Yes, I’m Making Resolutions for 2017

But, let’s call them goals.

Why? I have no idea. There just seems to be something more permanent — more meaningful — when I make a list of goals. 

When I write my thoughts down. 

And as 2016 ended and 2017 began, I realized I want to make some personal commitments. 

So, in 2017, I will…

1. Write more.

I’ve found recently that I have a lot more to say, especially as it pertains to education issues. 

In November voters took us down a dangerous path in regards to the future of our public schools in “electing” Donald Trump and a supermajority in Indiana. Never in my lifetime have we been closer to abandoning our public schools than we are right now, both in Indiana and nationwide.

Make no mistake about it — if we fail to stop the corporate education “reform” train supported by those we have just elected, our democracy will suffer. And make no mistake about it, that is the intent of these corporate education reformers and their lackeys — to damage our democracy. They control our state and federal government, and their interest is anything but what’s best for children, or the future of our country.

So, I’m going to write about that. And speak out about that. A lot. And while I’m sure I’ll write about other issues, too –politics, reflections of a teacher, literacy, books, comic books (of course!), and just the weird thoughts that float through my mind — the corporate education “reform” con and the necessity of strong public schools to our community, state, and nation will be what I write about the most. 

My goal — write and post at least two entries here each week.

I hope you’ll join me, follow my blog, and read and comment, even if you do not agree with all of my views. I seek discourse. I value all opinions.

But, I believe strongly in the coming months and years that we must speak out to protect the values and institutions that are so essential to our democracy. I plan to do that here. 

2. Read more.

Let’s be honest – this is on my list every year. 

My goals — read at least 50 books and 50 comic book trades this year. 

3. Travel more.

I need to venture outside of Southern Indiana and beyond the comfort of my own couch.

So, my goal: Take three trips to states I haven’t traveled to in 2017, including a long trip in June or July. 

And yes, I am open to suggestions.

4. Practice my faith more.

When faith becomes passive, we stop growing in our faith. God has blessed me beyond description, but I desire a steadier, more consistent relationship, too.

My goal: Develop and participate in a regular study of scripture in 2017. 

So, that’s my 2017 summed up in four (somewhat) concise goals. 

I’m excited to see what this year has in store. As always, I am blessed with the world’s best family and friends, so my true goal is to experience all that 2017 has to offer with them.

2013: My Year In Reading

by Jim Lang

As 2013 closes I have to look back at my year as a reader. As always, my choices as a reader shaped much of my year. Here’s a look back at what I read and what I learned:

Tris Prior is this year’s Katniss Everdeen

Like many readers I have been hooked by the Divergent trilogy. In fact, I am reading Veronica Roth’s final book in the series, Allegiant, right now. In my mind, Insurgent (Book 2) was even better than Divergent (Book 1). The feisty, stubborn Tris Prior believes in something beyond herself, and her strength drives Roth’s narrative. I am determined to finish Allegiant this week, so I’ll soon know whether the Divergent trilogy belongs in the same group as Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games and Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogies.

John Green rules

2013 was the year I finally gave in to the demands of colleagues and friends and read a John Green book. I began with his best, The Fault In Our Stars, and loved his characters’ strength and quirkiness. I followed that up with the even more disturbing Looking for Alaska and the somewhat disappointing Abundance of Katherines. Paper Towns is in my To Be Read stack for 2014. Green’s books provided me with many relevant,  interesting conversations with my students in 2013.

Khaled Hosseini writes stories that matter

When Khaled Hosseini publishes a book, I snatch it up and devour it. I fell in love with his narrative style and his complex characters in The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, and this year I enjoyed And the Mountains Echoed in much the same way. His writing style differs here, as he does not focus on a single character but pulls together multiple narratives to tell his story of siblings Abdullah and Pari. The result is a story that stayed with me long after I finished his book.

Howard Roark’s NOT crazy

As I trudged my way through Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead this past summer, I admittedly began to despise Howard Roark and his absolute refusal to compromise his beliefs. Ever. I secretly began hoping for a brutal end to Roark at the end of Rand’s novel — Maybe he’ll fall off a skyscraper! Or get crushed by a stone gargoyle that falls from the side of a building! But then something happened. I spent several weeks discussing Howard Roark and Ayn Rand with my AP  Language and Composition students, and as we delved into Rand’s story together, somehow, the idealistic Howard Roark made more sense to me. In truth, we probably need more Howard Roarks in today’s world. And as is often the case, I learned from my students in 2013, which is one of the joys of teaching reading and writing.

Michael Connelly is still the king of mystery

Like every year, I again spent much of my time with some of my favorite suspense and mystery writers: John Grisham, Jeffery Deaver, John Hart, Dan Brown, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and Michael Connelly, to name a few. And while I enjoy all of these writers for different reasons, Connelly is still the best. I only read one of his books in 2013, The Scarecrow, which is unusual for me. I am in desperate need of jumping into another mystery with detective Harry Bosch, or another legal drama with attorney Mickey Haller, Connelly’s two best characters. No one blends mystery, strong characterization, and a compelling plot like Michael Connelly.

Appreciate the hidden gems

The wonderful part of being a reader is stumbling onto an unexpected treasure, a story with little mainstream fanfare that pulls you in and makes you feel something. Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars made me laugh out loud and is a must-read for all teachers. John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back amazed me with the author’s ability to weave together seemingly-unrelated stories into a memorable narrative. And R.J. Palacio’s Wonder made me care about the characters so much that I felt their hope, disappointment, worry, and joy right along with them. Great writing in all three cases, and a reminder that sometimes the greatest stories come from unexpected places.

So, these were the books and lessons I encountered in 2013. My reading goals for 2014 include reading more non-fiction and biographies, delving more into “the classics,” and reading more than one Michael Connelly mystery. And as always, I hope to continue discussing books and the lessons I learn with my own students.

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!