Saturday, May 30, 2015

Myth of the "self-made man"

Two separate conversations (plus some previous reading) converged in my brain this morning, thanks to Facebook, an impromptu afterschool pow-wow with colleagues, and a great book recommendation.

The topics?  Privilege and entitlement.

A friend posted a link on Facebook to this editorial comic strip:  "On a Plate: A Short Story About Privilege" by Tony Morris. Please take a moment to follow the link before reading on.

So there's the Facebook post.  

The recent discussion with colleagues was about the attitude of entitlement we get from some students.  This is demonstrated by disrespectful comments, expectations that rules and deadlines don't apply to them, and a general lack of remorse for wrongdoings or when their actions inconvenience others.  Developmentally, children can act in a selfish manner, but it's the adults' job to teach them how to care for others, and how their actions impact others, so we were left to think about how to do that within the scope of our jobs.  (That could be a whole 'nother blog post!  For the record, we also have students who are amazingly compassionate, helpful, and polite.)

The book that comes to mind is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  I've already blogged about the Gladwell's message that no person's success happens without circumstances lending to that outcome--being born into the right family, in the right decade, right locale, etc.

Yes, hard work and dedication help you "move forward" in life.  But like the game "Mother May I", whether you get to take giant steps or baby steps is largely determined by your circumstances.  I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to take a hard look at their past, and that of their ancestors, to connect those dots.  

If you spot those giant steps along that path, be grateful for the conditions that allowed that to happen, acknowledge that privilege--and maybe lend a hand to someone who needs a giant step to get ahead.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The song has changed

When I was teaching, the song that ran through my head at this time of year was "School's Out for Summer" by Alice Cooper:

I witnessed the exuberant celebrations at end-of-year parties, the hugs, the papers left in the halls, the stubs of pencils rattling about in empty desks.

Now that I'm a librarian, this will be my final view before I leave for the summer in two weeks:

And this is the song that will be going through my mind:

(Picture of students from

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday slice: Water, water everywhere

If you had the news on at all this Memorial Day weekend, you may have heard about the rain we received here in Texas.
Yep, it's a bit wet here.  My cute owl rain gauge, gift from my library assistant, filled to its 5 inch mark twice over the last three days.   

This has been great for the sod my husband installed in our front yard, not so great for our low-lying neighborhoods and towns with creeks and rivers cutting through their land.
The damage ranges from nuisance--muddy yards, fallen branches, to horrific--people and houses swept away.  Tornado warnings came and went several times yesterday, and a few touched down in more rural areas.  
It was mentally exhausting keeping up with the weather radar and watching the deluge outside our windows, but I know it was nothing compared to those folks being evacuated, knowing their homes and belongings were in peril.  I can't imagine what it's like for those families for whom members are still missing.
A somber morning to start our short work week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Slice: It's been two years already?

Things I've learned after two years of librarianship:
  • There is never a dull day in the library.
  • You will say "Use your shelf marker!" at least thirty times a day in an elementary library.
  • Children's excitement over finding just the right book never gets old.
  • Students who challenge me with finding their next book to read make me a better librarian.
  • A few crumbs in the library are worth hearing boys argue talk about books.
  • There are people in the world who enjoy shelving Dewey nonfiction elementary books.  No, really, they do, and I am grateful for them!
  • There is never a budget big enough for the books I want to purchase for our library.
  • A good library assistant, and a good sub, are your best assets.
  • Teachers who support regular library visits and lessons are your next best assets.
  • Administrators and PTA folks who support your library make this a dream job. 
  • Chocolate at the circulation desk--does that need explaining?
  • Fellow librarians are quick to share tips, bookfair decorations, and lessons.
  • This is the job I want to retire from, say, in twenty years or so, or when they drag me from the story pit, prying an Oliver Jeffers picture book from my arthritic hands.  Until then, I'm stuck!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Inspiration in the library today

Our last author visit of this school year:  P.J. Hoover, who wrote The Forgotten Worlds series, and more recently, Tut and Solstice.  Third and fourth grade classes made for great audiences, rapt with attention and asking thoughtful questions during the sessions we had in the library.  I was amazed at her stamina and how fresh she sounded retelling her material for the fourth time at the end of the day.

Ms. Hoover connected with the students through current trends in videogaming and by talking about her own children.  She smoothly segued into retellings of classics such as The Odyssey and Greek mythology and made the connections with her own writing.  P.J. talked about achieving her personal goals, but also emphasized risk-taking, handling failure and learning from it, being true to oneself, and having fun.  Our students need real-life examples of resilience, and she delivered!

She sat with a small group of fourth graders at lunch and talked about topics covering mythology, book publishing, writing and revising, and continuing personal goals--whatever questions the kids threw at her, she answered.

Her message that resonated the most with me is best summed up in the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:  

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

P.J. spoke over and over again about facing her fears, moving through them, and moving on toward the next goal.

That's a lesson I needed to hear today! Looking forward to reading her newest books this summer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The hiring squad

It's interview season in public education circles.  A month ago, many teachers were asked by administrators to state their intentions of returning for the next school year.  Contracts are being distributed, job listings are being posted, interview committees are being formed and meeting with prospective employees.

It seems like yesterday that I was the one scanning the job listings. I graduated with my master's degree in library science in May 2012, but it took me a year and seven interviews before I landed this fabulous job (no, I'm not being sarcastic--just read my previous blogposts to see how much fun we have in the library!).

While interview committees are in the driver's seat, interviewees are also gathering information.  There's a lot of talk about school culture and climate these days, and often the job applicant's first impressions of a school are at the interview table.

I really, really, really wanted to be a librarian, and entered into each interview hoping it would be "the one".  I distinctly remember walking away from some interviews thinking "Wow, I really want to work for these folks!"  I also remember leaving interviews thinking "I have no idea how that went, guess I should be booking the next one."  Usually, the former types were followed up by equally fabulous, encouraging phone calls from the administrator.  Even rejections can reflect school climate.

So in this hiring season, I ask those of you on interview committees:  What impression are you leaving on your applicants?  How does it reflect your school climate and culture?  

Will your interviewees walk away thinking "Wow!  I really want to work with them!  Hope I get the job!"?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday slice: Surrounded by greatness

One of my campus TAG teachers was chosen as the Elementary Teacher of the Year for our district last night.  I am so excited and proud of her; she is truly deserving, as her efforts for her students and for education in general ripple through the district level and beyond.  

The announcement last night got me thinking about how I'm surrounded by great people.  I could write about them in detail, but this blogpost would be neverending if I did.  Even if I tried, I'm sure to leave out dozens of those in my personal circles who have inspired me over the years.  So I'm just going to list a few of the folks that immediately come to mind:

  • My library assistant, Melinda.  She never stops moving, pays attention to every detail, and always seems to know just what to say to connect with people in our learning community. And she can organize chaos in a minute flat, which is a handy skill to have in a library full of educational materials. 
  • My instructional tech support, Danielle.  It's her first year on the job, but you wouldn't necessarily know it by her enthusiasm, especially with our broadcast program.  How she maintains our school website, finds cool doodads to use with broadcast, designs new logos and slides and forms, fights tech "fires" on campus, and juggles a very active personal life makes me wonder if the woman sleeps!
  • The other librarians in my district--two were named teachers of the year on their campuses.  Two more just got Google certified, many participate in district- and state-level committees.  And thank goodness we have a pro-library superintendent who assures we can keep our programs staffed by certified librarians!
  • My friend Jo, who also made teacher of the year for the disciplinary center where I used to work.  She is a great example of the caring, compassionate staff members there who work to see the potential those students have, despite their circumstances.
  • The teachers on my campus, too many to list, who I get to see with their classes every week.  You can tell what great relationships they have with their students by how quickly they can get them quiet, and the looks the kids have when they do--their faces reflect happy, trusting anticipation of what will happen next.
  • The members of my family--my husband who goes to work everyday, then comes home to do more work in the yard.  My son who gets compliments from parents of his classmates.  My daughter who calls to say how good she felt giving a pack of soda she got for free to the guy behind her in the grocery store, who didn't buy enough to get his own free pack.  My father who volunteers at a hospital, my brother earning his second master's degree and raising a strong daughter, my uncle who took care of my grandfather until his passing.
I could go on, and on, and on.  Inspiration is everywhere.  And I'm grateful that I don't have to look hard to see it.