I Wish Every Teacher Would Read…

When Kyle Schwartz asked his elementary students to complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…”, he did something extraordinary and his students rewarded him with their honesty. 

Kyle Schwartz doesn’t pretend to be the perfect teacher – he freely admits that he’s made his fair share of mistakes – but he does have some very valid, very relevant suggestions for teachers today. Suggestions which will:

  1. Help you to increase learning inside your classroom.
  2. Help you to foster a sense of community inside your classroom.
  3. Help you to provide a more inclusive and supportive environment inside your classroom.

At the core of Kyle’s approach lies a simple statement, made by child psychologist James Comer, that “no significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” and the belief that every child matters. 

He outlines and tackles real issues that face many of our students – food hunger and bereavements, for example – and his practical suggestions cover everything from how to welcome new children into your classroom, to holding ‘family-school conferences’ instead of a traditional ‘parents night’.

Understanding the realities of our students’ lives may not always be comfortable, but facing these issues head on is the best way to understand and help our students.

If you’re a teacher, you will benefit from reading this book and you will enjoy reading it! (I predict several eureka moments and lots of head nodding…) It doesn’t really matter which country you live in, or what age range you teach there, as issues our students face are the same. 

All of my teacher friends will be getting copies of this – from me! – for Christmas.

I Wish My Teacher Knew will be published July 12th by Da Capo Lifelong Books.

Okay, so I’m a Feminist… in Washington

Last week I was in Washington DC for the first time and spent an evening at Busboys and Poets, where I bought my first book on feminism at the grand age of 28… You could say I’m a little behind the curve on this one. Oh well!

In Arlington, opposite the Signature Theatre – now showing a fabulous production of La Cage aux Filles!

Bread pudding in the cafe!

Fem-I-ism: Belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” –p.14

Jessica Valenti’s thoughtful and classic book ‘Full Frontal Feminism’ has made a covert of me, because, guess what? I do care about women’s issues. I don’t want to see a glass ceiling in the workplace and I do want equal pay. I don’t want a bunch of male politicians telling me what I can or can’t do with my own body either and, strangely enough, I want to be able to walk down a normal city street without fear (of rape). I don’t want to try to live small, be small, in an attempt to fit an antiquated, yet traditional, ‘female’ ideal… And I would like my marriage (one day) to be an equal partnership. I also want childcare costs to not be a factor as regards my being able to return to work after having a child. I could go on…

‘Full Frontal Feminism’ is no heavy academic tome. It’s accessible – blunt, practical and not a little witty. Although I don’t always agree with Valenti’s perspective, I found her book to be full of scary and illuminating facts – from enacted laws (in the US and abroad) and population statistics, case studies and personal anecdotes etc. So if you’re trying to decide whether or not you are in fact a feminist, this is the book for you! It will spark an understanding of modem injustices and inequalities and, yes, likely convince you that more needs to be done to combat these instances.


When you’re getting abstinence-only education during the day and Girls Gone Wild commercials at night, if’s not exactly easy to develop a heathy sexuality.” pp.20-21

Both harassment and rape are the results of a culture that teaches men that women exist solely for them, their desires.” –p.79

The government wants happy housewives. More than they want financially secure women.” –p.131

One of the main problems with feminism today is its inability to recruit younger women and keep them interested.” –p.173

We should tell girls the truth; ‘Beautiful’ is bullshit, a standard created to make women into good consumers, too busy wallowing in self-loathing to notice that we’re second-class citizens.” –p.204

Men have body standards to live up to as well…. But their[s] – big, strong, muscular – push them to be strong, to take up space. Ours – skinny, skeletal, weak – push us to be fragile, to take up less space, to disappear.” –p.217

Perseverance and an ability to get shit done are generally thought of as good qualities in male politicians.But as a woman, you can’t win. ‘Cause if you’re not a “bitch”, you’re too “soft” for politics.” –p.224

Value yourself for what the media doesn’t – your intelligence, your street smarts, your ability to play a kick-ass game of pool, whatever.” –p.246

Just So You Know:

– April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

– October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

– The American Psychiatric Association says that “government restrictions on abortion are more likely to cause women lasting harm than the procedure itself.”

– Women are 40% more likely to be poor.

– Statistics show that mothers earn less and less with each child they have – the Mummy Wage Gap.

– The REAL Hot 100 list features women who are hot for what they do, not how they look.
So it’s a list woman could actually vote for!

Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade Against Stupidity #BookReport

Considering he passed away in 2007, reading ‘A Man Without a Country’ is probably the closest I’ll ever get to meeting Kurt Vonnegut. And I’m not okay with that. His essays here are honest, pessimistic and funny as hell.

Everyone should read Vonnegut. Age is not a factor here. Vonnegut is a Socratic thinker – he questions everything and that is not a bad thing.

So many topics are dipped in and out of in these essays and his opinions are gut punches against society, each and every one of them… The man did not shy away from calling out society’s ironies, lies and hypocrisies. 

I might not agree with all of his views, or his politics, but I really enjoyed reading about what he had to say. You can expect discussions around:

Greenpeace. Fossil fuels and our irresponsible, Earth-destroying, consumption of them.

“Guesser” politicians and the constitution. Kurt Vonnegut is fearless in his socialist leanings and his criticisms of  politicians – Stalin and Mao included.

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution… Only nut cases want to be President. –p.102

The news. Only Chicago’s In These Times gave Vonnegut hope for our news cycles.


War, the military and modern weaponry. Kurt Vonnegut versus weapons of mass destruction. 

They [soldiers] are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas. –p.72


Racism and sexism and many other isms…

History and family.

 There have never been any ‘Good Old Days’, there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me. I just got here.” -p.131

Technology and the Meaning of Life.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. -p.62


Writing tips and how he got into comedy/satire. 

Rules only take us so far, even good rules. –p.134

You can’t really misfire with a tragic scene. It’s bound to be moving if all the right elements are present. But a joke is like building a mousetrap from scratch. You have to work pretty hard to make the thing snap when it’s supposed to snap.” -p.128


Be prepared to be wowed by these essays… To dispair and to laugh out loud!

Some books recommended by Vonnegut:

  1. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
  2. Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville
  3. The Tin Men – Michael Frayn
  4. The Mysterious Stranger – Mark Twain

Book Review: ‘Let’s Eat’ by Tom Parker Bowles

This is a great recipe book, but pretty far from traditional in terms of its content and layout, with chapter titles like ‘Comfort Food’ and ‘Slow and Low’. Tom claims to have based most of this cook book on a small leather journal he’s kept for years of thrice tested recipes, and being as well travelled as he is that makes for an interesting selection – British (Toad in the Hole), Thai, Mexican, Indian, Cantonese, etc.

Tom’s concept of a ‘recipe’ is very broad, so you’ll find everything here from simple ‘Baked Eggs’ (a great empty cupboard recipe he got from his mother) and ‘A Really Good Fish Recipe’ or a more complicated ‘Haddock Parker Bowls’, to recipes for a ‘Hot Toddy’ to ease colds and a ‘Bloody Mary’ for those who prefer a liquid diet.

Despite the fact that I don’t eat meat (and Tom has some amazing meat based dishes here – from grouse to oxtail) I found plenty that I intend to try out for myself: ‘Lemon Risotto’, ‘Hot Buttered Crab’, ‘Trifle’, ‘Shrimp Broth’ etc. I was also really impressed with the blender recipes for kids’s food, I will definitely be passing many of these along to friends!

This is more than a simple collection of recipes however, there are snippets of memoir, pop culture food references and pocket histories of recipes or ingredients as well. He isn’t shy about promoting suppliers he likes, or other cooks’ books either, so there’s some really useful references tucked into the text. The combination of all these things serves to make this a much more engaging recipe book than most, despite the fact that not every recipe is accompanied by a photograph (although most are).

I laughed out loud at Tom’s description of a ‘British’ bolognese, smiled when reading about the movie magic of meatballs, and shook my head when I heard about his week of living on eggs for the Mail on Sunday paper. Did you know you can test the age of an egg by placing it in a jug of water? (If it floats, bin it!) I didn’t before reading Tom’s book…

I was particularly interested in Tom’s commentary on the debate about the origin of ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’, because coming from Cumbria I had only ever heard the Ulswater version of the story… There’s so many small gems of information in this book, that there’s something here to spark everyone’s interest, even a reluctant cook’s!

I’m off to the bookstore in a bit to order the following books for friends, thanks to Tom’s recommendations: ‘A Passion for Mushrooms’ by Antonio Carluccio and ‘Thai Food’ by David Thompson (who apparently once claimed “food is the only democratic institution in Thailand”) .

If I had to list the things that disappointed me about this book they would be:

1. How difficult it is the navigate these recipes (the reference section at the back saved me, or I’d have plugged this thing so full of bookmarks it would have looked like a revision guide).
2. Tom’s strange ideas concerning saturated fat – it would have been nice to see more ‘low fat’ workarounds in some of these recipes.
3. His love of chilli.

So, a fantastic, humorous recipe book full of tried and tested (by Tom) favourites from almost every continent on earth. Yes, there are ‘traditional’ recipes here, but also sone very innovative ones to. A good book for tested or new cooks alike, who don’t mind some topical commentary along the way.

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.