Sunday, December 15, 2013

Interview: Anne Weber, Foreign Exchange Student

The 2012-2013 school year was the most incredible year of my teaching career. I had the honor and privilege to have a German foreign exchange student in my Spanish class. Anne Weber made major contributions to the class. She made traditional German food for the foreign language club and even taught us some German. As a polyglot, she enhanced the classroom environment. Her language skills made her the go-to girl for peer tutoring. Even though Anne returned to Germany, I still keep in touch with her. I decided to interview her in the hopes her experience will help encourage other students to consider studying abroad.

You left your native Germany to attend a year of high school in Denver, Colorado; can you explain why you did that?

I wanted to see for myself how America is. To be able to make my own experiences and not have to depend on what the TV and other people said about the United States. Biases are not right, and I think the only way to avoid such prejudices is to make one’s own experience.

How was your experience living with an American host family?

It was amazing! They opened not only their house for me – a stranger – but also their hearts. I learned that Americans are open-minded, loving, and gentle people. I honestly can say that I was a part of the family, and still am. At first it was weird, to have to adapt to their way of life, their habits, their likes and dislikes, but it also helped me open my heart for new things. It is an incredible feeling to know that there is a second family out there which cares about me. In addition, I know when I return for a visit, they will welcome me warmly. It is really an amazing gift.

Are there any major differences between a German and an American high school?

Yes, there are definitely many differences. The German school system is completely different. After fourth grade, everyone can decide which kind of school he/she wants to attend. We go by class system and not by a course system where everyone can select the classes. Only 11th and 12th grade are done by a course system. German schools do not offer AP or Honor classes as part of the curriculum. There is only one level. We do not have that special High School Spirit or the possibility to choose between so many different courses. In addition, there are not any after school activities or sports teams at all.

I understand you are fluent in four languages; can you explain how you managed to acquire these languages?

The only way to understand people from other countries is to be able to communicate with them. I think it is amazing what languages and words can do, so I love learning new languages and how they all are connected in some ways.

Are there any similarities or differences between German and American teenagers?

In Germany, teens are adults by law at the age of 18. In America the age is 21. [But] Germans have to be 18 to drive a car alone and in America, it varies between 15 and 16. I think some of the laws we have to live by make us grow up faster and slower in different things. All teenagers worry about the same things, have to live through the same progression of growing up, finding themselves. In addition, they all like music, movies, and clothes. I think American teenagers care more about volunteering and playing sports. Sport is an important way to get into college. In Germany, it is mostly through good grades.

Anne hanging out with me in my classroom

Can you elaborate on what you learned spending the year in a foreign land away from family and friends? Was it worth it? Would you do it again and why?

It was definitely worth it. I would do it over and over again. If I was able to do it right away for another time, I would. I think I got to know myself better, grow up and become more mature. I think I got a better understanding of the many different cultures I got to experience and live while I was living in Denver. Someone once said “Just because it is different, doesn’t mean it is bad” and I think that is correct. Make your own experiences, be open-minded – then you get the chance to make decisions on your own, without biases. I think this year gave me so many opportunities for my future. I love the fact that the American community I was living in opened their hearts to me. It makes me feel like I am only half-German. I feel throughout the year I became American, and mixed this culture with my native, German, one. If you know what another culture thinks, how those people live, it helps you understand them and be just like them. I think it also helped me appreciate things that I took for granted. More importantly, the experience enabled me get a different view about my own country. If you ever get the chance to go abroad – DO IT!

What are your honest thoughts on American culture?

I think Americans have a culture that encourages them to be dreamers. They believe that most things they want can become a reality. This spirit thrives in everyone in America. It appears that most people that live in the United States are proud to be Americans, they are proud to be a part of this nation. I think it is great that some people are still very patriotic. For me, the American host family welcomed me with open hearts, and they were willing to share what they have and included me as part of their family. Of course, some things are not great, but no country is perfect.

I took Anne out to lunch to Wholefoods before she returned to her native Germany

Thank you Anne, for doing this interview. I wish you great success in all of your endeavors.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tumbleweed Christmas $25 Book Blast

I am happy to host Beverly Stowe McClure during her book blast. Please join me in welcoming her to my blog.

About the Book

Tumbleweed Christmas by Beverly Stowe McClureTitle: Tumbleweed Christmas Author: Beverly Stowe McClure Publication Date: July 20, 2013 (original pub. date - August 28, 2011) Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC Number of pages: 24 Recommended age: 3+ Summary (Back Cover): Christmas is the time for miracles, but sometimes a child must make her own miracle and one for her siblings.  


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The Buzz

"Through the storytelling of Beverly Stowe McClure and the book illustrations of Bridget McKenna, the reader is drawn to feel the pain of poverty and choices that must be made due to economic circumstance. We are drawn into Jackie's world by her giving spirit and root for her every word of the way. And when all is said and done ... We, too, believe in the miracle of a Tumbleweed Christmas. Timely for the season and its reason, but also gives us reason to keep the Spirit of Christmas alive year 'round." ~ 5 Star Review, Ruth C., Amazon
"I can't think of a sweeter tale of the season than Tumbleweed Christmas." ~ 5 Star Review, Cheryl M., Amazon
"This is a delightful 24 page book which shows the reader about selflessness. Many parent's give up much to make things work when they don't have a lot of money, and being creative is certainly a key in such situations. Jackie gave up what was dear to her the most to be able to give gifts to her family so they had something to open on Christmas day. In many ways, gift giving has gone out of control. The most expensive items are not necessarily the best. Sometimes it's the handmade items or drawings that come from the heart that are truly memorable. A gift from the heart is what truly matters most, and it doesn't have to be much. Children and parent's alike will enjoy this story because it touches upon one of the best gifts in the world that we can give--LOVE!" ~ 5 Star Review, Children's Book Reviewer, Amazon

About the Author: Beverly Stowe McClure

Beverly Stowe McClure Beverly Stowe McClure[/caption] Beverly Stowe McClure is a former teacher turned writer. When she was a kid, writing was the last thing on her mind. She loved music and played clarinet in the junior high and high school bands. She also was a majorette. She still plays the piano to relax. Her cats don’t appreciate good music, however, and run and hide when she tickles the ivories. She lives in the country with Patches and Tiger (the cats), along with a variety of wild critters that stop by for a handout. Next to her sons, grandchildren, and great-grands, writing is her passion and joy. She also enjoys researching her family roots and snapping pictures of clouds, flowers, deer and birds, especially the roadrunner that visits on occasion and the hummingbirds that she feeds.  

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* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner's choice) Contest runs: December 11, 2013 to January 9, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Beverly Stowe McClure and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

MDBR Book Promotion Services
  a Rafflecopter giveaway * I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for our honest opinion. All opinions expressed are our own. The author contacted us to participate in our Book Promotion Program where we will tweet and share information about this book, the author, and the giveaway.*

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book Review: 'A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear' by Mayra Calvani

A Bad Mad Sad Day for Mama Bear, by Mayra Calvani and illustrated by K.C. Snider, is a delight to read. The repetition, alliteration, and onomatopoeia, will make reading the book aloud an enjoyable experience for both reader and listener.

We all have problems, but how we handle our problems will determine if we can overcome them.

I can relate well to the story because, in life we often focus too much on the obstacle instead of trying to find a solution.

Baby Bear tries hard to offer support and comfort, but Mama Bear is too busy looking at the negatives, and can’t see a way out.

I love the underlying lesson the book is trying to teach. Young children can be very wise in how they perceive the world and situations around them.

Finally, Mama Bear is able to cope and deal with one bad thing after another, after she accepts Baby Bear’s support.

The story is well written, but much kudos goes to award winning artist, K.C. Snider, for capturing the true emotional essence of the book in pictures that are colourful and lively.

It is recommended for readers aged three to seven.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Interview: Claudio Ferrari, Swiss Foreign Exchange Student

Last year, I had the honor to meet Claudio Ferrari, a Swiss exchange student. Claudio is a polyglot. He attended South High School, in Denver Colorado, where I currently teach French and Spanish. Claudio was my assistant during my third period French class. He helped tutor many students, and he brought a fresh perspective that enabled my students to better understand ,and appreciate the importance of learning a second language.

I lived in Strasbourg, France with a family while in college, and to this day, I can still draw many positives from that experience. No amount of classroom instruction can replace living in the country where the language is spoken. Before 9/11, I took my students on a 10-day tour to France and Spain. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to take students out of the country since 2000.

Claudio agreed to share with us his experiences living in the United States.
You left your native Switzerland to attend a year of high school in Denver, CO; can you explain why you did that?

The idea actually came from my sister, because she did an exchange year in Norway the year before I went to America. She got me thinking: why shouldn’t I do that; it would be an awesome experience. And looking back, I have to say that it definitely was.

How was your experience living with an American host family?

Well I didn’t really have the classic “host family experience”, in my case it was more like I just had a room to live in at that house. But that wasn’t bad at all, in fact I really enjoyed it a lot because it gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do and also it forced me to become a lot more independent.

Are there any major differences between a Swiss and an American high school?

There are huge differences, and I think most of them come down to how the schools are organized. In Switzerland a high school works more like a college, meaning it’s not the teacher’s responsibility to make sure the students do all their work, they just have to be prepared for the test and if they fail it’s their problem. I like that system a lot because it makes students more responsible and independent.

I understand you are fluent in four languages, can you explain how you managed to acquire these languages?

In Switzerland you have to learn at least two languages (French and English) in addition to our native language, German. But from my own experience with languages I can tell that it gets easier with every new language you learn, because the blueprint for learning a new language is similar in every language. And also many languages like Spanish and French are related so you can understand a lot without even knowing the language.

Are there any similarities or differences between Swiss and American teenagers?

I have to say I find American teenagers to be a little immature sometimes. But I believe that is because of the way they’re looked at here. Nobody would see a 17-year-old as a grown up person. In Switzerland in a lot of ways you’re seen as an adult. I would say a lot of how you act comes from the way you’re looked at.

Can you elaborate on what you learned spending the year in a foreign land away from family and friends? Was it worth it? Would you do it again and why?

I’ve learned so many things during my exchange year: about America, other cultures, other people, and last but not least I’ve also learned a lot about myself. It’s amazing how much one year can change you and the way you see things. To everyone out there who’s thinking about going to another country for some time: Do it! It’s absolutely worth it.

What are your honest thoughts on American culture?

I’ve seen many things I like but also many things I don’t like about American culture. But what really amazes me about Americans is their way of thinking straight forward, that “you can do anything” attitude. I’ve probably adopted some of that because it’s just a great motto for life.

I want to thank you, Claudio, for taking the time to share your experiences with my readers. I am sure your words will inspire many. I am wishing you great success in your future endeavors.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Connie Corcoran Wilson's Virtual Book Tour- Day 1

I believe literature is a critical component in the development of young minds. This is why I like hosting book tours. Today, I am happy to introduce Connie Corcoran Wilson.  I invite you, to check out her post for day 1 of her book tour. Please be sure to visit, the National Writing for Children Center to find out where to go for Day 2 of Connie's VBT.

Day 1 of the Tour:
Meet Constance (aka, Connie) Corcoran Wilson

I've been writing for pay since I was ten years old, beginning when I was sent out by my hometown (Independence, Iowa) newspaper to interview the locals. This was, no doubt, a gimmick that local editor Reeves Hall thought would be cute, but it started me on a lifetime (58 years+) spent writing and teaching others to write.

I've taught composition and English classes at all 6 IA/IL Quad City colleges and taught junior high school students for 18 years, before founding the second Sylvan Learning Center in the state of Iowa (Bettendorf, IA, Center #3301) in 1986.

Prior to starting my Sylvan (Nov. 15, 1986), I worked for Performance Learning Systems, Inc., of Emerson, New Jersey, writing "Training the Teacher As A Champion," a 1989 release by that largest-in-the-nation teacher training firm.

In 2003, my daughter was dating a young man, Andrew Weinert, who was a promising artist. Rita, Andy's mother, had been my student during my years at Silvis Junior High School. I asked Andy to draw cats attired in "silly hats" promising him, faithfully, that this would become a book. I sent the drawings off to a publishing group that lost all his original artwork. All I had were the scans of his work in my computer.

The drawings languished in my computer for a full 8 years before the layout artist, who was helping me with pixel improvement so I could publish It Came from the '70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, said he might be able to do something with the scans, since computers had improved in the intervening 8 years.

My son and his wife had twin girls in 2009. I wanted to complete the book as a Christmas present for the girls for 2011, when they were two. I approached Andy to do a few more drawings to make the book about "Christmas Cats."

Andy was in the final throes of receiving his PhD in Graphic Arts from Northern Illinois University. He did not have the time to take on another project, but the girls' Venezuelan nanny, Emily Marquez, an amateur artist, said she, too, would like to attempt to finish the book as a gift for her young charges. (The book is dedicated to Emily). And so the first book, "The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats," was born, as a Christmas gift for my then-2-year-old granddaughters.

There was no book in 2012, because Andy, post-graduation, was busy. I began the search for another professional illustrator and found Gary McCluskey, a Rhode Island native, who did a wonderful job bringing the Christmas rats to life. Gary is working on Book Three now.