The Education of Teacher Beth

Since my hubby has created this opportunity to share my thoughts about books, thought I’d do so…

Now, books are very close to my heart. Having grown up in a fairly remote part of Canada where TV was not readily available until satellite dishes were invented, I grew up on books. I can remember the first time I read a book to my mom and dad (an ‘I Can Read’ book called ‘Small Pig’), and my mother still glows with pride when asked about her children’s early reading ability. Both my brother and I read before we went to school, something that was actually frowned upon at the time; parents did not know how to teach their children how to read, of course – that was the school’s job! Good thing my mom was a teacher then…

It also helped that, as already mentioned, there was a conspicuous lack of a television until I was about 10 (at which time I’m sure I made up for all those lost years…) but I think my love of books can be traced back to my mother and my family. All of my aunts and uncles on both sides of my family are well-educated, and I can include several teachers and even university professors amongst those ranks. All of which meant that reading and learning have always been valued in my family. And this was undoubtedly one of the reasons I chose to become an English teacher. And being an English teacher, it’s actually part of my job to read novels and plays! Some things in life do work out well, don’t they??

Regrettably, with all the afore-mentioned marking (see previous post…), I haven’t had the time of late to pick up a book, but I did get some great novels for my birthday. And one of them that I’m really looking forward to is ‘Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister’ by Gregory Maguire. I ran across his work on the plane home from Canada in October – Air Canada had a channel that was running excerpts from recently published books. One of them was a book called ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’. It’s a re-telling of the Wizard of Oz from the point of view of said witch. It opens with the witch spying on Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion as they are on their way to defeat her. The close description of Dorothy and the other characters from the witch’s point of view was startling, as was the concept. I hadn’t thought of taking such a well-known story and looking at it from another pointof view. And of course the shoes really did belong to the witch- they had belonged to her sister, and her sister had no other living relatives – she was the next of kin. So much is made of the witches being evil that you assume in the original story that Dorothy is, of course, in the right to take the shoes. But what if the witches weren’t evil, but just had a different point of view or belief system to the majority of the population? What light does that put Dorothy in? She becomes, at worst, a murderer, or at best, a foolish and naive girl. The most intriguing thing I found about the book was the fleshing out of the rather one-dimensional society that Frank Baum created in the Wizard of OZ books. What would happen to that society if Animals (those who could speak and were intelligent, as opposed to the common sort, animals) were discriminated against, and there was a movement (that eventually became underground and miliant) that fought for Animal Rights? Or if the Wizard was a dictator who ruled OZ with a fascist-like government?

This book was intricate and detailed, a close examination of an unsual person who became misunderstood and persecuted because of her differences in looks (she was born with pale green skin and very sharp teeth), and in belief. It is a sharp portrayal of how being ostracized can affect someone of intelligence and sensitivity. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down, which was unfortunate in some ways because it’s too long to read at one sitting (without days off and a lot of coffee, that is…) and I didn’t get much work done while reading it. Which is one reason why I’m going to leave ‘Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister’ to the summer holiday – I can’t afford to skive off work at the moment!!

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Gregory Maguire, Douglas Smith)

Amazon Links

I’ve started playing around with linking to the Amazon web services. Again this is primarily to investigate building a ‘virtual bookstall’ into the church website, but as a side-effect it has allowed me to put the pretty cool random selections from both my wishlist and Beth’s onto the sidebar. It will also allow Beth to do her reading log, which she currently writes in a notebook, online. In traditional programmer fashion I’ve started with somebody elses code to see how it’s done, and from there will look at how the web services work.

The code I have used is the excellent CG-Amazon by David Chait. The code is by default configured to hook up to, but it was a simple matter of setting a variable in the config file to get it to point to the UK Amazon site. The main issues I’ve had so far are related to the web services, which seem to periodically return a 503 error, plus there was some confusion in the documentation about where to put the cache folder for the product details. Once I’d got that sorted all appeared to work fine. However, I have had to change the main css file driving the look of the log, primarily as the product listings didn’t look very good on the original one (Rubric, the second place in Alex King’s WordPress Style competition), and the second choice, Bulletin Board, another entry in the competition messed up the Amazon product details, and totally messed up on Internet Explorer. Both of those were down to the CSS files, so I guess I’ll take a look. I am now using Silver is the New Black, which is a fairly simple layout that looks pretty good.

I have yet to work out if there is way to directly drop in recommended products, so I’ve had to build the link manually. For starters, here is a link to the book that my Mum published with my uncle a few years back. It’s no longer in print unfortunately, but still on the Amazon product listing.

Easy Guide to the Twentieth Century (Anne Peat)

Hey there!

Just thought I’d introduce myself… Finally got around to viewing the blog, as life as a teacher is a bit hectic come end of June… For any Canadians reading, that doesn’t mean I’m done school – I finish the 15 July this year (grump grump grump…) Just got a lot of end of the year tests to mark. I’m sure Richard felt abandoned this weekend as I locked myself away for 8 hours to mark. And I’m not done yet!! Soon, soon…

Not got any piccies to up load yet, but we’ll see what we can do about that. Going on a school camping trip soon, that that’ll be fun (hopefully…) At least I don’t have to eat their cooking!

Well, better get back to the grindstone…



Taizé BBQ

These are pictures from the afternoon of the rather wet BBQ for participants in the Taizé Pilgramage 2004. Includes some shots in and around the church building.

The images on this site have been downsampled to 640×480, if anyone would like copies of the originals at 1600×1200, drop me an e-mail.