Dead Wake: Teachable Moments

This post was inspired by Dead Wake by Erik Larson, a thrilling account of Lusitania’s last voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and the U-boat that attacked it. Join From Left to Write on March 26th as we discuss Dead Wake. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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If you aren’t familiar with my From Left to Write book club posts, we don’t write traditional reviews. We read the book and write a review about a topic that the book inspired in us. The third book club selection for March is a historical non-fiction book, I tend to read a lot of these types of books. Prior to B1 coming along I was a history teacher, mostly 8th graders, and I loved it. There is so much to learn and so many ways to make it fun, and this book definitely made me miss it.

I loved this book, Larson was able to weave not just the perspectives of the passengers of The Lusitania, the Captain of The Lusitania, the German U Boat captains, Woodrow Wilson, Room 40, etc… but also heavy historical information and a tragedy that helped bring The United States into World War I without making the book read like a text-book. I will say it wasn’t a short read, but definitely a worthwhile one.

The book was full of moments, where I would shake my head and think this tragedy could have been avoided not just once, but many times. Instead of using these moments and learning from them, the Cunard Line and Winston Churchill tried to blame the The Captain of the Lusitania for the tragedy. They wasted their time trying to pin blame instead of trying to solve the problem that caused the sinking of the Lusitania. Instead of trying to use the information from Room 40 to their advantage the war lasted longer than necessary and many innocent lives were lost.

I don’t want this to turn into a political post, however I feel like the world is still struggling with this. Many problems within countries and country vs. country have happened before and unfortunately could happen again. The teachable moments that we could all learn from, it seems that no one actually learns from.

Do you love learning about history or hate it?

The Dinner: The responsibility of a teacher

From Left to Write is an online book club where the members create a virtual discussion about the book and how it relates to their lives. I love the concept of this for a few reasons. It takes the school concept of a book report out of the equation completely and it gives readers who haven’t read the book a way to relate to the topics portrayed within the book.

The second book for October was The Dinner
by Herman Koch.

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A lot of the book was about parenting, but one particular passage stood out to me.

“The educators, the teachers, will let you have your say, but afterwards they’ll take revenge on your child. You may come up with better arguments – it’s not too hard to come up with better arguments than the educators, the teachers – but in the end, your child is going to pay for it.

Before I became a stay-at-home mom I was a teacher, mostly I taught 8th grade, but when I was subbing I taught anything between 5th and 12th. I was shocked to see how much has changed in the seven years between when I graduated high school and when I went back into the school system.

When I got a bad grade or did something wrong, the blame was put directly on my shoulders. It seems as if these days when a child earns a lower grade than expected the parents or caregivers blame the teacher. I can’t tell you how many times a student earned a low grade on a quiz and almost immediately received an email from a parent asking why or asking what the student can do to for extra credit.

To me, it seems like parents are doing more and more for their children, but they are also giving them a free pass. To me children are responsible for the material that is taught in the classroom and for the homework that is given and for the material that is expected to be on the test.

I do believe that parents should take an interest in what is going on at school and helping their children prepare for exams or even help with homework, but when the student fails to earn an acceptable grade I wish parents wouldn’t place 100% of the blame on the teacher.

I think this hits so hard because of the recent news {warning: it is disturbing}, and the fact that people are upset that this teenager is being tried as an adult, but teachers are now getting hurt and killed by their students and part of me believes that it is because these children are raised to believe that everything that goes wrong is someone else’s fault and they have no responsibility for their actions.

What do you think?

This post was inspired by The Dinner, a novel by Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives sit down for a tension filled dinner to discuss a tragedy that can change both families’ lives forever. Join From Left to Write on October 29 as we discuss The Dinner. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Raising My Rainbow: The other side of bullying

I always loved the idea of a book club, the idea of getting together with some girlfriends over coffee or wine and desserts. Talking about a book, and generally having some adult conversation that flowed freely. I had a failed attempt at trying to lead the HLB Boston Book Club chapter, to be honest planning events that centered around books that I didn’t get to pick and not having a huge (aka only 1 or 2 people every time) turnout for any of the events I did plan was kind of disappointing, so I stopped doing it.

I read on Cait’s blog about the book club, From Left to Write. From Left to Write is an online book club where the members create a virtual discussion about the book and how it relates to their lives. I love the concept of this for a few reasons. It takes the school concept of a book report out of the equation completely and it gives readers who haven’t read the book a way to relate to the topics portrayed within the book.

This post is not a traditional review, but I am using my personal experiences and using a theme within the book as a writing prompt. One of the books that I was able to read was Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son
by Lori Duron. The book is about a family where one of the boys is gender-creative. It is a story about how her family navigates the challenges and privileges of raising a gender non-conforming son.

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After I read the book I thought about writing about how no matter what happens in his life, I will forever love him for WHO he is no matter who that person turns out to be, but I felt like that is the safe route for me.

I decided to pull from a part of my life that I do not talk about very often, teaching. Prior to the stay-at-home gig I was a teacher, I taught mostly 8th graders, but I fluctuated between 5th and 12th grade during my career. Something that I noticed between when I was in 8th grade and when I taught was how bullying has progressed.

When I was in middle and high school I got bullied a lot. I was short, I was taking growth hormone injections every day, and you know how it goes – when you are different you are a target. Initially, I fought back – literally, but it obviously didn’t stop the bullying. I found solace in developing a relationship with a high school guidance counselor and my vice principal. Their conversations and help saved me from years of torment, but they also helped me find my way as a teenager and proved to be sounding boards when I started making adult decisions about college.

Bullying is a whole new ballgame today with things like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc… As an adult, sometimes getting mean comments on my blog can affect me in ways I didn’t expect and I am almost 30 years old. Hearing about how pre-teens use the internet as a way to bully someone broke my heart, because there was absolutely nothing that we as teachers could do, at least not until the student told us about the bullying. At some of my jobs when a student approached a teacher about something that happened online there were repercussions for the bully.

One line stood out to me in the book: “The school [has] an obligation to take immediate and effective action to eliminate the hostile environment.” While I 100% agree with this statement, there are other components that need to also be in place. Parents need to talk to their children, completely invest in the conversation (that means put away the phone and turn off the tv) and find out what is going on in your kids lives. Opening the lines of communication from day 1 hopefully means that when your kids get older they will talk to you about the tougher stuff.

The second component is a bit harder and something that, unfortunately, is not really in your control, but finding a teacher or staff member that your child can trust and can talk to you is key. Whether it is their 6th grade science teacher or their guidance counselor, it is an important part of trying to help a student who is getting bullied and if there has to be teacher or classroom switches, that person can hopefully help make that transition smooth.

The third component is the actual student, he or she needs to be able to physically tell someone what happened. I had a student print out another students Facebook page, that student had written multiple statuses that were harassing another student. The school did take action and as far as I know that harassment stopped. However, it takes guts for a student to take action with online bullying. My hope is that all students know that someone will help them.

If you want more information, Lori and her husband Matt were on the Today show on Tuesday, and you can watch the interview here!

Bullying is a very heavy topic, so my question for you is not a tale about bullying, but how have you been able to overcome bullying or what is the support system you have?

This post was inspired by the memoir Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron as she shares her journey raising a gender creative son. Join From Left to Write on September 5 as we discuss Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son.
As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Full Disclosure: The links for the book are affiliate links.