Monday, July 21, 2014

A New Toy

I know I am not alone in my love of office supplies - pens, markers, sticky notes and the lot. Planning and plotting our lessons, meetings, conferences and life in general is more fun if you have a snazzy organizer to do it with. 

Of course there are the digital planners and Google calendars with all the bells and whistles. I use those. There is something about the act of writing it down and jotting notes and looking at it on paper that makes the paper planner a helpful, soothing option for me in addition to the digital options.

I have been known to buy the planner and use it for only three or four months before abandoning it. 

Because I am planning a conference things are a bit more complicated now. I hope this new toy will help me keep it together.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

ALA - Jane McGonigal

Author of Reality Is Broken, Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal, gave an excellent presentation at ALA's opening session. Here are some interesting tidbits from her talk:

-We play a lot of games. 
-Games are engaging.
- Work and school is not engaging for a large number of people.
- The longer we stay in school the less engaged we become as we go from elementary to high school.
- Ten positive emotions- creativity, contentment awe & wonder, excitement, curiosity, pride, surprise, love, relief, joy
-No matter what is going on the gamer feels these positive emotions
-Engagement in life equals positive emotions which translate to an upward spiral of other positive things 
-Gamers spend 80% of time failing
-"The opposite of play isn't work, it's depression" Brian Sutton-Smith 
-Game play encourages optimism, Competence, Physiological energy
-Game play is the opposite of depression neurologically
-Scans show game play is opposite of neurological depression. 
-Every game gives a goal clearly
-Gaming develops Resilience as gamers are less likely to quit after failure
-There is no such thing as an educational or non educational game. They are ALL educational.
-Games treat depression better than Meds, foldit, eyewire, block by block, minecraft, Ora saves the forest, Whale song project whale fm, Valley of heroes created by Jane McGonigal   
-Goals are more possible when fueled by positive emotions

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ALA Vegas

Here we are in Vegas for the Annual Library Conference. Conference action starts later, so today's agenda is a motor coach trip to the Canyon. I have been to Vegas, Hoover Dam and the Canyon several times before, but it never gets old. It is certainly a change of scenery from Belize. 


Hubby and I had a lovely trip to Belize. This time we went to Placencia instead of San Pedro and liked it much better. Trip highlights include: a sailing and snorkel trip, Monkey River trip, kayaking, biking, a day on Ranguana Caye, and a day at the lovely Turtle Inn. I read Orange Is the New Black and Game of Thrones on this trip. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stress Busters

It's the end of the school year. That magical time after standardized testing when weeks and days are filled with field trips, permission slips, yearbook day, field day,  rewards & celebrations, banquets, dances, awards ceremonies, graduations and more. For a school librarian here is what the and more means: inventory, lost library books, more overdue notices and the  "I never checked out that book." or the "I turned that book in." claims,  summer reading promotion, summer reading book and material distribution, and last minute student projects & reports as well as last minute collaborative efforts. There is also the end of the year report to your principal and the state survey.  Ooops!  I left out the frayed nerves, the strained relationships that also come with the end of the school year. And I completely forgot the "Who are they going to cut for next year?" anxiety.

"Stressed Out" by Jonathan Edward Lee

This can lead to a giant stress induced meltdown. Here is what I do to try to "Keep Calm and Carry On."

  • Focus on the future. We had a motivational speaking group called the Strength Team come to our school recently. Something they said has been helpful to me. "Successful people focus on what they are going to, not what they are going through."  I have been thinking about my vacation plans and what I am going to do with my summer. That really helps. This is not going to last and it is almost over. My mother loved Robert Schuller. She watched him on TV, read his books and sent in donations. For one of those donations they sent her a glass ornament that said, "Tough Times Don't Last, but Tough People Do." This quote helps me. 
  • Breathe. I try to remember to take slow, deep breaths when I am feeling stressed. 
  • Embrace the crazy. Sometimes when things get too busy, I try to think of what the opposite would look and feel like. It helps me remember why I chose to become a teacher. What would my job be like if there were no ________? (Fill in the blank with anything - students, field trips, summer reading). Most likely, it would look like something I do not want or would not enjoy for longer than a day. Part of the reason I signed up for this job is because of the super-busy, challenging nature of it, and it is also super-rewarding and satisfying to me, and because I love office supplies and technology.
  • Exercise. Make it non-negotiable. Even fifteen minutes of exercise will help.  Yoga really helps me. I also love a nice walk. 
  • Listen to music. It is amazing what music can do for my state of mind. 
  • Realize you are not alone. It is crazy time for everyone! 
  • Take Stock -  I need to put some goodies in my end of year report, so now is the time to look at the year and celebrate the highlights. 
I recently read that stress can be contagious. Yikes! Maybe that is why schools can be so scary at this time of year.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rotary Speech

Being President-Elect of SCASL is providing me with plenty of new and interesting opportunities. For example, I was asked to come to our local Rotary meeting and give a ten minute talk. I have never been to a Rotary meeting before. It was a very worthwhile experience.

Below, is part of my speech.

I realize that it has been a while since many of you were in school. And you may not know just how many ways a school librarian serves the students and teachers at her school these days. Actually, many people who work in schools don't know, much like teachers not having a full understanding of the extent of the principal's job.

 I am often amused by my students questions and comments about my job. "What do you do all day?" , they ask. I just smile and think about the wizard of Oz. "Pay no attention to the librarian behind the curtain!" 

This is what happens when you make yourself approachable. When you stop what you are doing when a teacher or student approaches you to ask a question. You smile, and give that person standing in front of you - your full attention.  People think you aren't doing anything important.  Because if you were, you certainly wouldn't be dropping what you are doing to speak to them. 

But, nobody wants to ask a haggard, overwhelmed, grouchy person to help them. What that person standing in front of you does not realize most of the time is that THEY are what is important to you.

So, let me tell you what a school librarian's work is:

Let's start with Reading.

Did you know that School Librarians are linked to improved standardized reading test scores 
regardless of poverty levels?

Twenty one state studies confirm that school librarians support student achievement. 

School Librarians promote reading, create and manage reading programs and events including book clubs and book fairs. We select and purchase print books, ebooks, audio books and other materials that compliment the school curriculum and spark our students interest.

School librarians teach information literacy skills to students and teachers. There has never been a more crucial time for this. 

We live in a time of exploding media content. The more content our students have access to, the more important it is that we teach them how to find the best resources and teach them how to responsibly use the information they find. 

School Librarians help students learn how to locate, evaluate and utilize ever changing information online while avoiding accidental plagiarisim. 

School librarians help students learn how to safely and responsibly navigate social media and the Internet. Schools across the country are turning to their librarians to assist in implementing new technology initiatives. 

Today's school library is not just a place to get information. It is a place to create. Together. It is a place to communicate. It is a place to learn to create and to learn how to communicate.

Many school and public libraries now have "maker spaces" with 3-D printers. Some have stages and movable book shelves . School libraries are not the quiet places they once were. Come into the Sims library and you may find students reading, doing homework, using computers, studying in groups or alone, playing chess and working puzzles or using a tablet to create a video. The school library is much much more than a place to get books. For many students It is a haven. A place where they belong. 

Today's school library is a place where teachers and librarians collaborate to create high quality learning experiences for students. Just yesterday I worked with 7th grade students exploring the topic of inequality and prejudice using infographics, videos, non-fiction text and word analysis. It took me about four hours to create a lesson that lasted an hour. 

And today at 1:00 a secret service agent is coming to talk to some of our 8th grade students. I promise, they didn't do anything wrong! The students are reading a book about a gang of counterfeiter's  attempt to steal Lincoln's body. The secret service agent is going to present information about the secret service and counterfieting. 

By now I am sure you understand that Today's school librarian wears many hats:

As Jennifer Colby puts it: "She is a builder of a library collection of print and electronic resources, an optimist who maintains a positive attitude, a ringmaster of a three ring circus 
 a coach who aids in learning of teachers, parents and students. She is the Harmonizer, keeping in tune with the needs of the teachers and students. She is a leader encouraging collaboration and best practices. She is a herder and protector of the library, its programs and volunteers."

The nature of the  school library shines the light of TRUTH and FAIRNESS to all and builds GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS. School Libraries are beneficial to all concerned. 

This is why I love my job. 

The school librarian can be one of the the most powerful forces in our schools. Consider this:  your school librarians  will  serve the entire student body population during their entire middle, elementary or high school career. 

Rotarians and librarians have many things in common. A strong work ethic, tied to the community. Service above self. Rotarians and librarians both look for the needs in the community, and we smile  and ask ourselves everyday,     how     can    we       help?

thank you

Monday, March 17, 2014


I signed up for the SCASL Preconference session called iLead with Ann Martin and Gail Dickerson. We explored the topic of leadership and leaders. One recurring message I kept hearing Ann Martin say was that our students learn from us when we choose to take on leadership positions.  Because I was a candidate for SCASL's President Elect, I nervously listened to the messages about being a leader.  I have been in what I consider a leadership position at my school for a long time and it just feels natural. Being the SCASL President is another story.  I was worried that taking on such a position  would take me away from my students and end up not being such a good thing. So, I found it comforting to think that my decision to accept a leadership role might just wind up being good for my students.

As I walked in to school this morning  that message hit me smack in the face as I looked at signs and decorations that welcomed me back. I am still absolutely bowled over by the balloons, cake and signs posted all over the building. I don't think I will ever forget today.

Students did not make the signs or hang up the decorations, but they certainly were proud and impressed and curious about SCASL and my role in the organization. They made me laugh with their questions about Secret Service Agents and motorcades.

Wouldn't it be something if all of this inspired one of these students to someday accept a leadership role? I will carry my students with me on this journey. I can't wait to see where it takes us.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Unpacking SCASL '14

I always look forward to our SCASL Conference because I come away with so many nuggets of insight, innovation and inspiration that excite me and improve the library services I offer my students. This year's conference experience was nonstop action for me, like a bullet train.

Of course, we have been preparing for SCASL's annual conference long before last week.  The IT Committee prepared  a session and display board on our new membership management software: Memberclicks, readied the Guidebook Conference App and continued to update our website as needed by our conference planners.  Memberclicks sent a $50 Amazon gift card, as well as some pens and stickers. It was great fun giving them away. Cathy Jo's idea to put the names of all members who had updated their memberclick's profile was genius. It thrills me to no end that Judy Garner, the librarian who won the $50 gift card, is buying books for her library with it! Next year I'd like to put another of Cathy Jo's ideas into action by giving avatar awards like, cutest avatar, most mysterious avatar etc. 

As a candidate for President Elect, I was required to prepare a short talk to introduce myself after our first keynote address. In addition to this I was asked to  "unveil" our new site during the first General Session.As I prepared my presentation, it was inspiring to look back at when she was just a baby. Isn't she adorable? This picture was taken 13 years ago. 

Book Boot Camp had a session, so I prepared an Animoto on humorous books at the middle school level and lined up with the other middies to talk about books. Tamara Cox and Monique German are like rock stars to me, so I was thrilled to actually be presenting with them! They are so professional and polished, and they take everything they do to the next level of awesome.  
Ain't no party like a middle school party baby!

 Can you believe I happened to luck out and get a ticket to the sold out Taste of Columbia Tour? That was simply amazing. Our guide, Dawn, was wonderful. We spent the evening laughing, singing, eating and drinking. What's not to love about that?  My favorite restaurant was Pearlz where we had Oysters on the half shell. Here we are at the Tin Roof. 
I'm gonna whoop somebody!

It felt good to relax after all that hard work, but I still had one more session to go the next day.  Friday morning, my colleague Pam Fowler headed to Columbia with a car load of students to do a 9:45  iMovie presentation with me. By the time I made it downstairs from the second General Session and Toni Buzzeo's awesome keynote, our session was full. Not only that, but I had just learned that I was President Elect and had to plan the next conference. My head was spinning!  Our students did a fantastic job and most people seemed to come away with at least one thing they could use. I think the green screen app we shared was impressive to many people. So, we shared it in Cathy Jo Nelson's "Don't Worry Be Appy" session and then  took our students out for cupcakes! This made for the perfect ending to an amazing conference experience. It seems that I am going to get off this bullet train for a few days and then get right back on another one as I take the reins of SCASL's President Elect and begin to plan the 40th Annual Conference. 
Students make the best technology presenters!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

First Half Highlights

At our annual holiday faculty lunch in December before we all headed off for break, my principal did something different. He recognized the teachers who had perfect attendance so far this school year.  I was inspired by this idea.  I thought, "We should do this for our students too!" 

 Next year, I am going to plan to recognize our top readers in December or January. I think this may promote participation in our reading program. It definitely can't hurt right? I don't necessarily mean prizes or awards, I am just thinking of recognizing them and telling them to keep up the good work. We had a Super Reader event in December, and that would have been the perfect opportunity to recognize the top reader from each grade level. Next year, we'll do that.
Half year perfect attendance also caused me to reflect on the highlights of my school year from August until December. I try to take pictures of everything I do. Looking back though the pictures helps me review and remember. I often use the pictures in my annual report.  So, over our break I put together a photo collage of the highlights.

We got some cool new seating in the periodical area. Now students can sit down and browse through a favorite magazine. I wanted to play off of the bright colors of our Chihuly type sculpture and capitalize on the green tones of the library, so I got some Granny Smith Apple chairs. They are modern looking and the kids love them.    We also got an end table that flips up to double as a laptop or table stand. That is not seeing much action yet, but I hope it will. 

The Day of the Dead Family Library Night had all the right ingredients: a craft, refreshments, we even had authentic Mexican bread, a writing activity and a presentation about the holiday by one of the Spanish teachers at the high school. Despite the fliers, announcements and advertisements in the local paper, student and parent attendance was really disappointing. Maybe our community is just not ready for something like this. However, the faculty came out for me. I was blown away to have eight teachers attend the event. What a heartwarming treat that was.

I am pleased with how well the Super Reader Program has gone and the Divergent book club was fun. We are excited about the movie premiering in March. Our school wide read of Sharon Draper's Out of my Mind was wonderful and extremely worthwhile.

One of my favorite new additions to our library venue is Chess Club. I am proud to say that I now know how to play chess. I am not that good at it, yet, but I can play. I am also proud to say that my teacher was and still is - a student! Emily is so patient with me! I really enjoy our games. We now have tournaments almost every week and our principal has agreed to purchase some new boards and even a timer for us. We plan to have tournaments between the three grades as well.