There has been a resurrection of interest in a set of books in our school library. That series is the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osbourne. I've learned that there are definitely trends in the library, just like fashion, home decorating, etc. everything that comes around, goes around and then comes around again. Mary Pope Osbourne has been writing these books for about 20 years and at last count I had there are 52 of them. I can say that because I just finished ordering the ones our library didn't have so that we would have all of them. I have read a few of them, but I'm going to read them again and my goal is to read them in order. Some kids say that makes a difference. Some kids say it doesn't matter. I'm on a quest to decide for myself. So Dinosaurs in the Dark... Here I come!
And, I'm not stopping until I get to Soccer on Sunday!
Sacrifice. That's the word that comes to mind when I think about Veterans day. I think about the sacrifice of time away from family and the sacrifice of the family. I wonder if people who are not personally connected to a Veteran ever think about the sacrifice given for our freedom. One of my "go to" things to tell myself when I'm having a rough day is, "Well... you could be in __________" and fill in the blank with a country where I know they don't enjoy the freedom I do. And, that's because a Veteran has sacrificed their time and sometimes their life so I can do what I love in a country that I love.
I have family members who are Veterans. My uncles Bill, JD and Doc served our country during the Korean conflict. My cousins Brett and Bruce have served recently. I was very proud and humbled to see their pictures at our Veterans day assembly slideshow today. This past year four of my son's 29 classmates committed to serve in the military. That's a fairly high percentage. I am very grateful for the sacrifice that they and their families will make so that I can continue to enjoy my freedoms.
The CNN student newscast today focused on Veterans and the theme it focused on was "homecomings." It showed several Veterans returning home to surprise loved ones at things like class parties and graduations. My Freshman are a pretty rowdy crew, but the room was very quiet while we watched this newscast.
I learned something new today from the speaker at our assembly. He pointed out that the flag on the sleeve of his uniform may look like it is facing backward. It is put on that way on purpose, because that's the way it would look going into battle. American armed forces don't run from battle, they always push ahead.
The past month has been a whirlwind of activity. My husband and I finished our kitchen remodel. Our middle child started college and our oldest child is preparing to get married, soon. School has been very busy also. Along with all the things that librarians have to do there are new kindles to check out to students, as well as Chromebooks and the coordination of three computer labs. I'm teaching one high school class this year and since I haven't taught high school in 4 years, I feel like a new teacher and believe me when I tell you, I'm making some of the same mistakes I did 21 years ago. Much thoughtful reflection has taken place this weekend. I think I have a plan.
I love my crazy life. However, I look forward to long winter evenings, hot chocolate and a good book.
Everything that we do at school seems to be immersed in technology. I understand the definition of immersion and I feel I am using it correctly. Here’s the thing I think about… When students are working on a written assignment and they break a pencil lead, they simply sharpen the pencil. If students are working on an assignment online, and the computer crashes, it is a crisis. If students can’t log on to their computers or to a specific program, they become frustrated. As with anything we have to model to students ways to balance all things that come with learning technology.
I love all the new technology my school district has invested in. How wonderful to give students and teachers the opportunity to use the best of what's available now. Technology management seems to be taking a lot of my time and that's okay. Transitioning to a technology rich environment definitely involves a paradigm shift in education. As someone who has taught for 20 years, I sometimes feel unprepared to make this shift. Even though I have gone to a technology conference, viewed webinars and have tried to learn everything I can about the technology I must use while teaching, I still feel unsure and maybe even a little afraid of all that's out there. Maybe you do too.
Part of the conference that I attended this summer focused on the role teachers will play in the lives of students who are, as coined by the keynote speaker Marc Prensky, digital natives. He says that teachers have to be able to let students be the experts and that we don’t have to understand or even know how to use all the technology that they will be using. This is the paradigm shift I wrote of in the previous paragraph. I’m the teacher, I’m supposed to be the expert in the classroom. Oh, I understand that it’s okay to say to students, “I don’t know.” And, I have said that to students. But, if I’m the expert on content, I probably should not say that very often. How often will I find myself saying that related to technology? I wish I knew the answer to that question.
I titled this blog post, “May I sharpen my pencil please.” Do I want to go back to a time when there was no technology to aide in teaching? I really don’t. Honestly, I’m not sure my arthritic fingers could write all that I want to share. It’s so much easier to type my message. It seems I must put aside my longing for the days when I could simply say, “Yes, you may go sharpen your pencil.”
The link below is an interview of Marc Prensky. Enjoy!
Most of the teachers in my area have had students back for one week. By this point, a teacher can sort of size up the classroom dynamics and see what needs tweeking and the direction that will need to be followed for a successful year. As a teacher was picking up her class from the library the other day she asked, "how did it go?" My answer was, "I learned lots of things today, so it was a good day." As teachers, or in my case librarians, we must take opportunities to learn; and not just from a professional development standpoint. We must be willing to let learning happen in the most basic of ways... one on one. In order to make my classes better, I must use what happens and build on that for the next time. I can't go back and change what didn't go well. But, I can do my best to make sure that what I do in the future uses what I learned to move forward in the most positive manner possible.
Looking back through my twitter feed, I came across a tweet by a dear friend whom I follow. She is the type of person that I can not see for 6 to 8 months at a time and once we are together again, we pick up where we left off, like we had seen each other just the day before. Anyway, she tweeted the TedX talk by Diana Laufenberg titled How to Learn? From mistakes. I watched it. And, it sort of goes along with the whole grit thing that I wrote of earlier in the month. Students have to be allowed to fail to learn the process of learning. That process is very valuable to students. So, thanks Mindi!
Tomorrow begins year 21 in education for me! Today I visited with new teachers in our district about Professional Development, our mentoring program and resources available to them. I prepared a Google presentation with all the necessary links. The last slide was a quote by Confucius that said, "Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life." And I said to them, "Welcome to the next 30 years of vacation!" And, we all laughed at the irony of that because teachers are never really on vacation, even during those three months in the summer.
Teachers are always thinking. We are thinking about the upcoming year, thinking about ways to do things more effectively and well, better. Even if our bodies are not in motion our brains just don't stop. We will be on vacation and find the perfect thing to add to our ever-growing classroom decoration tubs. And, don't even get me started about things we find at our local bookseller. Contemplation should be our middle name.
So, after 20 years, going on 21, I can say that teaching is not an occupation, it's a lifestyle. I'm not sure I would agree with Confucius about that whole vacation analogy... But, 20 years have flown by fast. And isn't that what vacation is, something that goes by way too fast.
Happy School year to all!
Last hoorah! before the school year begins. Picture taken at
Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas.
This past week my husband and I watched our oldest child walk through the line at Missouri State University's Summer Commencement. The last four years have moved very quickly. She always uses the words "new chapter" each time she moves through another phase of her life. I'm left to ponder, how will she write this one...
Today's Teacher's Write workshop on Kate Messner's blog focused on writing a poem. The guest author is Nikki Grimes, award winning author of children's poetry. The instructions were to pick a subject and write a paragraph. Then, we were to take the paragraph and turn that into lines of poetry. I have used this formula in class and it is the easiest way that I know to get my students to write poetry. Once the idea is on paper, the writer can begin to play with the words until they have a version that is somewhat close to what they want. I really don't think a poem is ever finished. I revisit mine all the time. I chose the subject: leaf. I'm calling my poem: Leaf's Journey into Forever
I've been sitting here reflecting on the past school year and thinking about the books and videos that inspired me. I revisited Angela Duckworth's TED video about Grit. There are two lines that I absolutely love... "Failure is not a permanent condition..." and "Start over again with lessons learned..." How powerful will our teaching be if we can convince students to consider these two things as an option. I am going to challenge myself to be more gritty! If you haven't seen this, check it out!
Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, will be offering an online class studying Laura Ingalls Wilder beginning September 22nd. This class is free! The class will be taught by Pamela Smith Hill author of Pioneer Girl.
I love this article! It sums up most of what I think a modern library should be. I like to think of our school library as more of a collaborative classroom. I have to say that in regards to number 10, I feel very supported by my administration and board of education. We can always use more money, however our school does a great job of supporting students access to information.
Many times authors will publish information about strategies that they use to write. Insight into this fascinating occupation or hobby or obsession, if you will, can be inspirational. Stephen King gives practical advice that is not impossible to follow. For example, if you want to be a better writer, READ! Sounds like great advice!
Today's Teacher's Write assignment was to map out ideas for future writing. A list of projects I would like to finish and begin include the following:
a book of poetry
a young adult novel, historical fiction romance, based on grandparents primarily set in the 40’s and 50’s
a novel, historical fiction based on loss and coping using my grandmother as inspiration
a children’s book series featuring girls in agricultural occupations
The assignment also asked for us to write about some of these and the ideas that we have.
I have several works in progress. I have several poems that I am working on. The theme that keeps recurring is that of the 30’s and 40’s and my grandparents. I have a few pages of a book started. The main character in this is also a character based loosely on my maternal grandmother. I tend to always use one or more of my grandparents as inspiration. I don’t know a lot about their lives as young adults and I think I just like to try to recreate what I think their life would have been like. When I am picturing characters in my brain, their faces are the ones that pop up.
It also asked us to comment on what writing challenge we would like to tackle.
I would like to begin work on is a children’s book series featuring things in agriculture as a setting.
Yesterday and Wednesday, my husband and I attended college orientation for our middle child. Each meeting we sat through, no matter what the topic of discussion the buzzword was "transition". Our son is getting ready to attend college in the fall and this orientation was part of the process of "transitioning" both ourselves and him to move away from home and make decisions, be independent, etc., etc., etc.
This is not our first child who has moved out into the big wide world. Our daughter will graduate on August 1st with her Bachelor's degree. We are so excited for our oldest two children. One will be "transitioning" into the job work force. And, the other will be "transitioning" into the college work force.
For our daughter, she will truly be independent, hopefully. She will get some type of job somewhere and she will contemplate returning to grad school. She is getting married. She is at the beginning of the rest of her life. Maybe she will still need us just a little bit.
Our son will be independent also. But it is a different kind of independent. We hope he comes home on the weekend and needs laundry done. And, we hope he needs a little bit of advice on homework. But, honestly, he probably won't need us much either.
At least we still have child number three, here in our small town, under our wing. Oh, who am I kidding, he is more independent than the other two put together! He is the most self-sufficient 8th grader I have ever known.
Our lives are getting ready to "transition" into a new chapter, again. Different challenges, different emotions, same book.
Throughout the summer I have been reading. However, this week I began a new learning adventure. I began participating in "Teachers Write." This is summertime writing place for teachers to improve the craft of writing. Each day has a topic and the writer can choose whether or not to share. So far, I've been sharing.
The author's blogs that I have learned about include Kate Messner's and Nora Baskin's. Both of these authors write for elementary and middle school audiences. Kate Messner also has a book about helping students edit. I have ordered that and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival.
It's July 8th and there is only one month left until I'm officially back in the library. Although, I know I'll be there before then. Around the first of August I'll be getting anxious.