Sunday, August 31, 2008

Gustav, anyone?

Hey, just wanted to check on Billie and Beth. I don't think I've seen Beth on here, and only one little thing from Billie. If you're out there, let us know how things are going for you with the storm. Some of my family is in Baton Rouge, so if you see some tall skiny guys of various age who are way too emotional and socially awkward - that's them. They'll probably be drunk.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Room to share

Anyone going to San Antonio who wants to share a room. I booked one at the Marriott and my budget probably will not cover it so... let me know. Wendie

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What a day!

There are days when I am simply amazed. In my Holocaust Lit class we are reading The World Must Know. I debated this idea (internally) but came to the conclusion that my students must read at least the first two sections in order to understand as much as possible about this "thing" called the Holocaust. My current format is that they read independently and then bring ideas, emotions, questions, etc. to class discussion. They have "think journals" with them at all times to record these things while they're reading.

Today in class we discussed the section about Christianity, Martin Luther's comments on Judaism, and the history of exile within Judaism. Several students had commented in their journals that they felt a new sense of shame in their religion and a new understanding of Jewish persecution prior to Hitler's empire. The conversation was rich, emotional, and moving. I was so amazed at some of the statements they made and the questions they asked. It was amazing that much of their conversation - the conversation of 15 - 18 year-olds - reflected much of our discussion online before coming to New York. I must say, I underestimated their ability to understand the gravity of it all. I could see it in their eyes. They were hungry for more. They wanted to understand human nature and how "all of this stuff" came to be. Wow! This year is going to be life-changing for all of us, I can feel it.

Today, there was a group of 12 kids, in the middle of Nebraska who began to understand more of the world and themselves. Maybe I can make a difference.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

School trip to England

The teachers in my school want to offer students a trip to London/Scotland or thereabouts. Does anyone (Angela?) have any recommendations on travel agencies that do a really good job? Thanks,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hello all. I am trying to make it to NCTE conference in November. Does anyone want to share a room? Wendie

Friday, August 22, 2008

We're Off to the Races

School started this week and I must say it was a comedy of errors in a lot of respects. Our rosters are not completed , so we don't know who is supposed to be in the class or not. Plus, they have the teacher's schedules all mixed up. I would be expecting a certain class to show up, but another group of students showed up instead. It's always nice to start a class off by having to ask them, "What class is this.?" Thankfully, the students have us all straightened out. I also missed sending my students to lunch on day two. They had to create a special "4th lunch" period heretofore known in our school as "Neuburger's Lunch."

I appreciate all of the replies to my last post regarding how to begin a Holocaust unit. I have decided to start with the research paper. I guess I want the students to see just how broad the topic of the Holocaust is and the wealth of sources they have available to them. I also hope they begin to find a narrower topic for further research they will be doing next semester.

The next thing we will do is read Night collaboratively via a blog with Danielle's class in McCool Junction. Danielle and I are both excited about the possibilities of this. My twenty-one copies of Night have not materialized as promised, so it looks like I'll be digging into my own pocket for those.

Leslie and Danielle both start out with talking about identity, but I am going to work it into my classroom after reading Night. I plan to use the I am From poem as a starting point for a multigenre project. My plans are sketchy from this point on, but will take shape as I get there.

Valarie, I would be most happy to get your ideas, and if you need to call me, give me a jingle. I know I'll enjoy visiting with you. 417 827 0455

Danielle, anything you want to send my way will be appreciated. I'll talk to you in a couple of weeks.

I hope all is going well for everyone.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks Larry

I am finally on the blog. At the end of my second week of school, it is such a joy to watch this video and remember what a great experience we all enjoyed.

Liberator Dies

My brother (a history teacher) sent me an email about this article on It is about James Hoyt - one of the US liberators of Buchenwald. I'm very interested to read the book about experiences told by the people in a small town in Iowa (soon to be published) entitled The Oxford Project. Hoyt is included in the book.

The CNN article describes some of the atrocities that James saw.

Be sure to check it out:


Monday, August 11, 2008

Thoughts on "isms"

My mother and I stumbled upon the Holocaust Center of Northern California last week. It is located the next street up from the Embarcadaro, on Steuart. From our parking space, we could see the Bay Bridge. The fog was beginning to lift and I could make out indigo patches of sky. The neighborhood, idyllic in an urban sense, has gone through a major facelift because of earthquake damage. Anyway, we intended to go to the Freida Kahlo exhibit at the SF Museum of Modern Art but were challenged by not only the crowds lining up around the block, but the long we decided to check out 121 Steuart Street. The building is nondiscript, also housing the Jewish Community Center. I pushed on the glass door and was greeted by two men who immediately asked what we were doing in the building; they were intimidating. After explaining our intent, we were asked to sign in, walk through a metal detector, and were escorted to the basement where an amazing library is located. What struck me was the level of security. Outside, were a number of ethnic eateries, a botique hotel, a pretty cool YMCA, the post office...Inside the door of this building were real, live, men in black! I thought back to the "isms" we discussed in New York and was reminded that for some, principles, beliefs, philosophies are above the law (big duh...World Trade Center...was at Ground Zero...), and that the people in this building, in this yuppie-type neighborhood, understand this truth and feel threatened enough to hire security. Is it just a hopeless wish...tolerance? peace? Are we past the point of opting for conscious dialogue to heal and learn from each other? Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a dark, depressing, black hole... that we will kill each other to protect our "isms." Hopefully, our efforts to promote tolerace will be embraced by the young people we teach. Hopefully, these young people will see beyond race, ethnicity, religion, politics, gender...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

625 words, more on identity

I've been in New Orleans at my parents' place for about a week. This is never easy, for the same reason that it is not easy for many young people of my generation. I don't know why though, but I know the commonality is present. Anyway, last night we went out to eat, and as we were driving home we passed a store on Magazine Street where my dad bought his school uniforms for elementary school. I didn’t know my dad lived near there, so I asked him to show me where he lived. It turned out to be 908 Philip Street. He then showed me the house where he bit his tongue – he has this weird flap in his tongue because when he was playing football once he bit it and tore his tongue. I know this because he is similar to Michael Jordan, whenever he does anything he usually has his tongue out, and is usually biting it. I have these vivid memories of my dad from when I was growing up, and he could be cutting wood, or playing basketball, or washing the car, and his tongue was always out, and the little flap was always there. He then showed me the house where his half-sister Cleo lived; her father committed suicide and her mother couldn’t cope, so his family took Cleo in when my father was in 5th grade and she was a bit younger. This compassion, by people who were so poor, has always put me to shame. Then we drove a few more blocks and he showed me where he went to elementary school: 2001 Constance Street at St. Alphonsus Elementary School. It is connected to St. Alphonsus Church, which is now a Community Center, and was the largest domed building in the state of Louisiana before the Superdome was built. St. Alphonsus is right across the street from St. Mary’s Assumption Church; from what I’ve found they even share the same address somehow so that they both gain national historic designation. St. Mary’s was built for the German immigrants in the area; St. Alphonsus was built for the Irish immigrants. This history is really neat to me, and simply understood as the way things go, rather than negative. My dad told me stories of having to walk out of the school, down the lines in the sidewalk, “or the alligators would get you,” on the way to the cafeteria. He told me of getting left-over buns from the cafeteria on the way home from school, when there were left-overs, and how they would still be warm and were so good. I remember wanting to cry in the car, and now I am. He talked about having to cross Jefferson Ave., a pretty big street, by himself, from the age of 6. We talked about Abigail, my niece and his granddaughter, who just turned 7, having to walk anywhere by herself, and how we wouldn’t allow it because it is so unsafe here now, but also how she couldn’t do it even if it was safe because she couldn’t figure her way out of a cardboard box. We smiled and we laughed, and I thanked him for showing me around, and I feel like I have some more addresses to add to my Identity Box.

And I wanted to share this with you, because of the journey we traveled in the short two weeks we had together. This experience made me think not only of Identity, but also Place, which Steve and I discussed for a bit, and is certainly a theme in Steve’s writing.

Thanks for being really cool people, and leaving your fingerprints on my soul. And thanks for putting up with me and my rambling writing.

Use Comics to Connect

I was doing a news search today and saw two interesting articles. One talks about the power of the graphic novel Maus. I am planning to try to get my library to purchase the book for our stacks. I have to see if it can be approved as a young adult book limiting it's borrowing to the 8th graders. Those of you teaching high school might want to see if it could be added to your libraries. We have found in the past year, our reluctant readers are more than happy to read complex stories delivered in a comic-like format. Here is the link:

The other is a comic that will be coming out soon. Comic writers are working together to help a holocaust survivor retrieve ownership of artwork she created in Auschwitz. Following is a small excerpt and the link.
Neal Adams, Joe Kubert and Stan Lee have joined forces with a Holocaust expert to craft a comic that document the struggle of an Auschwitz survivor who painted watercolors to spare her mother's life in the Nazi camp.
The artist, Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, 85, created a Disney mural in the children's barracks at Auschwitz before being tapped by Dr. Josef Mengele to paint portraits of Gypsy prisoners. Babbitt cut a deal with the Nazi madman that spared her mother's life in exchange for the paintings. Now, some of Babbitt's artwork is in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, and Babbitt wants it back, according to The New York Times.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hi Everyone

I have been pretty much a lurker these last couple of weeks. I arrived home in time to go to Columbia, MO to do a demonstration on podcasting in front of some teacher consultants. I then had a couple of days to do some reading and writing in preparation for my writing project site's advanced institute where we are researching our local communities. We are using a book titled Writing: Our Communities. In order to build upon my NY experience, I spent three days researching the Jewish community in Springfield. I was surprised to find there has been some useful records kept at the Missouri State Library, as well as several brief historical accounts. As I move forward with the research, I hope to meet some of our local Jewish academics (yes they are here) who might be able to point me to some primary sources. I don't know what I will do with all of this, but opportunities will present themselves I am sure.

I have had time to read Night and Five Chimneys. A writing project fellow has promised to give me 21 copies of Night. This is exciting because I now have enough books to develop several activities related to the Holocaust. However, I am stuck as to how to begin. Anybody have any ideas? I'll be doing this with a senior English classes. I thought about having them do a general research paper on the Holocaust, followed with a research paper and powerpoint demo on one of the camps. We could then go into Night with discussions on a class blog. From this point I would have them create and present a mutigenre project. Does anybody have any suggeions on how to start this little campaign off? Is having them start off with a research paper ok? Some feedback from my more experienced fellows would be appreciated.

I am happy to see so many of you posting. I have read some wonderful stuff. If there is anyone out there needing my assistance on posting or getting involved email me at:

One last thing, it would be nice to know how some of you are integrating what we learned into your curriculum.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Seminar Overview - 10 minutes long

Below is a video I made for a demonstration Thomas and I gave at the Missouri Writing Project Network 's Leadership Retreat. Thomas and I, along with Kim Grayson, who attended the Holocaust seminar last year, presented a demonstration to around sixty writing project leaders from around the state of Missouri. We started with this video, which includes almost 2000 images taken by several of us; Thomas talked about several of the demonstrations we saw involving "Changing Perspectives" and Kim did an actual demonstration. We finished with demonstrating the appication process and hopefully more from Missouri will apply for next years seminar. Feedback from participants was very positive.
The video is around 10 minutes long and includes some video clips of Gisa and Irving in addition to the 2000 pictures. Believe it or not, I eliminated over 1200 images to keep our presentation within the allotted time.