Monday, October 22, 2012

The balance beam struggle

Currently I am thinking about balances. We all need balance, in what we eat, how we spend our time,  even how we spend our money. According to my nutritionist, I am NOT balanced and we are working on that. (This means limiting chocolate and carbs, what had been the major staple of my diet.) Right now I am wondering about my library budget, is it in balance? The part of me that craves chocolate says no, more money should be spent on books to support reading for pleasure; while that piece of my brain concerned with 21st century learning says, spend more on online databases and technology. With all the changes in delivery of instruction, technologies are necessary, and can bring student engagement -- but books, with all the stories and people and adventures and mysteries can lift a student up and out of their own lives, bringing perspective and insight. I don't think the school budget dilemma  will be as easily solved as having a doctor (or principal?) tell you what to eat, or spend.  I think we will all be struggling on this balance beam for a while.
Are you feeling the struggle, too?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Riding the whitewater rapids of this school year

Whoo- hoooo! This school year has started with a rush, all good things, of course. Hope yours has as well. One of my primary objectives for the year was to bring more bodies into the media center - success. Students come in as soon as the door is unlocked, "can I  get this printed off before class?" and "will you edit this paper for me?" And even "I need a new book to read, anything new?"  They are there all day and after school, too. It is busy and loud and chaotic and wonderful.the best part, authentic learning is occurring! During the school day there are whole classes coming to research, because I have planned with the teacher, small groups working together, peer tutoring, and more. Over the next few weeks I will share some of the particulars, and ways I hope to begin assessing this learning.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Strategizing the upcoming school year

I have been sitting here watching the women running the 26 mile marathon at the Olympics.  (Yes, I know I should be out there running, walking, or moving with them somehow but that is for another blog entry!)  But listening to the commentators talk about the strategies employed by these runners made me think, how should I be strategizing this school year to come. 
Pacing yourself.  How many of us start the year running then never quite make it to the finish line.  We are excited to try that new reading promotion, or start that new club, but by January we have about given it up.  To keep this feeling of failure away, we need to think long and hard BEFORE beginning a new program; do I really have the time and energy to continue to the finish?  Sketch out the year marking all the places you already have obligations (book fairs, research projects, testing that closes your library) and decide this new project would really be an addition to your program or a drain on your time.
Checking your spot in the pack. The runner out in front does it all alone, there is no help.  The group running a little behind, in a group benefit from it.  There is less pressure from the wind or the crowd, you find support even if it is unspoken.  It helps you stay on the correct pace and heading for that finish line.  I plan to do this through continuous conversation with my peers, other librarians I know are heading in the same direction I am.  We can help each other out, share our thoughts and ideas, provide ourselves with an understanding cheering squad, if you will.
Staying hydrated. OK, how many of us run ragged through the year!  Never taking a sick day, even when we should.  Staying late or going in early to work on one more thing.  Saying yes to whatever we are asked to do.  All of this makes us perfect victims, but not healthy, well rounded professionals.  We need to remember to take a "hydration" break, to recharge, to relax, to reflect.  It could be a mental health day, a mani/pedi, or a day devoted to reading in bed.  Maybe it is a weekend breakfast with friends, but whatever it is we need to take this time to hydrate ourselves so we can finish strong.

What kind of "athlete" are you?  Whether you compare your self to the long jump, the sprinter, or even the synchronized swimmer think about how you plan to do your event this year; plan, strategize, practice, and reflect.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer of Personalized Professional Development

This is a great summer! No, not the hot, hot, hot weather, but all the wonderful opportunities to learn more and engage with folks about what I am interested in.  I have been creating and enjoying my own personalized PD, focusing on those areas I want to, not a district driven expectation.  Don't get me wrong, my district can do good PD, but still ... 
In June I attended ALA in Anaheim, great!  Went to sessions about new databases (yes, I am geeky that way!), listened to publishers talking about what new books would be coming out in the fall, and wandered the vendor hall chatting individually with those businesses I had an interest in.  I also got to meet and talk with my ALSC committee members with whom I will be working for the next two years (Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Children's Videos). I came home with a suitcase full of books, which I am currently reading my way through, and a year's subscription to some ABC-Clio databases. 
In July I was back on the road to the Mazza Institute at the Findlay University (Ohio).  This is a week of illustrators and authors sharing what they do with additional breakout sessions by folks that related to teaching and learning.  (I actually got to hear Mary Higgins Clark, what a hoot! And David Diaz, and Wendell and Florence Minor!)If you don't know about the Mazza Museum, it is an amazing collection of illustrator art and the picture books they came from.  My kind of museum with original art and the artists I know, children's illustrators, and the book the art was from.  Gorgeous, amazing, and wonderful; I love it there! Here is the link to learn more about it:
Also in July I was able to attend a wonderful one day Library Symposium held at Kent State.  I heard Candace Fleming and Shelley Pearsall (maybe I will give historical fiction and biographies a better look this year!) as well as some great sessions of web resources and a wonderful session about new young adult titles.   If you didn't know it before, yes I am a geeky girl who loves to spend her free time learning.  But why not?  I get to talk to people who are interested in the same things I am, I get my professional batteries recharged, and I always come away happy.
This first week of August finds me at another conference, this time it is held at my own high school.  It is an Innovative Learning Conference that has been held for the past few years and is getting larger each time.  Yesterday I heard Will Richardson (twice!), learned some new tips and tricks from the great folks at INFOhio, and co-presented a session myself.  I will be back there today, ready for more fun summer vacation opportunities!
How do you spend your summer vacation?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How I am spending my summer vacation ...

Haven't written for a while, but I have been busy (such a subjective word!).  Off to ALA, which was great! Followed by several weeks of nonstop reading.  Over the next few postings I will share some of the titles that have made an impression on me.  Here are the first two:

The PeculiarThe Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann. Greenwillow, publication date: September 1, 2012.
I picked this advanced reader’s copy up at ALA, what an amazing story from an author who was 16 when he wrote it.  It is fantasy with a capital F, set in a place where an opening was created between two worlds that allowed fae (fairy world creatures) to enter ours.  Alas, this was not a good move for these fae, they are essentially exiled in one town and a child of mixed heritage can be beaten or killed.  This story is about one “boy” Bartholomew and the lengths to which he goes to save his sister from a powerful individual who wants to change the balance of power between fae and human.  A great combo of fantasy, steampunk, and coming of age; all in all I thought this story was great.  It was rough in a few spots, a few parts in the story got confusing and rambling, but not enough to make me put down the book.  I hope this author continues to write, I would love to see what he comes up with next.

Product Details  Ashfall by Mike Mullen.  Tanglewood Publishing, 2011.                                           
One of my guilty pleasures is disaster movies, natural disasters.  So when my local children’s book store owner told me about this book (with a sequel coming soon), I was hooked.  Ashfall is about the consequences of an extreme volcanic eruption in Yellowstone.  Communication is nonexistent, survival is paramount, and finding one’s loved ones is the plan.  This story was one nonstop action ride, at times I found myself literally holding my breath.  This author has a gift of description, the deep drifts of ash that Alex plows through with his face covered so as to not breathe in the deadly ash fall, feeling each of his trials, I was so involved with this book I barely put it down.  I almost think this is the book that will give Hunger Games a run for the money.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday afternoon review

The library is quiet.  In fact, the entire building is quiet.  It is the Friday afternoon that starts the Labor Day weekend, and everyone else hit the door running.  I wanted to wrap up a few more things so they wouldn't haunt me over the weekend, but instead I am sitting here savoring the calm and thinking over the school year.  I walked into this space one year ago, for a meeting with the principal, and I was so nervous.  A hug space, heck - huge students, four times the staff, all new curriculum and literature - how would I ever do it?
I fretted all summer, reading articles and quizzing my high school librarian friends.  All of a sudden, I have a year under my belt.  Would I do some things differently?  Of course.  I am proud of some things I started, yes.  The most important question of all, did I make a difference in the life of a students, I believe so.
Over this weekend, I will be doing a lot of thinking and probably sharing on this site; but for now, I am content, all in all it was a good year.
What are you proud of?  What will you improve next year?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Racing to the end (of the school year)

Well, my seniors are gone. Friday was their last day so things were very busy with everyone returning books and paying fines.  I have stacks of textbooks beginning, what will it look like in two weeks?  I am still working on my end of year report, it keeps getting put to the side with all of these other things that need an immediate response.  I am also in the middle of my fiction reorganization, translated that means a real mess!  My assistant and I are checking the record of every book to be sure it shows where the book will be located, very slow right now, but should pay off big next school year.  My students have been very excited at the idea of books shelved by genre, and many have helped us with the relocation.  I am very pleased with the ownership my kiddoes have taken with the media center!  Change is good, if it is for a purpose, and mine is to continue to construct our learning commons, with students often taking the lead.  They are requesting book titles, using the media center to construct their own learning, teach me about new web sites and technology, and push me to keep up with them.
I hope you are racing to the end of your school year with energy and excitement as well.

Monday, May 07, 2012

It's May already?

Oh my goodness!  I just blinked and its May already.  Time to write that year end report and start inventory.  I would like to do a short but pithy report that will spark the interest of my principal, any ideas? Shall I talk about successful activities, collaborations, circulation?  What would really interest a principal? Or maybe I should use the 4 Cs of the 21st century learning?  Ideas to share?
I have decided to rearrange my fiction in the bookstore style, by subject rather than by author.  I am afraid I am in for quite a mess before it is finished, but for next school year it will be wonderful. 
This has been a year of firsts for me, many new experiences for one who has been in librarianship for more that 20 years -- what will next year bring?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A five year plan?

I'm back from the Virginia Hamilton Multicultural Literature Conference, which was awesome, as usual.  Today I have been reflecting on what I learned.  I was once again reminded at the sheer amount of work it takes to write or illustrate a well-done book.  The planning, research, working, revising that goes into it, then it is sent off and comes back for more of the same.  I think we need to approach our work in managing and promoting the media center the same way; we have take the time to plan -- our day, our week, the school year, and a five  year plan.  These will take research, what are my objectives; evaluate and rebuild a collection?  Move toward a learning commons atmosphere? Build a collaborative teaching environment?  Any of these will take time to plan, enact, revisit and revive.  If we do the prep work and the follow through we should have the data we need to demonstrate the continued need for 21st century media centers.  And, of course, their continued support.
To this end I am spending the rest of the weekend on my year in review, where I will show the media center contribution to the building and district goals, my plans for next year, and a five year plan. 
How do you demonstrate your "well done book?"

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Walking the race!

There are many sprited discussions in my various professional development  places; most of which are debates about our role as school librarians in the whole school program.  Many great points and ideas from all; but for the rest of this year I am going to continue to dogpaddle as best I can!
The plans for our first Battle of the Books are going strong -- a subcommittee from my student advisory board is planning the entire event.  Another subcommittee went with me to the local bookstore to purchase books with the money from a grant received to increase our fiction section.  I have just ordered some gaming style chairs for the fiction section to make a comfortable corner.  On the surface, these things are not as substantial as co-designing units of study, or presenting professional development to the faculty; but I believe that my first order of business as an embedded media specialist is to create a space for teaching and learning that is a place where students want to be. 
Once students begin to feel invested, they will become a force that will help the rest of the program evolve.  Building a repore with teachers is a slow and steady process, done one day at a time.   Continuing to keep a viable, relevent program that meets the needs of faculty, students, and parents is one of those slow and steady races that have an important finish line -- students who become effective 21st century citizens.
What kinds of things do you do to build a learning commons that reflects the needs and wants of your community?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Parent Teacher Night

As you can probably guess from the title of this post, I am sitting in my library during Parent Teacher conferences.  Obviously NOT conferencing with parents.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Should we as teacher-librarians seek out opportunities like this to have more formal talks with parents?  I have had several pleasant conversations with parents who have stopped by, and even more with wayward students wandering the halls, but not of these had educational merit.  I did not have a conversation about learning.    Maybe we should start!  What kind of projects could we collaborate on that would involve students and parents visiting the media center for a true conversation about the learning that occurred?
I don't know about you, but this is something I will be pondering and by the next conference night I will have an authentic reason to be here!!  Please share any ideas you have, and especially if you have had teaching and learning moments you have shared with parents.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happenings at the library ranch!!

Haven't heard from me in a while?  That's because the media center has been crazy busy.  Was it just last September that I wondered whether anyone would use the library in a collaborative manner -- well, let me tell you, times have changed!  I am working with English teachers on a novel unit, with my own group of students I am blogging with (and yes, I am grading my part of the unit), math teachers with whom I have created a PBL unit (so cool, they are creating 21st learning tools) so there are geometry students using all manner of technology and teamwork to create this learning tool, and a marketing plan as well. ELL students are creating book talk videos for our Destiny catalog, and my Student Advisory board is beginning all kinds of projects.  Add to this mix those beloved study hall students who talk about how much they love to be in the media center to work (translation, socialize) because the atmosphere is a happy place -- one period today I had 90+ learners creating that special buzz that comes with active learning!  Happy, crazy days at the library ranch!  I think I am starting to build an authentic learning commons, the variety of  uses of the media center dictates how things are arranged and what type of learning grouping are working.  Students love to stop by the circ desk to talk, make book suggestions, and talk about additions they think would make the library better.   What fun to hear these ideas, and even better when I can implement some of them.
I am trying to catch up on my reading as well, but I have to say it takes a lot longer to read those full length novels than those 32 page picture books!  I have a long list of books to be read, again complements of the students and their passion for sharing!  (Of course, I just added the newest award winners to my list of books to read!)
With all of this activity, am I happy?  Yes.  Satisfied with my media program? No way!  I still need to get teachers to include me in the collaborative planning, integration of technology for 21st century learning, include pre and post assessments that demonstrate growth in these areas, and more!!
Life is good, but it can always get even better!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

New Year, new ways of thinking about media centers!

A new library without books

This is a longish article, but well worth the time to read.  I have been thinking about change, when is it purposeful and prudent, and when is it just following the current trend.  The attached article has definitely given me a lot to ponder; I will be wondering and wandering through ideas about this "new" library space for a while.

What a lot to think about! After 25 years in elementary settings, I am in the secondary (15-18 year olds) for the first time. The media center usage is so different! It's January, and no one has used any of the reference section yet, except for a few dictionaries! Everyone goes directly to databses or the Internet! Because this school level is new to me, I go back to the evaluative resources I know, like the Wilson evaluation, or the evaluation in Follett's Titlewave, when I order materials for the library, but I wonder if "someone" out there is thinking of a  revisioning a model of what the "ideal" media center should contain.  For example, a student came in last week, to find a book about a US state; we did not have any, and I don't plan to order any, the Internet is the logical place to find update information for things like that.  Add in an online encyclopedia, and voila!, instant, current information!  But what about these areas of nonfiction that students read for pleasure -- sports books, leisure activity books, or crafting books?  Or, how many print sources should we maintain to support that teacher who has not yet joined the 21st century's tools for teaching arena?
Curation is a thoughtful, responsive idea, but your faculty needs to embrace it for it to be successful.
It seems as though we, media centers and librarians, are currently caught between two worlds, in which one do you live?  Or, are you like me, a foot in both worlds and tottering at the edge of both.

Next big wonder -- show me the books?!?  There are still students who come to check out physical books for the simple joy of reading, what about them?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Reading, researching, and reflecting, first post of 2012

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions.  As soon as someone, anyone, tells me I can't do something I will try everything in my power to do it.  Hence my love/hate relationships with exercise and weight loss plans.  Yes, I was the one who fasted all day before a weigh in, then celebrated by dinner at DQ!
So why am I embarking on an inquiry into exercise equipment? Is it masochism, or the sad fact that time marches on and my metabolism has sunk into its own depression?  I'll never tell which one, but I am actually researching home gym equipment.  (Maybe I am just honing my research skills?)  Whatever comes of this I am seriously planning my approach to this new year. 

Everyone I follow (PLN guys, not stalking!) seems to be able to organize their reading and reader response so that it is easily available to share with others.  I have accounts for: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Google, Amazon,  and a blog, a wiki, a webpage, and even a Moodle account.  Do I use any of them in a consistent fashion to record my books? Well .......

Therefore, this year I pledge, here for everyone to read and hold me accountable, that I will pick ONE site and use it to catalog and share my reading for 2012!  Feel free to place bets at this time.  So, if anyone reading this has one site in particular that they would like to advocate for as the best site to choose, I would love to hear from you. 

Just in case you do not see the connection between my two thoughts today, high on the list of necessities for my "alleged" exercise tool is a book rack, or an iPod connection so that I can read or listen to books as I "work out."  My personal theme for this year is Enriching the Body and Mind, so I will be reading about topics of professional interest as well as for pure enjoyment.  Suggestions?

  I just read the article (thanks for the post, Kristin) which in turn caused me to check out what Finland thinks about its school libraries.  Turns out, not so much, which now requires further reflection.  Read the article above, then read "The Role of the Principal in an Information Literate School Community: An International Panel?
After you read and reflect (while exercising, perhaps?)  I would love to read your thoughts and  comments about this interesting educational thread.
And by the way, Happy New Year!