Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday slice: Summer cleaning

Raise your hand if you're an educator who spends at least part of your summer "break" straightening up your house.

All teachers do this, right?  After a school year full of early mornings, late nights, our own children's extracurricular activities, hurried meals, drop-the-bag-and-collapse-workdays and laundry-filled weekends, we are left with a backlog of housecleaning tasks.

Well, that's the state of my house, anyway.  Bags of books and papers in the hall, sitting under a plethora of out-of-season jackets on the wall.  Piles of personal professional books that never made it to my library office shelves.  A paper blizzard on my desk (again).  Work clothes that got washed but not put away.  Work clothes that don't fit due to too many drive-thru meals this year (ugh).  A vanity full of makeup, skin care potions, nail polish, and hair ties in disarray, with a pile of shoes in front of it.

And on top of it all, a layer of dust.

So I'm dedicating most of my free time over these next two weeks to cleaning and decluttering.  I'll make the same vows again to establish a regular housekeeping schedule, even come up with a printed plan, I'm sure.  Fingers crossed it will work this time.

And if it doesn't get done over the next two weeks?  Well, there's always next summer. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The body remembers

The email hit my inbox
Then hit my heart
Two dates, right next to one another
Didn't realize it at the time
Of course, why would I
So focused on grief, this past November

Why would I place
The birth-day of one, after
The death-day of another
On the calendar in my mind

Except for that reminder

"Don't forget, it's June 27, Janet's birthday"

And then I think
That is why she came down each summer
To visit her brother/ my husband
Her niece and nephew
Enjoy some Texas sun
And if we had the time, some Texas sand

The date hits me again
As I realize the importance
Of the day before

The day I never consciously choose to remember
I even wrote it on a check, unthinking
So focused on the business at hand, this June 26
(Teenboy had his wisdom teeth removed)

But oh, now it makes sense
As it does, every year, for the past 19 years
Why I shut down this week
Move slow, feel out of it

Never realizing why until the calendar reminds me
You'd think after so long it wouldn't be so dramatic
Or I'd remember, at the very least, and plan for it

Something in me still doesn't want to be reminded
Of the day my mother left me, left her broken body

But my body remembers, every third week of June
And breaks, just a little, for her--and now, for Janet, too.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Musings and wonderings

Felt the need to document what's buzzing in my head after my third day of iPadpalooza 2015, and this seemed to be the best venue...so please bear with me as I get this down in print.

Thoughts and questions from iPadpalooza 2015 in Austin, Texas:
  • I have had a Twitter conversation with Guy Kawasaki.  I didn't even know who he was before this conference, but now that I do, my mind is blown.
  • Is New Zealand really twenty years ahead of our American education system per Richard Wells, and if so, how the heck did they get there....and how do we catch up?
  • With the way the New Zealand system works....do they even need/ use librarians?
  • Maybe some people use ignorance/ unwillingness to use technology as a way to avoid stepping up their game. (This after listening to stories about how students complain that assignments involving the 4 c's are hard, and ask for worksheets instead.)
  • Letting go, and letting students lead, sounds cool and scary and messy and fun.
  • I could really get into this SOLE way of teaching/ learning.  Must have a flexible schedule to do so, though.  And coming up with big questions is quite the task for the SOLE teacher. I kinda feel like I'm doing it a little with my Wonder Wall in the library.
  • Teaching must allow for failure, even when teachers know a student project may fail from the get go, and allow students to regroup and re-attempt.  But again--time?  Curriculum expectations?
  • Can we do our live broadcast using just iPads?  Tweeted with Don Goble about that one, might have some answers, need to do exploring of Touchcast and Cubist.
  • I have definitely missed out by not knowing who Eric Whitacre is before today.  Must fix that.
  • It is refreshing to be at a conference that focuses on the grownups, even while learning about stuff to use in schools.  Yes, educators sometimes use NSFW language when not at work.  And that's okay.
  • The student production crew at Westlake High School was uber-professional.  Also all-male, from the looks of it...wonder why that is.
  • I need to dig a bit deeper into the cultures of my students, examining my own beliefs while I do.
  • The commute is worth it, if one gets to drive Spicewood Springs Road there and back.  Can't beat the scenery.  Bumper to bumper traffic on Loop 360, on the other hand, I could do without.  Though it does allow for lots of singing to the radio/ MP3s.
I'm sure there's more bouncing around those aging neurons of mine that will fire up again when I start writing lessons that will benefit from more tech involvement.  For right now, I'll let them rest, let the ideas brew, and hope something lovely comes about at planning time.

It's not about the iPad

I have been a bit of an anxious wreck since March 13th, riding a roller coaster of emotions from excitement to dread, due to an email that began with

We are pleased to inform you that the committee has selected you as a Trailblazer to receive the Next Gen Library and participate in the pilot project!"

Yes, I applied for Next Gen, but I didn't really think I'd be chosen. And then I was. And then I had to wait to find out what device I was getting in the library. And then I found out it was iPads, a device I was completely unfamiliar with (we're mostly an Android/ PC family, have PCs at work). And then I started to sweat. One thousand students, fifty classes a week, one set of iPads....eeeeek!

So when the district offered to send us iPad folks to the three day iPadpalooza event here in Austin, the learner side of me silently shouted "YES! THANK YOU!" and signed up immediately. And then the introverted librarian in me whispered "What? Another conference? In the summer? Dealing with traffic? What are you thinking?".

But I'm not one to back out (especially once the entry's been paid for, yikes!), so I have spent the last two days at iPadpalooza 2015. I have been exposed to non-stop iPad enthusiasm from teachers and speakers and tech folks for eight hours each day, and will be doing so for another eight hours today.

I have learned a lot. Mostly about apps. There are a LOT of them, and they now fill four screens on my district-issued iPad (I will definitely have to learn how to organize those). The ones we've used are FUN, and it will be mind-exploding when I have time to sort through them and plan projects with them. The handiest thing I've learned is how to take a screen shot. Where do folks learn how to do that? Is all this iPad learning word-of-mouth?

But.....the most important lesson I have learned, because I've heard it over, and over, and over, is this: It's not about the iPad. It's about what can be done with the iPad.

Facilitating the four C's--communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. (I also like to refer to the American Association of School Librarians' Standards for the 21st-Century Learner ). Technology is meant as a solution to a problem, and sometimes--gasp--digital technology is not the appropriate solution.

Rabbi Michael Cohen, The Tech Rabbi, summed it up in five words: "We don't do iPad projects." If someone walks into your classroom and asks students what they're doing, those five words should not be the answer. It should be something like "We're learning about giraffes" or "Working on a movie" or "Talking to an expert".  

And if they're sitting at their desks using a pencil and paper, that's okay, too. Pencils are technology--a solution to a problem, a tool that helps accomplish those four C's.

So now I'm not sweating so much. The iPads aren't going to change what I'm teaching...they're going to change how I teach. And I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday Slice: INTP learner

Many, many years ago, in my first incarnation as a teacher, I attended a workshop on learning styles at our region educational center.  I don't remember every workshop I've attended--teachers will attest to the number of meetings that end up being deep-sixed in our brains and trashcans--but this one seems to come to mind often.  The speaker began by asking how many of us made it to the workshop that morning (of course, we all raised a hand, looking confused at the question).  She then went on to tell us that we were already more successful than x percent of the people who set out that morning for work, but didn't make it on time or at all due to traffic, accidents, flat tires, or health-related issues.  We had already experienced success just by being in that room at that time.

We then went on to take a Myers-Briggs assessment to learn about our own personality profile, and used that information to discuss how it affects our individual learning and teaching.  We tend to teach the way we learn--which is great for students who possess similar Myers-Briggs traits, but not necessarily so for those who don't.  The point of the workshop was to make us aware of our teaching styles, and learn how to stretch ourselves to reach those students who learn differently--metacognition for teachers.

Why is this coming to mind so early on a summer morning?  Because I'm getting ready to attend three days of iPadpalooza to learn how to use my newest tech tool, courtesy of the Next Gen Digital Classroom program in our school district.  I am a latecomer to the iPad party, having just gotten a personal tablet of my own as a Christmas gift--and an Android one, at that.  With the exception of my children's iPhones and my college-daughter's Mac that she uses for her media studies, we are a PC/Android family, and so Apple products are outside the realm of my learning experience.

I've spent the last two weeks learning how to navigate the iPad on my own, with some success--I did make my first iMovie (a book trailer, of course).  I finally figured out how to open up a new window in Safari (oh! that's what the plus sign is for!).  I downloaded the app for the conference so that I can access my workshop agenda without toting around a pile of papers.  

I'm just hoping for success in navigating the traffic for the next three days to get to the conference on time, and for teachers who acknowledge my lack of knowledge when it comes to this new-to-me technology.  I want to walk away with my brain buzzing with ideas for iPad use in the library (we will have 32 of them, next year).  

I want to remember this feeling when it comes to teaching my students, so that I remember to stretch myself as a teacher to meet their learning styles.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Moving feet, streaming mind

I lace on my shoes, willing my creaking body out the door.  At the end of my street, I have a choice--short, or long?

I have time.  I choose long.

Taking a left, then a right, I walk on a sidewalk I haven't set foot on in weeks (months?  a year?).  How little I've paid attention to my own neighborhood, my home, these past two years of working across the highway.  Must rectify that in the coming school year, strike more of a balance, be more aware.

Scoop up a piece of trash left in the street.  Cross another to get to the trash can, realize I'm now on a long stretch, no shortcuts unless I turn back.  Push on, uphill, anyway.

Surrounded by trees and birdsong and breeze blowing through a gloomy, gray sky, my thoughts still return to work.  Was I a better librarian than the year before?  Will I be able to handle the challenges next year brings?  I've got to remember to send that email to ITS about downloading apps for next week's conference.  Need to see if my Bluetooth keyboard syncs up with the iPad...should I even bother?

Hit the top of the hill, turn right.  Could turn right again and make for a longer walk...nah.  Feeling the strain in my thighs as I walk downhill, hope it's helping this wonky knee of mine.  Wonder if I should call the doctor about it.  Exercising like this seems to be working, hope the new supplements will, too.  Will wait to make the call.

Try to quiet my mind and listen to my steps, the birds twittering and chirping.  No such luck, start thinking about what I need to read and do this weekend, ponder the funeral I'm attending in a few hours, what friends I will see there, what memories we'll share.  

Phone tells me I've reached two miles.  Almost home; sky starts to sprinkle, its modus operandi for the last two days in these parts.  Pass the homes of acquaintances and friends, wonder what they're up to these days.  Their yards look nice.

My driveway, then my door.  Stop, pause the walking app, save the workout.  Need to do this again soon...maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesday slice: First REAL day of summer break....not

I went in to work yesterday.

My last official day for the school year was last Thursday.  I had worked four ten-hour days, in accordance with the district summer schedule of Friday closures.  I signed off on teachers' checkout sheets, hunted down lost books, finished inventory, had my summative appraisal conference and reviewed my STAAR support (TX standardized testing) report with my principal, counted up the number of classes, read-alouds, lessons, and visitors in the library this year, filled out the end-of-year report, and closed out all the financial stuff--lost book and ID payments, donations, and purchase card report.

When I left Thursday afternoon, however, my desk was still a blizzard of paper, the circulation desk wasn't cleared off, and there were piles of books left to process.  So I went back yesterday to tackle those tasks.  Two dozen books got processed, the desks got cleared, I replaced a laser printer ink cartridge, and I helped the teachers who are providing special education extended school year services on my campus with working the projector keypads.

So today, I slept in until 545a (!).  I get to exercise in the daylight, take my son to an orthodontic appointment, do some laundry, and map out my summer.

The summer that includes reading 40 children's books for work, going to five (or more) days of professional development for work, lesson planning for work, and writing book reviews for work.  The summer that ends in 49 days, according to my countdown widget.

I'm not complaining.  Most of this work-related stuff I willingly signed up for myself.  The book reading could have happened over the last nine months, but I'm so tired after work that I tend to fall asleep after five pages.  Funny, in a job that surrounds me with books, I get more reading done when I'm away from them!

It will take planning, a conscious effort, to extricate myself from work-related tasks this summer and expand my horizons beyond my job description.  And if I hear one comment about how nice it must be to have summers off....

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tuesday Slice: The Wonder Wall

The Wonder Wall in the library got a good wipe-down yesterday evening, as the last task of the day.  It was a new addition to our walls this school year, one of those large, black, magnetic boards that you write on with neon-colored markers.

It was the second-most-favorite library activity in our student end-of-year survey, ranking just behind book fairs.  I enjoyed coming up with the pictures every two weeks, trying to find something that made them wonder and ask questions. 

And ask questions, they did!  There was a flurry of sticky notes surrounding each picture...and half of them ended up in the trash each week.  Why?  Because the students had difficulty coming up with "wonder" type questions.  Any question that began with "Is it a..." was discarded.

The directions on the board were simple.
1)  The questions posed must begin with who, what, where, when, or why.
2)  If the question can be answered by looking at the picture, then it is not a "Wonder Question".

I had to add the second after I posted this picture:  

and got a lot of sticky notes that said "Is it Darth Vader pouring water?"

I spent a lot of time reminding the students about how to ask a "Wonder Question", and I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time doing so next year.  But asking those deeper questions is so very important in this age of multiple-choice assessments.  

I realized how ingrained finding the right answer was in the student population when I would occasionally post a picture for which I had no explanation, like the one above.  I would get groans at the Friday assembly when I announced that "this picture has no answer that I could easily find".  It didn't deter me from finding more unanswerable pictures.  I want students to be curious, ask questions, wonder about things.  It is in the wondering that we grow as learners and explorers and innovators.

The Wonder Wall will appear again next year in our library.  I'm already looking for just the right picture to start the school year off with some good, healthy musings.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tuesday Slice: The reading list

We had our last Friday assembly for the school year last week.  I get up on stage at every assembly, right after the national anthem, and talk about library stuff.  Usually it's the reveal of the Wonder Wall picture after reading some of the questions the students posted, maybe giving an award to the best-behaved class, or a spiel on what we've been learning and reading.

At this time of year, my teaching focus is summer reading.  We've had great lessons in the library on the topic, watching some videos and sharing the five W's of summer reading with tablemates.  At last year's assembly, I put on a skit of sorts, demonstrating with props all the things I'd be doing over the summer, including reading. The piece de resistance of the skit was the unrolling of my yards-long reading list.

So I was personally challenged to come up with something new this year.  Since I had shared that one of my favorite places to read was the chaise lounge by my neighbor's pool (my "Where"), I decided to pack a bag for swimming.

The kids chuckled as I pulled out my straw hat, sunglasses, beach ball, goggles, swimsuit (hung it around my neck), coverup, towel, sunscreen, flipflops....what could I be forgetting?  "A BOOK!" they all shouted.  Ah, yes, there it was!  They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference , one of the many books on my to-read pile. I then asked if they wanted to see my reading list....after a resounding "YES!", I unrolled yet another yards-long strip of taped-together chart paper, with about 40 titles on it.

Just trying to set a good example!  Can't wait to hear about what the kids read over the summer.