Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts on a Rainy Day

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Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts on a Rainy Day

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!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @paustin25.

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!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia.  Follow her on Instagram @paustin25.