March 2011

Half a Life by Darin Strauss

In his powerful, unforgettable memoir, Half a Life, acclaimed novelist Darin Strauss recounts a tragedy and its aftermath. In the last month of his high school career, just after turning eighteen, Strauss is behind the wheel of his father’s Oldsmobile, driving with friends, having “thoughts of mini-golf, another thought of maybe just going to the beach.” Then out of the blue: a collision that results in the death of a bicycling classmate and that shadows the rest of his life. In haunting, penetrating prose, Darin Strauss explores loss and guilt, maturity and accountability, hope and acceptance. The result is a staggering, uplifting tour de force.

Please email us if you would like an advance reader’s edition, and include your full school mailing address.

Competition Team - Chase Buchanan, Anthony Turk, Kevin Wojcik, Amir Abo-Shaeer

In my book, The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts, I follow one unique high school team in their pursuit of robotics glory. Led by Amir Abo-Shaeer, the first public school teacher to win the MacArthur “Genius” Award, the story highlights his innovative style of instruction, one relevant to teachers of every subject.

When Amir first left a successful career in engineering to become a high school physics teacher, he was frustrated by how he was expected to run his daily lessons. Too much of the focus was on walking his students through the textbook, memorizing functions and equations, in order that they could perform well on this and that standardized text. His students were bored—and he felt they were for good reason.

He knew, much as they knew, that what he was teaching them could just as easily be looked up on Wikipedia or the like. This was a waste of the precious time he had with these students. Since they were a “captive audience” within his classroom, he wanted to give them an experience, an education, that they could never look up online. (more…)