A dear friend of mine blogs often. Actually, daily. She blogs really well too (that is she is shrewd, witty and generally on top of the news – even the not so important stuff.) There is no real theme to her blogging, but indubitably her opinion on just about any subject prevails. I follow a few other blogs as well, but they, for the most part, are themed in one direction, i.e.: education, parenting. So, I am thinking it may be time to branch out. I too have deep-seated opinions on various topics. I no longer feel the need to stick to dropout prevention or how the gray confusion over that salacious Fifty Shades has changed my social profile. As a matter of fact, those people who know me well may actually say I generally have a hard time keeping personal judgments to myself. I prefer to think of it as trying to save the world, one recommendation; one person at a time. (My children may not agree, but don’t listen to them.)
Perhaps a blog is simply an opportunity to up the ante by reaching a more massive population with one’s relevant advice; kind of like Dear Abby, without the requests for guidance. This could speed up the process. In other words, providing more people read these said, upcoming blogs, I could have folks jump onto my various bandwagons and share in my rants. Together we can save the world. Writing a blog is like offering a dogmatic writer a virtual megaphone. Now, I must decide where to start. Today my friend wrote about fashion disasters caused by drawstring pants on women under 5 feet 10 inches; among other style faux pauxs. I’m thinking I am going to start with a topic of greater significance. Perhaps I will write about how a nearly fifty year old mother of a teenager sacrifices her questionably perfect hearing by sitting seventh row at a Justin Bieber concert. This could be fun; the blogging I mean. Right now I must get to the store to buy some earplugs. Purple, of course, lest I be accused of lacking enthusiasm for JB. I will be back; bullhorn in hand.
(Delray Beach, FL) – Fiction author and Indie Excellence Awards finalist Susanne Jacoby Hale launches a new video with featured interviews from her former students. The video highlights stories and experiences that inspired Shades of Gray, her debut novel.
Shades of Gray is inspired from Hale’s previous experience as a dropout prevention teacher in New York City, filled with stories of teen pregnancy and struggle. The main character and teacher, Olivia Dalton, went the extra mile to mentor at risk youth. Hale took the experiences she knew as well as friends’ stories of infertility to write Shades of Gray.
Recently, Susanne interviewed former students from the ACE dropout prevention program from Martin Luther King High School in NYC as well as co-teacher Gabriel DeAngelo.
“Writing Shades of Gray gave me the opportunity to revisit an exciting time in my life. I’m hoping it will be an eye opener for teachers of at risk students as well as people considering adoption. Teachers can change lives. I’m so proud of my former students as they are now productive members of society”, says Hale.
About Susanne Jacoby Hale: A former dropout prevention teacher in a New York City high school, Hale earned a master’s degree from New York University in education and creative writing. She currently lives in south Florida with her husband and their three children. Shades of Gray is her debut novel. http://SusanneJacobyHale.com
A week ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying a local women’s book club in discussion of what inspired Shades of Gray. I also had the opportunity to discuss past and present education issues with teachers and moms. It was a great experience and I’m grateful to The Boca Babes Book Club for welcoming me.
At a book club recently the usual questions as to which parts of Shades of Gray are autobiographical
ensued. I enjoy those questions as they allow me to reflect upon a wonderful time in my life filled with
learning and love. Then, thrown into the mix like peanut butter in your basic chocolate chip cookie,
someone asked the question that sounded something like, “Wouldn’t you say that Olivia is a bit too
good? Can someone really be that good?” which was, of course, preceded by questions relating me to
the main character, Olivia, in my novel.
Oddly, I didn’t get my defenses in a tizzy, but instead reverted to a deep and thoughtful mindset as I
quickly pondered, as best you can ponder with fifteen sets of eyes on you, as to whether I am actually
Olivia or better yet just that good. Is anyone really that good? We have all fallen prey to a social faux
pas or a white lie here and there. And who doesn’t hope for world peace? I imagine, anyone who took
the time to get to know my students back then, when I taught in the ACE program, the program that
Shades of Gray is based on, would have done many of the things I did to generate success throughout
the “at risk” population. Anyone with a heart that is.
My response, and I am sticking with it, is that Olivia – and I – is not unrealistically good, but instead an
idealist. By definition an idealist is someone that rejects practical consideration in search of perfection.
I would like to believe that we all, not just fictional characters, have enough optimism within to at least
keep hope alive. So, perhaps, in my haste to claim myself, and my fictional counterpart, an idealist, I
should have prefaced it with, I am a person with a big heart. I know I am not alone in this utopian vision
of the world and I was wondering if you would care to join me.
Via Campo Marzo Design: On Sunday, December 2nd, Campo Marzio Boca Raton had the privilege of hosting Susanne Jacoby Hale, author of Shades of Gray, for a book signing in Campo Marzio Design at Town Center.
Our customers were delighted to meet and chat with Mrs, Hale, a wonderful lady and a former drop-out prevention teacher in New York City, whose autobiographical novel was a finalist for an Indie Excellence Book Award.
Last week I was the keynote speaker at a JAFCO (Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options) luncheon. A few years ago, I never would have envisioned myself as the keynote speaker anywhere. What might I have spoken about? More importantly who would want to listen? But Shades of Gray has taken me down some new and very cool paths and, as I always say, things happen for a reason in life. So, off to the luncheon I went; nerves entangled, hands shaking. Knowing that the cause was infinitely worthy, I prepared a speech and picked out a dress. I walked up to the podium and somehow my nerves, that moments later wouldn’t allow me to eat the lovely lunch they served, settled down. I got to talk about kids – at risk kids. My passion overtook my fear and out the words poured.
Having visited JAFCO the week before, I expected it to be a far sadder place than it was. Being that the compound houses children whose lives have been torn apart, I suppose I expected what I was more accustomed to seeing in a system that has often failed the children who ended up in dropout prevention programs like my old ACE program, which I fictionalized in Shades. It wasn’t though. JAFCO is a place that reminds us that although reprehensible problems still exist for some children, if we impart a little love and devotion into what we believe in, miracles can happen. The women I met that support JAFCO through their tireless hours of volunteering are simply remarkable. Anyone who can look into a suffering child’s eyes I will never understand and there I was in a room filled with people that shared my passion to save them all. They renewed my confidence that, as trite as it sounds, that love can save the world. I want to thank JAFCO for inviting me to speak last week, for all they do for the children and for renewing people’s faith that together we can save the world. Tikkun Olam.
On Facebook I read about a teacher from my junior high school that passed away recently. I was never fortunate enough to have her, but her reputation was such that I remember her well. In one of the posted photos, Ms. Morell is on a field trip with Mr, Byrnes. Mr. Byrnes, on the other hand, I did have as my teacher and boy, did I love his class. All the girls thought he was adorable, an important trait when in middle school, and hung onto his every word. More importantly though; his class was fun and his stories were interesting. Somehow, he managed to make history intriguing for me; something that never happened before. I looked forward to his class and so did most of my friends, boys and girls alike.
Many heartfelt condolences appeared on Facebook for the late Ms. Morell. People wrote all sorts of things about how they loved her class; how she made learning Spanish fun; how she understood kids. The point is, thirty-five (or so) years later, people remember Ms. Morell. They may not have thought about her often in the last years, but when they heard of her passing, warmth filled their hearts as they recalled the joy she brought to their edification. We remember the teachers that leave impressions on us. How many of us can say we are surely going to leave an imprint in this world? A good teacher does. We hope, as we send our children off to school each day, that they will be blessed with teachers that they too will remember in thirty-five years; teachers that made a difference; teachers that will fill the screen on Facebook (although by then I am quite sure there will be something far more sophisticated that I will struggle to have my grandchildren teach me). The excitement for learning that a good teacher, a funny teacher, a warm teacher, can evoke is priceless.
Here’s to the Ms. Morells’, the Mr. Byrnes’, Kohuts’ and Edelsteins’, Mrs. Wells’, who managed to make a mark on my life. Here’s to the millions of teachers that get kids, make classes interesting, and have changed someone’s path or brought light to a subject. Here’s to the teachers that make a difference.
For months since the publication of Shades of Gray I have searched for the principal and assistant principal that had the gumption to push towards creating a dropout prevention program at the NYC high school at which I taught twenty plus years ago. Who knew that one small leap of faith would be enough to not only change the lives of some of my past students, but also alter my own path – and all for the better? I wanted to send them my novel and a big, fat thank you for saving my job that winter when the dropout rate had been so exorbitant that many new teachers lost their jobs mid-year. It wasn’t just the fact that I remained employed, but moreover that, because they saw something in me that I didn’t even know existed yet, I (and two other lucky teachers) co-founded the original ACE program that my book is based on. Without their faith, Shades of Gray wouldn’t have been written, I wouldn’t be going around encouraging further programs for at risk students and I wouldn’t be able to proudly say that some of my old students are remarkable adults with children of their own; some of which actually attend college now.
I hadn’t had any luck finding either of them….until the other night. I walked into a book club prepared to discuss Shades of Gray, as usual. The reviews from the group were positive. I was excited, simply because I love book clubs. They are intimate enough to have lively conversation that generally leads to the real issues, the reason I wrote Shades in the first place. And then the oddest and most wonderful thing happened. In walked Ms. Medina. Ms. Medina, a member of that same book club, was the assistant principal who invited me back to create Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first dropout prevention program. She was the administrator who reprimanded a young and naïve me how to remove a weapon from a student’s possession. She was the supervisor who always had a smile in her eyes and a sure way about definitively overseeing a program that allowed us to use slightly atypical methods to teach and keep our kids coming to school.
I began my usual schpeel and looked out at the women gathered to talk about Shades and there sat Ms. Medina. At the risk of embarrassing her, I had to express how meaningful it was to me that she appeared that night; that in truth, if not for Ms. Medina’s vision and insight for a young(er) and greener me, I wouldn’t today be parading my own visions about; hoping to encourage other untried teachers to not be afraid to put the love into their teaching and push their kids however they have to. Make a difference; I scream daily as I hope to inspire others to take that same leap of faith that sent me on my way…and what a pleasant trip it has been. And it is not yet over. Thank you, Ms. Medina. Thank you.