Side-Yard Superhero (Book Review)

The tagline to this book’s title is “Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher.” It is a book by Rick D. Niece, known as a teacher, administrator, University president, and now author. The book is published by Five Star Publications. It is a memoir and anecdotal collection of teachable moments I am sure Rick has used to captivate students in his classroom for decades. He notes in the beginning that life stories may change when put into print and they can even become more true over time than they were when once lived in adolescent or other aged eyes. For that reason, he doesn’t label it non-fiction but the book is clearly a collection of autobiographical events.

The book starts with the backdrop of Rick’s paper route. Many of us can recall collecting along paper routes and the life wisdom we draw now from those innocent times. He visits a quadriplegic named Bernie and much of the wisdom shared in the book comes from him. Rick tries to share how important his times with Bernie were and still are. He gets his point across through richly descriptive prose of a small town and all its treasures. This is Americana through the eyes and pen of an educator. As most Americana novels do, he paints word pictures that bring us back to our youth and young adulthood. He intersperses some of his poetry as well that carries the same reverie of youth passed and wisdom gained. These are universal stories about the human condition.

I really enjoyed Rick’s slice of Americana and I agree we can gain wisdom from the most humble of places. Across our great nation there are many Bernie’s quietly offering just that sort of wisdom. Perhaps this sort of insight is what led Rick up the ladder of academia to become a principal and the president of a college. If you are looking for an inspiring and nostalgic read with humor and stories to use in your teaching or other job, buy Side-Yard Superhero. I think you will agree that anyone seeking to have an impact in this world would benefit by reading these stories.

Great Minds Don’t Think Alike (Book Reviews)

This fantastic new book provides the insight to differentiate instruction effectively. The best theorists are covered by Diane Payne and Sondra VanSant in this must have book for teachers. As some have said, it is also a must have for anyone working with children for long periods of time. Knowing the learning style of a child will aid you immensely in their education. I am happy to recommend it to my readers.

Besides amazing points being made right and left and a systematic way to make lesson plans, this book includes a CD-Rom rich with materials to assist in psychological learning assessments. The meaning of the title is obvious but what lies inside is not. Teachers of this new millennium will benefit from this book. It enables identification of individual learning styles. I have already used it in my lesson planning. It helps me be more effective because my lessons are not “universal” or “catch-all” with regard to the classroom. As students needs become greater in our schools and teacher expectancies become more rigorous, we must consider the individual. We must make plans that consider an array of learning styles as much as possible. This book is great for reference on a teacher’s desk or to go through in detail at home searching for solutions in the arena of your classroom.

Igniting Brilliance (Book Review)

Igniting Brilliance is a powerful new book about teaching with the integral education model. Edited by Willow Dea, It consists of visionary writings by about 20 educators. This is a great book for any teacher but especially one who wants to try something new. To the left you see a graphic from the book showing one way of planning lessons with integral education. It is a concise visual summary of what the book entails.

The book offers more than traditional lesson plans have to offer. Concepts of the “whole child” as well as many other modern concepts are mentioned. As a teacher I have learned it’s not enough to just present the material, we need a way to reach all personalities. By outlining the needs and learning styles of our students we can make better lessons that have a deeper impact on our students.


This book concerns itself with reaching students. It assumes that will produce achievement. It has a scope that is larger than a standardized test but encompasses standardized test achievement. After perusing the book, I can tell you it is an excellent resource that any teacher will benefit by. A book like this is eclectic in its voice and scope and valuable in its universal practicality. I recommend it to my readers as a resource to help you plan modern dynamite lessons in the new milennium.

 

A Starting Place for New Essay Writers

pencilsI’ve run across a help for new high school and University writers. usefulresearchpapers.com is a simple, yet helpful resource that can take a student who is a struggling writer and turn her/him into a scholar on the path to prolific. Here’s how it works: You visit the website and read the different lessons in the menu. One of them is “How to Write a Research Paper.” Another is “What is a Research Paper?” These are simple and well-written introductions to the world of higher education writing. I think for many students starting college this would help immensely by modeling. I wish I had these when I was in junior college back in 1988.

I’ve learned through my years of teachers that count up to 16 as I’m here writing that kids need things shown to them. This website models what essays should look like in many differents topics and disciplines. Leaarning abstract concepts is always easier when you have an example to follow. This site has those examples and can help kids see what a paragraph in an essay looks like. There are no annoying style ads popping out and sliding across the screen. Instead you have a foundation to start from as you begin your adventure of essay writing. I recommend this website for new essay writers.

I was compensated for my review but the opinions are 100% mine.

Check this out!

Just delegate your essay writing to ThePensters and be sure in getting a good grade.

Discovering Type with Teens (Book Review)

If your school is like mine, you are struggling to keep classroom control at this stage in the year. We have just finished our state testing and the kids are thinking about Summer vacation every day. I am integrating Science more into the curriculum which is helping a lot. Weaving many different objectives into the day can help when the kids are “done” with their year, mentally anyway. We need a special ingredient to keep our lessons effective.

As with objectives and subject matter, psychological type is an important thing to weave into your plans. A new book just released, Discovering Type with Teens, is an amazing resource when looking into the different ways your students process information. Mollie Allen, Claire Hayman, and Kay Abella are the authors. They offer excelling assessment guides on learning exactly what “type” of kids you are teaching. Knowing this information can help through all parts of the year but certainly the last few weeks.

The Band Plays On (Book Review)

I recently read The Band Plays On, (Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore) and found it inspiring and motivational. The author is Rick D. Niece, Ph.D and the book is published by Five Star Publications Inc. It is the second book in a series about Niece’s hometown. I have also reviewed Niece’s first book, Side-Yard Superhero here on my blog. This second installment, The Band Plays On, is filled with powerful memories from reading Robert Frost poetry to playing in the school band. Since I am always happy to recall such things, it was a first-class journey for me. I felt honored to be on it. The framework of the book is a tribute to his music-teaching father and that aspect is quite touching. I read many inspiring vignettes that made me want to continue teaching with gusto. Since I teach in the day and teach guitar after school, I am sometimes spent. It can get hard to see the larger vision. Rick Niece, Ph.D is a writer of Americana and teaching and his work helped center me while reading. His books also remind me of what’s important in just plain being human.

GOOD NEWS TO SHARE! In preparation for this review, I had the distinct pleasure of corresponding with the author himself. I did a QnA with him which I’ve pasted below. He provided some great insight to my questions and I thank him for the time he took to do so:

Damien Riley: Hello Dr. Niece, since I am a blogger, I truly appreciate the term you use in your book “automythography.” I think most bloggers struggle with the line between history and fiction. Your term is helpful to me in understanding what I do. How does this genre free you up to expand on your own perceptions and/or limit you to what really occurred?

Rick Niece: I thought that I created the term “automythography,” but then found out it has been around, primarily used in art and dance, since the 1980s. However, I have defined it for literature. An automythography is a work of non-fiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it. It is an iridescent memory based upon the author’s truth and personal narrative.

Most of the autobiographies and memoirs I have read are presented as factual and accurate. I do not doubt their veracity, but I am leery when the author quotes dialogue and describes specific scenes from decades past. I do that as well, but with the caveat that they are how I remember what was said or is being described. Time alters our memories. My favorite part of the term automythography is the “myth,” but not in the sense of something being made up. Myths are also stories that are true and repeated from one generation to the next. Each telling and retelling is slightly different—and that is no doubt the case for me and my stories—but the tellings are based upon true and real incidents. The stories are not made up.

Finally, in my definition for automythography I use the word “iridescent.” I like that word and what it connotes. Soap bubbles are iridescent. As they float away from us, they change shapes and colors. But they are the same soap bubbles. That is true for memories as well. Over the years, as our memories float away from us, they change shapes and colors. But they are the same memories—they are our automythographies.

Damien Riley: My 3 kids attend a school where I teach 4th grade and guitar after school. My kids seem to enjoy having dad at school with them but I imagine they might prefer anonymity. Were there ever times you felt you couldn’t measure up?

Rick Niece: Oh my goodness, yes, there were times when I felt it was difficult to “measure up” on a variety of levels. In Side-Yard Superhero, Book 1 in my series, Fanfare for a Hometown, I describe how I was repeatedly warned not to embarrass my father in front of the superintendent and the other teachers. Although I thought I was a “typical” kid, it was difficult to remain typical when my father was the school’s only music teacher and the superintendent lived across the street from me and my family. There was no anonymity for me, and as a consequence, I was a relatively good kid and student.

My father was one of those teachers students could go to with their problems, big and small. He always had time for students before school, after school, and at home. Because of that, I sometimes felt that I had to wait in line. That is not a complaint, but simply my fact of life. I admired my father even more because of the respect students had for him and that he had for them. I was proud that my parents were a second set of parents for many students.

My father was an exceptional teacher, and because he was so good at what he did and how he did it, I was hesitant to go into education myself. In fact, I did not seek acceptance into Ohio State University’s education program until the end of my sophomore year. I was afraid that, as a teacher, it would be difficult for me to emerge from the long shadow of my father and his success.

Through it all, I felt special and was proud to be in the school where my father taught. I am certain that your children feel that same sense of pride—and pressure—with you being a teacher in the school they attend. In time, we all adjust.

Damien Riley: Do you think it is possible for children today to enjoy the same sort of upbringing as you? Why or why not?

Rick Niece: I hope that children growing up today enjoy the same type of upbringing I did. I do not want to sound too optimistic naively when I say that I think they are experiencing the same joys today that I did decades ago.

However, I also have to be realistic. When I was a boy, four environments provided a positive influence on children: home, school, church, and community. My fear is that far too many youngsters may actually experience none of those today. How sad is that?

Damien Riley: Whom do you think will most enjoy The Band Plays On? What makes it so appealing?

Rick Niece: I think the same readers who enjoyed Side-Yard Superhero will also like The Band Plays On. The writing is vivid and flows easily, and the characters are endearing, interesting, and quite unique. Within the humor and the life lessons, there is also a sad, poignant reality that comes through because of the deaths of close friends.

The books are universally appealing, I believe, because readers like a story with descriptive writing, strong narrative, and appealing characters. I think that readers also enjoy stepping back in time to an age they either lived themselves or wish they had experienced.

The Band Plays On, however, will definitely be enjoyed by anyone who has been a member of a marching band or who has played a musical instrument. We have a shared camaraderie that comes through loud and clear—and in tune—throughout the book.

My (Damien Riley) final word: Again, I thank Rick for his insightful and empathetic words. Educators and musical educators will be first in line to enjoy this masterpiece but all who enjoy great narrative Americana will be moved as well. I want to thank Rick for answering my questions for this review. I’m a bigger fan of his than ever. As of time of posting, I have been informed of something that makes this book yet even more cool please check it out below

Long term Dr. Rick Niece is supporting music education by donating $1 of every book copy of The Band Plays On sold to an organization called Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which donates new and refurbished instruments to school music programs lacking the resources to purchase them. It was inspired by the acclaimed motion picture Mr. Holland’s Opus (the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students).

Via this direct link you can read more about and/or purchase The Band Plays on.

Renewal (Book Review)

This book is written by a consultant and veteran educator/administrator Harold Kwalwasser. He uses real experience to assemble data and predict where education is going. Trends in education are explained and developed with frightening believability. Most importantly, he concludes, in light of data, the way it ought to go in the 21st century.

In one section of the book, he explains what he calls the four tiers of teachers. He praises the ones who can do a good job whatever the circumstances and decries the ones on the other end of the spectrum saying they need not even be in the profession. From that he springboards into ways we can retain, recruit, and develop those in the upper tiers to give our students the best education possible. He refers to the old model and staff as teacher centered (bad) and the new one “customer” focused (good). With families and students as our focus, we can innovate a system of education that truly benefits our country. This is true on the macro level (nationwide) as well as the micro (the school). The author explains what the new 21st century school district should look like. His models are stellar illustrations of what our future system can be. Furthermore, he tells us how we will get there. There is much material here and and it isn’t just relevant to administrators. Teachers, principals, superintendents, and staff members of schools will be better at what they do for reading this book. As a teacher, it helped me gain a clearer focus on what is going to be valuable going forward.

One of the more profound sections of the book is where he explains the school will become the central focus of a community (not the school district). The leader will become the principal instead of the superintendent. Parents, principals, teachers, and community members will become the decision makers and trendsetters for a school. What’s more, each school is likely to have a tailor made system that is less universal as past models of curriculum and instruction have been. There is tons of value in this book for teachers, especially those seeking assurance and direction in a changing era. I am a better teacher for reading this book.