As  much as I do enjoy my girly fiction books. I have been on a kick lately of enjoying both historical fiction and non fiction history books.  What can I say, I am a history geek.  Although my main love is United States history I find other cultures exceptionally fascinating.  When I was offered the chance to review From the Dragon's Mouth I was intrigued about a book that would offer an insider look into life in a communist nation.  Ever since reading an amazing book in college on life for women in the USSR, I have been drawn to reading about life in communist nations.  I think this interest comes from the fact that published work in which people are able to speak freely in a communist nation are few and far between.

From the Dragon's Mouth is a completion of several stories that Ms. Fuentes had put together as her years as a journalist.  There were several people that she interviewed whose stories did not make the cut for the news that she was reporting but yet she was drawn to their stories.  Each of the stories gives a separate peak into a life that is ultimately high regulated by other cultural expectations as well as a well run and heavy handed communist government.  Some of the stories that I was most drawn to were the story of a mom who secretly works as a prostitute to give her son the best life possible-yet, he does not appreciate all that he has or has any idea what his mother does to support him.  Another story that pulled at my heart strings was the story of a young woman who married a gay man because of the large cultural importance placed on marriage in Chinese society.  A final story that really stuck with me was the story of a man who left his village to work in the city and actually lives in a shared space in an underground apartment (think living in a NYC subway that has been closed and made into rooms that are shared apartments).  This man left behind his family, only seeing them once a year, and working for the reason of providing his children with a better life.  What was crazy in the book revealed that there are hundreds of thousands of people who leave their children behind to be raised by relatives.  This is crazy to think about-100,000 of children who only see their parents once a year.   The other fascinating fact that I found in this book was the most if not all of the people who were interviewed (regardless of their status in life) talked about love of their country.  We in America often associate communism with evil or horrendous atrocities and it unimaginable that people would like or be proud of their country.  In the book it was clear that regardless of what their life or status in society is like almost all those interviewed had a deep love for their country.  

With the variety of stories offered in this book I think that anyone reading will form a connection or life at least one or two of these stories.  I would highly recommend it for the fact that it gives an almost unprecedented look at the average Chinese citizen and their life under Communism.  This is a must read for anyone who is interested in history or culture in general.  
So as I said in my last post I said I wasn't buried under a pile of papers...well not yet at least.  The start of the school year has been a lot to take in.  This year my school went with a new schedule which is modified block (that means some days my classes meet for 44 min the other days they meet for 86).  The also allows for a daily meeting with other teachers to work on new state mandates.  In addition we have changed the levels from AP/Honor 1, 2, 3, (three being the lowest) to AP, Honors, and Academic which means all new classes because the students in the classes now have different abilities.  At the end of last year I chose to go back to teaching the lowest level classes (I always had taught the lowest level until about three years ago).  Well since then there have been a lot of changes included a lot more needy children in our district along with full inclusion classrooms.  This has been a very hard adjustment.  Not anything I can't handle and I already love my students but it is overwhelming when almost half the class has learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, physical disabilities that impair their learning, or students who are just learning the English language.  I also have some students who have such challenging disabilities they are non-verbal.  Yet, because of the new state standards for teacher evaluations part of my job is based on whether or not I can have these kids do better on a standardized test from the beginning of the year to the end.  It is scary...it doesn't mean I hate my students or their needs, it is just overwhelming.

Its overwhelming to know that a large portion of my yearly evaluation is now based on student performance.  I know I am a good teacher, I know that I work hard and my students learn, its just now they are tested in a manner that I don't agree with.  There are kids in my room now matter how much they try will never do well on this writing and reading test (PS I teach history and they aren't tested on history they are tested on reading and writing skills-that is whole other post it self).  I hate having to care about this.  I want to care about my subject matter, I want to care about bringing history alive for my students in a way that reaches all my students regardless of ability level.  Yet, reality is I have to care and that is overwhelming.

Its also overwhelming in the amount of need my students have.  I want them all to be successful and they all need such different things. I no lie have a special education teacher making me a chart to organize the accommodations that each student gets so I don't forget anyone's accommodations.  It is overwhelming because I am passionate about what I do.  I want every student to be successful in my room and I am willing to do whatever it takes to try and make that happen but when in my smallest class a minimum of ten students have to get special services I worry I am going to forget to do something for a kid and I would feel awful.  I know this will all be fine in a few more weeks when I get to know my students better and their needs and their educational preferences but right now it is overwhelming even when I have my smallest amount of students ever at just over 80. 

So because I have been so overwhelmed with work, keeping up with all my new responsibilities and requirements for the teacher evaluation program, and getting prepared for these new classes it has left me emotionally drained.  To the point of tears some days I am so tired.  Add in a 6 year old with anxiety who has trouble sleeping at night and that makes for one mom who is unmotivated to do anything more than her job as a mom and teacher.  That has pushed aside any desire to exercise or continue to train for my 5k.  This makes me sad because I was on schedule for my Oct 19th Penguin run.  I am going to try and still get there but it is hard to focus on anything else right now.  In fact I have so many amazing books and products to review but I cant even think about those yet.  

Yet, I realized that if I am going to take care of my kids and my students I have to start taking care of me.  It isn't that I have been eating bad I haven't its just lack of exercise.  So I decided a schedule is daunting so my plan is this.  I have signed up for the Mamavation 2 week challenge which I plan to do every day and I want to get out and jog when the weather is nice enough and we have time in the family schedule for me to get out there.  Realistically some days it may be one or the other and I am ok with that.  I just need to get back to having at least 30min a day for me and that me times need to be fitness.

Hey readers,  thanks for hanging in there with me.  It has been a wild ride with the start of school-one I truly wasn't expecting.  Thanks for hanging in and your support!
The start of this school year has been overwhelming to say the least.  I plan to write a more adequate most on this when I have the time.  There are some years that start with nothing major and there are others where it takes every ounce of energy I have just to stay afloat....this is one of those crazy starts.  Add to that a first grader and my daughter going to pre school full time.  Although she loves it she misses her Mama so there is lots of snuggling and momma time needed.  Basically that means that my online life has had to come to a screaming halt.  Although I have lots to blog about, great reviews of books and products to post....sadly that can not be my priority right now.  My family and my kids (the school ones) need to be number one.  I should be back and blogging soon and thanks for hanging in during this radio silence.