: No.
Student B: She has two!
Me: ....Also no.

At the zoo: Ms. K, the penguins have your eyes!

While tapping on my glasses, which were on my face: "Ms. K, you have glasses?"

Referring to my engagement ring: "Ms. K, that looks like a dinosaur egg. When will your egg hatch?"

Student: Hey, Rachel!
Me: Excuse me?
Student: You're not my teacher anymore. Now we're just friends, so I can call you Rachel.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reading the Rainbow: Book Recommendations to Celebrate Pride

Welcome to June, which brings all the fun festivals: BBQ, Blues, Puerto Rico,'s a great month for eating, music, and celebrating love and equality. I've expanded my LGBTQ+ reading more and more each year, and it's done nothing but reaffirm my belief in reading authors who aren't (on the surface) like me. Of course, we're all human and deep down, basically the same. We all want to belong somewhere. We all crave validation of our humanity. We all want to be entertained by a great read.

Here's an article with a great starting point for multiple genres of books. I'm excited for the fairy tale retellings! And if you're interested, a few others from my reading list here, here, here, and here. Remember, love wins!

10 Mind-Blowing Bi & Lesbian Books

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Opportunity Equation

The Opportunity Equation: How Citizen Teachers Are Combating the Achievement Gap in America's SchoolsThe Opportunity Equation: How Citizen Teachers Are Combating the Achievement Gap in America's Schools by Eric Schwarz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric Schwarz, founder of Citizen Schools, shares his vision for a world where every day citizens work with schools and teachers to ensure all students have access to the social networks and influence of a diverse array of adults.

First thoughts: I'm reading this book with just a bit of bias - both positive and negative. I obviously support the mission of Citizen Schools, but I've also seen areas where the organization has room for improvement. It was strange reading this book as a Teaching Fellow, specifically a TF2 (2nd-year) who is leaving the organization in about one week. Then again, it also seemed fitting to read this at the end of my Citizen Schools career.

Favorite quotes:

"Citizen power, properly mobilized, can change the world." (I've seen it!)

"Children who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges." (This is the concept of the inter-generational self, or the idea that we are all connected to and a part of our families, and we are more powerful because of it.)

"Did we really need another database, another evaluation system, another decision-making matrix, I wondered?" (HA - yes, I've had this thought so often the past two years.)

"The problem comes when the externally focused optimist and the internally focused skeptics take their natural proclivities too far." (Balance, people.)

"We need to step into schools with minimal judgment and as much curiosity and energy as we can muster. That's how to change the opportunity equation."

Recommended for: educators, parents, citizens, those with money or time, politicians.

Final thoughts: I never knew the "unofficial" flower of Citizen Schools is the sunflower - okay, there's a lot of things about CS I didn't know before reading this book. Mostly I didn't know how the organization was run/currently runs in Boston, where it started. Boston and Chicago are so very different, so it's interesting to see how adaptable the Boston school system seems to be to the "Extended Learning Time" model, compared with the struggles CPS has to get any learning time. We've got a long way to go before we reach equality in education in this country.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman (Go See It Now)

Do I even need to write a review of this movie? Just go see it, people. The numbers don't lie.

Wonder Woman was, yes, a brilliant female-led film. But it was also a quintessential summer blockbuster. It did so many things so right while also staying true to the superhero genre in all the best ways. I laughed. I cried. I left the theater feeling so empowered I felt like I could take on the world.

This tweet sums it up best for me:

YES. That's exactly it, right there. This is why we need more movies (and TV shows and books and award winners and presidents...) featuring people who aren't white men. Everyone deserves to feel like they can save the world. Everyone deserves to be the hero. There's room for all of us on the big screen.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Chosen

The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Part baseball, part religion, part exploration of the weight of parental expectations.

First thoughts: This book took me a long time to read because it took me a long time to get into it and understand what the point is. After finishing, I'm still not sure how impactful the book is to me personally. I wanted to know what was going to happen, but didn't know where it was going most of the time.

Favorite quotes:
"Anything that brought the world together he called a blessing."

" you grow older you will discover that the most important things that will happen to you will often come as a result of silly things."

Librarian thoughts: The one point of access I had to the story was in thinking about censorship of books, especially for youth. How important is it to steer kids towards/away from certain books? Who decides what is appropriate for kids to read: teachers, parents, the kids themselves?

Recommended for: This book was probably not written for me, so take this review with a grain of salt. I think baseball fans will get into it quicker than I did. Jewish people will understand most of it better than I did. Anyone who is knowledgeable about religions, Judaism in the 1940s and 50s, or Freud will "get" the conflict of the story in a more complete way than I ever could.

Final thoughts: Ehh, it felt anticlimactic. Like, that's it? After all the build-up of the father-son relationships? Not sure how to feel, or if I feel anything at all. The book shows how doctrine and semantics can divide a group from the inside, yet all I could think as a non-Jewish person/outsider looking in was: how are you two that different? Underlines the importance of focusing on similarities with those we view as distinct from us - odds are others don't see your differences as clearly as you do.

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