fall reads

Much of my fall has been taken up with class-based readings. I did make time to finish two books recommended for one class and a few non-academic reads based on interests in health and nutrition and a couple pleasure reads during my trips to South Carolina and DC/VA.

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain's Silent Killers; Hardcover; Author - David Perlmutter

This book was really interesting. I am trying to be more deliberate in my focus to choose healthy, nourishing foods. I don’t want an onset of health issues for things I can control; thus, I checked this book out of my local library. It had a lot of information on issues grain consumption causes — most of which I already knew and some of which I’ve experienced. It was a nice reminder about why we choose the foods we do to cook.

Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig & Dallas Hartwig

The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom (Hardcover) by Melissa Hartwig

My husband and I have talked about doing another Whole30. We held off for the fall but I think that the holiday season will be too rich and we will want to do one in January just to get our bodies back in working order. I like to get a jump start on the new year challenges by reviewing this to get into the right mindset. We normally don’t go through the whole thirty days but it’s a great reset and we do like to follow it strictly for a couple of weeks at least.

Whole30 Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig

The Whole30 Cookbook: 150 Delicious and Totally Compliant Recipes to Help You Succeed with the Whole30 and Beyond

I check this out on occasion; mostly when I want some ideas on easy and healthy dinners. I’ve been making a lot of Whole30 meals that are just simply roasted chicken and vegetables.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Image result for reality is broken jane mcgonigal

This was an assigned book for class but I thought I’d review it since it’s not a text book per se. It had a lot of interesting thoughts regarding the benefits of video gaming. I tried to read it with an open mind and there were definitely parts that stood out to me but I’m not yet convinced that video games are a form of technology I’d welcome into my home.

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

It's Complicated : The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd - Used (Very Good) - 0300166311 by Yale University Press | Thriftbooks.com

This was another book assigned for class. This one I really thought was interesting. There were a lot of takeaways about technology and how it extends the social context of teens that I could appreciate. I also liked views about teen’s changing voice to fit the expectations of those viewing their online presence and how/what they decide to keep hidden from everyone. If you have tweens or teens, I think this is worth a read.

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, PhD and Davir R Cross, PhD

Image result for the connected parent

I checked this book out from my school’s library because my husband and I have had some concerns about sensory processing with our toddler (mostly because he’s had some school struggles at school and it’s largely been described to us that he has difficulty when high-chaos is ever-present). There is some great information in here for adoptive parents and also some really positive suggestions. Personally, I appreciated the information about issues that may arise from/with the first two years of life and development.

Living with Tracheomalacia by the Esophogeal and Airway Treatment Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This was an e-book published by Children’s Hospital and I read it because my son has this diagnosis. While we have his issues largely under control, I still felt it informative and helpful in understanding some of his medical issues.

The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary

The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children; Paperback; Author - Shefali Tsabary

Wow. This was such a loaded text to read. There were a lot of takeaways around ego and supporting our children. I actually wrote down a number of excerpts for my husband to read because I thought he’d be interested in improving some aspects of parenting as well. I really took this text to heart. It was surprisingly quick to read (I read most of it on my flight to Charleston) and was loaded with great suggestions, thoughtful questions, and a good bit of reader engagement. I have already recommended this book to others and think it’s really a great resource for any parent and/or anyone who engages with children.

I can’t date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

Image result for i can't date jesus

I started reading this on the flight to Charleston when I finished The Conscious Parent and just waited and waited for whatever the humor I was expecting to pop out at me. It never did and while I’m sure some people would find this book engaging, I, personally, did not. I did appreciate the actual writing style of the author and his candor in sharing such personal and intimate details of his life but the humor I expected based on the title certainly fell short for me. I’m not sure that I would or wouldn’t recommend this book to someone else; I guess it would depend upon what that person is looking for…

Where’d you go, Bernadette: a novel by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

This book was pretty wild — I loved the story line and even though the end felt a bit rushed, it was a really fun read. I started this on the plane ride to DC and finished it that night while 4 slept. The character development was nicely done but the character relationships at times seemed a bit disjointed/forced; otherwise, I would recommend this as a beach read/something similar because it flows nicely and the plot-line is easy to follow.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

9780399587924_p0_v4_s600x595

This book was a fictional doozy! It really started with a bang. I started this on my flight home from DC and finished it the following weekend. It’s light and scandalous and exactly what every small-town, tightly-knit school community can relate to (even in a far-fetched kind of way). This would be a great beach read — the storyline jumps around a bit more because of the style of book, but I still enjoyed it.

breaking the cycle

Over the weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending an annual trip to the Finger Lakes region in NY with some of my closest college friends, their spouses, and a gaggle of other friends. There were 16 of us in total; six couples; two sisters and a friend; and another friend of the group. Ten of us are parents who were really excited for a kid-free, adults-only weekend — what a time to be alive!

We rented a limo-bus for the big wine event and spent the entirety of the day eating snacks, visiting wineries & breweries, wine tasting, and singing songs. Honestly, this is the next best thing besides a wedding reception and basically all that we have to look forward to as a time to let loose since we are all married. We capped the night off with a trip to a local bar that was within walking distance.

At the bar, we were all paired off and checking in with each other on recent moves, familial relationships, our kids, work, etc. This is not atypical. We are a group of doctors, engineers, marketers, educators, and law professionals (among other things). My friends and I seem to have similar familial backgrounds and strangely, so do our husbands — dysfunction, hurt, frustration rising to the top of the guys’ childhood experiences.

It is not lost on me that each man in this group serves as an amazing supporter of their wives, their children, and each others’ children. We are all the better for knowing one another and I cannot express my gratitude enough that within this group of men who have experience emotional abuse and more, each one of them has made promises to themselves to do better; to be better.

Each of these guys wakes up each morning, determined to be a better version of those who modeled parenting and manhood to them. Each approaches each day making deliberate decisions that encourage and better not only their spouses and children but society as a whole. Each and every day, these men break the cycle that was modeled for them — a cycle that set out to destroy the livelihood of those around them (and those including them).

My admiration runs deep for each and every single one of these guys who chooses to prioritize feelings and family over anger and abuse. We so often read about breaking cycles and statistically, we know how difficult that can be, so to be surrounded by people who looked at toxic relationships in their lives and decided they deserved better and their children will not get that exposure to such toxicity from them is really powerful.

Our bar chats were very serious, especially on the heels of a lighthearted limo ride full of wine, dancing, and scream-singing, and fortunately, our Wendy’s nightcap was also light and full of laughter, but those conversations between are so meaningful and I just cannot believe how fortunate my husband and I are to have such strong support from afar all year long and have such compassion and strength from this group of friends (most of whom we see once a year for this event and some of whom we only know because of this event).

On the drive back to MA on Sunday, I brought this up to talk to my husband about it and he noted it’s something that has stood out to him as well. We are all able to support each other so deeply because we all have respect for one another’s experiences and we trust that the support and advice given is genuine and out of care. We should all be so lucky to have such models around us and our families, pushing toward a new normal for all to see.

Emerging Tech Reflection

It’s hard to believe that sixteen weeks has gone by (I’m assuming the semester is 16 weeks; as that’s what mine at the local community college where I teach are). I was really nervous to take graduate courses again; it’s been about ten years since I’ve been a student and I had a lot of things to think about: I’ve been emotionally burnt out as a teacher for probably the last nine years and have felt very lost around figuring out what to do. I’ve thought about editing and going back to corporate America, where I worked from 21-25 before I started graduate school and became a teacher. Then, I spent the better part of the last year and a half talking to family, friends, and former colleagues about how to best pivot in the education field. I knew I wanted something where I could use my MA in English Education and on some level, utilize my writing degree.

Enter the Library Media Studies program. To be honest, I am still on the fence about pursuing this program. I chose the school at hand because it’s close to home and it’s significantly less expensive than the other library program in my state. That being said, I had a mixed experience this semester between the two courses I took and it has me questioning if this is the best place for me to continue.

All that being said, I rather enjoyed my emerging tech class. I learned a lot throughout the semester in this course and feel a slight sense of confidence around my abilities to take chances in learning new technologies and being able to introduce others to said technologies. This is a really big deal for me because I’ve never considered myself particularly tech-savvy and while I still wouldn’t use that term to describe myself, I definitely have the confidence to run PD sessions or classroom-based instruction or even presentations to school stakeholders. I really enjoyed learning new technologies and have several ‘bookmarked’ for ease of future use. Learning new technologies was not my only highlight in this course; however. I also enjoyed participated in the course discussions. My peers offered such insight into their school experiences and were constantly sharing information beyond what we read in class. I truly appreciated the engagement week to week.

My favorite part of the class was probably having topics to blog about — so much so that I asked for a topic book for Christmas so that I have more ideas outside of kids, tantrums, travel, running, eating, and yoga. Aside from my appreciation to writing, I truly enjoyed completing the assignments for class and thinking about how I could use them in the future. I really love the idea of being in a school library because I think it’s the perfect merge of interest and skill for me. It’s a position that will allow me to use my ELA teaching skills, my writing skills, and my passion for reading and learning and teaching.

It’s difficult to picture what things will look like in the next couple of years for school librarians in my area. I hope to find a position that allows me to really build upon what’s in place to work with teachers, staff, students, and families to really improve the school experience and it’s something I’m looking forward to.

Learning Theory Project

I am wrapping up the fall semester and have a final project due in my non-emerging tech course. For this assignment, we were tasked with using a creative outlet to present our final views on learning theory: what our views are, how we want to achieve them, and how we want to ensure our students succeed.

When I first started teaching, I had grandiose views of how things would work. It was great to imagine these ideal classroom situations; they quickly disappeared the first time a student got jumped outside of my classroom, or maybe it was the time a student ran through the halls after lighting his backpack on fire, or maybe it was one of the drive-by shootings that took place just steps away from the front doors. My ideological ways certainly shifted but much of them remained in-tact. I learned that I needed to adjust my understanding of my students to ever have the true gist of how to teach them, guide them, and learn from them.

That is what I did. I opened my eyes and I opened my ears. I looked for cues students put out into the universe; I listened to things students said in passing as they walked by my classroom; I read their papers and focused on their text:self connections; I heard them. Admittedly, I grew up in a stable environment and have lived (and still do) a largely privileged life, so figuring out what to do with all of the information I was taking involved quite the learning curve, but I figured out how to address students social-emotional needs in such a way that made academic progress possible.

My first year of teaching was rough: I was 25 and had no experience working with youth. I also had no exposure to the school I was in. I was given a reading textbook and basically told ‘good luck’ — from there, I created an entire reading guide for both ninth and tenth grade ELA and was part of a two-person team to design DC-CAS pretests and preparation that led to the highest scores our tenth graders had seen in years (sadly, still underperforming AYP).

It’s hard to think that was over 10 years ago. When I first took human development classes, I was in so far over my head that it all felt like words flying at me. Nobody addressed the issues going on with my students. Today, I am in a much different position: I’m a parent; I’ve had the exposure of teaching for the last 12 years at both the secondary and post-secondary levels; I’ve welcomed foster children into my home and have had a new outlook on trauma and social-emotional struggles. I feel like after these experiences, I’ve been better able to digest and connect to the information I’ve read in class this term.

A few weeks back, I wrote about crying when you get home— this is something that happened to me regularly in the school settings I’m used to teaching in. As I look to pivot to a district with a bit more stability and support, I want to keep in mind the theorists that influence my teaching style the most and the educational theories I mostly relate to:

  1. Humanism:
    Humanism is a theory I believe I employ most in my classroom. I love the idea of students learning from one another and often encourage discourse in both the small and large-group settings. “It assumes that students will be highly motivated to learn when the learning material is personally meaningful, when they understand the reasons for their own behavior, and when they struggle” (Jack Snowman & Rick McCown, 2015, P483). This approach offers students the opportunity to support their own learning through understanding themselves as learners and people first. Such a big part of my beliefs as a person and an educator centers on students understanding their needs so they can best advocate for themselves and achieve their goals in education and beyond.
  2. Behaviorism:
    I’ve always found behaviorism to be fascinating. I remember sitting in my high school psychology class and learning about BF Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. After years of working in education and around others, I try to keep in mind how behaviors have an effect on nearly all other facets of our lives and I work to relate that to the needs of my students. I feel strongly in using positive reinforcement as opposed to negative and feel this something vital to the development of young people be it in the classroom or otherwise: “… the fact that many of the voluntary responses of humans are strengthened when they are reinforced and weakened when they are either ignored or punished” 
    (Jack Snowman & Rick McCown, 2015, P239). The tenet of this aligns solely with my philosophy of education.
  3. Cognitivism:
    The cognitivism approach to learning is one that also aligns with my beliefs: “Using information can mean experimenting, questioning, reflecting, discovering, inventing and discussing. This process of creating knowledge to solve a problem and eliminate a disequilibrium is referred to as constructivism” (Jack Snowman & Rick McCown, 2015, P40). The reason that I can appreciate this methodology centers on my constant attempts at meeting students where they are, helping them to access prior knowledge and make connections to both that and what they are learning, and then elevating their thinking through an idea or concept based on lecture and class-based activities and assignments. I feel that moving through the discomfort of not knowing and coupling that with the behaviorism approach listed above (positive reinforcement) allows students to grow and best understand their learning styles and learning strengths (and weaknesses). 
  4. Constructivism:
    The last of my interested views is the constructivist approach. This approach is lesser-used by educators who teach in the typical lecture-drill capacity and thus, I feel it suits my teaching style and philosophy of education perfectly. When teaching, I focus my efforts on appropriate scaffolding and modeling because I feel these elements to be effective methods in the classroom. While I still use direct instruction/lectures, I focus my efforts around collaboration, checks for understanding, and mastery demonstration through projects and discussion. I have worked in a project-based school and thus have had school staff support the ideologies that put projects above exams and have seen first-hand the benefit to students from such an approach: “A constructivist classroom, on the other hand, is characterized by inquiry, collaboration among students, use of the teacher as a resource, explanations of points of view and solutions to problems, and attempts to reach consensus about answers and solutions” (Jack Snowman & Rick McCown, 2015, P479). Further, in my library media coursework, I have learned so much about integrating technology and how to work with school staff and content-area teachers to do so in such a way that benefits students’ curiosity and creativity.

Because of my work in an alternative school that employed school-wide project-based learning initiatives, I have a soft-spot for such promotion of thought, teaching methodologies, and assessments that push students beyond multiple choice with a side of essay question. As an ELA teacher, my inclination was to always assign written essays or projects as a means of assessment; as a future librarian, I won’t have many opportunities to assign specific deliverables but I will be in a position to work with students as they strive for success in their content-area courses. I will also be able to work with school staff to develop means and methodologies to support students in the classroom and beyond.

Taking everything learned about theorists and their research, lesson planning, assessment, and classroom management into consideration as I spent time in the library classroom is one of the many facets of adaptation I look forward to as I bridge the gap between being a stay at home mom and working back in a school environment.

The OPAC, continued and 10 more things…

This sounds like a sequel to a horror film combined with a grocery list (I kid, I kid). I actually enjoy doing procedural things — I know I’ve touched on this and if you’ve not deduced on your own, I’m here to confirm that I’m a total Type-A personality. Organizing is my jam and structure guides so many facets of my life. (Kids have helped to loosen things up, like the one time the Discovery Museum in Acton had a station where kids could paint their own faces… we all survived that day, so I like to think that as proof of my wild side!)

I really struggled to write this paper though because I feel like I entered it with 20% knowledge and experience, mostly because I’m not in a school right now and so I had to use my imagination and YouTube to find videos that showed front-end and back-end usage of a number of OPACs and then take what I watched and research the sites for cost, features, implementation, training, and other factors used in making a decision. I explored the community college’s front-end as well as that of my uni and the local public library; I tried to keep my perspectives around this experience when creating a proposal to the imaginary principal.

In my experience as an educator, school administration cares mostly about the bottom line: What does this cost the school in terms of finances and time. I tried to err on the conservative side of things to ensure school staff would be more inclined to listen and bite with the mentality that it is easier to add things on as you go instead of shooting for the moon and getting denied. I also figured that with that, I would be responsible for the bulk of the training (which I assume is typically the case as a school librarian).

In truth, this is something I’d really enjoy doing as part of my job because of the chance to showcase something that will benefit the school/community while allowing me the chance to put my writing and researching skills to work. Still, watching YouTube video after video to garner knowledge on the various online catalogs and reading the many sites got a bit overwhelming, so I gave myself breaks in the form of Law&Order: SVU, dog walks, online shopping for velvet skirts at JCrew, picking out outfits for our upcoming annual Finger Lakes trip, and reading Temptation Island spoilers on Reddit (I wish I was kidding).

Overall, I enjoyed the writing of a memorandum — I’ve not been consulting this semester (just schoolwork and 4, which has been amazing), so I’ve not had any opportunity to write a memo in a minute. Still, I felt like my deliverable was lacking but couldn’t quite figure out where so that I could make the necessary improvements. I am hoping that when classmates give feedback, something will click and I can figure out what I’m missing.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to reading what my classmates put together. I also took some time to re-evaluate my Top Ten Technology Tips for Teachers. Incidentally, the 4th tip listed was about checking out computers, something that you can use the Destiny platform to track (this is the OPAC I recommended in my proposal). The primary focus of my ten tips, however, centered on communication and I still stand by this. Through this course, I have learned about and have experimented with some really great forms of technology and I think focusing around those shiny and new-to-you technologies can help students stay engaged in classroom projects even if the teachers are not looking to learn those technologies. I think if I were to add another element to my top ten list, it would focus on the community as a whole.

I also want to be sure to emphasize the importance of community engagement in my communication tips. I feel it’s imperative to have the buy-in of the community at large and definitely those within the confines of the school (and families). I want to be sure to create a realistic social media campaign to help engage parents, students, staff, and stakeholders. I’d like to use my grant writing experiences to work closely with admin to obtain technology and other educational resources for the library through surveys and polls with the school community — I have so many ideas for work ideas that can extend beyond the library classroom in middle and high school capacities (college application sessions — co-curricular planning with the counseling team; vaping awareness — co-curricular planning with the health team, school nurse, and possibly the town’s Department of Public Health; language discussion groups; writing groups; reading circles…). There are so many opportunities to collaborate and build up the library program within a school.

When I complete this program and move into the role of librarian, I would like to hold events or at least create podcasts/video on topics important to the community: How to give back or donate to the schools; How to apply to college; How to complete financial aid forms; etc. I think that concerns about the community can be easily added to questions/polls put out by the superintendent’s office or the school principal even. This would be a really big initiative of mine and I think the value of community engagement would be all the more strengthened if the school participates in a program like METCO and offers those parents outside of the immediate neighborhoods to participate and engage in school happenings.

These are the elements I’ll keep in mine as I complete this program and work towards leading a library one day.

 

OPAC Interview

I’ve written several posts about my recent DC trip with 4 — honestly, we had a great time. One of the things we did on our trip was have lunch with a dear friend. She used to be the math teacher on my team when I taught in Fairfax County, VA; she’s also a fellow Pittsburgh native (Go Steelers!); AND, she is now a school librarian.

I’ve spent a good bit of time processing the library program at my uni with her — and asking so many questions about her role at her school library. Technically, she was hired as a MS librarian but because she works in a secondary school, she works with both lower and upper secondary grades. Incidentally, the state of Virginia has a law in place that mandates schools have X number of librarians per XXX student population. Isn’t that wonderful!? During 4’s and my visit to DC-VA, I texted my husband and asked if we could move back to northern VA — there are library positions in Fairfax County and we’d be close to most of my best friends. (Also, there are so many SAHMs in NoVa and literally any day my son and I go out in my town, we are the only people at the playground or the library or even the closest local zoo some days!) This will be a work in progress, clearly, considering we have a pretty well-established family life and joint network of friends in the greater Boston area, plus I love our house and our town — being able to walk to the beach doesn’t hurt either. Alas, we will see what transpires in the years to come.

Anyway, back to topic… I spoke with my friend about her school’s online public access catalog (OPAC) and then I spent some time research an additional OPAC to compare/contrast the two and make a recommendation to my pretend employer. Aaah — a chance to write a memo! Like most things that excite literally nobody, I am excited at the chance to do some formal writing. I’m not sure about administrators in schools, but I feel like my appreciation of formality helps navigate some of the murkier waters of school admin. Also, I’m a huge fan of procedure and protocol — it soothes my anxiety and gives me a solid sense of stability.

My friend’s school currently uses Destiny; it’s been a process to transition but she reports that while there’s a great learning curve, there’s also a lot more control over how to set things as up than there was in their previous OPAC: Sirsi Symphony. After touching base with her, I figured I’d reach out a librarian I’ve worked with in the past at a local community college.

The feedback I got about the OPAC at the community college was interesting. They use Evergreen, which is an open-source catalog. In truth, I am fascinated by open-source and have used open-source materials for students in the past. Further, I learned that Evergreen is able to be molded to fit the needs of the college’s consortium. Prior to the community college switching to Evergreen (per the urging of the consortium), they used the OPAC, Millenium, which was not as user-friendly.

It is clear that I now have at least four separate OPACs to look into. I also was interested in one called myLibrary (which is created by iii, the creator of Millenium). My next steps are to further research these five examples of OPAC and put together a considerate, well-planned MEMO to send to my future principal (hopefully he/she likes procedure and formality!).

 

end-of-year goals

About halfway through November, I realized I didn’t set any written goals aloud but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards some. I recently met with a nutritionist who I talked to about trying to lose enough weight to get within my healthy zone — I know that more than weight counts for health and I’ve been definitely working on my health this year. I have lost twenty pounds with minimal effort and have maintained that loss through many trips and even more cupcakes. Still, I want to match that loss in 2020.

With the nutritionist, she recommended I actually increase my carbs intake. I’m certainly not on a low-carb diet and I eat lots of potatoes but she recommended using more oats, brown rice, and pastas. I also talked to her about incorporating more plant-based meals into my life. Before I met my husband, I rarely ate meat because I won’t touch raw meat and thus won’t cook it — it’s really easy to eat plant-based when you refuse to handle any proteins. I decided to largely go back to that (and take my family with me). My husband was easily on board because so many of his runner friends told him that moving toward a plant-based diet would help improve his running time.

Incorporating more grains and eating less meat kind of go hand-in-hand in my mind, so this has been a fairly simple transition. Trader Joe’s makes it easy enough to buy meatballs if the kids want to add meat to a pasta dish and last week, we bought a rotisserie chicken and my husband broke it down so that there was the option of adding chicken. 11 & 13 (especially) are big on meat eating; 4 is like me — he could take it or leave it. This is a central part of our end-of-year goals; basically, intuitive eating with foods and nutrients.

Additionally, I have been focusing on moving more. I have struggled to get into a routine and my nutritionist asked why I felt the need to be in a routine. She suggested I look into ClassPass, which has been great. My old yoga studio in the city participates, as do several in my immediate area — these classes coupled with my gym membership on campus and my at-home cardio equipment and weights should have me covered. So, my goal is to get to at least two yoga classes a week — I can typically fit them in on weekends and then take further advantage on days my husband works from home. On other days, I can just do cardio at home or use the spin bikes/Expresso workouts at the gym.

So, my goals around fitness are to keep on this path — do what I feel like doing and if I don’t feel like doing anything, try to talk myself into getting in a 10-min yoga video or a mile run. So far, this has been working for me and I’m hoping to continue to push forward with continuing this way.

Lastly, I’ve been straightening my hair more regularly, which has given me a big boost — hair, eyeliner, and mascara accompanied by high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ and crop sweaters.

With all this being said, here’s to ending 2019 in such away that encourages me to keep eating carbs and plants, moving my body in ways that push boundaries and ways that make me feel healthy, and getting myself ready for tasks like the grocery store.