Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow Days

There was snow in Troy, New York, this week, but I think I missed the most exciting weather this week.  We shoveled snow off our steps and driveways here in Troy.  But everything was plowed within a few hours--and I actually was out jogging on the streets (with Captain Kennedy) by the next day.  Not a huge storm and no big deal up here.

How was the snowstorm for all of you in New York City?  Did you go sledding?  Did you get stuck in your house for a few days?  How long did it take for your street to get plowed?  Do you remember any snowstorm that's been worse in recent history?

Hope that social studies HW is going well, guys.  See you Monday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Watching the movies...

As your homework during vacation, you'll need to view and write about one of the many American Experience films from the PBS website.  I've watched a few during vacation myself.  Here's what I think of the ones I've seen.

The Hurricane of '38: What would it be like to deal with a ferocious storm before radar existed?  You'd have no warning that a storm was even coming.  One morning in September, the people of Long Island and Rhode Island woke up for a day of fishing or sunbathing.  By nightfall, many of them had watched their oceanfront houses float away.  Many more of them would never live to see another day.  This movie gives a glimpse of the lives of fishermen (they lived in shacks right on the beach all winter!) and the rich (they came to Long Island to party in country clubs throughout the summer).  This is my favorite of the films I've seen so far because it gives the best glimpse of what everyday life would have been like for regular people in 1938.

The Civilian Conservation Corps: In the 1930s, over 25 percent of Americans were unemployed.  In many neighborhoods and towns, the conditions were terrible: children had almost nothing to eat and men were desperately discouraged because they couldn't provide for their families.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to do something.  He called for the creation of an "army" of young men who would do environmental work.  The men would live in camps, go to work after breakfast every morning to plant trees or fight forest fires, break for lunch, work more, then come back to camp to be fed a nice dinner every evening.  They'd earn $30 a month--good pay back then--on the condition that $25 of it would be sent back to their needy families.  If you're interested in environmentalism, this movie might be good for you.  Some say that the CCC helped to begin the modern environmental movement.

The Crash of 1929: Many people got excited about the stock market in the 1920s.  It seemed to keep going up and up.  There was wild confidence and a lot of investors thought the good times would never end.  But when the stock market crashed in October, many people's dreams crashed along with it.  This film has some tricky economic concepts, but it would be a good choice for people who are interested in learning more about money and business.

Has anyone watched a film yet?  Want to share a suggestion for your classmates?  Leave a comment.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hilarious people make a difference

Among the many things for which I'm thankful this Christmas, I'm especially thankful to be teaching a ton of hilarious kids.  You frequently crack me up laughing during class.  I go home telling stories about the funny things you do.  I've had individual conversations with many of you about your use of humor.  Some of you have told me that you want to be comedians.

Have you ever watched Jon Stewart's Daily Show on Comedy Central?  I think he's funnier on some days than others but, regardless, he's hugely popular.  More than that, though, he gets people to listen to him.  He led a political/comedic rally on the National Mall in October.  President Obama has appeared on his show.  And, in the past few weeks, Jon Stewart was constantly calling for Congress to pass a law that gave aid to 9/11 emergency responders.

In the days after the 9/11 attacks, thousands of firefighters and other emergency personnel helped to clean up the area around Ground Zero.  Meanwhile, jet fuel continued to burn, releasing poisonous gases that the emergency personnel inhaled.  Years later, many of them are seriously ill and others have died because they inhaled those harmful gases.

To honor the emergency responders' service, Congressmen proposed legislation that would pay for their medical treatment.  But Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked the bill, claiming that--at a cost of $7 billion--it would be too expensive for American taxpayers.

Then Jon Stewart sprang to action, devoting an entire half-hour show to the 9/11 responders and the law.  He harshly criticized Republican senators with his usual wit.  Just days later, our senators--Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand--helped to convince the Republicans to pass a bill that would provide over $4 billion in medical treatment to the emergency responders.

Now, people are giving Jon Stewart--a comedian!--credit for making Americans aware of the 9/11 emergency responders bill.  And they're giving him some of the credit for making sure that the bill got passed!  "I'll forever be indebted to Jon because of what he did," said one 9/11 firefighter.

Here's a news article about Jon Stewart's advocacy.
And here's a link to his half-hour show about the 9/11 emergency responders.

What do you think?  Is Jon Stewart funny?  Is he an important American?  How has he been able to make a difference with his comedy?  Would you ever want to be like him?  Why or why not?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, seventh and eighth graders!  To all of you who celebrate the holiday, hope you're having a wonderful day.  As you can see, my history library is newly loaded and my cousin promises to let me play Call of Duty: Black Ops during vacation.  That, and reading your immigration journals, should keep me busy through break.  Many blessings to you all on the holiday.  I'll post again soon!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ellis Island

Today I showed you a website where you can learn more about Ellis Island and each immigrant's step-by-step movement through the processing station.  As promised, here's that excellent website:

I'm really enjoying reading your journal entries, eighth graders.  See you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Last Chance...

Here's your last chance: if you haven't submitted an essay to me yet, e-mail it to me by tonight and bring in a printed copy tomorrow.  If you're an eighth grader and you haven't submitted a binder to me, make sure you bring it in tomorrow.  Grades are due tomorrow and if you haven't submitted it by then, you're out of luck.

Glad Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are back with the Yanks; now let's go get Cliff Lee!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Starting the Weekend with Elaine's

Happy weekend, everybody.  I hope you've got fun plans for this weekend, because I don't expect to be doing anything but grading your papers...and maybe blogging now and then.  This weekend is your LAST chance to post comments on the blog for extra credit.  Of course, your comment must be at least a paragraph with good spelling and grammar for you to get extra credit.

Just read a newspaper article about a woman named Elaine Kaufman, who died today at 81 after owning and running a famous restaurant for decades.  Located on Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, her restaurant became one of the trendiest places for big stars to visit.  Billy Joel mentioned the restaurant in one of his songs, Woody Allen filmed a scene from his great movie Manhattan inside, and hundreds of celebrities ate at Elaine's, whether for lunch, dinner, or a late night snack.

Elaine was quite the character.  She refused to serve hamburgers in her bar, and she once slapped a customer after he and a friend only bought one drink between them.  But she made tons of famous friends at her restaurant, and this fulfilled her more than anything else.  In fact, here's a quote from Elaine:
“I’ve lived just about the most perfect life,” Ms. Kaufman said in 1998. “I’ve had the best time. If I wanted to do something, I did it. Designers designed my clothes and did my apartment. I had house seats for the theater. I was invited to screenings and book parties. I’ve had fun. What else can you ask in life?”
What else can you ask in life?  Do you think Elaine Kaufman lived the perfect life, like she said?  Would you want to live a life like hers, brushing shoulders with celebrities?  Or would your perfect life look different?  What would the perfect life be like for you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thank you from Captain Kennedy!

Via Facebook, a message from Captain Kennedy: "Had a fantastic time with everyone, I'm definitely going to visit again!  Martin, thanks again for putting all this together, thank all the students again for me, and keep it real!"