Report from Louisiana: Random Thoughts

Readability

Report from Louisiana: Random Thoughts

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – Some ran­dom thoughts this week:

Book Reviews: I’ve fin­ished read­ing two books this week: What the Dog Knows by Cat War­ren, and Edu­cated by Tara West­over. Both have been books that leave what I call a book-​hangover, which is to say that they were both so good that it’s been dif­fi­cult to get into another book imme­di­ately after. Cat Warren’s book about her work and train­ing with her cadaver dog, Solo, is a thor­oughly researched and engag­ing story. It’s not your sen­ti­men­tal dog tale where you need a box of tis­sues at the end. Not that kind of book – you are safe. I learned so much about the sci­ence of dogs and scent and about how han­dlers train and work with these dogs. Warren’s dry humor, quick wit, and solid sci­ence make this a thor­oughly engag­ing read.

Tara Westover’s mem­oir, Edu­cated, is a heart-​wrenching story about her very uncon­ven­tional child­hood. West­over was home-​schooled in the loos­est sense of the word and never set foot in a class­room until she was sev­en­teen years old. Her father, most likely men­tally ill, is a sur­vival­ist and the West­over chil­dren spent their days stock­ing the root cel­lar for the End of Days and work­ing their father’s scrap­yard. Their mother is an herbal­ist and mid­wife and her essen­tial oils and other cures were used to treat all of the family’s injuries includ­ing third-​degree burns and loss of fin­gers. To escape the abuse of her older brother and to make her own way in life, Tara buys a math book and an ACT prac­tice book, teaches her­self math, and gets into Brigham Young Uni­ver­sity. She doesn’t stop there. I could not put this book down and now I can’t quit think­ing about it.

Speak­ing of Edu­ca­tion: As you may remem­ber, my stu­dents are par­tic­i­pat­ing in free-​choice read­ing this semes­ter. I started build­ing a class­room library last spring and through my Ama­zon Wish List and my own weekly trips to thrift stores and second-​hand book shops, we now have just over 300 unique titles (plus some dupli­cates) in our class­room. I’ve been giv­ing updates on my blog about their progress but the short ver­sion is that so far, here at the end of week four, this is a suc­cess. I have stu­dents that have read mul­ti­ple books now. They are writ­ing about what they are read­ing and they are talk­ing with me about their books. Even bet­ter, they are ask­ing me for sug­ges­tions for their next books as well as giv­ing me titles to add to our Wish List! Keep in mind, most of my stu­dents came into my class­room telling me that they don’t read for plea­sure and could not remem­ber the last book they read out­side of required school texts. It’s still early in this project, but I’m really encour­aged by what I’m see­ing in my class­room every day! It’s very excit­ing to watch!

Still Speak­ing of Edu­ca­tion: It’s an elec­tion time in Louisiana and our gov­er­nor is propos­ing a teacher pay raise. John Bel Edwards is up for re-​election in 2019 so it’s appar­ently time to get the teach­ers on board. He thinks a $1,000 annual pay raise will do it. Let me make this very clear: he can give me what­ever pay raise he wants to but until he returns teacher auton­omy to the class­room and aban­dons canned, scripted lessons, I’m not vot­ing for him. Period. Call me a single-​issue voter, I don’t care. I.Don’t.Care.

Hur­ri­cane Gor­don: The trop­i­cal storm we were watch­ing last week turned and fiz­zled. This is not a bad thing nec­es­sar­ily but now offi­cials are wor­ried about giv­ing too many false warn­ings:

Louisiana offi­cials declared an emer­gency, called out the National Guard, shut­tered schools and closed cour­t­houses as Trop­i­cal Storm Gor­don drew near, but the weather sys­tem bucked east and left the Pel­i­can State unscathed.

Such false alarms are the cost of a robust emer­gency response sys­tem, sci­en­tists and gov­ern­ment offi­cials said Wednes­day. Some wor­ried res­i­dents could become desen­si­tized to future alerts.

Peo­ple think they’re get­ting over-​warned,” said mete­o­rol­o­gist Frank Revitte of the National Weather Service’s Slidell office, which issues fore­casts for south­east­ern Louisiana.

I think I’d rather have the warn­ing than not.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cam­mie Henry and her Cir­cle at Mel­rose Plan­ta­tion. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Some random thoughts this week:

Book Reviews:  I’ve finished reading two books this week: What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren, and Educated by Tara Westover.  Both have been books that leave what I call a book-hangover, which is to say that they were both so good that it’s been difficult to get into another book immediately after.  Cat Warren’s book about her work and training with her cadaver dog, Solo, is a thoroughly researched and engaging story.  It’s not your sentimental dog tale where you need a box of tissues at the end.  Not that kind of book – you are safe.  I learned so much about the science of dogs and scent and about how handlers train and work with these dogs.  Warren’s dry humor, quick wit, and solid science make this a thoroughly engaging read.

Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, is a heart-wrenching story about her very unconventional childhood.  Westover was home-schooled in the loosest sense of the word and never set foot in a classroom until she was seventeen years old. Her father, most likely mentally ill, is a survivalist and the Westover children spent their days stocking the root cellar for the End of Days and working their father’s scrapyard. Their mother is an herbalist and midwife and her essential oils and other cures were used to treat all of the family’s injuries including third-degree burns and loss of fingers.  To escape the abuse of her older brother and to make her own way in life, Tara buys a math book and an ACT practice book, teaches herself math, and gets into Brigham Young University.  She doesn’t stop there.  I could not put this book down and now I can’t quit thinking about it.

Speaking of Education:  As you may remember, my students are participating in free-choice reading this semester.  I started building a classroom library last spring and through my Amazon Wish List and my own weekly trips to thrift stores and second-hand book shops, we now have just over 300 unique titles (plus some duplicates) in our classroom.  I’ve been giving updates on my blog about their progress but the short version is that so far, here at the end of week four, this is a success.  I have students that have read multiple books now.  They are writing about what they are reading and they are talking with me about their books.  Even better, they are asking me for suggestions for their next books as well as giving me titles to add to our Wish List!  Keep in mind, most of my students came into my classroom telling me that they don’t read for pleasure and could not remember the last book they read outside of required school texts.  It’s still early in this project, but I’m really encouraged by what I’m seeing in my classroom every day!  It’s very exciting to watch!

Still Speaking of Education:  It’s an election time in Louisiana and our governor is proposing a teacher pay raise.  John Bel Edwards is up for re-election in 2019 so it’s apparently time to get the teachers on board.  He thinks a $1,000 annual pay raise will do it.  Let me make this very clear:  he can give me whatever pay raise he wants to but until he returns teacher autonomy to the classroom and abandons canned, scripted lessons, I’m not voting for him.  Period.  Call me a single-issue voter, I don’t care. I.Don’t.Care.

Hurricane Gordon:  The tropical storm we were watching last week turned and fizzled.  This is not a bad thing necessarily but now officials are worried about giving too many false warnings:

Louisiana officials declared an emergency, called out the National Guard, shuttered schools and closed courthouses as Tropical Storm Gordon drew near, but the weather system bucked east and left the Pelican State unscathed.

Such false alarms are the cost of a robust emergency response system, scientists and government officials said Wednesday. Some worried residents could become desensitized to future alerts.

“People think they’re getting over-warned,” said meteorologist Frank Revitte of the National Weather Service’s Slidell office, which issues forecasts for southeastern Louisiana.

I think I’d rather have the warning than not.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25.