Why is broken okay?

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In my school (and also in the four other schools in my district), the Internet has been going down regularly for four weeks. Every day (except for one lucky and glorious day) for these past weeks, the Internet has been down more than it’s been up. Things that are housed on our own servers (such as internal email and thankfully Destiny, our library management system) have stayed functional most of the time. The wifi, though, is down most of the time. Did I mention that we’re a 1:1 school? For weeks, our students have been carrying around their laptops, hoping they might work for a very short time during the course of the day.

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Those of you in schools can imagine the chaos this creates in learning, teaching, planning, collaborating, grading, communicating, and every other aspect of school life. Those of you not in the field of education are probably scratching your heads, thinking, “How is this even possible?” In the corporate world, this would not happen. Plain and simple. I’m married to an IT guy, and I know that if this happened in his office, he would have been out of a job weeks ago. The company would have immediately done whatever it took, brought in outside resources to fix things, and return to business as usual.

Why is it okay in education? Why is it okay for our students and our teachers? We are constantly hearing stories about terrible conditions in schools, about lack of funding and lack of resources. We’re also seeing great teachers leave the profession because of the conditions, the frustrations, the general lack of respect — and you honestly can’t blame them. Obviously, I don’t have the solution, but something’s got to give. Unfortunately, I can’t even get an answer as to why our Internet keeps going down after four weeks. And it’s really not okay.

The Sting of Rejection

I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this post. I don’t want to come across as a complainer…I am incredibly blessed to have a career I love, and I feel that my hard work and commitment to my profession has paid off tremendously in the past few years. We all go through slumps at some point, and I feel like I’ve been having one these past few months. As I reflect on what it feels like to not have the success that I’m always striving for, I think about what it feels like for our students. When you try so hard, give something everything you’ve got, and then come up short, it’s hard to stay positive.

Often as educators, we don’t put ourselves out there and apply for grants/awards/etc. because we might not get it. And when you don’t, it stinks! It hurts! It’s upsetting!

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This year, we submitted our entry for the Follett Challenge and worked our tails off to promote our entry. We were so close! If we had been just a few spots higher in the voting, we would have won something. But we didn’t. I gave it my all, but that wasn’t enough in this case. We put together a great video and it was great publicity for our library program, but that doesn’t help with the sting of not winning. This was our second time entering the Follett Challenge.

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My best friend (who is also an ELA teacher at my school) and I wrote a Fund for Teachers grant this year. For almost two months, we stayed after school for 30-60 minutes most days of the week to research and write our grant. We put so much time, effort, and energy into writing this and were so pleased with what we submitted. We wrote this grant because we got an email about the seven submissions that were funded from our state the previous year, and they were seeking more entries from our area. We were very hopeful and anxiously awaited the email that would let us know if we were funded. Alaina and I travel together every summer and were excited about the opportunity to travel and put together an awesome cross-curricular unit with the help of this grant. We didn’t make other travel plans for this summer, because we knew if we got the grant we wouldn’t be taking another trip. When we got this rejection letter and found out that only two projects were funded from our state, we were heartbroken.

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Last year, I was selected as one of ISTE’s 2014 Emerging Leaders…an incredible honor. I thought I would apply one last time (this was my third year applying) for the Outstanding Young Educator award. I’ve been very involved with the Librarians Network with ISTE for years. Our group is large and very active, so I really wanted to see a librarian recognized for one of ISTE’s big awards. Even when you aren’t surprised or devastated by a rejection, it still doesn’t feel great.

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This one stings the most! Two years ago in Hartford at AASL, was part of four awesome, packed out presentations. It was overwhelming to do so many presentations at a big conference, so I only submitted one proposal for AASL in Columbus. I thought it was a great session proposal and it included some of my library friends that I love and respect the most in our TL community. I’m so disappointed that I won’t be presenting in Columbus this fall. AASL is my absolute favorite conference and speaking is one of my favorite things to do (especially with a group of other awesome library leaders), and I’m beyond bummed that it won’t be happening this year.

I think it’s important to be thoughtful and reflective at a time when pushing on and dusting yourself off just doesn’t feel so easy. At times like this, do I feel like I want to back off a bit and quit trying so hard? You bet I do. But what kind of example does that set for my students? How many of them feel like this all the time? They try so hard, put in their best effort, but they still fall short. How can we encourage those students to keep trying? So while I’ve experienced this feeling of not quite making it several times in the past few months, I’m trying to use it to gain some perspective. Relate this experience to my students so I can better connect with and encourage them. And most importantly…I’m going to keep trying and putting myself out there because that’s what I want them to do.

 

Nesting

So I’ve survived my first official week as a middle school librarian!

This was exam week at my school, so there wasn’t too much activity in the library. I’m anxious to start working with and getting to know the students, but it really was nice for me to have a quiet week to finish my “nesting.” I also had some time to really explore some of the features of Destiny that I haven’t used before. I discovered Destiny Quest, which has an awesome interface and allows students to not only search the library collection, but to read and write reviews, recommend books to friends, and put books on hold. I am really looking forward to sharing this resource with my students and teaching them to use all of the cool features. Definitely more to come on this!

I thought that the library needed some fun puzzles that the students would enjoy. My mom gave me these two for Christmas:

At first the kids just kind of stood there and looked at them. Which of course cracked me up. I guess they thought I’d put puzzles out on the circulation desk just to tease them? They obviously don’t know me yet! So after I talked a few of them into giving it a shot, they became quite popular and I even had a few come in during lunch to give these puzzles a try.

I also got a Diary of a Wimpy Kid jigsaw puzzle. I found this cool felt mat that came with a tube and straps so I can roll it up without messing up the puzzle if I need to. After the reluctance to try the maze puzzles, I had my library workers get this one started. A few kids that came in during lunch also tried this one out. I think this is going to be a hit!

I’ve been toying with the idea of shelving fiction by genre once we get into the new library. Regardless of if I do that or not, I knew I wanted to at least tag the books by genre so the students could browse the shelves for genres more easily. I ordered color-tinted label protectors and have started tagging the books:

Orange – Series

Light Blue – Realistic Fiction

Dark Blue – Sports

Pink – Romance

Yellow – Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Green – Mystery/Suspense/Horror

I’m also thinking I need to add a color for historical fiction, and maybe one for classics. I think the series tags are going to be particularly useful for students.

This is also giving me a chance to get to know the collection and do some weeding. The librarian before me did a lot of weeding, but there’s still so much that I just don’t see as anything the students would want to check out. Plus there are some titles that we have with serious multiple copy overkill. I knew my elementary school collection so well, there were few times that I even needed to use the catalog. Although this collection is much bigger, I know I won’t be happy until I’m extremely familiar with it. Which is why I’ve decided to take on this project right away.

We’re off on Monday, but we’ll kick of the new semester on Tuesday with LYRCA (our state book award) voting! It’s an event I love, giving students the opportunity to vote on real voting machines. We have about 140 students participating. So I’m looking forward to another great week!

My Week in Transition

This was an exhausting, emotionally draining week for me. The retiring middle school librarian had a substitute this week in the library, but she did spend a bit of time early in the week cleaning out and packing up. My replacement at the elementary library started on Monday. I spent the week in limbo — mornings at the middle school and afternoons at the elementary school. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do this. It allowed me the chance to tie up my loose ends at the elementary school and get myself situated at the middle school.

Being the techno-geek that I am, I made some changes to scheduling and morning routines at the middle school by infusing technology. I went crazy with the Google forms and I’m loving it! Mornings at the CMS library are very busy. Thankfully, there are several awesome teachers who have library duty to help out. Not only do students flock in to study, use the computers or printer/copier, return/check-out books, etc. but the library also takes care of selling temporary and replacement ID cards. These forms are now being used for students to sign in:

The ID Business form has been especially successful since the ID station is in the computer lab and the spreadsheet can be pulled up at that station so the names pop up as they are entered.

I went round and round trying to decide how I wanted to do scheduling. I needed to keep up with scheduling for the main area of the library, library lab, and 4 mobile labs available for check-out. Nan from Rhinelander High School shared her format for digital scheduling, and I loved it! You can check out here site here. So I took her idea and ran with it:

You can go here to see my live form with the Google calendars below. I think once the teachers get used to filling out the form, they’ll really like the ability to schedule whenever they want from where ever they are. I’m going to be looking to drum up some business and do some collaborative projects. Exciting times ahead!

As tough as this week was, I really felt the love at both schools. CMS is very happy to have me back and they have made me feel so welcome. TES let me know how much I’ll be missed, which really made me feel good and made it hard to leave at the same time.

So here’s to the next phase of my library career! I can’t wait to see what it holds.

Middle School, here I come!

BEWARE: This post is basically my excitement bubbling over…side-bar notes in (parenthesis) and exclamations !!! are abundant.

It’s been a busy week decorating and snazzing things up at my new (to me, it’s really old and smelly) middle school library! When this opportunity first came about, I wasn’t planning on making any changes since we’re (supposed to be) moving into a brand new school (HOLLA!) for January 2012. The building that we are currently in is ancient, falling apart, and pretty much full of asbestos and mold. (In fact, it is the middle school that I attended in 6-8 grades. I was even a student library worker there, so this is really like coming home.) Since the school is so icky and old, plans for a new school have been in the works for a while and it’s FINALLY coming to fruition.

So despite the fact that we’ll be moving to a new school in the very near future, I couldn’t keep myself from doing a little sprucing up. I mean, I’m going to be spending the majority of my waking hours there. Most of the things can come with us to the new school. And I went with trendy — zebra print, bright blue, neon green, and pink. So do ya wanna see it?? Here are some pictures:

The wood on the front of the circulation desk had seen better days (and those days were long ago), so we covered it with this cute green fabric. Spray adhesive is AWESOME! We also added some little circle mirrors from Hobby Lobby. And of course, I had to put up my favorite Go!Animate characters who will be appearing in lots of videos…I’ll be able to change their word bubbles frequently.

There were some pictures and columns already in the library. We spray painted the frames and columns. The zebra in the picture is fabric and the letters I cut out from scrapbook paper. I think this came out SO CUTE! 🙂

We stenciled some great quotes about books and reading:

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” -Richard Steele

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” -Margaret Fuller

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” -Earnest Hemingway

“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.” -H.W. Beecher

“Books can be dangerous. Some should be labeled: ‘This could change your life.'” -Helen Exley

Quite a few hours went into the stenciling, and I REALLY appreciate all of the help from my mom and friend BJ. They are the best volunteers I have (not just to this, but for everything) and I am so thankful for everything they do.

And those curtains are really shower curtains that I found on sale at Big Lots — SCORE!

There was a cheesy poster (sorry, Marie) to mark the Student Publication Center, so we stenciled there, too.

I’m really proud of myself for putting together the great zebra chair my mom got for me! And the lamp…isn’t it groovy?

I’m so excited and ready to get back to school and see the reactions from students and teachers. Hope the reaction is a good one! I know that they will miss the retiring librarian. She’s one of my mentors and a wonderfully sweet, patient, and compassionate woman. They’ll be getting something a little bit different with me (HA!) but I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store.

If you are impressed with my (and mom’s) mad decorating skillz, leave me some love (as in a comment)!

A different kind of reflection.

While completing my undergrad program, I hated writing reflections. We were forced to “reflect” on everything, meaning we wrote a page or two of complete and total bull in order to appease our professors. Upon graduation, I looked forward to no longer having to “reflect.” My crew even put a snide reflection comment on our graduation t-shirts. Yet here I am, well over a year into writing this blog, and I am reflecting on my practices at least once a week. I do this because my internalized reflections are so constant that I need to put them into writing on a regular basis.

Lots of my favorite bloggers are writing posts in which they reflect on the past year and look forward to 2011. At this point, that would be very difficult for me to do because there is so much impending change with the start of the new year. So please excuse these scattered and possibly random ramblings.

First of all, I really wish I was one of those rock star bloggers who craft these really moving, thought provoking posts that really push your thinking. But I don’t, and honestly think that this point I can’t. I’m still in the infant stage of my career — I’m 25 years old and in my third year of librarianship, for crying out loud! I’m still a kid, geez. And I’m completely proud of what I accomplished in my 2.5 years at my fabulous elementary school. I may not have done things that genuinely flow with or push the limits of the changing shape of our profession, but I can honestly say that I built a pretty strong program that served my kiddos and fulfilled their reading needs. It’s something to be proud of, and I am.

The time to reflect on and appreciate my time spent with 2nd and 3rd graders was very brief. I’ve been in a frenzy of brainstorming and planning for my new middle school library position. I am very hopeful that this position will give me the opportunity to push my limits and become the change agent that I dream of being. But for now, I have to start with baby steps to make changes to the program so I can make it my own. Looking forward, I’m so unbelievably excited about the opportunities and challenges that await.

Even though this end of the year reflection is different, scattered, short, and a probably incomplete, it is an accurate representation of the place where I am at this moment in time. And isn’t that basically what a reflection should be?

Making Plans

So I’ve basically been incoherent lately with SO MUCH going on inside my head with this upcoming move.

I really enjoyed myself these last two weeks as an elementary school librarian, having fun with my students and coworkers. As I said in my last post, there are so many things I’ll miss.

But moving forward, there is so much that I’m SO EXCITED about! I haven’t done much reading lately because my brain won’t slow down long enough for that. I’ve been working on my new library wiki and making plans. I know I have big shoes to fill — the retiring librarian is amazing and has done so much for CMS. I also know that I’ll be quite different. Where Marie is soft-spoken, composed, and has it together, I’m loud, spastic, and out there. But I hope to bring my strengths to help the CMS library continue to improve and serve students and teachers well. Here are the things I plan to throw myself into immediately:

Share my techno-love! From what I hear, many teachers are looking for new ways to infuse technology to enrich learning experiences for students. I’ll be using a wikispaces page as the library’s website and home that exploring it will show teachers and students that using tech tools is a passion of mine so they will approach me for ideas.

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Move to a digital calendar. The library operates on a completely flex schedule, which I am so totally PSYCHED about. I’ll also be in charge of scheduling checkout for the mobile labs. This is currently done on a paper calendar that gives me anxiety and causes me to hyperventilate. I haven’t decided yet how exactly I’ll do scheduling, but I know it will be different. I’m toying with using the Novell calendar that goes with our email (not a big fan, but it’s what we have), using a Google Calendar, or putting a spreadsheet on the shared drive or Google Docs. If you or anyone you know has experience with scheduling like this, feedback would be majorly appreciated.

CC Liscense Some rights reserved by rmkoske

Categorize books by genre. I’ll be moving into a brand spankin’ new library within the next year or two, and I’m seriously toying with the idea of arranging the fiction section by genre. My first step for this is going to be to label the book using these tined label protectors from Demco:

I’ll definitely be sharing more about this in the future. I’m still hashing out the specifics, but anticipate this to be a very good thing.

I also want to move to self checkout, but that’s not something I’m going to try to tackle right away. And I know that once I get in there I’ll start making even more plans and gain a more realistic perspective on how to implement them. These are exciting days ahead, folks!

Change. And things I’ll miss.

So I haven’t blogged about my move yet. It’s been very emotional for me, even though it’s been in the works for many months. I just wasn’t ready to put it out there onto the Internet (and into reality for me, maybe?) until now. Plus I wanted it to be approved by the School Board and all that formal stuff, which went down a few hours ago.

So on January 10th (my official date) I will no longer be an elementary school librarian. I will be moving to the library at Central Middle. Middle school has always been where my heart is. It’s where I originally taught, and their librarian is now retiring. I was asked to come back and it wasn’t an easy decision for me. I know that in the long run, it’s what I want to do. But it sure is hard to leave the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve put into my library for the last few years. It’s also hard to leave the faculty and the wonderful relationships I have formed. As a librarian, it’s not easy to build working relationships and street cred from teachers, and this year I was finally feeling like I’d gotten to that place. I’m so proud of the elementary school library that has been created (not from scratch, but from a big fat mess) and the program that really TRULY fosters a love of reading. It’s going to be hard for me to let go. But I am so grateful that I’ll be walking into a much more organized library and don’t have to start at the bottom again.

So over the next few weeks and months I’ll be sharing lots of things that excite me about my new opportunities. I’m looking forward to my move to middle school, but there are lots of things that I’ll miss about my little ones. I want to take some time to reflect on the things I love about working in an elementary library. Here are a few of the things I’ll miss most:

1. Precious little smiling faces. Smiles still full of baby teeth. Smiles full of gaps from lost teeth. Smiles that are growing into the ones they will have as adults.

2. Reading beautiful picture books while I have their rapt attention. Especially when we get to that point in a story where they all gasp because they are so completely engrossed in what’s happening.

3. Their innocence. There are always a few who are losing theirs too young, which is heartbreaking. But for the most part they are still so innocent. And that innocence allows them to be so imaginative and throw themselves into whatever they’re doing.

4. Holidays. Every holiday is such an event for them. They require decorations, celebration, holiday themed stories, arts and craft projects, singing, and snacks. This includes birthdays, which are IMMENSELY important when you’ve only had 8 so far in your life.

5. Reading is cool. Books are fun and something to get excited about. And when they take the leap from picture books to chapter books — I love that.

I’m going to miss the teachers and administrators desperately. There are so many great things about the school that can’t even be described unless you’ve worked there. I will always be grateful for the support that I’ve had, particularly from my administration, that has helped shape my professional path. The few years that I’ve been privileged to work with 2nd and 3rd graders alongside so many amazing educators have given me experience and perspective that I will always carry with me. The transition will be bittersweet for me. I am sad to leave such a great crew, but I so look forward to the experiences to come. And I’m going to end here before I start bawling.

Thursday at LACUE

PHEW! It was a busy day at LACUE! The keynote session by Vicki Davis (aka Cool Cat Teacher) was freakin’ awesome. Here are my tweets from the keynote:

It was quite a motivational speech. We all know about the power of being positive and striving to be the change that you want to see, but she really laid it out well. Basically, YOU are the only thing that you can change. Whining and complaining don’t accomplish anything — they just foster more whining and complaining. Instead of harping on what we CAN’T do, focus on the positive and the things that we can do. We all know this to be true, but it’s so easy to lose focus and want to change EVERYTHING at once. Ain’t gonna happen. But doing what’s best for the kids and being proud of what you do can inspire others to change. So I’m now feeling inspired, thanks Vicki!! This keynote totally made me think of my great assistant principal who is always reminding me (and everyone else) of the power of being positive — so here’s to you Mr. Fountain!

My first session was Gadgets by Leslie Fisher. It was pretty much awesome and here are some links she shared that I jotted down to check out later in case you’re interested:

www.eventbrite.com – Manage event invites, guest lists, sign-in sheets

www.rockmelt.com – Social Media based web browser, still in Beta

www.tripit.com – Free planner that compiles all of your travel info

www.evernote.com – Store all of your notes in one place

www.ustream.tv – Record a stream for free

www.mozy.com – Free up to 2gigs of backup

www.istockphoto.com/lesliefisher-offer.php – use this for 15% discount

www.smugmug.com – for photo sharing

She also shared about a bajillion other things, so you should check out her resources on her website www.lesliefisher.com to learn from a pro.

Next, I went to Brian Mull’s presentation on Internet Responsibility. He shared some great points about being smart and aware when it comes to teaching students, teachers, and administrators to consider responsible Internet usage for students. See his wiki at www.brianmull.wikispaces.com. One thing I LOVE that he introduced me to is Jing. I just downloaded it and it’s pretty sweet.

Many other sessions that I will have to revisit and share about later. I’m off to a Tweet-Up and my battery is about to croak. I had to spend a lot of my blogging time taking screenshots of my resources for tomorrow’s presentation — I fear that LaCUE’s Internet access will fail me!

The Plight of the School Librarian

Librarians have it easy. I want your job. All you have to do is sit around and read books all day. It’s not like you really have to do anything in here…

It’s the stigma of the school librarian — that it’s the cushy job and that librarians really don’t do much. I think maybe the stigma is magnified in elementary schools, so correct me if I’m wrong. I know I work my butt off, I’m constantly trying to improve, I’m always willing to do what it takes. I push myself, stress myself out, make myself sick, try to do too much. I try so hard to detach myself from the stigma and prove my worth. I know all of the things I do, how hard I work, how far I go above and beyond. I’m good at what I do, like really freakin’ good. Because it’s my life and it’s what makes me happy. But every now and then (okay, more often than I’d like to admit) someone throws a little comment my way and it deflates me like a balloon.

You mean we aren’t having library ancillary this week? (We’re having the Book Fair, so no.)

Forget the fact that I nearly killed myself last week trying to get everyone’s library books traded in anticipation of Book Fair.

I just feel like it’s never enough. I try so hard to do my job, do it well, and make the teachers’ lives easier. Maybe I’m just being whiney and needy. I know I need to learn to just brush it off and get over it. But I’m not there yet and just needed to vent.

If you’ve overcome this type of frustration and have seen the light, please share your wisdom with me…