This is your teacher brain…

Yesterday, I was a part of a tabletop crisis situation simulation at school. A situation was given and then the admin team walked through what they would do as the situation unfolded. Local police officers were there as part of the discussion to provide feedback. They said many times that there was no right or wrong answer, and that no matter how prepared one thinks they will be for a potential situation, the actual event will be chaotic and unpredictable.

I’ve been through crisis training a couple of times now, being told what to do in the case of a fire, a tornado, or a lockdown. Fire drills are done so often at school, they become second nature. In fact, one police officer said that in the event of a lockdown, teachers usually know they are supposed to ignore fire alarms but that it is so ingrained in us, our instinct is to evacuate as soon as we hear that alarm. Despite the training I’ve received, there were things I learned yesterday that I wish I had known earlier. One is that in the event of a lockdown, if someone knocks on the door and says they are the police and to open the door, do not do it. Our local police have master keys that will allow them to enter the room. (This is our county. I can’t say that all counties are coordinated.) Another was that when they do come in, everyone needs to put their hands in the air so the police know that no one is a threat in that room. It makes sense, but that is not something I’ve ever been told.

This all made me think about all the things educators have to keep track of on a daily basis. I stumbled upon this illustration today that gives a visual of just some of those things. On top of all these daily things, they must remember what they must do in the event of an emergency, whether that emergency is a seizure, anaphylactic shock, earthquake, or a lockdown. It made me think of that old anti-drug PSA. “This is your teacher brain. This is your teacher brain in an emergency.”

I hope I’m never in a situation that requires me to recall these things, but I am grateful for any preparation training I can get. I wish all educators had the opportunity to experience a tabletop simulation through like I did yesterday.

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Fairfax County Needs Librarians!

It’s been a year since I last wrote a blog post, and I am breaking my silence for an issue that means a lot to me.

If you live in the Northern Virginia area, specifically Fairfax County, you may or may not be aware about changes that have been proposed to our county library system. These are potential major changes; originally it was planned to pilot said changes without any input from county residents. Granted, being a librarian, I am biased about the changes, but as a citizen, I am angry that I was not given an open opportunity to provide input.

First, you should know some facts about our libraries, provided by Fairfax, for those people who claim we don’t need libraries anymore, thanks to the internet:

  • Our system is pretty big. We have eight regional libraries, 14 community libraries, Access Services for people with disabilities, Fairfax County Archives, Public Services Support, and Library Administration. The number of locations we have access to dwarfs the neighboring counties of Arlington, Loudoun, and Prince William. For those Fairfax families who cannot afford the internet in their home (they exist!), they should have a library fairly close by.
  • In 2012, Fairfax had over 5.2 million visits to its branches. I cannot find any visit statistics for Arlington, but Loudoun had 1.7 million visits, and Prince William had 1.3. Obviously, our library locations in Fairfax are greatly depended upon.
  • Not all of those visits are just for internet access. In 2013, 13 million items were loaned out by Fairfax libraries. 13 million! Loudoun residents only checked out 6.4 million, and even less in Prince William with 3.7 million.

You can consult those fact pages for further information on specific levels of services provided to children and the elderly, electronic services, and work towards early literacy and English language learners. I’m not giving these statistics to make our neighboring county libraries look bad. I just want people to be aware of how much our county residents depend on our libraries.

There are proposals involving cutting positions, but the change that concerns me is to make it optional to have a masters in library/information science. To quote the Annandale, VA blog, “A new service model is in the works to focus on basic assistance rather than professional-level research for patrons.” By completing a masters program in library and/or information services, librarians know how to find information that the regular person might not. At school, my student aides can help a patron learn how to use the library catalog, but when the search for a subject like recombinant DNA is unsuccessful, the librarian will know the resources – both books and electronic databases – that will have that information. We can also do a reference interview to focus on what exactly the patron needs to know about recombinant DNA. The library secretary I worked with recently was someone who wanted to help the students, but when she couldn’t find something, she would send the students away thinking the school library did not have what they needed. Teachers in the school began to tell students to specifically ask to speak to me or our other librarian because they knew we were the information experts, not the library secretary. Yet, Fairfax library is thinking about not prioritizing the access to information experts for their patrons. The knowledge lost by not having that master degree would have a huge effect on the books purchased, the programs for your kids.

By having staff fill the dual role of reference and circulation, you may find yourself waiting in long lines to ask for research help while the person at the desk helps check books out, answers the phone, provides direction to the bathroom, and signs children up for the summer reading program. You might bring your children to a program that is led by someone who hates kids. That will be a positive experience for all involved!

You can read more about this at the Fairfax Times in an article published yesterday.

You can sign the petition against these changes.

The next board meeting is scheduled for September 11th at my own local branch, and I plan to attend.

Do you care about the libraries in Fairfax county? Add your name to the petition and spread the word!

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YALSA Teen Book Finder App

Have you downloaded the YALSA Teen Book Finder app? If you have, don’t you love it? If you haven’t, why not? It’s FREE, which is always nice! I’ve requested that we install it on my school’s iPads. I’m having to wait for the Droid version. This YALSA page can tell you more about it. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to read YA fiction, or anyone that has a teen in their life.

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WrestleMania Reading Challenge 2012

Have you signed your library up for the 2012 WrestleMania Reading Challenge? If not, get on that! It’s free, and you receive posters, bookmarks, other giveaways, and a support kit. It is an easy program to use to reach some teens who might not be on your radar. You must register by July 31st, so you don’t have much time left. Get going!

WWE also has a page about the Reading Challenge that you can reference to promote it to your teens.

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Hello Again and a Photo Friday

Geez, my poor blog definitely suffers when life gets busy. I haven’t even posted my list of favorite books from 2011! I’m really going to try to catch up on some reviews over the next two months. I’ve read some fantastic books that I want to share, like The FitzOsbornes At War by Michelle Cooper and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

It will be a busy summer. I just began my official term as YALSA’s Board Fellow. I’m spending time reading through board documents and learning the ropes. I am taking a class through Longwood University called “The Joy of Reading.” I will be attending Longwood’s Summer Literacy Institute; guests will include Kelly Gallagher, Maggie Stiefvater, and Kathryn Erskine. A few days later, I will also be attending VAASL’s Breathing Fresh AIR: Assesment, Inquiry, and Rigor with Kristin Fontichiaro. Are you attending any of these things? Let me know!

Somewhere in there, I hope to visit my parents and I have a beach trip planned. The beach will be much-needed after all this professional development!

We also had this happen in our master bath:

We realized how poorly the whole room was put together, so now we are re-doing the whole bathroom. Thank goodness – I’ve never liked that grey and maroon tile.

As I said, it’ll be a busy summer – and I go back to work in a little over a month! But I hope to catch up on some blogging and reading.

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Hopefully the only thing I will say related to this ruckus

Because my internet time has been limited recently, I’ve only been vaguely aware of the latest blogging ruckus. I consider myself so much on the fringes of book blogging that I felt like adding any words to the discussion was unnecessary. Plagiarism is bad – end of story.

But then on Twitter, Michelle at Galleysmith linked to this post at Book Reviews and English News which was the first time I felt compelled to say anything, and it is not even about the plagiarism controversy. I don’t care for the bloggers the author is referring to (and frankly agree with a lot of her thoughts in her other post), but I don’t think the bloggers have that much power. I also took issue with her reference to YA history. I know that it was far from the main point of her post, but I think it makes her argument weak. I posted a comment on the post, but also decided to post it on my own blog, too. Not because I think anyone cares what I have to say about it, just because I want to own my words here.

I think you attribute more power than these bloggers actually have. They are a small percentage of book buyers and I don’t think the publishers listen only to them. Publishers also listen to the teen readers and the adults in their lives. When I talk to publishers at conferences, they are much more interested in hearing what my students want to read than in how many hits my blog gets. YALSA sponsors teen book groups that get ARCs for the teens to read, the teens give feedback, and the publishers really listen to what they say. I think that small percentage of bloggers you refer to really just read each other. Publishers have started to be selective with their freebies and I have been told by people in the industry that it is partially in reaction to these greedy types.

I do think that when it comes to marketing and cover design, it’s easy for the publishers to fall back on the “pretty girl in a pretty dress” cop-out that certain bloggers fawn over. “Where She Went” is a book that I can get lots of guys interested in reading because it is from the guy POV, but once they see the cover they shut down. I wish publishers would save the girl covers for the books they are fit for like Anna Godberson’s books, and get creative for the rest. I think a lot of that, though, isn’t blogger influence; it’s laziness.

I think some of your argument also ignores history. As far as adult women going gaga for teen boys, I remember lots of older screaming women at my 1st New Kids on the Block concert in 1989. Not all of those boys were adults yet, but that didn’t stop the lust. These certain bloggers lusting after fictional boys are nothing new.

You also ignore a certain amount of publishing history when it comes to YA. I really think “Catcher in the Rye” is classic YA, and S.E. Hinton is still loved by teens. Walter Dean Myers continues to publish and be loved. In my teens, I never read RL Stein, but I loved Blume’s “Forever” and gobbled up every Norma Klein I could get my hands on. Klein’s YA was published in the 70s and 80s and addressed some racy topics for teen readers. Rowling didn’t invent YA, and I think the argument can be made that the first couple Harry Potters are NOT YA.

It’s possible that because you were “expected” to read the classics that you never discovered the YA that was out there. I know some of the English teachers I work with now also turn their noses up at YA today and are horrified that teens would rather read about Katniss than Catherine and Heathcliff.

I also don’t think it’s fair for you to claim that YA is lacking in variety. Yes, when you browse the book store shelves, it does seem like it’s all girly stuff. Yes, I always wish I could see more options (along with more people of color). But I keep a lot of my male readers happy with John Green, Paul Volponi, Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld, Patrick Ness, Jack Heath, James Dashner, Michael Grant, Ned Vizzini – just to name a few. I cannot keep Alexander Smith Gordon’s Lockdown series on the shelves. The male/female Hungers Games readers in my library are equal.

Yes, I am a female blogger who tends to write about books, but I don’t identify with the bloggers you refer to. I have experienced a certain amount of schadenfreude watching this whole dust-up. (My theory is that some of the members of this “blogger clique” you refer to are the same people who attend conferences like ALA and behave like monkeys: grabbing multiple copies of ARCs, knocking over publisher displays and sometimes even the publishers themselves in their haste to be greedy.) I know the main point of your post is to wish for variety in YA publishing, but I think you use several weak arguments to make that point, so I couldn’t help but voice my opinion. 

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A One-Dog Household Again

The good news: nobody died.

The bad news: After a year and a half of being best friends, Nia and Brinkley can no longer live together. The short version of the story is that Nia developed an aggressive streak that she was taking out on Brinkley.

A little longer version: We think it stemmed from the dog next door. Our two dogs run up and down the fence, barking with the German shepherd next door. It is something we have tried to discourage, using a schedule of when our dogs will be out and when their dog will, but schedules are never perfect. One day, Nia was watching said dog in its backyard, quietly woofing. Brink jumped up to see what she was watching and she attacked him, grabbing his skin around the bottom of his neck/top of his shoulders and would not let go. She would viciously shake her head, which I know is a move dog instinctively use to kill. My husband wasn’t home and it took me a minute or two to get her to let go. I put them in separate rooms and inspected Brinkley. He had some open wounds but seemed more scared of the incident than hurt.

We hoped it would be a one-time thing, but it continued. We could go several days to a week without any fighting, and in the meantime they’d act almost as if nothing ever happened. Brinkley was wary of Nia, but she would be submissive to him and they would play and even cuddle. Suddenly, her posture would change, she would stare at Brinkley, and then go after him. We wouldn’t leave them together unsupervised, and could often catch her before she made contact. Once contact was made however, it was a feat of strength to get her off him.

We had her tested for several health concerns that can trigger aggression, but she was healthy. We met with a behaviorist with no success. She did theorize that it is redirected aggression, which comes up when something is frustrating a dog, getting it worked up, but the dog cannot go after the frustration so it turns on the closest option. She remained submissive to us, but when she was focused on him, it was like the rest of the world faded to black. Food didn’t work. The vet suggested dumping water on her, but then just resulted in a wet dog fight.

Gradually, the fighting became more frequent. Brinkley initially would just run away from her, but started to try to defend himself. Everyone suffered injuries. We finally said enough is enough and Nia now lives with my in-laws. She’s perfectly behaved as the solo dog there, and my in-laws love her and dote on her.

The stress of the constant vigil was terrible. It preoccupied our lives, having to always be on guard. February and March are just a blur. I miss her, but I don’t miss that threat. Brinkley has recovered. Some of his injuries became infected for a while, but those are healing. Happy to be coming home from the vet:

Right after that, he suffered an unrelated nail injury, which required surgery, a cone, a foot bandage, and more medicine. The people at the vet all know Brinkley quite well, and my voice is recognized when I call in. I’m hoping the rest of 2012 involves less vet visits.

So we’re a one dog house again. The good thing is we can see Nia whenever we visit my in-laws. She no longer feels like my dog, which is good. I just feel fortunate that we all survived and I still have Sir Brinksalot.

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