Abacuses and Dictionaries

In class on Friday we all discussed multiple literacies and they effect that they’re having on modern classrooms. On item that came up was how some students these days, because of the massive improvements in technology and such, no longer know how to look up a word in a print dictionary. “GASP” says the classroom. Now this does sound absolutely ridiculous when you first hear it mainly because it makes us all think “are kids really that helpless these days?” But is it really that terrible? I don’t think that this case proves in any way that students have become helpless and lazy, i think that it reflects the major technological improvements in the past years, and the dependence that we as a culture have on these new technologies. Let me put it this way, when was the last time that you used an Abacus to solve your math problem? I know that my Abacus has slowly been acquiring some dust in my closet, probably because i have a calculator app in my pocket, and on my computer, and i have a real calculator. Are the mathematicians of the Biblical days gasping at this, or are they jealous of my slick and fancy calculator app? Should we really be disappointed in students who don’t how to use print dictionaries, or should we embrace the fact that there are faster and more efficient ways of getting the same information? I don’t think that if a student looks up a word online rather than in a dictionary they are missing out on some vital process. A dictionary app is faster, and easier, and the student acquires the same information that they would find in print. I also don’t believe that the average student wouldn’t be able to look up a definition in print if someone gave them a ten minute lesson on it, I just don’t think that the ten minute lesson has ever been necessary. In the same way, I’m pretty sure that I could learn how to use an abacus if someone gave me a lesson, but unless i’m planning on being a banker for Potiphar, learning how would be a waste of my time. I’m going to go ahead and stick to my calculator app, and i think students are going to go ahead and stick to their dictionary apps. 

Group Work: How to Navigate the Warzone

In our discussion today we talked about what sorts of literacies we didn’t like in the classroom. I believe it was Matt who raised his hand and said “group work”. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself because it brought to mind this pie chart about group work that I saw on Pinterest. Take a look….

What’s so funny about the second pie chart is that it is so TRUE. I can remember being that kid in groups who ended up doing everything because I didn’t trust anyone else to do it. I’d done my time in group projects. I knew how they worked. Tyler would inevitably loose an important paper. Sarah wouldn’t show up and my grade would suffer because of it. So now as we embark on our journey into the depths of education my question is, how do we make group work effective?

I think we can all agree that learning to work with other people is an important skill to have. Once you’re out of school and working, being able to collaborate with your coworkers is something that will make or break your career (unless you’re a super computer genius who has poor social skills). As teachers it is our job to prepare students for life after school and what better way to do it than to have them work with others on projects? How do we hold everyone in the group accountable?

I know that I’ve had teachers who, at the end of a project, ask every group member about who did what. However, you will have those students who will be unwilling to “rat out” the kids who didn’t work and would rather let their grade suffer than appear like a tattle tale to their peers. Maybe there is no for sure solution that will help out everyone, but how could we tweak the concept of group work to be something that is helpful to all students?

(I ask a lot of questions in my blog posts. I realize this.)

Comments much appreciated,

Anna B.

Read this for fun!

Hey CO301D. I’m posting this for my group members Alex, Andrew, and Shelby for Monday on our discussions on certain pieces of writing, but I’d also LOVE feedback from anyone in the class. I am a creative writer and below is a short story called “The Lion’s Prey”–it’s a thriller and meant to be total entertainment. Read on if you’re interested…won’t be disappointed, I promise. I guess what I want my group members to think about while they’re reading is how maybe I could utilize this form of writing in the classroom–is writing creative stories like this an effective way to talk about certain subjects? Obviously, this story is pretty dark and creepy, but it addresses certain points about survival, possession, and even violence. Anyway, enjoy and thanks for reading!

P.S. Just a note on discretion–there is some pretty harsh language, violence, and sexuality in this story. I don’t mean to offend anyone. I turned this story in for a grade in my creative writing class in the spring so it is meant to be academic as much as it is entertaining. 

 

The Lion’s Prey

 

            If the prey does not run, the lion will not hunt.

*

            I can see his figure in the dark. His profile contours against the cement basement walls and white painted floors. The room is ice cold and I shiver, the chains around my wrists ringing delicately. I bite my lip and hunch between my knees as he stalks closer. His bare feet shuffle against the cement floor but the pound of his heels vibrate the chains hanging from the walls.

            He takes my hands roughly in his. He jerks the key and the cuff lock twists and turns until the metal falls away from my wrists. My raw flesh stings in the frigid air. With a heave, he yanks me to my feet and I stumble as he leads me through a maze of shadows and metal objects: a dissecting table, an empty bookshelf, and a broken floor lamp. He kicks away a metal cage and it clangs against the wall. He flips on a light switch and I squint and blink away the starbursts of color until the images become clear. We stand in front of a metal door, my frigid hand clasped in his huge warm paw, and I look back over my shoulder. The copper bloodstains splatter the white floor. The wire cages in the corner are silently empty.

            Through the metal door is a narrow silver hallway, the overhead fluorescent lightbulbs buzzing like flies. He drags me up an iron staircase and we pass through a wooden doorway. The carpet is warm and cozy on my chilly bare feet. Daylight streams through the broad living room windows. Modern furniture zigzags across the carpet: black leather couches, a plasma screen TV over a marble fireplace, an expensive oak table sits in the dining room, and a crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. The floorboards creak as he leads me through the house and up the second set of stairs.

            In the bathroom, he locks the door behind us and runs hot water into the granite bathtub. The bathroom is enormous—a grey stone floor, a skylight, a mosaic of rainbow tiles along the walls, and perfectly folded white towels hanging from the racks. I curl in the corner and cover my head with my arms. His pants and shirt fall onto the tile and then he grabs my elbow and forces me to my feet. I still don’t look at him. He pulls the shirt over my head, the loose pants down my legs, and I slip into the hot water without question or eye contact. He gets in behind me and I lean against the edge of the tub as he roughly rakes soapy fingers through my long black hair.

            “Don’t make me put you down there again,” he says as he works his hands against my scalp. His voice is bitter but calm. “You hear me?”

            I nod as he lathers soap across my bare back, rubbing my sore, bony arms.

            “Turn around,” he growls and shoves my shoulder to the side. I spin around in the tub to face him. I look down at the swirls of bubbles swishing across the surface of the water.

            He takes my chin between his fingers and I look into his electric blue eyes, blonde hair, and oily, olive skin shining in the light. Tanned and speckled, lined and angry, from years in the sun. He’s nothing but muscle, hard like stone. Unmovable. Unbreakable.

            Trying to punch him is pointless—I tried once but my fist slapped uselessly against his hairless chest like wet rubber over rock. I tried to run, too, but he sealed me with his vice-like arms until I nearly suffocated and heard my ribs snap under the pressure. If I say anything his hand will slap my cheek, the whiplash echoing off the walls. A long time ago, I learned that to survive I obey him, stay quiet, and don’t run. Whatever I do, don’t run.

            He’s my father.

            He lets go of my chin, takes my wrists, and scrubs mercilessly into the raw flesh. I whimper and chew my lip. The white suds turn pink before he rinses them with clean water. He rinses my hair, too, before he hands me the bar of soap. I clean his body even though I can barely lift my arms. Hunger boils in my stomach like a hot iron.

            After the bath, my father retrieves fresh clothes and I dress in silence as he watches me. I glance at myself in the mirror—the bruises around my left eye still prominent like tattoos; every bone shows through my pale skin. I hurry to get out of the bathroom and away from the mirror.

            I follow him to the kitchen and sit on a wooden stool, studying the blue tile of the countertops. Rays of orange sunshine radiate through the window. Beyond the glass, I can see the purple cornflower fields stretch to meet the pine trees. Tall woodlands hide our house in a forest of wilderness.

            My father won’t let me go outside. Ever. Whenever he leaves to go to town, he locks me in the basement so I can’t follow. Every window is locked, some even have bars. The front door is bolted shut at all times.

            A plate of steaming pancakes slides in front of my face. My stomach cramps in anticipation. It’s been nearly two days since I’ve eaten. The smell summons goosebumps along my arms.

            “Eat,” he says. I look up at him. He stares back and leans against the counter with a glass of water in his left hand. “Fuckin’ eat! Before I force it down your throat.”

            I take the fork and begin to shovel the pancakes into my mouth, barely taking the time to chew before I swallow. I should be wary of this act of kindness but I’m too hungry to care. The pancakes are gone within seconds and he hands me a glass of water. I guzzle it greedily. The comfort and satisfaction is immediate—the pains are gone and suddenly the wounds on my wrists seem less painful. My strength returns and I even feel sleepy.

            “Come on.” He takes my hand and leads me to the living room. He sits me down on the leather couch and I hug my knees as he snatches up the TV remote and turns on the screen. Only when he sits down next to me do I force my eyes upwards to watch. His arms wrap around me. “You’ve been good,” he says. “So what do you wanna watch?”

            He asks me this as if I know what’s on the television. I shrug, he picks a channel, and the screen suddenly shows a long, narrow black stripe with neon lines carving through a forest of trees. I lean forward a little, tilting my head to the side. My father notices my expression and he smiles.

            “It’s a road,” he explains. “Cars drive on it.” I stitch my eyebrows together, turning to face him. “Cars, like the one I have.” I remember the red, glossy truck parked just outside in the gravel driveway.

            The screen suddenly changes and I watch as a tall man walks down the road with a small child on his shoulders. The man has blonde hair, the boy has blonde hair. They wave as a car passes. The boy has a toothless smile and wears red overalls with yellow buttons. He clings to his father’s head and the father looks up at his son with a loving grin. Something lurches inside my chest and I turn to look at my father sitting beside me.

            I have an image of him rocking a baby wrapped in a yellow blanket to sleep. A baby with black hair. My lips press thin and I don’t watch the rest of the TV show.

            When the show is over, my father presses a button on the remote and the TV turns off. He stands and leads me upstairs. We walk down the hallway and he lets go of my hand after we pass through the doorway to his bedroom. He crawls onto the bed and waves me over. When I don’t move, he waves again, his eyes growing darker. “Come here,” he demands. “Sabrina…”

            What thrills my father the most is the chase. He loves to get a dramatic reaction out of me. So when I don’t react, the malicious glint in his eye disappears and he almost seems bored. I’m safe that way.

            And when I do react…

            I turn and race down the hallway. The doors and carpet blur into one color.

            “Sabrina!” my father yells. “Sabrina, get back here!” I can hear the guttural tone in his voice. I take the stairs four at a time and by the time I reach the main floor I hear his footsteps. I sprint through the living room, leaping over the back of the couch, and bolt around the coffee table. Then his hand grips my elbow and I whirl around, losing my balance. I fall back onto the carpet and he lunges, pinning me to the ground.

            He grunts as his knees dig into my legs. His impossibly strong hands hold my arms above my head. I writhe and squirm underneath him. His frosty eyes are alive with galvanizing thrill. I try to bite him. This only makes him laugh and his eyes go even brighter.

            “You want to play?” He pulls away from me, freeing my arms and legs. I scramble to my feet for a few seconds before he snatches my foot and I fall once again. He drags me across the carpet and I kick out, almost hitting his jaw with my heel. My desperate attempts to get away amuse him.

            “Follow me upstairs,” he orders. He pulls me to my feet. “I could just put you back in the basement, but that means I have to spend the night alone.” He shakes his head and his eyebrows squint together. “And that won’t do.”

            We get to the bedroom and he locks the door behind us. He throws me onto the bed and I go limp, my efforts to run away are gone.

            He takes me by force, his arousal fueled by my fight. As he rips off my clothes, I rake my nails across his cheek. It’s enough to draw blood. Furious, my father straps a shirt around my neck and pulls until I can’t breathe. Blood throbs in my skull until he’s finished and then he releases the noose. I fall to my side, coughing and shaking. He curls up next to me, his chest pressed against my back. His soft fingers probe my naked body; stroking my jawbone. My eyes meet his serious gaze.

 

            When I hear his soft snores, I move my foot slowly, fractions of an inch at a time, towards the edge of the bed. My toes reach the edge and I wrap them around the rim of the bed frame. I gently peel my skin away from him. Like a snail, I curl away from his arms and legs and replace the empty spots with the crumpled sheets and a pillow. He barely moves. The air is still and quiet, like an indrawn breath. My feet touch the floor. Free.

            I quickly dress myself and slither through the dark room. My breath shallows and my fingers shake as I reach the door. I carefully twist the lock and open the door. I crawl into the hallway on all fours, down the stairs, and through the main room. Once in the kitchen, I find the cracks between the indigo countertops and lift a loose tile. The silver keys glisten in the faint moonlight. I quietly pick up the ring and hug it to my chest. Tears pool around the corners of my eyes.

            I pause and listen for a noise upstairs but nothing stirs. I replace the tile and tiptoe to the front door. A series of bolts and padlocks seal the door shut. I take the first brass key, sharp and shiny, and twist it into the highest padlock. A faint click, I thread the u-bar free, and set it on the carpet. I find a bulky silver key and insert it into the large bolt lock. My hands tremble as they try to turn—I’m scared.

            This house is all I’ve known. But I know there must be people who exist like that father and son; smiling, caring, loving.

            “Clever, Sabrina,” a voice echoed against the walls. I wheel around, pressing my back to the door, and my hand squeezes the ring of keys. My father sits on the bottom stair and he stands as I turn. He points to the door. “Where were you going to go?” he snarls. My grip loosens and I drop the keys to the floor, where they clatter beside my feet.

            He starts to move but I sprint towards the living room. He grabs my waist and I’m thrown back into his chest. We both huff out a grunt. His arms crush my sides and I finally connect my foot to his inner thigh. He lets go and I fall to the floor, crawling on all fours into the dining room. I hide under the table and he’s hot on my heels, grabbing my foot with his paw.

            “Come back here, bitch!” he cries. “Get back here!” I kick him away and curl into a ball under the table. I see his feet stomp into the kitchen and down the stairs. He disappears into the basement and I hear metal clang against metal in the room below and I rocket into action. I head back towards the door and unlock the last padlock when his hand clasps my shoulder. He shoves me hard and I collapse onto the floor. I see a knife in his fist.

            His dark naked figure stands over me as he readjusts his grip on the knife. I crabwalk backwards but his foot stops me.

            My father kneels and points the knife-edge to my throat. He slams my head against the floor and traps my body. I grasp his huge fist with my own two hands and try to pull his fingers away from the knife or push the blade away from my throat. Futile.

            “It’s come to this?” he asks. I feel the blade edge prick at my skin. I gasp, flailing at his wrist, my nails digging into the hairy skin. I can feel the lines of his veins. Regret spirals into my bones like metal screws.

            “Please,” I whisper. “Please…”

            “I should, you know,” he responds, pushing harder. A small drop of blood spills down my neck. “It’d be so much easier….”

            “It’s…” I choke. He loosens the grip on my throat and I wheeze. “It’s come to this a long time ago…”

            He laughs. Actually laughs. He even takes his hand away.

            “Sabrina,” he chortles. “I’m curious. What would you have done after you got out?”

            I don’t answer.

            “Run away? Into the woods?” He laughs some more. “Gone for help? Where? Who?” His laughs turn to a chuckle and I catch faint grey light coming through the window. “Without me, you’re alone.”

            “I…”

            “Your parents were going to kill you!”

            I glance at him, and I can see the flash of a smile on his face.

            “You haven’t guessed yet?” Shaking my head, I pull up to my elbows. “I’m not your real father,” he says. I look at him. I long to have a turn-off switch for my brain. “I stole you as a baby a long time ago.”

            “You’re a liar,” I say.

            “You don’t believe me?” He cackles. “I stole you from your real parents. They were going to kill you. I heard them.” He cocks his head. “I’m not sure why, I just knew I wanted you. I couldn’t let you die.”

            “You’re a liar!” I scream. “You’re a liar!”

            “You still don’t believe me?!” He howls into a fit of laughter and then points his finger at me. “You are one messed up girl.” I wait until his laughter subsides before I stand up. He doesn’t stop me. “You’re mine, Sabrina. Nobody else’s.”

            “Your rightfully stolen prize,” I murmur as I head out into the hallway. He follows, taking my arms but I quickly wriggle free.

            “Don’t try and run from me!” he rages. “You won’t win! I promise you, you won’t. Even if I have to drive a knife through your heart!”

            His hands close around my throat and I pry his fingers away, flailing towards the door. I turn the knob and the large wooden door swings open. A blast of outside air hits my face, through my hair, and I smell…cold. The earthy, icy air stings my nose but a smile tugs at my lips. As I inhale, I feel like the air hits the bottom of my lungs—fresh, cool, and invigorating. I feel alive.

            “Sabrina,” my father calls behind me. I turn to look over my shoulder and see him standing not two feet away, a knife in his hand. He shakes his head. “Come here.”

            I catch the flash in his predatory eye and streak down the porch stairs, nearly tripping over my own feet. The brick slaps against my bare toes. The chilly night air whips through my hair, piercing through my clothes, and race towards the gravel driveway. The stones cut my feet and I stagger.

            “Sabrina!” my father yells, his voice higher this time, and then I hear his footsteps race after me. My breathing shallows in panic. I know he’s faster, there’s no place I can hide…

            I sprint down the dirt road. “Sabrina! Come back here, you idiot!”

            I head into the trees. The dried needles dig into my sore feet and branches scrape at my ankles. I run and run and run, leaping over bushes, weaving through colossal, jagged rocks, the trunks of the trees blurring past. Before long, all I hear is the crunch of my own footsteps, the strained breaths in my lungs. I look behind me and see nothing. My feet slow to a stop, and suddenly I’m standing alone in the middle of the forest.

            The woods are silent, the trees tall and imposing. The hazy darkness surrounds me, shadows form into shapes. I imagine my father trying to stalk me through this dense forest. A knife in his hand. A sparkle in his eye. Run.

            Panic hurtles me through the woods.

            I can see a cherry sunrise in the distance, the light making it easier to maneuver. This place, the outside world, appeared so much more docile from the windows.

            A jagged line of pink and lavender now appears on the horizon and the shape of the forest begins to reveal itself. Crooked branches and needles, amorphous silhouettes in haggard rocks and shrubs.

            After an hour or so, I stop against a rock and huddle there. The tips of my nerves burn. My breathing slows and I inhale steadily, closing my eyes. A bird chirps in the distance and it bounces in the branches. My lips tremble.

            I hear a branch snap behind me, needles crunching under footsteps, a panting, heavy breath. I peer over the side of the rock to see my father walking between the trees, his form hunched forward in the chase, the scrunch of his eyebrows and purse of his lips nearly visible from here. I try to curl tight against the rock for shelter but I know he’ll find me in seconds.

            Flying to my feet, I take off through the trees again. My father catches sight of me. He calls my name, laden with anger and relief. I don’t stop. I catapult myself through the vegetation, leap over low-lying branches, fallen logs, and bushes. I stumble over rocks, my strength dwindles, but still I do not slow. Can I leave him behind?

            I can no longer hear him. Either my father has given up the chase or I have outrun him. I stop. The silence is deafening, to the point where there’s nothing but a ring in my ears, buzzing out the drumbeat of my heart and the rasp of my breath. The trees seem to grow taller. Faces in the bark sneer at me.

            I see a gap in the trees ahead and veer to the left. I emerge from the treeline and maneuver a steep, rocky ditch. On the other side, I stand at the edge of a ebony asphalt road. The yellow and white paint illuminates against the black, carving its way through the woods like a snake.

            I saw this road on TV. It was just like this. I can almost see the father walking along the side with his son on his shoulders, smiling at each other. I try to follow the road with my eyes. It disappears into the distance, turning a corner into the trees. It is empty. No father or son, no cars.

            A hand snatches my shoulder and I scream—a banshee cry, as primal and profound as a gazelle’s last breath. My father lets go as if I burnt him and I fall to my knees. I begin to sob, my pain like shards of glass in my blood. My scream echoes—over and over—deep into the trees.

            “Sabrina,” he pants. “Come home….” I don’t answer and he tries to grab my arm. I squirm away from him. He grows frustrated and seals me into vice-like arms. Unbreakable. Unmovable. I go limp as he drags me back into the woods, away from the side of the road.

            It doesn’t seem to take as long to get back to the house. He lets go of me at the front porch and opens the door. A knife is still in his hand. He steps inside and motions for me to follow. I meet the triumphant, overwhelming shine in his eyes. Maybe, after I spend the night in the basement, he’ll make me pancakes again? Without turning to look at the forest behind me, I walk inside, to the mansion, the man, the lion who raised me.

Blogging Tips

It seems that all of us are really getting into blogging. I know I am, and I know I am planning on creating my own blog after this semester when I have more time to keep up with it. I love seeing that after all the bitching an moaning from the beginning of the semester, we all, one by one, creating our own blog pages. I’m really happy to see this growth and know I’m not the only one who’s changed their minds about blogging. I am also planning on “following” all of your blogs to keep in touch and see how everyone has grown as bloggers. 

But….. I definitely need some tips when it comes to the blogging genre, and I think we all could use a little advice from people that have been blogging longer than a few months. 

Here is a site I found that has really good tips that I plan on working on and hope you all want to incorporate them too. They make sense and are pretty easy to follow. 

Check it out!

-Tara

The Destructiveness of Words

I have a friend right now who is going through some rough times, and the most recent problem is coming from her own parents.  She is being told by her father that her time spent obtaining a college education is a waste of her time.  He is an older man, who never went to college, and has worked in a more “blue-collar” setting.  I spent most of my night trying my best to console her and to help her see that her father is completely wrong; that her time bettering herself is the best time that she has ever spent on herself.

But what comes to mind is the destructiveness that words have, and how they are ten times as hurtful when they come from people we love or admire.  As future teachers we may become those people to our students, and what we say or how we say it, will have an impact on them in some way or another.  It is imperative that we choose our words carefully, and that if we do have anything to criticise about that we do it constructively, as Kayla mentioned in her post, “The Power of Wrongness.”  If we need to let our students know that what they are doing is less-than-stellar, then we do it in a way that helps them to learn from what we are offering and doesn’t just arbitrarily put them down.  They will be told many times that they aren’t the best at everything in life, but as teacher’s we don’t need to tell them that it was a waste of their time if they were sincere in their attempts to better themselves.  To them, it was not/is not a waste of time.

Of course it needs to go without being said, but we should never put down a student for bettering themselves; even if it seems trivial.  For example, if your student wants to learn how to juggle, don’t laugh or comment how it might be stupid.  To the student, it is something they have great interest in and desire to be capable of performing the activity.  Even though it is juggling, it brings them happiness and it betters them in some form or fashion.  The student might discover on their own that it is not as great as they thought it was and eventually abandon it.  But, as teachers, the fact that they are sharing that with us means that they value our opinion.  And if it’s not detrimental to themselves or others, who are we to tell them what they are doing is wrong or right, cool or uncool, awesome or lame.

In an education realm, we should not discourage students from studying subjects that they feel will make them happier or help them to grow as an individual.  We need to nurture that desire, and challenge those who are not trying to better themselves.  Our words, as teachers, and as individuals, carry a lot of weight.  We need to be mindful of what we say.  Life runs on words, and if all we feed it terrible words, then this will be a terrible life.  But if we put the right words in the engine, then this life can be more than we ever hoped for.

Though she may never see this post:

To my dearest friend,

Keep on striving for what your heart desires most.  Never let those who are jealous of your great works bring you down with their words; never stop believing in yourself.  You are an amazing woman and the world is yours for the taking.  You are above the words and above the judgment.  All your hard work will pay off, and when everything is done, you will smile and know that it was because of your perseverance that you achieved all that you set out for.  I have told you before, and still believe it every time I am with you, but you are destined for GREATNESS!!!