Teenagers and their Peers

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As a teenager I had a few close friends, not many but some I knew I could rely on. Today my students appear to have tons of friends but I often have the feeling they know virtually nothing about them outside school and seldom seem to care.

Thus they spend ample time on their cell phones textmessaging their peers, even during lessons when I have to battle to make them put the wretched thing in their bags and often have to fight again so that it actually stays there. They always seem to have a wonderful piece of news to share with someone. Similarly if I look at their Facebook page they have hundreds of so-called friends.

Yet whenever a kid is absent from school, nobody seems to know what has happened to them. During the day nobody takes the time to send a message so as to find out. If I hand out photocopies, they very rarely ask one for the absent student. Even after a few days the kid’s absence is often still a mystery. It is almost as if by being absent the student no longer existed.

One incident last week made me wonder about the sort of relationship they have with each other. Once a week, I help and supervise a class where the students work in pairs on a common project for half the year. It was snowing outside and a few kids hadn’t made it to school. As usual I went round and took down the names of the kids who were not in school for the administration. One boy was on his own and when I asked him if the girl he was working with was absent because she lived in the country, he answered he had no idea. Another boy has been missing since the beginning of the month and the guy who works with him still hasn’t contacted him to ask whether and when he was coming back.

Maybe I am embellishing the past but I seem to remember that in similar circumstances we contacted each other, inquired about our friends’ health and informed them about school work.

My Friends Love Red

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I am staying with some friends for a few days. They enjoy house decorating and each room has a special character. Above are a few shots of the living-room.

On Tuesdays, just post any photo you like (it must be one of your own) that contains the color RED and then link to this blog.

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My Thoughts Go To Israel

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Although Israeli authorities have repeatedly warned Hamas against sending rockets towards Israel or else they would retaliate, the terrorist organization has chosen to ignore this exhortation. Now Israel has struck back and the world is asking them to stop. Pity they didn’t ask Hamas to stop shelling Israel in the first place.

I don’t consider myself warmonger and yet I fail to understand – or maybe I understand too well – why Israel is asked, when not ordered, to tolerate a state of terror no other free and independent state would be ready to accept.

The inhabitants of Gaza who wished to dissociate themselves from Hamas have had ample time to move far from Hamas positions, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the Rafah crossing to Gaza partially opened to allow in medical supplies and basic humanitarian aid, nevertheless it is the Jewish state which is blamed and accused.

Therefore my thoughts go to Israel, to my friends, fellow bloggers and readers there, particulary Baila, Shimshonit, Batya, RivkA, A Living Nadneyda, Robin, Mrs S, Michael, Mimi, , RR, Trep and numerous others.

Talking about which, Treppenwitz has commented the latest events with his usual verve.

I Guess It’s My Turn

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Chavi tagged me yesterday, so now it’s my turn to do my bit and pass it on.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people (if possible) at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

So here are the seven things:
1. I need to listen to the radio or my Ipod, with earplugs in, before I can go to sleep.
2. I read more than a book a week.
3. A few things about my eating habits: I love eggs, my favorite meat dish is curry and my favorite fish is salmon.
4. I have been teaching for more than twenty years already.
5. My computer is a Mac.
6. I spent two years in the UK, one in England and one in Scotland.
7. The first book I read in English was Dombey & Son.

Now I’m tagging the following:
Frumteacher
SuperRaizy
Shimshonit
Phyllis
Frumhouse
Batya
Svensk Chekchouka

I had a few other people in mind but they have been tagged by other people already.

aNobii: Online Booklist

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About twenty-five years ago I got a notebook to keep track of the books I had read. As soon as I had finished a book, I would write down its title and author in chronological order. Once it was full, I bought another one, copied the previous one and added new titles.

Until I discovered aNobii through my sister-in-law. This site is an online book community created by some people from Hong Kong. Its name comes from the first few syllables of Anobium Punctatum, which is the proper name for bookworms. It serves the same purpose as my former notebook, except it is online and one can add more details for each book:
– how you got the book – loan, gift, purchase.
– when you started it and finished it.
– how you rate it.
– space for additional notes.

There are other features which concern one’s virtual shelf:
– a wish list.
– similar shelves – ANobii will automatically select similar “shelves” for users. When a user finds a person with books s/he likes, s/he can keep track of their shelf onsite, via RSS or even by an email.
– shelf stats.
– friends’ pages.

I find the layout is clear and user-friendly. There is even a widget for WordPress users. For those interested in exploring booklists, I am Ilana-Davita.

Visiting the Area


Last week we went away for a 24 our visit in the country. Friends of ours live in a small region called Thiérache in the North-east of our region.

It is a rural area which consists mainly of hedged farmland (or enclosures) – as oposed to openfield. When you drive or walk in the area, all you see is pastures and orchards. Apart from the necessary services and a few factories, most activities are farming-related. Its most famous product is Maroilles – a very local cow’s milk cheese.

Because farming has evolved over the past fifty years, fewer people work in this sector and a lot of of families have left this area. Fortunately this has not meant the complete death of the region as numerous Dutch people have bought and renovated old houses and small farms. Holland is not far and the Dutch enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the peace and quiet they get in an area that must seem quite empty when compared to their rather heavily populated country.

Any Ideas?

eliette.jpgOne of my closest friends wil be 37 next week and, as I’ll be staying with them for Shabbat next weekend, I’ll be there to celebrate her birthday.

Joëlle lives in Paris, teaches Classics and French, is married and the proud mother of two great girls. We met two years ago during a six-day seminar on the teaching of the Holocaust in junior and high schools. There were about 60 other teachers but we ended up sharing a lot of time together since, along with five other people, we ate lunch in the same kosher restaurant in the Jewish quarter of Paris (for some obscure reason the rest of the group ate in a different restaurant).

Now I need an idea for a present. There are always books, but even in that area I lack ideas. Can you help?

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The Physician

268a3f40.jpgAlthough I had seen his name on reading lists and seen some of his books in bookshops, I’d never read anything by Noah Gordon before. I am an avid reader so every time I see other bookworms whose judment I value I ask them for reading tips.

A few weeks ago, at the end of our holidays, I paid a visit to a friend and her husband to say thank you for looking after the cat while we were away and I asked Viviane my usual questions “any good books you have read recently that I should read?”.

She immediately rushed to her room and came back with five or six books. I selected four and went back home. I read The Innocent by Harlan Coben and then The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill and found them entertaining, if not exactly memorable (especially the Harlan Coben).

Last Monday, I decided to start Noah Gordon’s The Physician. This novel relates the story of English boy Robert J. Cole who becomes a barber’s apprentice when his parents die and who decides to travel to Persia after he has met a real doctor who tells him the best medical school is in Ispahan. As Christians were not allowed in Arab schools, Rob joins a group of Jewish travelers and pretends he is a Jew so as to be accepted at the madrasah.

This book is entertaining as well as informative if you like historical novels. I enjoyed the picture of medieval Europe and Persia as well as the glimpse into Jewish life at the time, especially the emphasis on hospitality to all Jews in a hostile world.

A Big Thank You

antwerp.jpgThe wedding is over. The ceremony took place yesterday and as the exchange with our Swedish partners starts in less than an hour, I have very little time to write about it.. Yet I want to say a big thank you to the kallah‘s community for their great welcome.

I am not sure why I had assumed the welcome would be tepid or at best pleasant but in fact it was warm and wholehearted. The hasidic community of Antwerp which hosted the wedding made sure everyone felt at ease and involved. They initiated conversations and expained the things that were not obvious to those who are not too familiar with their traditions and customs.

I am glad I was wrong. First because the whole evening was so festive and happy. We all enjoyed ourselves and will cherish the memories of this beautiful event. But above all, I am grateful to those people for having thrown me off base by such a display of kindness.

There is a saying in the Talmud which says that you should not ask your way to someone who knows you since you are sure never to get lost. I like the idea that we have to err before we can hope to get near the truth. Thus I feel I now have to ponder on the reasons for my assumptions, preconceived ideas and prejudices. An awesome task indeed!