By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – It’s a rainy, fall day here in Louisiana and we are one week away from fall break at school, and less than two weeks away from publishing day for my book, so my attention span is all over the map right now. I have only some loose, disconnected thoughts for you this week:
The Kavanaugh Circus: Ditto what Fausta said. One hundred percent ditto. Last I checked, her post had not received an Instalanche but it certainly should have. Well done, Fausta! For my part, I’m watching the hearings distantly and with disgust. No wonder people are sick of politicians.
Education in Louisiana: We are accustomed to being at the bottom of every type of good-list in Louisiana (or at the top of The-Worst-Place to… lists), but it looks like our education rankings are fixing to take a blow. When school letter grades come out on November 8, The Advocate reports that “the number of F-rated schools is expected to rise by 57 percent and those with A ratings drop by 38 percent, according to a 2017 analysis by the state Department of Education.”
It is, in fact, expected to be so bad that schools will receive two grades: one under the old system and one under the new in an attempt to soften the blow.
Meanwhile, Louisiana, like many other states, is facing a critical teacher shortage and while some suggest that pay is the problem, I would suggest that the Louisiana version of Common Core in the core subject areas is also playing a huge part in the vacuum of qualified teachers in this state. Every ELA teacher I know has an exit plan: either hang on the few years to retirement or move from the classroom into either administration, library science, or counseling. And the new teacher candidates aren’t coming. They’re changing course.
This will get worse before it gets better.
Book Talk: When people send new books to our Classroom Library Project, I try to read as many of them as I can if it is a title I haven’t read before. My daughter sent Monica Wood’s The One-in-a-Million Boy to us and I just finished it yesterday. What a stunningly beautiful book. Her writing is exquisite and her characters so endearing…the plot is simple but complicated. It is charming and I’m going to buy a copy for all of my friends for Christmas. Go read it. Now.
Speaking of the Classroom Library Project, a very nice lady shared our project on her social media this past week which resulted in a mini-flood of about a dozen books for our new classroom library! My students were so excited as they dug through the new titles, thumbed the crisp new pages, and selected titles to read. The generosity of strangers can be so heartwarming!
And finally, my own book will be published on October 10. Cane River Bohemia is a biography of Cammie Henry who had an artists and writers colony at her plantation home in central Louisiana during the 1920s and ‘30s. She was a remarkable woman and hosted such luminaries of the day as Lyle Saxon, Sherwood Anderson, Alberta Kinsey, Doris Ulmann, Julia Peterkin, Ada Jack Carver, and Caroline Dormon. She was also the employer of folk artist Clementine Hunter. Cammie was an early preservationist and restored not only her plantation home, but other cabins and structures on her property. Additionally, she salvaged parts of other homes and brought them to her own. Her archival collection at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana is filled with original manuscripts sent to her by all types of writers, famous and not famous, for her examination.
I’m incredibly nervous about the book because I want everyone to love Cammie as much as I do. People keep telling me to relax and enjoy it, that the hard work is done, but that’s so much easier said than done.
I will work on this!