Category Archives: Book Reviews

Brace yourselves.

Brace yourselves.  I am about to tick a lot of you off.

When it comes to students, I deal with two types.

Some of my students join my classes because they want to learn Latin, Greek, or Italian.  And, some of my students join my classes because they need a grade or a high-school credit.

Naturally, I love interacting with the first group.  I don’t really blame the second group.  They are just part of the system.  I get it.

But, I wonder, have any of them (or their parents) ever stopped to question the system?

Why DO we educate kids the way we do?  Has it always been done this way?  Does it work?  What does modern education produce?  Most students will never question the system… because the system teaches us not to question the system.

I’ve been reading a book that questions the system.  Even though I am not done with the book, I am going to recommend it anyway.

I am sure all of you have heard of the book Rich Dad/Poor Dad, by Robert Kiosaki.  Well, he has written other books, too.  I have read most of them.  Somehow, I missed this one.  Until now.

This week, I started reading Why “A” Students Work for “C” Students and Why “B” Students Work for the Government: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Education for Parents.

Not exactly sure how I missed this one.  Anyway, I recommend it.  You may not agree with his take on debt, and on investing, and that is fine.  But, if you are an American, you need to read his thoughts on education.  I have been a teacher now for 20 years.  I am an educator.  I am an insider.  What he says about education is true.

We have raised generations of children who are concerned about grades and credits.  And, for what?  After school, and after college, does ANYONE ask you for your report card?  Does ANYONE care?  Not in my experience.

Worse, students are made to feel stupid, or inadequate for failing certain subjects in school.  I failed college algebra three times.  That one experience torpedoed my confidence.  I felt like an idiot.  I felt inadequate.

Guess how much I have used algebra since college.  Go ahead.  I can wait.

I am sure you guessed correctly.  Never.  Not once.  As Mr. Kiosaki says out in the book, “If you grade a fish on its ability to climb a tree, the fish will fail.”  The fish might even feel like an idiot.

I have not used algebra once since leaving school.  Not once.  Guess what I have used every single day of my adult life?  Financial math.  Basic financial math.  I didn’t have a single class in school on this subject.

If you, like me, question the system, then check out Mr. Kiyosaki’s book.  If you are interested in acquiring a financial education, then check out Mr. Kiyosaki’s book.  And, if all you can think about is the grade you are going to receive in class, you definitely need to read: Why “A” Students Work for “C” Students and Why “B” Students Work for the Government: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Education for Parents.

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Coffee Break Italian

On Monday, July 31, I flew down to Miami, Florida.

Long story short, I had left a vehicle there when my family flew to Athens, Greece.  We were going to pick it up on the way home.

But, on April 13, my son ended up in the emergency room in Aurora, Colorado.  We flew from Athens to Denver.  We skipped Miami.   We left our van there.

I went to get it this week.  The van never made it home.  Broke down near Cocoa Beach, Florida.  After towing the van to a salvage yard, I rented a car and drove home.

Now, to the point.  On the way home, I finished season one of Coffee Break Italian.   You can listen to a lot when you are alone on the road for 16 hours.

I have enjoyed the Coffee Break language series for years.

The idea is a simple one.  If you have a fifteen, or twenty-minute coffee break, you could learn a lot.  As Mark, the author of the series often says, you can turn your “down time” into “do time”.

Those of you who know me, know that this appeals to me immensely.  Much of what I have learned in life, I learned in short moments snatched during the daily hustle.  For example, I listened to the first 25 lessons of Coffee Break Italian while shaving every morning.

The long trip home from Miami gave me the opportunity to finish season one.

In the Coffee Break series, polyglot Mark Pentleton takes learners from zero knowledge of the target language to proficiency.

In most episodes, we find Mark, the teacher, a student, and a native speaker.  This is a brilliant structure.  From Mark, we learn the grammar, and often the vocabulary, of the language.  From the student, we learn to practice the language.   We can imitate the student.  As she learns, we learn.  And, finally, from the native speaker, we learn the correct pronunciation of the language.  We also learn bonus vocabulary.  The native speaker will also bring cultural insights into the lesson.

I have listened to all of Coffee Break Spanish, much of Coffee Break French, some of Coffee Break German, and half of Coffee Break Italian.  The structure really does not change.  This actually makes it easy to jump from language to language.  The familiarity makes the material even more accessible.

Really, I cannot say enough good things about the series.  Start listening.  It will be worth your time.  A year from now, you just might speak French, or Italian, or Spanish. or German.

It’s worth it.  Turn off sports radio.  Turn off NPR.  You can get sports stats later.  You can learn about trouble in the Middle East later.  Both will be available in 2018.  Promise.  Some things don’t change.

But, you can change.  You can improve your mind.  You can improve your life.  You can learn another language.  The Coffee Break Series can help.

One last thing.  There are free lessons and there is a premium subscription.  Test your resolve.  Go through the free lessons before signing up for the premium subscription.  No reason to waste money if you aren’t going to stick with it.