March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review

I first wrote my book review for The Hunger Games two years ago, after spending an entire school year watching my students devour the story. I've been eagerly anticipating the release of this film for years and jumped at the opportunity to join my friend and co-worker, Carolyn, in taking our ESL students on a "field trip" (This was completely planned by two of our 8th grade boys who fell in love with the series. They couldn't imagine not seeing the movie with their classmates who've spent months reading and talking about the books together, and since the district doesn't allow field trips (for financial reasons), meeting at the theater our alternative. Still, I think it's adorable that they planned this and that 25 students participated.) on Friday night to see the movie.

My initial reaction is that I loved the movie. I think most of the casting was done perfectly, especially Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, who is one of my favorite characters (though I don't know that they ever actually said her name in the movie). I really loved Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss as well. It was clear that she really understood her character. I loved the outrageous costumes of the people in the capitol (I think Lady Gaga would fit in beautifully) and would have loved to have seen even more of their lavish lifestyles.  

Like any movie, though, it still wasn't as good as the book. As a language arts teacher, we spend a lot of time focusing on characterization in our reading. One of the five components of characterization is internal thoughts and feelings, and I really missed that in this movie. There's just so much internal conflict in the book that can't be portrayed in the movie. I also don't think enough explanation was given to the purpose of the games, how the reaping works, or how the sponsors work. I had to call upon my background knowledge quite often to make it all make sense.  

I know there are time constraints, but I wanted there to be more time spent on developing the characters and relationships I loved so much. I love Gale in the book, and I don't think enough attention was given to his relationship with Katniss. I think that the audience needed to understand the depth of their bond, which grew from a mutual loss, responsibility, and a dependency on each other for companionship and survival. We didn't get enough background information to understand why he was so hurt to see Katniss and Peeta together in the Games. And never once was there any indication that Gale even crossed Katniss's mind.

Likewise, I felt like the relationship between Katniss and Peeta was far too rushed. There were many crucial relationship-building scenes in the book that were completely omitted from the story. We didn't get a chance to understand the manipulation that was necessary for survival, during the games and after. Once again, though, I think this goes back to not being able to get a glimpse into her inner thoughts and feelings. Maybe this is just because I loved the book so much, but I wanted more. And I think it will be even more of a challenge to understand Katniss's confusion in the second movie with such little development of her relationships.

Overall, while there were several changes from the book (especially the ending), I still enjoyed the movie very much and would absolutely recommend seeing it. And if you haven't read the book yet, please do yourself a favor and read it! I have several copies if you need to borrow one!

March 12, 2012

Sick as a Dog, Whatever That Means

I feel terrible. I woke up yesterday with a terrible sore throat, watery eyes, and a headache. I hoped it was allergies, but as the day went on, I was pretty sure I had a fever too. Boo!

These are the kinds of days when I really wish I was a full-time employee. Okay, let's face it, most days are those days. But on days like this, if I had sick days to use, I would definitely be using them. My current reality, though, is that I have to work. Because last week was ISATs, and I only worked one day. And with spring break yet to come at the end of the month, I need to work now to pay my bills. There's also the added pressure that comes with knowing I was personally requested for every single job on my schedule this week. I simply cannot let them down by staying home sick. Even though I feel terrible.

The weird thing about my sore throat is that it's not so much the kind that hurts when I swallow. Rather, it hurts with I breathe. Like breathing (through my nose, mind you) makes my throat dry, and it hurts. Every single time I inhale.

As you can probably imagine, this made sleeping pretty difficult. I pretty much tossed and turned all night long, despite being exhausted. I even tried sleeping with a lozenge in my mouth, which I know isn't the brightest idea... but I was desperate, people.

When I looked at the clock for the millionth time this morning, at 6:20, I decided to just get out of bed a little early. My futile attempts at sleep were more annoying than anything, so I conceded and got ready for work. About 15 minutes into my routine (which, for me, means I was basically ready to walk out the door), I wondered why I wasn't hearing my alarm. At that point, I went over to my phone to see that it was, in fact, only 5:35... I was a whole hour early.

It's gonna be a long day, folks!

March 9, 2012

Smurf Crime Scene

Today I learned a valuable lesson...

If the cap is off the detergent bottle when it falls out of your hand, it will make a big mess on your white carpet. Because, of course it has to happen on your white carpet, not the tile floor in the laundry room.

Even after hours of scrubbing, I can still see the remnants of the Smurf massacre that clearly took place in my hallway and bedroom... because that's what it looks like.

Or maybe Juno vomited her sixty-four ounce blue slushie onto my carpet.

Either way, my arms are gonna be sore this weekend.

At least the hallway smells Tide fresh.

My Body, My Choice

I read this article yesterday about the "Wrongful Birth" bill that passed in Arizona yesterday. The bill gives doctors the option to not tell a pregnant woman about prenatal issues in order to prevent abortions.

Now, to be fair, the bill doesn't prevent doctors from telling women about these things, it just gives them a free pass should they choose not to.

I understand, also, that it's meant to protect doctors from being sued when babies are born with birth defects or disabilities. But we're not just talking about birth defects and disabilities here. The state of Arizona just said that their doctors are no longer legally obliged to inform women about any prenatal issues, including those that are life-threatening for the mother or fetus.

Know anyone who's had an ectopic pregnancy? Those often result in termination for the safety of the mother. According to this law, though, a doctor would have the option to not tell his patient about this issue and let nature take its course.

How is this even an option?

When did the life of the fetus become more important than the life of the mother? And how is any doctor's right to decide for a woman what's best for her body? If I get cancer, I get to hear my options and decide how to proceed. If I have prenatal issues, I should have that same choice!

I'm worried for pregnant women, present and future, in the state of Arizona. And I really hope this bill doesn't gain momentum in other states.

March 7, 2012

A Quote to Remember

I was having a conversation with a small group of eighth graders I've been working with for the past two years when I brought up something that happened in my classroom at my old school. This was the conversation that ensued:

Student: Wait, you had your own classroom?

Me: Yes, not here. Over at *****.

Student: I didn't know that. What did you teach there?

Me: 7th grade language arts.

Student: How long?

Me: I was there for the two years before I was here.

Student: You know they loved you, right?

Me: Who did?

Student: The students.

Me: How do you know?

Student: Just trust me. I know they did. They thought you were awesome! And they miss you now.

March 5, 2012

Life Lessons from Disney Princesses

I promise I'm not one of those women who believe that Disney princesses are the root of body image issues in this world (I mean, Barbie certainly shares some of the blame)...

.... but I do think this picture is hilarious!

Don't get me wrong. I can see the truth in those captions too, but certainly this isn't all we can learn from Disney princesses, is it?

I had a English professor in college who used to preach about how Disney was teaching young girls to be dependent on men. He flat out refused to allow his two young daughters to watch any of the movies and was proud to say that they wouldn't have been able to name a single princess. Even back then, I would roll my eyes as he'd step on his pedestal and rant away.

And I can understand how a feminist lens would lead to such a conclusion. I also think, though, that opinion ignores the more overt messages about kindness, goodness, and following one's dreams. And call me crazy, but I think those are good messages for little girls.

At the end of the day, we all need to remember that the messages we send our children are even more important than any message from a Disney princess (or Barbie) anyway.

March 1, 2012

My Students Have My Back

Next week is ISAT week around these parts (our state standardized test, for those that don't know), which means most teachers are spending this week preparing their kids with testing strategies and last minute content. For the kids, it usually means a long, boring week... before another long, boring week of testing.

I spent the past two days subbing for an 8th grade math teacher whose plans included a 70-question practice ISAT test. As you can imagine, this is not exactly a fun activity for your average 14 year-old, but I was tasked with keeping this (already chatty) classroom motivated to finish their packets.

Everything was fine until my ninth period class. Granted, today is their Friday (institute day tomorrow means no school for them), and it's always harder to keep them working during the last period of the day... But I was about to pull out my own hair because I could not get them to stop talking while I was trying to work with a small group in the front of the room. Every time I looked away, someone would say or do something to get the rest of the class off-task. It was making it extremely hard for me to help the students at my table because we were constantly interrupted by my need to address the noise in the room.

Sensing my frustration, one of the boys finally yelled, "Guys... we've had a lot of really bad subs, and Miss L is one of the good ones. I don't know about you, but I want her to want to come back here, so we should really listen to her."

Anyone who works with middle school students can understand why I was really impressed with his comment. It's not often that you see kids in this age group stand up against their peers. And it was so thoughtful of him to consider the fact that I was there by choice... because I enjoy working with that group.

The class erupted in applause, followed by several apologies and comments of concern. They were genuinely worried that I wouldn't want to be their substitute anymore and that they had disappointed me.

I tell ya... building a positive rapport with students goes a long way!!!