Saturday, June 26, 2010

Awesome News

To everyone who may be concerned: I sent some of you an e-mail, and if you didn't get it, I apologize, but I couldn't remember who all had her in class. But I received this e-mail from Mrs. Fadel a couple days ago:

NOW ON FOR MORE GOOD NEWS. The doctor couldn't see any tumors on my lymph nodes. They are gone. There is still a pea size tumor at the top of my lung. He wants to continue chemo as long as I am still tolerating it just as a precaution. I will have another CT scan on August 19. I will have to work out a new schedule once school starts. I am going to try for afternoons.
Our family thanks God for all the good in our lives. I thank God also for wonderful friends.

How's that for some good news?

Monday, June 21, 2010

That's Why Pencils Have Erasers

Yikes! If you have a copy of my sixth-to-seventh grade packet, please PLEASE ignore the picture I drew at the bottom of the page where it has the problems like ".001 * 84.567". I drew it so that the arrow is going the WRONG WAY!! Not sure what I was thinking, but I have to confess I made this thing in a hurry. How embarrassing!

Hey, tell your folks to go see or rent (when it comes out in theaters and then on Netflix) this movie. It looks amazing, and it addresses a lot of the concerns I have with the public education system--and it seems to give a solution as well. It's called Waiting for Superman, and just the trailer fills me with hope.

Shelter from the Storms

Hey, guys, what's new? Hopefully everyone is staying cool and having some fun this summer so far. Can you believe how fast summer is going by? This is the start of the fourth full week.

I hope everyone was good to their dads yesterday and that you are all adding value to your families over the course of this summer.

I've been tutoring and doing karate so far. Well, that and trying to stay out of the storms.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Go Speed Racer

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go down to Mark One Composites, Mr. Fred Gans's garage in Indianapolis. This is Carter's dad, of course. They build race cars there. If they made a list of the ten coolest jobs in the world, this would definitely be one of them. I learned quite a bit about building and repairing race cars. This isn't like the assembly line where you see your parents' minivan being built. They're dealing with lightweight materials and form-fitting major parts of the inside of the car to each driver. It's amazing. I pretty much walked around with my mouth hanging open during my tour. Mr. Gans has secured himself an open invitation as a guest speaker for the coming years when we're learning about physics in class.
The major reason for me going down originally, though, was to try out a racing simulator. This was on loan to them for awhile, and this was my chance to go down and try it out. This was a little bit different from Mario Kart, though. Any time I ran into a wall (umm...on purpose, of course), off the track, or shifted gears, I felt it. It was up on big hydraulic lifts that made it feel like I was in the middle of it. Carter trusted me enough to "ride" along with me, as you can see in the pictures. This was one very cool experience. Thank you, Mr. Gans, and thank you Carter and the rest of the family for being such great hosts.

(Click on the pictures to see them bigger. They're even cooler when bigger!)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There's More Than the Summer Reading Program

Looking to keep your brains sharp this summer? Looking for some reading material? Some of you undoubtedly are, and some of you aren't. I could tell you exactly which of you would fit into which category guaranteed, but for those who are (and as a suggestion to those who are less inclined), here is Mr. Carter's Top Ten books for summer reading. Of course, this is entirely based upon what I like--in terms of sheer enjoyment--and not based on any educational value in particular. I don't want you guys reading the comics non-stop, even though Calvin and Hobbes is very smartly funny. And no books here by Mike Lupica, whose sports writing is not bad, but is oh-so predictable. I also don't want you people reading any books about girls being mean to each other and cliques and all that stuff, even if...well, okay, there's nothing redeeming about those. Here are some books to lift your spirits and keep your brain in tune at the same time, in no particular order.

1. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
If you have seen the movie, please trust me that the book is every bit as good. This is one case in which the movie is pretty much exactly the same as the book. However, the book is so rich with simple, friendly, and relationships about a community that becomes family to a girl who lost her mom long ago. It's much less about her dog, which is kind of a catalyst in this book, and more about Opal's relationship with her father and with the rural Florida town in which she lives. Best line: "There ain't no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it."

2. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
This is quite possibly the manliest book I've ever read. Teddy Roosevelt would have loved this book. A thirteen-year-old boy crash-lands in the wilderness of Canada. His pilot is dead, and he's left alone to survive in the wild. It's so good. His parents just got divorced, and he's on his way to visit his dad. All of his thought swirl around in his brain as he's out there on his own. He can't think too hard about it, though, because his first priority is to gather enough food for each day and to build himself a shelter to defend against the elements. Best line: "Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience - waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking."

3. Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye
I did a book group with this book this year. It's a challenging book, no doubt, but it's incredibly written. Trent read the whole series before the group was finished with the first book. This is like a grown-up noir book written for kids. By noir, I'm saying that it has a lot in common with classic murder mystery movies. I would love to have been able to see a movie based on this book directed by Alfred Hitchcock. But in this world, we have mice and other rodents (plus an opera-singing sparrow) in place of human beings. It's just a wonderful book that requires that you use your brains a little bit. I know you guys. All of you can do that, and most of you are willing. Give this one a try!

4. The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney
This book is the newest addition to the Mr. Carter list of recommendations. I also lead a book group on this book this year, and even though the group was a bit reluctant at first (Michael*cough*cough*), they actually ended up liking this book. My favorite thing about this book is its insight to a different time and place than 2010 in Carmel, Indiana. A boy who is enamored with the Seven Wonders of the World is asked to find some wonders in his own backyard, or at least in his town. The things he discovers will make the reader start to look at their mundane worlds with renewed interest. They will make you happy to be anywhere.

5. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
An orphan boy on the streets changes a Pennsylvania town as he searches for a home. This book combats racism without trying too hard, and without being ham-fisted. In fact, to say that it is about racial differences is to cut it short. It's about human relationships between different people, providing the points of view of various socio-economic situations. This was one of my favorite books when I was in school to become a teacher, and it still holds up as--in my opinion--the best of Spinelli's works. Best quote: "He was special all right, and this is his story, and it's a story that is very careful not to let the facts get mixed up with the truth." Love that line.

6. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Let me preface this by saying that I do not get into the whole elf-and-sword fantasy book genre. But this one is awesome. An Irish grade-school teacher wrote this fascinating book about the modern-day, high-tech world of dwarves, fairies, and elves as they all fight against a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind and his incredible bodyguard. You find yourself rooting for both sides as young Artemis tries to con some very clever fairies out of their gold. This book is so much better than any description can show. There are six or seven in the series, and I've read the first three. I plan to read the rest of them this summer. I recommended this to Joosh and probably a few more people in class. Blake from my Math class was and is a big fan of these books--so much so that he gave me one of the later books in the series as an end-of-year gift. Best quote: "Confidence is ignorance. If you're feeling cocky, it's because there's something you don't know."

7. Bull Run by Paul Fleischman
Gans, you'd probably love this book. It's a Civil War book written from the points of view of about fifteen different people from that time period. Bull Run was the first battle of the Civil War, and this shows you what it was like from the African-American point of view, from the Confederate side, as well as the Union side. This is not an easy book to read, but it's well-worth it. This book is slim, and one could read it in an afternoon, but it will probably take you a few days to read it a second time. This is one that gets better and better with repeated readings. Best line: "We're meeting apologize, and to understand, and to atone....We never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can't see. And into the future, where no one can."

8. The Giver by Lois Lowery
I think Viva is the first person I talked into reading this book--this year, anyway. I love this book so much. Set in the near future (presumably), in a dystopic society where all emotion is relegated and where no extremes are known, neither happy or sad. No memories of the world before are known. One boy is chosen to become the new Giver, a person chosen to carry the memories of the citizens from before they were all taken away. During regular sessions, the Giver implants new memories into young Jonas, only Jonas starts to realize that this world is anything other than what he thought originally. I love the ending to this one. I talked the aforementioned Viva into reading this one, but also McG and Ike, both of whom loved it. And Nick is supposed to be reading this book right now (right, Nick!?). It's so worth it. Best line: "Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness. Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back. We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with difference. We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others."

9. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
This is by far the best of Raskin's books. This may be my favorite murder mystery ever, because it's just incredibly layered and well-written. I did talk Viva into reading this one and she liked it. I love a book with a big ensemble cast, and this one fills that order. A young girl named Turtle is sort of the viewpoint for most of this book, but really, the other characters get their chance in the spotlight for sure. There are characters that are not entirely black-and-white here, and you find yourself rooting for people that will surprise you. Good line from the opening: "Who were these people, these specially selected tenants? They were mothers and fathers and children. A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake. Barney Northrup had rented one of the apartments to the wrong person."

10. The Last Shot by John Feinstein
This is one sports book that truly has a brain. The book plays into the real world with actual players and coaches, mixing the fictional characters into our reality. College rivalries and the media and a realistic mystery go into what makes this so much more than a sports story, in much the same way that Artemis Fowl's mixing with reality makes that book so much more than a fantasy book. A couple of eighth graders on a journalistic trip to the Final Four find a lot more than what they were looking for, and even from the grown-up's point of view, this is one fantastic book.

Well there you go! That's my list. I hope everyone does some good reading this summer, and that you will also take the chance to relax a little bit. Don't let your brains rot, and make your summer awesome.

Friday, June 4, 2010

One of the Good Ones

Doggone it.

I just got word that John Wooden, longtime hero of mine, passed away today at the age of 99. He said the quote posted just about my computer desk at school: "Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights." I could go on and on about his credentials, but like Mr. Rogers would have said, those things are just sitting next to who he was as a person. That's the most important part, and luckily he believed the same. There are three famous guys whose writings have had a profound effect on me as a teacher, and he is one of them.

The world is better as a result of you having been here, Coach Wooden. You had a good run, and you will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Don't Ruin Your Argument With Your Delivery

I hope everyone has had a great summer so far. I've had the pleasure of seeing a few of you here and there, and everyone looks pretty relaxed. I've been getting all kinds of work done that I had been putting off during the year. This includes things like arguing with the guy at the cable company. (Remember, guys: Don't ruin your argument with your delivery! It served me well today.)

My Math class, I'll have your summer packets ready hopefully by tomorrow. I can try to get them mailed out to you or leave them in the office for pick up at school next week. Not sure which I'm going to do. And anyone else who wants one, please let me know. If you're from 5-1 (or from my Math class) and you want one, I'll make sure you get it.