Tag Archives: work life

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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What’s your number?

I’m # 6,502 to sign the petition asking the Obama administration to ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.

An effective program should include highly qualified staff, and equitable access to resources that support and further develop learning in and outside of the classroom. This should result in a variety of resources: databases, internet access, tech tools to support projects as basic as word processing or more complex like editing a film or creating a robot. Magazines and periodicals that support classroom learning and student interests, and books in a variety of formats: fiction and non-fiction, hardcover and paperback, paper and electronic, words and graphic novels, dystopian and fantasy romance. People develop so much in the years 4 – 21 and having the ability to explore the world through books and other library information sources broadens their experience. I haven’t even touched on the social/creative outlets a lot of my students find in our library by playing chess, Apples to Apples, puzzles, and other games, or participating in book clubs or an open mic coffee-house.

My student library aides must take a mid-term, and one question I ask is what they have learned so far this year as an aide. The responses I get are sometimes what you would expect, “I’m learning how to be better organized,” or “I’m learning where to find books in the library.” But I also get answers that let me know the student really is growing while being a library aide. This week, one student wrote in their response that they are learning forgiveness this year as a library aide.  This person started out in a rough spot, and we have all moved past that spot and get along very well. It warms my heart to know that this student sees this. Another student wrote that they have a huge lack in social skills. Working in the library has helped this person develop social skills in dealing with fellow aides and library patrons. It has given them confidence in their senior year and it will be something they take with them after graduation.

My library aides are just a small part of my job as a school librarian. Education has a big focus on data right now, and I think there is a need for careful data collection and analysis to see what “Education” is doing right. After a while, though, data can become just a number, and some higher-ups lose sight of the individual attached to each piece of data. If something you do is hard to put into the terms of data, such as a library aide learning about forgiveness or social skills, that piece gets lost when looking at the firm data that makes up the big picture. It is impossible to connect these two student experiences to whether they pass their SOL tests or graduate on time because so many other measurable variables can be connected: teachers in the classroom, the curriculum, grades, test scores. I may know, without a doubt, that a student is graduating as a more developed person from our school because of the library, but no measurable/standardized test exists to prove it.

This is why when librarians ask for help in supporting our cause, it is a grass-roots movement. Signatures on a petition are our data that can be taken to President Obama. Each signature might represent a person who loves books and wants all children to have access to them whether rich or poor. Another signature is a person who remembers a librarian that changed their life for the better as a child, a teen, a college student, or even as an adult. One person might think of the stereotypical cranky librarian they have personally experienced, want better for children, and see the push for “effective school libraries” as a way to retire the cranky old and make sure they are replaced by the excited positive new (instead of not being replaced at all!).

So think about your opinion of school libraries: the positives and the negatives, the information they contain that reveals the past and opens the future, the hope that every student can become a reader if they just get introduced to the right book by someone who knows the book AND the student, the world of opportunities every student can access if the library has open doors and a knowledgable key master. I know it is annoying to create a username and password for the White House website, but if you agree with even a fraction of what I am saying, get over there and add your name to the petition.

Who knows, you might learn about other petitions you believe in and that account will continue to come in handy.

If you do add your name, come back and comment on this post to let me know what number you are.

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Hello There, Dear Blog

Oh 2011, I feel like you just got here. Must you go so soon?

Seriously, this year has been a blur. I really can’t believe 2012 begins in 36 hours. Last year, I over-extended myself with commitments and scaled back this year. Somehow, the world kept life just as busy this year.

I traveled a lot (for me)! I attended ALA Midwinter, and was able to go to Disneyland with my husband for a few days. Spring flew by, and I attended ALA Annual right after school ended. (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) During the summer, I was lucky enough to go to NYC for 24 hours and then spend a weekend at Rensselaerville. I got some beach time in at Ocean City (Maryland) and Wildwood Crest (New Jersey). I didn’t see as much of my family as I would like, but I was lucky to spend a good amount of time with dear friends.

Work has been busier than ever. We have a new library assistant this year, so getting her up to speed has been a focus. In addition to sponsoring the student book club, I am continuing on as the chair of Faculty Senate, and a member of the Climate Committee and two different literacy committees. I was a co-coordinator for our school Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical competition. I’ve been just as busy with book talks this year as I was last year, which is excellent.

I challenged myself, via GoodReads, to read 50 books this year. I thought that would be easy. I just made it, and it involved some last-minute reads of picture books and graphic novels. I have come to accept that reading challenges are not fun for me. Reading (and blogging) is something I do for pleasure. Once I commit to a challenge, it feels like a job. It becomes a finish line and is no longer about enjoying the experience. I won’t be doing that again this year.

Life itself has been a roller coaster, speeding through the highs and lows and dips and flips of love, loss, struggles, and blessings. The health of everyone I know ebbs and flows. I continue to be lucky to come home to a house filled with the love of my husband and two dogs. We continue the never-ending project that is living in a house built in 1951.

2012 is largely a mystery for me right now. I applied for the YALSA Board Fellow position. If I am fortunate to be selected, I envision a chunk of my year focused on that. If not, I intend to apply for another process committee position as my term on Teens’ Top Ten ends after Annual. My work commitments will continue, of course. I am not attending ALA Midwinter this year. I have no requirement to attend, and financially it is not a priority right now. I have not made a decision on attending ALA Annual, but I suspect the Board Fellow decision will have some affect on that. I would love to attend the YALSA YA Lit Symposium again, but I have some time to make that decision.

For now, I hope 2012 will pass a little more slowly than 2011 did. If any of my readers have stuck around since my last post in September, I thank you and hope you continue to stop by in 2012.

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Tempted to Cry Uncle but Also Want to Brag

I admit it: I have overextended myself this year.  I committed myself to far too many things professionally and personally, and the random wrenches that get thrown in the works of life have not stopped popping up.  I have had many days where I was tempted to cry “uncle.”  I have definitely learned my limit of professional commitments , both in my job and in the ALA/YALSA world.  I really needed this winter break to catch my breath.  It’s been good already, and I know I will see everything to term.  Yet, I can’t let myself forget that feeling the next time I need to say yes or no.

Despite all of that, I am proud of the work I have done so far this school year.  Literacy has been a larger-than-usual initiative in my school this year, and teachers have come to me for assistance with this.  In the past three years I have been at my job, I rarely had the chance to work with an entire class on book selection.  I would do no more than two book talks a year, and everything else was done via walk-in reader advisory.

This year, I started with one teacher and the word spread.  By the time we left for break last week, I had done book talks for all five to six sections of grades 9 – 12 English for six different teachers, and for one of those teachers I have done two sets of book talks.  That is a huge increase from the past!

I have been trying to tailor the books to each class by doing a pre-visit survey asking about their interests, books they liked, books they didn’t, etc.  Then, based on info the teacher provides and my surveys, I pull books currently checked in to highlight.

It is the “currently checked-in” that gets me.  I have not been able to use some really great books because they are never on the shelves.  Some of the teachers have told me not to worry whether it is available or not, but I feel like I am doing a disservice to the students if I say, “This book is AMAZING, but you can’t have it today. We’ll have to put you on the waiting list.”

I’ve been trying to add variety to the talks by using book trailers, pre-written intros, reading a few pages,  and improvising what I say if it is a book I know well enough.  (Often, even if I have read the book, I need to write notes before  so I don’t get thrown off.)

How do I know I am making an impact?  Sometimes I have the students fill out a ticket to leave to assess.  But I have found other methods provide more information.  What did not get checked out by the time the students return to class?  Circulation is another piece of data.  Leviathan did not circulate well last year.  This year, it checks out every time I mention it.  If I talk a series, are the books further in the series circulating more?  The Looking Glass War series used to sit on the shelves, but this year all the books rotate in and out.

Nothing can top the personal feedback I have received, though.  I have one reluctant reader who now comes in every two weeks to check out two Orca books now that he knows they are written on a lower level but aimed at teens.  I hope that later in the year, I can get him to try something more, but in the mean time he’s reading steadily in a way he had not before.

The teacher who I have done two sets of talks for emailed me after I completed the first set.  She wanted to tell me that when her classes returned to the room after the talk, everyone was happily reading.  She said that in her 20 years of teaching, she had never seen so many “at-risk” students find books that they were excited to read.  One male teacher who team-teaches with her for a class that has a lot of special education students stopped in a few weeks ago to tell me that I really inspired those students to read.  These students had previously dug in their heels and refused to read.  A lot of them had never been exposed to the books they could relate to and just thought all books were boring.  Now, those same students are finding books written at a level they can read, about teens who are relatable.

That is what makes it all worth it.  That is one of many reasons I love my job.

A teen blogger posted on YALSA’s blog this weekend about what makes a great YA librarian.  While the comments have been quiet on the post, I’ve seen a good amount of discussion on Twitter.  I can honestly say that I don’t have colored hair, and we don’t offer a large amount of activities in our library.  I think it could be debated how many and what type of activities a school library can provide (especially in a school of 2700+ students and only two librarians and one assistant) but I do believe we have worked hard to provide things for our students.  The other attributes do match me, and I believe I am a pretty darn good YA librarian.

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A Plea for Two Things

Did you vote today?  If so – yay!  If not, go do it right now.  I’ll wait!

 

You’re back?  You better have voted!

If you have any spare dollars to your name right now, think about donating to an ESOL teacher in my school on Donors Choose.  She is doing a book club with her English Language Learners.  These are great kids who are motived to get an education.  We are working with her and the students on this book club and need a little financial help in order to provide the students with the books.  Any small amount is welcome!  Feel free to pass this on – every little bit helps!

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We’re only 3 weeks into the school year?

True to my expectations, I’ve been absent from my blog, and I miss it dearly.  The new school year has been very busy.  Our library circulation statistics for the first two weeks of school was double what we had last year, we’ve had an increased number of teachers wanting to use the library, which has been overwhelming but so very awesome.  Even my student aides are great!

A lot of people have been on edge this year, though.  We have a new principal, new assistant principal, a new performance review process, budget cuts, lower than predicted enrollment, and we didn’t make AYP last year.  The new principal has been one of our assistant principals for a few years, so he’s not new to the school, but his philosophies are different enough from our former (and much-loved) principal that many people are anxious.  Some people have already judged the new AP in a poor manner.  People are anxious about their jobs and the money available to assist them in doing their jobs due to the budget cuts and potential for more cuts due to low enrollment.

The new review process is centered around data and evidence.  I’m excited about the potential I see in it since my biggest frustration with education continues to be ineffective/lazy/burned out teachers.  But I already see/hear people trying to BS their way through it.  “Just tell me what to put down that will make them leave me alone,” said one poisonous teacher.  Another said at a meeting concerning the new process to focus on your best lessons and just don’t include other stuff.  This really irritated me because I think reflection is a big step missing in the process some teachers go through year after year.  I think the new review system is an excellent way to demonstrate reflection and adjustment based on student achievement, but many just seem to want to know what new song and dance routine to throw at the administration so they can keep doing the same old thing.

So, needless to say, it seems like, after the third week of school, many people are already tired, frustrated, and plumb wore out.  Whining seems to be constant; people are snappish and quick to take offense.

We are short one staff member in the library due to a family emergency, so the extra traffic has been juggled between just two of us.  I’ve come down with a cold this weekend and would love to take another day to rest up (I spent more of today asleep already) but I just don’t feel like now is a good time to be out.

Besides being sick and dealing with the work stress, things have been good.  I turned 35, we’re celebrating our 7 year wedding anniversary, and fall is coming.  I do miss my personal time.  I haven’t read a book since school started, even my magazine and internet reading has fallen terribly behind.  My DVR is filling up and I haven’t had time to catch up with many family and friends.  I feel very out of touch with the bigger world of libraries and YA lit and am really looking forward to the YALSA YA Literature Symposium for the chance to just immerse myself in it all.

I promise my  blog is not dead, just quiet.  I can’t wait to come back and share all the thoughts that keep tumbling through my head, needing an outlet.

P.S. Will I see any of you at the Symposium?

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Back to School

I report back to work today.  The students don’t start until the day after Labor Day (thanks to what many call the Kings Dominion law, and I’ll reserve my opinion on that for another time) and teachers aren’t back until August 30th.  Our county contracts the library staff to start a week and 1/2 before the faculty to give us time to get the library ready since so much of that teacher week is taken up with meetings and things.  I really appreciate that our county does this since it does mean they start paying us a week and 1/2 early, but the time is enormously helpful in getting new books ready for the students and staff, getting organized, putting in orders, etc.  I also have to admit that starting with a half week helps ease back in to the work routine after the summer.

I’m excited to be going back for a new school year.  I’m not sure what the year has in store for us with a new principal in place.  He’s been an assistant principal for a few years so we know him, but a new principal is still a new principal, so I know some things will change.  This is my fourth year, which means the students who started in our school when I started will be graduating this year.  There is something exciting about being seeing my first freshmen go through their capstone year.

It’s been a busy summer, though, and I don’t really feel rested and refreshed.  It’s also going to be a busy school year.  I’m attending the YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, ALA Midwinter, and ALA Annual.  I’ll be turning 35 next month.  We have a wonderful wedding to attend in Syracuse in October.  My mom is scheduled for surgery in December.  We hope to get a new dog.  My husband hopes to move forward on more house projects.  I am on 3 YALSA committees.  Just thinking about it all makes my head spin a bit, but I’ll take it all one day at a time.

For today, it’s my first day back.  I’ll pull out my favorite pens, set my computer up, water the library plants, and go from there.

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