Rant Review: It’s Your Time You’re Wasting: A Teacher’s Tale of Classroom Hell by Frank Chalk (DNF)

Title: It’s Your Time You’re Wasting: A Teacher’s Tale of Classroom Hell

Author: Frank Chalk

Year: 2006

Rating: 1/5

This is going to be a rant more than a review so if you’re looking for something with a little more structure and eloquence, I’d go somewhere else.

This “book” is one man’s experiences of teaching in one of Britain’s lower-performing comprehensive schools. What is supposed to be a “blackly humourous diary of his working life” is in fact a real look at one of the reasons our education system has gotten so bad.

Now, I’ll give “Mr. Chalk” credit where credit is due. I know this profession is frustrating – I’m a teacher. We are overworked and underpaid & get zero respect. The British school system is a joke and most of our state schools are way underfunded. As a result, we do often need a good whinge. That’s why I (very generously) awarded 1 star to “Mr. Chalk.”

What doesn’t help to combat these problems is when teachers just give up and start thinking that they’re above their profession.

I’ll give you some examples of the problems I had with Mr. Chalk’s attitude:

“Stella (it’s amazing how many kids are named after alcoholic drinks) …

Kat (seriously, that’s what her parents called her) scrunches up her label…”

You know when a celebrity names their kid something unusual like Apple or Dweezil or North West and people are like, “That kid’s going to be picked on in school!”?

No. Most kids don’t realise a name is unusual unless they hear an adult mention it. That adult should never be a teacher. Unless the teacher’s a right prick.

“If there’s one thing I can’t cope with it’s crying kids.”

Then, for the love of God, why did you decide to work with kids? Who is this man and, on a scale of 1-10, how dense is he?

“Do judge by appearance. It has become an article of faith in our politically correct world that you should never judge a book by its cover. This is completely wrong. … You can spot them a mile off, whatever anyone says. Earrings, tattoos and outlandish hairstyles mean only on thing: sit them at the front, on their own, before they’ve even had a chance to muck about.”

Words fail me.

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Review: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

Title: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Author: Sherman Alexie

Year: 2017

Rating: 5/5

I first came to know Sherman Alexie as a writer after seeing his YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, reviewed on booktube a few years back. Intrigued by the title, I finally took out a copy from the library and devoured it within a few days. As with every YA I pick up, I remember thinking it was just okay. I knew this wasn’t a reflection of Alexie’s writing because I’d had similar reactions to other popular YA books. I guess this is a genre that just doesn’t gel with me.

And while I didn’t mesh as firmly with Part-Time Indian, the way other readers had, I was intrigued by the content – that of a boy growing up on the Spokane reservation and attending a very white high school in the next town – and the writing, and sought out something else by the author. I then picked up his short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and was immediately hooked. The power behind the storytelling of his adult work is a rare find these days and, as a result, this writer has easily become one of my modern favourites.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is the latest of Alexie’s works, published only last year in 2017. And while there has always been an autobiographical element to his books, this is the first official ‘memoir’ to have been published.

In YDHTSYLM, Alexie examines his complicated relationship with his mother as he chronicles the days leading up to her death, her funeral, and the aftermath. Fragments of prose and poetry come together to form pictures of a poor and abusive childhood, an explosive adolescence, and an estranged adulthood. At the heart of this is the beautiful, intelligent, mercurial matriarch, and her fiery clashes with her son.

Alexie’s raw and turbulent emotions are what make this book such a gripping and heartbreaking read. We are there with him through all the stages of grief, sharing his ups and downs, his good days and bad. This is one of those books that is so beautifully well-written, it’s hard to put down. Alexie’s honesty and vulnerability are both refreshing and heart-rending, though he admits during the first few pages to being an unreliable narrator.

This has been a hard book for me to review as it is difficult to put into words what makes it so special. The stunning combination of Alexie’s humour, pain, and love makes for a truly compelling read.

This was my favourite read of 2017 and I encourage everyone to pick it up. Long-time readers of Alexie’s other works will see how his life, so openly displayed in this memoir, has influenced his fiction. This book is also a great starting off point for people who’re new to the author and want to get a feel for his writing. YDHTSYLM is Alexie’s writing at its best and is guaranteed to be one that stays with you for a long time after.

My Physical TBR

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One of my reading goals for 2018 is to finish all the physical books (paperbacks and hardbacks) I own by the end of March. I’m moving out of the country and don’t have the luggage space to drag a ton of books across the world with me. I also don’t want to leave behind a bunch of books I bought and never read.

These are my priority for the first quarter of the year so let’s take a look at them:

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Reading Goals for 2018

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2018 is going to have some big changes. I’m moving (again) and, right now, there’s an uncertainty in my future that’s been giving me major anxiety.

As a result, I’m going to try and play it cool with my reading goals this year. I don’t want to stress myself out over how many books I’m reading, whether I’m reading enough of a certain type, or if my stats measure up to last year’s. I want reading to be what relaxes me and helps me unwind.

I’m also about to lose access to my library and am not sure if I’ll have the time or finances to read as much as I have done over the last two years.

Nevertheless, I’ve set aside some reading goals for 2018. These are more like reading ‘wishes’ – things I’d like to do but won’t lose my mind if I don’t achieve them.

1) Read 12 books. I think one a month is a good number to aim for.

2) Read all of my physical TBR. This completely contradicts my first goal because I have 14 books on my physical TBR pile. (Don’t even get me started on what’s on my Kindle.) I’m moving out of Singapore right at the beginning of April and I don’t have the baggage space to lug books around with me. I have three months to read them and donate them.

3) Read at least five of the Star Wars Canon books. My brother asked me over Christmas why I haven’t read any of the SW books considering I’m a big reader and love the SW films. That was an excellent question I couldn’t answer. There’re a lot of gaps in the SW films and the books could be a good way to answer a lot of the questions I have.

4) Read three Stephen King books. I am currently making my way through all of King’s books in chronological order. No matter how terrifying his stories are, there’s something very comforting about his writing. I grew up reading his books so there’s a familiarity that can’t be beaten.

5) Read one James Baldwin book. I discovered Baldwin’s writing last year and fell in love with it. I want to keep at it this year.

6) Read one Maya Angelou book. I went through the whole of 2017 without reading any of Angelou’s work. That is a travesty. She is my all-time favourite writer and I still haven’t read all of her memoirs. I need to get onto that.

~*~

And that’s it. These are my tentative reading goals for 2018. What are yours?

 

Books Read in 2017

For the second year running, I beat my own reading record and read a total of 73 books this year. That is incredible. How did that happen?

I definitely have my public library to thank.

I have a lot of changes coming this year so my reading numbers are going to be nowhere near that amount by December 2018 so, for now, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I had a really good 2017.

Before I post my list of books, here are a few of the stats:

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December TBR

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Unless I’m taking part in a challenge, I don’t usually like to make TBRs. I like to be free to pick up whatever I’m in the mood for at any given time.

As the end of the year is upon us, though, there are a few books I do really need to finish. Three are books I’m already reading; Three are library books I’m taking on my flight back to Wales.

I’m hoping that the fact that I only have one more week of work left will help in giving me lots of free reading time so wish me luck!

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Non-Fiction November/Native American Heritage Month Wrap-Up

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December is here!

It’s my favourite time of year. Cold weather, thick coats, woollen hats, winter boots, hot chocolate, Christmas lights, warm fireplaces. I love it.

Having said that, I now live in Singapore where none of that is happening. It’s 33°C, people are still wandering around in shorts and flip-flops, and winter is just a vague foreign concept. The Starbucks Christmas drinks have been available since mid-October but the only way people are ordering them are frappe style. Christmas decorations are up but the heat makes it hard to get into the holiday spirit.

Nevertheless, I only have one more week of work before flying home to Wales to spend the rest of the year with my family. No doubt I’ll be craving that sunshine in no time. 😀

Moving on to the subject at hand, November is over, which also means it’s time to take a look at the books I managed to read for Non-Fiction November and Native American Heritage Month.

I originally started these reading challenges with a TBR. Well, I didn’t exactly stick to it but I still got a lot of reading done with a total of eight books completed.

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