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.

 

cry when you get home

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 4 to DC to celebrate his birthday (belatedly) by visiting BeiBei at the National Zoo. We had a blast and I logged nearly 25 miles on foot over the course of the four days there. Traveling with a toddler isn’t all panda bears and doughnuts, though; my son goes to bed at 7:30PM each night and we try to stay on schedule when traveling, thus I had a bit of time to read on my phone in the dark each night (because if I went to bed at 7:30, I’d be up and ready to party by 3AM).

One article I read over the weekend was about teacher burnout in urban school settings: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/teachers-therapy-trauma-philadelphia-20191107.html

In this article, it was mentioned that a PD session implored teachers to be strong for their students and thus need to maintain their cool until the school day ends. This brought back so many memories of behaviors and conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers I’ve worked with.

When I started teaching, I loved the work I did — I spent countless hours planning and reading and preparing and prepping for my students’ success. After two years in DC Public Schools, I learned of an opportunity in northern VA that would cut my commute and seemed like a similar enough fit. I took my skills there and eventually became a department chair before leaving for MA. I’ve been teaching at the community college level for the last nine years and still have the same emotional load to carry as I did when I first began.

For years, I’d cry the duration of my morning and/or afternoon commutes. The weight of my students’ plight sat heavy in my heart and many days, I couldn’t really handle the thought of what a weekend or school vacation brought to their lives. My physical and mental health suffered and I used many sick days battling illness and/or tears. I thought that when I transitioned to higher education, I’d leave behind all of the fret I dreaded each day.

I was wrong.

The last two years have increased my stress-load; especially last year when I had a handful of students who partook in a form of self-harm. Again, managing the emotional load took a toll on me — I was drained of energy and filled with dread to take on my days. In some ways, I’m grateful that students are more aware and willing to share their experiences so that they can receive the help they so dearly need; on the other hand, the empath in my really struggles to separate the school day with my personal life.

Taking time off to figure out how to move forward career-wise has been good for me. I’ve been able to spend tons of time with my family and am in a much better headspace (I’m sure all of the yoga helps with this too). I am wondering how the emotional load changes when moving away from urban education and into more suburban settings. Believe me, I understand that all districts have their issues — I’m just trying to figure out how to balance the emotional load with the work and personal loads.

I am hoping that this time I am using to stay at home with 4 and reflect and take classes will help guide my thoughts and release my mind so that I’m fresh to go when 4 is ready to start kindergarten; until then, I’ll keep getting myself into healthy habits so that I can be set up for as much emotional and physical success as possible when the time comes.

national zoo

This weekend, 4 and I are boarding a plane and heading to our nation’s capital to see ‘the bunnies’ — 4 has been obsessed with pandas (or bunnies, as he so lovingly names them) since he first saw one in a book. Two years ago, we were in town for a baby shower and took him to see them at the zoo — enter, Little Bunny, the stuffed panda he chose there. Little Bunny has been his right-side guy every night since then. It seems 4 is excited to add a sister-bunny to the mix this weekend and has already asked if he can pick one out.

Who am I to say no?

I am really excited for this mommy-4 trip. Our last trip together was in the spring when we went to Great Wolf Lodge; there, my son kept yelling, “I’m trump patrol and I’m ready to roll” — what he meant was ‘chug patrol’ from a British cartoon he enjoys: Chuggington. I can only imagine what little statements will come up on this trip.

We land late Saturday morning and will head straight to our hotel and then lunch with a dear friend. Sunday is our national zoo trip with some of my closest girlfriends and one’s little lady (she’s two) and Monday is completely up in the air — whatever the little man is into, I suppose: Could be a museum trip or a few hours at a local playground. At the end of the day, I’m just really excited to have this time to spend with him. He’s my little buddy and our time together is so special.

I am also excited to share with him where I spent nearly 10 years of my adult life. I love getting back to DC and haven’t been there in two years now. I have kept in touch with my closest friends from there (of course, I just went to Charleston with one) and so having 4 be a part of that circle is also something that’s so very important to me. Every trip we take, he gets to learn more about his tribe of people who care for him endlessly.

I’m not sure what else will be on our agenda — I’ve thought about a special dessert trip to the Melting Pot because who doesn’t love chocolate fondue and I read about a local doughnut shop just near our hotel; of course, I love my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in DC, Cactus Cantina and 2Amys, right next door with the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I am packing our Rider Safe so that we can take a taxi through the city if we so choose and maybe get to my alma mater for a quick tour.

I am all packed and ready to go and my heart could just explode thinking of all of the memories we get to make this weekend. To top it off, 4 had a great day at school today, so we are heading into the weekend in a really good headspace and are ready to take on our mommy-4 adventure!

*Note: This was written Friday but I set the publication date to go live after our return (safety reasons).

PD for Teachers

This week’s content for my Emerging Tech class is about professional development. I’m really excited to get started on this because all semester, I’ve been chomping at the bit to do something cross-curricular. I figured this is the assignment to really jump on that ship.

Now, to start, I want to mention that I’ve sat through MANY a professional development seminar and most of them lacked literally everything we tell teachers to do when creating a dynamic lesson. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t fall into that trap and that I’d be able to harness my intensity so not to scare off any colleagues before they had the pleasure of actually conversing with me. I also didn’t want to annoy people to the point that drove them leave the PD and grab drinks at the bar down the street…

My main focus and idea centers on doing a PD session with teachers for integrating the library classroom into their content areas through using a presentation tool and offering each of the main content areas a specific suggestion as to an additional application/site to use. It may not be fully integrated co-curricular but it touches on it in a way that I am comfortable and would feel competent enough to run.

Largely, for me, all of this is basically playing pretend because as you’ve likely gathered, I’ve worked with significantly under-funded schools. My strengths are around literacy and learning development which I think can make me a great resource to school staff. For this reason, I wanted to be deliberate around such a task. (I feel like making this known will depend on the school and reading the situation; I certainly wouldn’t want teachers feeling like I was trying to overtake their classrooms but also want them to know that I’m a valuable resource for them, so I’ll have to play the scene that is handed to me in my future school here…)

When I start to plan anything, I think about my end goals and then have about 46 simultaneous ideas surging through my mind (which is great when you’re trying to focus and/or tell a story). Over the years, I’ve learned to go with it — sometimes I process in rapid speed and other times, not so much. For this assignment, I took an entire day to just let my brain sit with my thoughts as I sorted out my vision.

Then, I read the assigned texts. One, in particular, resonated with me: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership by Sharon Coatney (2010). This article focused on school library media specialists serving the school community as ‘experts’ and ‘leaders’ — from this course, I’ve definitely gathered that we are the experts in the school and should really be viewed as an asset but I never made the connection between school leadership and the library.

In the last several years, my consulting has taken me all over the world, delivering American education, training, and curriculum each step of the way. I recognized that I was hired for my leadership skills but for some reason, the thought hadn’t yet transferred to my (theoretical) role in the school library. This adds a lot of pressure to the library media position but also, for me, helps to build confidence in that someone will hire me recognizing that I’m capable and competent enough to lead school staff in educational technology and other facets housed in the library media center.

I used this idea to develop my PD plan for teachers by offering a full agenda and breakout sessions that all culminate to a shared presentation at the end of the of the session. To me, this is something that I could pilot in either a before-the school year begins capacity or at an early professional development meeting whereby I introduce the library media center and then demonstrate some of my tech competencies to fellow staff and administrators.

This assignment was interesting to put together because I think it served to prepare me for how overwhelming and intense my immediate responses to things that excite me. In order to be an effective leader of the library media center, I’ll need to reign things in so that colleagues find me approachable (and relatively sane). I think that utilizing technology helps me maintain organization and structure for things like this and I like that I can use technology to serve dual purposes like teaching teachers and then giving them examples of how to teach students. I am really looking forward to putting these mock tasks into action in a library classroom.

Programs I used for this assignment are listed below:

Screencast-O-Matic — I used this to create a ‘mock’ lesson/demonstration of Prezi

Sutori & MathTalk — These were used for the Maths breakout

Prezi & Peergrade — These were used for the ELA breakout

LiveBinders & iCell — These were used for the Science breakout

Padlet & iCivics — These were used for the Social Studies breakout

Plus, Musilla Music School, HeadSpace, iDraw, Quizlet, and VidCode, which are used for specials/electives and their correlating breakouts.

 

 

Unit Plans

Oh, boy. This week we were assigned a unit plan. Of course, curriculum planning is MY JAM. Before becoming a mostly stay at home mom (and of course, a full-time SAHM), I wrote curriculum full-time. I designed standards mapping and full-on curriculum for the American education that was taken and implemented in China — I also got to travel all through China where I met with stakeholders in programs, ran training sessions for teachers/administrators, and of course, ate lots of delicious food. (Oh, how I miss the dandan noodles in Wuhan — even Myers&Chang’s aren’t as delicious…)

I was overly excited about this assignment because developing lessons and course materials is something I’ve always enjoyed. Taking a step back from devoting so much of my time and travel to be at home more was the best decision for my family but it was a major adjustment. I still do some curriculum development in a consulting capacity but not nearly as much as I once did. A lot has changed in the last few years (including the addition of our little man) but being back in school has me excited.

Going back to school is a change for everyone in my house. As I worked on this unit plan and was thinking of ways to create ‘student work’ I figured I’d involve the two older kiddos. Each of them made a short FlipGrid on a book they’ve read. I didn’t realize how exciting it would be for them to ‘help’ me with my assignments but my goodness, they wrote out their little descriptions and were so excited to practice; then we watched them six times each afterwards.

As I worked to find an additional nine tech sources for my unit plan, I came across Sutori — this is a really neat presentation tool and I enjoyed playing around with it a bit. I created a couple of presentations on it, one for a lecture and another for ‘student work’. Other technologies I decided to include were Prezi for a piece on student book selection and Animoto for another lecture segment on genre. I also created a Padlet to showcase all of the ‘student work’ — THIS piece was so fun!

Of all the technology I used, the Padlet was my favorite. I was able to showcase the Google Docs, Sutori, and FlipGrids to it and I love the idea of using this on a SMARTBoard for an interactive learning experience. To be honest, this assignment really has me excited to start my journey as a school librarian. It feels like a really fun position to have and is like a content-area teacher but with all of the fun pieces — what could be better?!

Even if I decide to return to the classroom as a content-area teacher, I feel like I’ll have so many more resources to share with students that will help to make learning exciting. This week, 13 had a paper for SOC where she had to design a screen saver for Thomas Jefferson’s phone along with a few phone contacts, Tweets, and text messages. It was similar to an assignment I did with students years ago as we read Romeo & Juliet. I love school tasks that have a sense of humor and really appreciate teachers trying to relate to students. For me, this is something I need to work on more — as discussed in basically every post, technology is not the center focus in my personal life so the adjustment for me is very real. That being said, I’ve been learning that there is some really neat technology out there and I’m excited to try and offer a fresh approach to learning with the students I end up working alongside.

 

mom’s trip

Traveling is good for the soul; this is absolutely a fundamental belief of mine. I love to go places and experience new things; without hesitation, quality time is my love language and what better way to spend quality time with people than to head off on an adventure.

If you’re looking for ‘proof in the pudding’ … I do not have an engagement ring or a wedding band. My husband and I traveled to Vietnam in lieu of an engagement ring and spent two glorious weeks trekking through that beautiful country. Chicago was a little trip that took place of the wedding bands. While my husband is my favorite travel companion, I was able to travel to meet my dear friend this past week.

She and her family moved to Florida over the summer and the prospect of heading someplace other than Kansas was great. We decided to ‘meet in the middle’ and spent a few days in Charleston, SC. Holy moly — what a beautiful, quaint town. When I returned home, my son asked what we did the whole time and I told him that I talked so much, I lost my voice.

It’s true — we walked 20+ miles in 3.5 days, talked, took a tour of the Aiken-Rhett House, moseyed around The Battery, walked through outdoor markets, and met up for rooftop drinks with my first DC roommate. It was a great way to celebrate 16 years of friendship and the much needed friend time I so badly desired.

Charleston was a breath of fresh air: It was in the upper 70s and was super sunny each day; had some issues with our hotel but they compensated us with prosecco and cake; and we were picked up Friday night by my old roomie in his golf cart and then got to meet his girlfriend and her son.

Everything that went right could have and I returned home to hugs and a visit from my parents (they got to our house about 30 minutes after I did). Friendships are something that I cherish and I try to stay in touch with people the best I can, so this trip where I got to spend a few days with my DC bestie and then get to meet up with another old friend was great.

We all knew each other before significant others — there’s nothing like the people you navigated the waters of your early 20s with. We’d all moved to DC at the same time; I met my bf at the Steelers’ bar my first weekend there and as the only two girls in the bar, we became fast friends. Then, I found a place in Georgetown but needed a roommate: Enter, Roommate — he was the first out of 16 people I’d met who I didn’t think would murder me in my sleep (or when I was awake for that matter). We spent our earliest twenties bar hopping and making not the greatest choices at times. It’s great to reconnect with those we know at different parts of our lives and was fun to reminisce about what life was like before kids and a dog.

I always feel like I’m the best wife and mom I can be when I have time to be ME instead of always H’s wife or 4’s mom and what a better way to be true to yourself than spend a few days with the people who knew you before any of the big life changes did. In a couple weeks, I am taking 4 to DC to get together with friends of mine — these are people in his village who love him and support him from afar. They are also people who knew single me and love me just the same.

Being a stay at home mom certainly can have its challenges. For me, those challenges have nothing to do with my child but rather the difficulties around maintaining my own personal identity and it really is great to have that time which always allows me to come home feeling like I can take on the world … or at least my household.

Assistive & Adaptive Tech

This week for class, we had a number of readings (and discussion); because I am traveling on Wednesday, I started the readings at the end of last week so that I could get my work done and enjoy my long weekend away. The topic is one of interest to me, assistive and adaptive technology. While I’ve never been a certified special education teacher, I have worked with students with exceptionalities the duration of my career. When I started teaching in DC, I was assigned two learning clusters for mainstream: ED and MR. I was told this was because my class was calm and I was patient; honestly, it seemed like a reward for hiding my anxiety and how overwhelmed I was by being a shy person by nature. Hoorah.

In all seriousness, it was a great learning experience and as a result, I worked with the head of the ED cluster who’d push into my class to work with some of our more challenging students. It was a win-win for all of us and I really appreciated being pushed to better my practice day in and day out. (I have such fond memories of some of these students and their successes.) If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll remember that I didn’t have books and for a time, I didn’t have a classroom. I did have four desktop computers along the back wall; only one worked and the only person who ever got it to work was not a student of mine but just one who would wander in, fire it up, and look at pornography: A real treat of an experience those redirections were for a green, 25 year old teacher (we actually had a plan where a student would go and get his case manager and we’d continue on — this seemed to cause the least amount of stress for all parties).

One of my assigned readings this week was the article: When the Classroom Feels Hostile: I found this article interesting because ninth grade most definitely is a sweet spot for holding onto or losing students to their learning struggles. In my years in DCPS, I taught ninth and tenth grade English. I worked with students who read typically on a fourth grade reading level and spent countless hours scaffolding my lessons to meet the needs of a very diversely-skilled student body. I caught some students and built upon their skills while others verbalized their ‘waiting it out’ plan (this plan was to quit school when they reached 18; I had several ninth grade students on the cusp of becoming legal adults). This disparity is all too common for students whose educational needs go unmet. After years of teaching in DCPS, I accepted a department chair position in a neighboring district.

When I left DCPS, I worked in an alternative school; we had a robotics program but little technology otherwise. Our school was really small; there was no formal library or computer lab. I had a computer for work and a SmartBoard that wasn’t connected to anything. Our principal held meetings where we passed a talking stick around so I think that tech just wasn’t a priority of his, honestly. His method worked for building relationships with students, but it definitely lacked in preparing them for future tech advancements. After two years teaching in NoVA, I moved to Boston and that’s where things really opened up for me: I worked in a special education school where access to all sorts of technology was atop my administrator’s priority list.

Dragon Speak and Kurzweil were what I utilized most as an English teacher. I feel strongly that students who struggle with reading and writing, learning disability or otherwise, deserve the opportunity to succeed and these programs really offer students a chance to process information in their own ways and output thoughts with ease. In one of the links provided by my professor, I read that only 5% of middle school students with learning disabilities are proficient in writing and only 33% of teachers feel prepared to teach writing (Cast 2019). As educators, we HAVE to do better than this.

In thinking of how I will be able to better utilize technology to meet my future students’ needs in the library classroom, I read the article Assistive Technology: 10 Things to Know by Janet Hopkins (2006) and found it helpful. It is a lot less intimidating to chunk technology into three sections: Low Tech (highlighter tape, graphic organizers, large print), Mid-Tech (tape recorders, headphones), and High Tech (computer-based, text-to-speech, concept mapping). Because low and mid-level tech are most easily available, it’s easy enough to figure out ways to implement and offer supports to both students and colleagues on how best to utilize across the board. The higher tech AT require a bit more planning, as they are more costly and likely require licensing and training. Thus, I feel it’s important to devise a plan on how to properly choose and implement these technologies for the benefits of all students.

Janet Hopkins published another article I read this weekend, School Library Accessibility: The Role of Assistive Technology (2004). In it, she suggested forming a focus group to devise a plan for AT and also using PD time to explore ways to improve upon the library. This has me thinking of PLCs to try and be a part of within the school community to forge connections and better understand the barriers to learning within the classrooms so that I could adequately compare them with those in the library. Hopkins also suggested publicizing AT initiatives and having a plan to speak to administrative staff; to me, these go hand-in-hand and allow for some concrete plans to move forward. Because I recognize that I can be intense at times, I feel like this is something I’d need to really plan and implement slowly to ensure my enthusiasm doesn’t come across in an overly assertive way and that I’m able to move the conversation positively to secure funding and adequate resources.

In her 2006 article, Hopkins addresses ways to secure funding for AT by reaching out to Parent Advisory Committees (PAC) or even writing grants to finance the more expensive educational technology. Otherwise, she suggests using low- or no-cost alternatives. Through looking into all of the shared articles and links for my course, I came across these social narrative apps through the QIAT site: I love the idea of using the app My Story e-Book Maker to allow students a chance to share their stories without an intimidation factor around getting their story out. Project Enable is another option for librarian to look into — they offer training and resources that you can handily select specific learning disabilities/impairments to find books, articles, databases, and websites specifically designed to meet the learning needs of those students. The Cast UDL Studio was another resource I appreciated; here, you are able to design resources specifically to meet the needs of your students.

Personally, I like the idea of the library classroom offering access to assistive and adaptive technologies for students. It seems like one of the more reasonable places within the confines of a school to house accessible technologies and would somewhat force the hand of collaboration between the librarian, special education staff, and content area teachers. As I gear up to work in a school library, this is one area of interest I need to keep in mind for discussions with future school leaders and potential employers.