Book Review: Divergent

So, Veronica Roth wrote this book while she was in college (when she was supposed to be doing her homework). That makes me laugh. Maybe I can write a book instead of grading students’ essays. Think that will work? When I sit down with a novel that keeps me glued to its pages for hours on end, I later sit back and wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It seems like everyone has already taken all the good ideas. However, I’ll start this book review by wondering a bit where Roth got her ideas.

Divergent is the first book in a sci-fi trilogy that features a 16 year old female as the heroine who becomes the focus of saving the futuristic world from the evil forces/powers that be. Sound familiar? You should read the book to decide for yourself.

In this dystopian society (set in the city of Chicago), people are divided into five different factions that each adhere to a strict code of conduct and beliefs. When children are of age (16), they take a simulated aptitude test to see which faction they should choose for the rest of their life. The choices are unique, and I’m eager to learn more about the philosophy behind each group. The Erudite are knowledge seekers, the intellectual type; the Dauntless are afraid of nothing (think daredevils and the X games?) and they guard the city, the Abnegation are selfless, so they govern the city; the Candor are always truthful and frank; the Amity want peace for everyone and lead very peaceful lives.

Beatrice is the main character, who finds herself in a predicament I don’t want to give away, and she must make some very difficult choices. She finds love along the way, and she also becomes a driving force in fighting the overthrow that happens toward the end of the book. That’s all I can tell you about the plot.

As for the content, I enjoyed Roth’s writing very much. I feel like she gives a great explanation of the undercurrents of this society, unlike comparable books. So far, the trilogy has more “meat” than other current adolescent trilogies. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of Roth’s philosophy on life come through in her writing. The premise of the five factions seems to be that people are able to be controlled quite easily. Beatrice and her friends show that this is not true. I’m already reading Insurgent, the second book in the trilogy, which just came out in May. Watch for the movie in 2013!



A Tale of Forensics

This post is from a draft I had started at the beginning of May, shortly after our State Forensics tournament. So, nearly two months later, I’ll finish it.

When I took my first teaching job, this activity called Forensics “came with the job.” I had very little knowledge about the activity, but I knew as an English teacher in a small school, I would probably get roped into some activity outside my major, so I took the job without complaint (even if I would rather have been taking a volleyball coaching position!). Little did I know that six years later, I would still be coaching (and by choice!).

First of all, it’s important to say that Forensics has nothing to do with crime scene investigations or crime labs. Forensics is speaking and acting–drama and speech.

There really are several things about Forensics that I do not enjoy. Nearly every Saturday of my February, March, and April is taken up with Forensics meets, some of which require me to leave my house early (on a Saturday?). It is difficult to motivate students to come in and work on pieces individually–Forensics isn’t like basketball or volleyball, where the entire team gets together to work at mandatory practices. Therefore, a lot of the volition must come from the students (but these are high school students, so it’s really coming from the teacher). And, the other tough thing about Forensics is that unless your program has been built up, it takes a lot of extra effort to build it.

Yet, these negatives don’t come close to outweighing the positives of coaching Forensics. I reap a lot of joy from seeing students improve their performances at each meet, gain confidence in themselves, and learn to interpret and perform their pieces better. I have a network of fellow coaches (all over the state!) who are very helpful and have shown me the ropes of an activity I knew little about. And, though I’ve always been an athlete and I love sports and I encourage students to get involved in athletics, I see that the benefits of being involved in Forensics will enhance students’ lives and careers much more than athletics. Unless you are someone like Kobe Bryant, your boss isn’t going to be asking about your jump shot. Rather, your boss will want to see that you are confident, well spoken, able to communicate, and professional. (Sidenote: As a Forensics coach, I take great satisfaction in teaching young girls that “Barbie shoes,” i.e. “Lady of the night shoes,” are not professional dress.) And, the best thing of all about Forensics is building relationships with the students. Even though I’ve only been teaching for six years, I have already heard back from a few students about how much Forensics has helped them in their life! It’s so great!

So, here’s to my fellow Forensics coaches, enjoy your summer off and sneak in some time to read for Forensics pieces! :)