The Magdalen Girls by V.S.Alexander

The Magdalen GirlsI had heard of the Magdalen girls before and that they were affiliated to the Catholic Church, but I had not read about them. When browsing the new titles in the library catalogue, I came across The Magdalen Girls by V. S. Alexander and did not hesitate to put it on hold because I was curious.

The story in the novel takes place in Dublin, Ireland in 1962 within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption. The convent is one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries, an institution set up by the Catholic Church to help reform girls and women. Once places of refuge for women in trouble, these laundries evolved into grim workhouses with strict and severe regimes where women toiled without respite. Some inmates were “fallen” women – unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals – . but most were ordinary girls whose only sin lay in being too pretty, too independent, or in tempting the wrong man. Many of these women were forced into these institutions by the Catholic Church and families who did not want the girls living with them.

Alexander’s story centres around Teagan Tiernan, a sixteen year old who is sent to the Laundry by her family when her beauty provokes lust in a young priest. At the convent, Teagan befriends Nora Craven, another girl who has been sent to the workhouse by her family. The girls are stripped of their freedom and dignity, given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, inflicts cruel and dehumanizing punishments on the girls in the name of love. Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, a current resident who helps them endure their stay. Together they think of an escape plan.

My teaser comes from the beginning of the novel on Teagan’s first day at the convent:

“She instinctively raised her hands to her head. She hadn’t thought about losing her hair, but it made sense after seeing the Magdalens at breakfast. She stroked the blonde strands, which were soon to be gone, cropped close to her head like the other girls. She was a prisoner. In history class, she had read about people who were held in World War II camps. They had been robbed of their identities and their possessions. She shivered at he thought. Much like those prisoners, she was dependant on The Sisters of the Holy Redemption, her captors, for her food, clothing and shelter – until she could escape. The notion smoldered inside her. Escape. But Sister Mary Elizabeth was right about some things. It would be impossible to walk out of the convent. She would have to plan an escape, carefully and intelligently, waiting for the right time.” (p57, Kensington Books, 2017)

I enjoyed this well-written novel from start to finish. A story of friendship between three girls is woven into the historical facts of this time period. I kept hoping that Teagan, Nora and Lea would survive their experiences. And kept thinking that I am thankful not to be living in the 1960s in Dublin as a Catholic girl. Reading this novel informed me a little more about the Magdalen laundries in Ireland as well as giving many hours of reading enjoyment. If historical fiction is your preferred read, you will enjoy this sincere and compassionate story.

What are you reading this week? Feel free to share a few sentences from the book in the comments. 

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2016

(This post is linked to Ambrosia’s Teaser Tuesdays at The Purple Booker)

Adding Windows

As I look through my living room windows, I cannot help but see the windows that are being added daily to my neighbourhood.

Adding Windows. © Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

At this rate, the little sky that I do see will be blocked by new homes.

Are any windows being added to your neighbourhood?

mergeyes_widget© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This week Paula, over at Lost in Translation, suggests we post a photo on the theme windows for her Black & White Sunday challenge)

A Shred of Hope

Photo prompt © Karuna

The unearthed toys meant she’d been there. But her body had not been found. Surely that meant she was alive? The night she had been taken from her bed, her favourite playthings went missing as well. I always imagined them comforting her, reminding her of home, giving her hope. My beautiful curly-haired daughter. A sob escaped me from deep inside. We had to find her, we had to! Bob’s arms pulled me to his chest. “It’s not over yet. We will find our little girl.” But it was already too late. She had been sold to the highest bidder.

friday-fictioneers-badge© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle. The challenge asks for bloggers to write a story in 100 words or less in response to the photo prompt.)

Blue Jays Swag

Last week was spirit day at school. The theme? Wear a sports shirt – preferably one showing your favourite team. I was not at all surprised when one of my students wore his Blue Jays t-shirt. He loves playing baseball, and has been to a number of their games here in Toronto. He did not, however, wear only a t-shirt but had some added swag.

Blue Jays Swag © Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

His enthusiasm for his team made me smile – especially as he is a quiet boy who does not say much.

What has made you smile this week?

Weekly Smile #WeeklySmile© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post was inspired by Trent’s Weekly Smile, a challenge which focuses on sharing all things positive.)

Weekend Coffee Share: A Fulfilling Week

Weekend Coffee Share | Nerd in the Brain (4)Good morning to you and welcome. A cup of something warm would be appreciated as it is still a little chilly outside. Afternoons are warming up and some brave people – and many children – are going outside in their short sleeves.

The past week has been busy and yet fulfilling. I am getting everything ready so that I can put a final mark next to the work my students have done during the second half of the year. I have read with most of them, given them their final writing “test’, and organised all their work. In the upcoming week I shall listen to them speak with a view of giving them a mark, and complete the final Science activity for the report card. I am hoping by the end of next week to have all of the marks recorded so that on Friday (the PA day set aside for reporting), I can complete my report cards. If everything is in place and I focus, I know that I can do it!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I tried a new activity with my students during the past week and it worked very well. For our inquiry on animals, I took out non-fiction books on a range of creatures from our school library. I asked the children to choose a book to do research on an animal of their choice. With the help of sentence starters, they took down notes to record the information they had found. With this information, they wrote a paragraph which I then corrected.

Researching Animals © Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

The fun part of the activity was when the children worked on their neat copy. They typed their paragraph into an app using the iPad. I had previously taught them how to use Piccollage and many of them were able to work independently.

They chose their background, font, and searched on the Web for appropriate pictures. I enjoyed reading their final copies as much as they enjoyed making them.

Next week, we will move onto the life cycles of animals. Once again, children will be researching their animal as well as using the iPad. But that story will be told next week.

Today the sun is shining and the skies are a beautiful pale blue. I am going out now to buy some groceries, pop into the library, and then go to my Zumba class. I look forward to the rest of my day (which will include some time relaxing and reading). May you have a wonderful day too.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post is linked to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Nerd in the Brain)

Grateful for Report Card Collaboration

It is currently report card “season” as teachers begin to complete the assessment of students for the term, and work on generating the sheets of paper that will be sent home at the end of the school year. As always, this time begins with the decision on what comments to use in the report card that will encapsulate the learning that has taken place in the classroom.

Currently I am thankful for the people that I work with. Together we are working on creating appropriate and relevant comments that reflect the programme we have taught this year. Next week will see us working together to determine the levels of our students’ French writing. As we refine our comments and determine the level of our students’ work, I am grateful to have colleagues this year with whom I can collaborate.

What have you been grateful for this week? Share your post in the comments below.

Processed with RookieLast week:

Laura was grateful for end of school

Lavendar Ladi was grateful a few busy weeks

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

SoCS: Smells

Smells are an integral part of our lives, aren’t they? Think about the smells we experience each day. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee; the scent of orange zest as you peel away the skin from the flesh. The smell of rain as the water pounds the earth; the bouquet of blossoms on newly-leaved trees.

Smell helps to form part of our memories too. Whenever I catch the whiff of Old Spice after shave, I think of my dad. I see in my mind’s eye his smile and hear his voice. I think back to the times we went out as a family while I was growing up. I think of family get-togethers, and the sense of fun many of these gatherings had. I remember laughter, eating, and plenty of dancing and singing.

Smells make us think of the not so good times as well. I remember the feeling of nausea certain smells would encourage when I was pregnant. Smells that meant nothing before the changes my body was experiencing. Walking past dumpsters do not always encourage pleasant memories. I remember a few years back when the city workers were on strike. The stench of refuse filled the air in many places. It was a hot summer and I could not wait for an agreement to be reached between the city and the workers’ union.

Yes, smells are an integral part of our lives. And right now the delicious smell of roast chicken is permeating the air. I think we will enjoy our dinner tonight!

What are your favourite smells? And what memories do they hold for you?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post is linked to Stream of Consciousness SaturdayThe prompt is: smell)

Measuring Area

One of the activities at the Math centre this week in my classroom was all about area. How do you introduce area to 6-8 year olds? The grade 1 and 2 curriculum encourages teachers to introduce their students to this concept using non-standard units; that is, blocks and other manipulatives. I have found that the children enjoy this activity (which they do in pairs) and eagerly measure the surface of books, their journal, the seat of a chair, and a book shelf.

A few surfaces are covered by many blocks and the children need to work out some strategies to count up to large numbers. This necessity leads to one of those moments when the grade 2 partner helps the grade 1 student  The students’ collaboration often leads to both grades understanding the basics of area and measuring it.

Which photo do you prefer? The colour? Or the black and white?

mergeyes_widget© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This week Paula, over at Lost in Translation, suggests we post our photo today in both colour and in black & white for her Black & White Sunday challenge)

Weekend Coffee Share: A Short and Busy Week

Weekend Coffee Share | Nerd in the Brain (4)Good morning to you, and welcome! It has been a couple of weeks since we last spoke. I know that last weekend I was a little anti-social – I enclosed myself at home over the long weekend, avoided any type of social media and spent quite a time of time reading on the sofa. In between Zumba, household chores, and cooking dinner for my family I read The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond and The Affair by Amanda Brooke. I enjoyed the stories by both novelists – so much so that I have searched in the library catalogue for more of their novels.

While the long weekend was relaxing, the short week was busy as I tried to fit as much as I could into four days. Added to this, our school concert was this past Thursday. The group I had worked with was ready to perform and my task on the night of the concert was to supervise them. I am glad that the concert is over. Now I can focus on completing my assessment and getting the report cards ready for mid-June.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the temperatures are a little warmer – and I am glad for it. It is not hot and humid yet and I am enjoying the in between temperatures of Spring. It does not usually last very long and soon, I am sure, everyone will be complaining about the heat! The warmer weather has made the kids fidgety and it is difficult to get them to focus when the sun is beckoning them to play outside. What I have to do is focus on creating interesting activities that will keep them motivated to work.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am still enjoying the flowers that I received for Mother’s Day. The reason why I enjoy potted plants more than cut flowers is that they last so much longer. I am looking at them right now as I am writing this, and they bring a smile to my face.

I do not have to much news to tell you this week – hopefully next week will be different. Have a wonderful weekend and a fulfilling week.

What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017

(This post is linked to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Nerd in the Brain)

Grateful for Lazy Days

This past weekend was a long weekend for those of us who live in Canada as Monday was a public holiday. Even though the weather wasn’t perfect (grey, gloomy and rainy), I spent a wonderful weekend. My three days consisted of Zumba, chores, family time and reading – plenty of it! I curled up on the sofa and read a couple of books I had taken out of the library on Saturday.

Going back to work yesterday, the relaxation of the weekend seemed a thing of the past – and too short. Crunch time is now on as we begin working on report cards. This week is filled with preparations for the school concert (which will be on Thursday evening) in between talking about our students’ assessment.

I am grateful this week that I had the chance for a weekend of relaxation before one of the busiest times of the year. Now it is full steam ahead until the year end.

What have you been grateful for this week? Share your post in the comments below.

Processed with RookieLast week:

Laura was grateful for ice-cream

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2017