happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.

 

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!).

 

More on Dewey

I have been slugging my way through the Allison Kaplan’s Catalog It! (2016) for the last week and a half. This is in no way an ‘easy read’ — further, I finding myself feeling equal parts frustrated and defeated at times because I am not used to feeling overwhelmed by information nor am I accustomed to frustration that comes from constantly referring back to previous chapters to understand the numbers, symbols, and acronyms.

Aaaagh!

One thing I do know is that I am happy technology has advanced as such that so many school libraries are moving toward automation. In between my frustrating moments, I’m thinking to myself, “My goodness, I wish there was an app so I could practice using this…” Who even am I these days?!

One thing remains constant in my mind — if I’m having difficulty piecing this all together, how can I expect students I work with to use it in an intuitive fashion? Now, I get that when I was growing up, society didn’t really indulge anyone on how intuitive something was or wasn’t; however, technology has moved our society in the direction of iOS and Google and thus it makes the most sense to try and figure out what is the most intuitive way to organize materials for students.

Incidentally, I look forward to discussing my library friend’s OPAC and her school’s overall organization of the library — she works in a secondary school, and thus works with students in both middle and high school. I am really looking forward to picking her brain about genre-fictation in the coming weeks because more than Dewey explains, this seems to make more sense to me. I’m also curious to learn if there are more ‘cutting edge’ technologies employed by school libraries.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to slog through the last remaining exercises in the text and see to it that I frame my thoughts about how my knowledge of Dewey can help shape the experiences of my future students.

Note: I did Google DDS apps and found LibraryTools

The Card Catalog

This week’s (and next’s) topic is about cataloging — the mere topic takes me back to when I was a girl and used to enjoy sifting through the card catalog at the local public library. Looking back on my childhood habits, there were no surprises when I wanted to major in English and honestly, I don’t know how it took me this long in life to come around to library media — I’ve always been a lover of books and organization so honestly, this makes total sense.

Anyway…

I’ve been really stressed about the readings this week. Typically, I start my reading on Sunday and finish on Monday or Tuesday but because I was traveling with 4 over the weekend, I only had the chance to read an article via phone once he’d gone to bed (the tone really put me off and I told myself I’d finish the rest of my work at home). Here we are: It’s Wednesday — and I’m just now diving into the text.

As I started reading Allison Kaplan’s Catalog It! (2016), I instantly connected the idea of cataloging books to how I organize my closet. (I would share a picture but shamelessly, I’ve asked my husband to move his clothes to the spare room so that I can completely overtake the walk-in…) I organize all of my clothing by style1 (type of item), style2 (length of item), and color of item; colors dictate the order of style and my shoes are organized in their original shoe boxes by style and color. By all means, my love of organizing (which also spreads to our pantry, refrigerator, linen closets, etc) seems to align perfectly with how I can understand the concept of organization for the library classroom.

In an effort to pivot, I tried to reconcile in my mind the organization of books via index cards into the searchable databases found online. I use the online library catalog from my local public library with great frequency (and also the one at university). What really stood out to me in this week’s reading was differentiating between keyword searches and Lexile-level searches (P49-50).

Much like Google, a keyword search can yield an abundance of results which can be both good and bad — learning to sift and understand the patience around this are keys to learning for our students. So often, we are all used to instant gratification and thus when we don’t find exactly what we are looking for in an instant, we give up and move onto something else. Working with students to maximize keyword searches seems like a great way to plan an entire library lesson (HELLO, databases!) and thus show how to access the online catalog with keywords AND the database subscriptions to ensure that students are able to maximize their time and energies in the library classroom. (As an aside: Being a college professor for the last nine years, I’m constantly in shock [and awe] with how many students do NOT know how to access online databases especially considering how many local high schools have subscriptions. Louder for the people in the back: Wikipedia is not a reliable source! I digress…)

In addition to keyword and subject-based searches, the book mentions the ability to search based on Lexile level. I plan to ask my librarian friend about this for her school’s network because I think anything that levels reading as such is great. I am going to not get too excited though until I talk to my friend to see if this is even at all a realistic thought (I also posted for classmates’ thoughts/experiences on this). I also look forward to asking about curriculum objectives being linked to the school library catalog (P75) because this was something that really struck me.

In my mind, I’m picturing this very accessible and engaging catalog that allows all members of the school community a place to search and find resources, so I’m trying to keep my calm in setting realistic expectations (at least until I talk to my friend about her school’s/district’s OPAC. In the meantime, I’ll continue reading through Catalog It! and see what else jumps out at me.