Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Now I lay me. . .

I am sitting in the doorway of my kids' bedroom, laptop on my lap.  Eli is four and constipated.  Lola will be two next week and is determined to get Eli to play with her, despite the fact that he just wants to sleep. So here I am, following Supernanny directives and common sense (when I am within eyeshot, Lola stays quiet and quits bugging her brother). 

In the doorway of Eli & Lola's bedroom I can also see into the bedroom I share with my husband, who is dutifully painting the kitchen a nice shade of Innocence, which looks much whiter than it did on the swatch and has me a little nervous. The sound of the neighbor's lawn mowing is not accompanied by one of my favorite scents, but is instead juxtaposed with the acrid scent of fresh paint.  I am within eyeshot and barely out of earshot of the TV in our bedroom* which is turned on to 

[I think Lola might be asleep]

. . . which is turned on to Make Room for Multiples on Discovery Health because although I swear I am done having kids (and I really am) I like to see other people having kids. I especially like to be scornful of their choice of names, for although my womb is closed for business, I collect names that are especially nice. 

[she's still quiet]

[never mind: kicking the safety rail on her bed]

School's out, it feels as if I've been on summer vacation for weeks rather than a few days, and I am a summertime stay-at-home-mom.  I'm going to disclose a little secret of mine: summer vacation is the time I am reminded why I am not a year-round stay-at-home-mom.  It is a hard job, and I know many SAHMs that are much, much better at it than I am. I am not particularly social, so we stay at home a lot. The house tends to be messier when we're all home during the summer than it does during the school year. And I'm tired.  

Every summer I have to get reacquainted with my kids in a new way; assessing what our summer goals are and weeding out annoying behaviors that have been developed over the school year. 

Each summer is so different. Last summer I had a baby girl who still took two naps a day (so we had to stay home a lot) and a newly potty-trained toddler. The summer before that (2008 if you're keeping track) I had a prematurely born baby girl who required 5 weeks in the NICU, and a little boy who was adjusting to life as a big brother (that was a very hard summer). The summer before that was beautiful with my baby boy, but I can barely remember it. 

So this summer is promising. 

This summer is promising. 

Summer is . . . still hard. 

But there was a beautiful time today. While Lola napped I was teaching Eli to sew while I made felt flower barrettes for Lola. It was peaceful and still makes me smile. Of course when Lola woke up she would have none of that sewing business. The kids started in on one of those "OMG where can I hide" fights (I won't bore you too much with the details but the gist of it was Eli didn't want Lola to look at his kool-aid). So wonderful parent that I am, I took a deep breath, forced myself to talk slowly, and said in my best Mary Poppins voice "Okay children! We are going to read! Lets all go sit on the couch and read together!" They love to read, so they followed (still screaming at each other) and I grabbed the nearest cutesy book (Baby Animals by Gyo Fujikawa) and within 5 minutes they were calm but more importantly I was calm. We read through the time that I should have been starting dinner. We read until we were laughing and ended up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and green peas for dinner.

And the calm lasted until bedtime.  It was truly wonderful.

I have to remind myself that it is usually more important to do anything that restores order than to do anything else.  Dust will wait, but memories of chaos is not what I want in my kids' minds.  

And I wonder. All the abuse and chaos witnessed this past school year. I wonder, if their parents had grabbed their kids and instead of hurting them, they read to them, how much more peaceful they would be? How much easier my job would be. How much better the world would be.  

I'm willing to bet that I actually know what I'm talking about this time.  

And that post-naptime will be set aside for reading this summer. 

And wow, that PB&J was really good. 

*I have always sworn I would not have a TV in my bedroom, so I feel the need to explain.  A few years ago when I got pregnant and really sick with my ulcerative colitis, all I could do was come home and go to bed. It wasn't a pretty time, and the TV kept me from going insane with sickly boredom.  I watched all the Food Network I could (since I couldn't eat much of anything), and escaped a little.  Now of course the kids have taken over and insist on crawling into our bed every chance they can to watch their favorite cartoons. But don't worry, on my husband's list of things to do this summer (this is his own list, I am absolutely NOT the "honey-do" type of wife) is to move the TV out.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

so close I can taste it. . . and I might throw up.

I've been on a blogging hiatus lately, mainly due to the chaos of the end of the school year. Well that, and the freedom that came when I received word that I had achieved As in both of my classes this past term. My last classes of the library media education certification program. One of those classes was my internship  which I documented in this blog.

But I'm not done yet. In exactly 36 hours (oh my gosh, THAT scares the crap out of me) I will be hearing "you may now begin" from the lips of whichever poor soul drew the short straw to proctor the Praxis II: Library Media Specialist Certification Examination. 120 questions. 2 hours. 7:30 am.


Now don't get me wrong. I've actually almost always enjoyed taking tests. I like to prove what I know. I just can't recall a test I've ever taken in which the stakes are higher. If I don't pass this, I don't get to continue being a library media specialist. I would have to shell out another $150 and try again.  I wish to God that somebody had told me earlier that I didn't have to wait until after all my classes were done to take this test. I would've taken it last summer with no worries, since I would always know in the back of my mind that I could take it again.  But worries again, if I fail, I'd have to take a completely new version of the test since MN is switching its academic testing company from Praxis to Pearson after this summer.

Wait. Did I say $150? I should add to that the $21.75 that I just paid for what I thought was a Praxis: LMS study guide. It wasn't.

Lucky for me and my extensive googling I found the College of St. Scholastica's Various Pieces of Advice on what to study for the Library Media Specialist Praxis Exam which contains some really good advice that I wish I had found earlier.  I've pretty much memorized the two practice exams that I did find online here, here, and here. But certain questions really freaked me out.  I'm not even going to get into which ones did, because typing this has relaxed me enough that I think I can get back to studying now.

Anyway, wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

the end is nigh

I just completed my online portfolio, ready to go, summarizing my internship experience.  I'm going to wait until tomorrow night to send it in, in case there are any glaring mistakes, because as the true 21st century citizen that I am, I posted it on Facebook and e-mailed it to the staff at my school in an attempt that maybe one or two of them would take a chance to see what I've been spending all my time doing lately 

OR (eve better) they'd think eFolio is pretty cool and they might want to use it some day. Lucky for them I now know how, which was the whole point of using it for my portfolio in the first place; I learned it well enough to teach it if I want to. Because it is pretty cool. I like being able to keep all my documents online. They feel safer that way.

Oh. Here it is, just in case you were interested:  Carly's eFolio

Crazy day, though. I took a half day off, in order to get this whole thing together.  I realized I had made a mistake by not getting my supervising media specialists to sign the checklist, so I had to take a trip back to both sites to get them signed. Kind of funny being back, just for a visit. I still felt right at home in both places.

But maybe it was just all the books. 

currently reading: The Wizard of Oz series on my Sony Reader. They're fantastic! So much better than the movie. I also have about a bazillion books on my "need to read" list, fortunately for me I'm nearing the end of my certification program, which means I'll soon be able to read without guilt. Woot!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

High School Internship: Day 5

(40 hours done, 0 to go)

Just when I get the hang of this internship thing, I'm done! Seriously, this internship went the best. I knew how to get ahold of collaborative teachers, I jumped right in and felt most at ease, but most of all I really enjoyed my time. Once again I felt that I had not just finished an internship, but had made lasting connections both professional and personal.  It is so important to stay in contact with other job-alike professionals, and I can see now the advantage of making that cross-district rather than just within my district. I felt that I gained some perspective on how the job is done in other districts, and I have ideas that I can implement in my own school immediately as well as in a more lasting way.

Time flies when you're having fun, and today was no exception.

I started off right away with the collaboration with the Read-180 teacher, who came in with 12 students who were struggling readers, working specifically on Digital Citizenship and Cyber Bullying. I had 12 laptops set up on one side of the LMC and we jumped right in. A few difficulties were that I didn't have my own screen to show them what to do, but since the lesson was pretty simple and there were so few students I basically went around to each table to explain the activity and prompted where needed. It helped that there were three teachers with the group, so the teacher-to-student ratio was in my favor.  Still, it felt a bit awkward.  The second difficulty arose when the students began to watch the video clip. Since there were no headphones, we had 12 laptops all sounding out the video, which was annoying and probably distracting to the students (I immediately told them to utilize 3 nearby tables in order to spread out the sound a bit) although they didn't show it.  After the video they took the cyber bullying quiz and every student that I saw got 7 out of 10 correct, which tells me that 1) it was an appropriate level, or B) there were three questions that stumped them all.  They then did an activity dealing with the video, which they were able to print out. The teacher was pleased with the lesson, enough that she wanted them to stay and continue on BrainPOP! (in the other digital citizenship lessons) rather than go back to class.

The rest of the time flew by. I spent some time gathering books on the 20s for a class who will be researching next week (the same class I presented to yesterday; I would've liked to have been there for their research, too).

I helped a few students, one who was having some formatting problems, such as double-spacing her paper.

I assisted in the weeding/relabeling of some books that I pulled yesterday from the 912s. It wasn't clear where they belonged, but it was clear that the 912s were a bit confused.  Ms. S based her weeding on the 30-year rule: a reference book with the copywrite older than 30 years is probably of no more use due to the outdated materials. However we decided that since some of them were history books it was probably okay to keep them in the collection for awhile longer.

I also had the chance to Tattle-Tape and finish some brand new books, which I've never done before (specifically putting the plastic over dust jackets) since we hardly ever get brand new books in my library. It was a good experience to have.

I also took some pictures of the things I've done in the past week, to add to the blog and for my own memory.  As I was taking pictures I had an idea. Ms. S has set up a few brochure displays for students on specific book genres, book awards, and database passwords. I thought that it would be a great idea to do something similar for my staff, since a frustration I have with my job is explaining the same thing repeatedly (like how to use the eHelp Desk, or edit teacher webpages). If I have these brochures easily accessible, especially at the beginning of the year, I will cut down on my frustration and probably help the staff. Since my principal is going to be working in extra admin days for me at the beginning of the year (and since I'll be done with my certification by June, hopefully) I'll have the time to create these brochures. The staff development sessions I did were in need of a hand-out, but I simply didn't have the time to get any together since I was also preparing for my classes.

That was pretty much my day, I am looking forward to putting together my online portfolio, now that I have all the documentation I need to do so.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

High School Internship: Day 4

(32 hours down, 8 to go)

Wow, am I tired! I had a hard time falling asleep last night; I was nervous about filling 55 minutes with my Prezi today on The Harlem Renaissance. I tracked down a good video on United Streaming (which is through The Discovery Channel, it has great video clips on numerous topics) about the rise of the Harlem Renaissance just in case.  When I talked to Ms. S about it this morning she was surprised that I was asked to teach an entire class, usually she said she is expected to simply teach what she has, and then be done with it.

The lesson actually went pretty well. I taught it twice, and the first class was split (they had lunch right in the middle of their hour, with a half-hour of class time on either side) so I tried to stretch the Prezi through the first half of class. It was actually just fine, I had done enough research on the topic to stretch it easily, however I think the presentation suffered for it; I felt that I was talking too much, too. The second class seemed bored, although I was doing the same talk, although it was incredibly hot in the room which made everyone a bit sleepy.  The poem share went well, and led to a good discussion on issues of racism and how America today is really not much different than the America that Langston Hughes lived in.

I was frustrated a bit because I set up the projector for the first hour, and it got moved so when I set it up for the second class time the presentation was blurry and I couldn't focus it in better (I'm not used to having to deal with these kinds of technical issues since my school has ceiling-mounted projectors already focused and ready to go) which did not help me seem like a credible source (in my opinion), since I was also trying to explain the advantages of Prezi.

I asked the teacher if she had any advice and she e-mailed me:

Thank you for coming to my classroom and for your presentation to my lit kids.  I think they enjoyed the concept of Prezi - I know I'm going to check it out for future use!  I'm sorry my "clicker" didn't work for you!
I have some suggestions for you and I appreciate that you asked me to share them.
I noticed there was a spelling error in the visual presentation; you mentioned the Savoy Hotel, but it was spelled as Savory in your presentation.  I also picked up on several verbal grammar errors - I was probably the only one who noticed - if you present in an English classroom again, this might be worth noting.  Several times you used subject/verb disagreement (i.e. "there's jobs," "the jobs was..." and "there's places" etc.).
In presenting to high school students and expecting them to take notes, it is often helpful to have either an outline format and/or shorter sentences.  Even with this very visually stimulating format, I think the presentation could have been in an outline form, or with bulleted points, so they can better track the information as they take notes.  High school kids really relate to the visual images, so perhaps more photos of your topics would have been helpful.  You did a great job of filling in information that was not included in your "slides." 
It could not be helped that the focus could not be perfected, but perhaps we should have previewed the presentation and then made font adjustments to help the clarity.  It seemed the larger fonts were more clear than the smaller ones.

Useful overall, odd that I was committing so many pronunciation errors; I was nervous, but those aren't mistakes I knew I made.  Definitely worth keeping in mind.

After I got back to the LMC I was absolutely exhausted! I felt like I had been talking for two hours straight (which I pretty much had) but I still had some energy to be of some use. I set up another book display with memoirs featuring people from all different backgrounds including; Chinese Cinderella: the true story of an unwanted daughter, Burnt Bread and Chutney, and a lot of other very interesting looking books.

I had a chance to talk to Ms. S about some interesting online sites. She discovered that her Netflix account can be accessed at work, and used at up to eight computers. So she decided to get a free month-long trial under the school's name to see if teachers would take advantage of the video streaming feature, which puts movies directly onto their computer (and can then be projected). Ms. S did call Netflix first, to see if this was acceptable use.

I showed her GarrisonSites , which is where I get good website ideas. We were looking around and discovered Lingro , which can translate any website into a learning tool. By entering a website into the Lingro site, it makes it possible to then click on any word on the website and hear it read outloud, gives a definition, and can translate it into 10 languages.

Ms S showed me Destiny Quest , which I didn't know was a part of the Destiny online catalog. It is a very cool "social network" type website which enables students to have friends, see what others are reading, write book reviews, and even recommend books to friends. I am looking forward to introducing this to my students.

One frustrating thing about the day was my challenge to desensitize books as I checked them out. Every single book I checked out I forgot to desensitize until the student walked through the door and the alarm went off. It was really embarrassing. I am not used to having to desensitize books, but still. I should have been able to remember.

Only one day left, which is a bit surreal. It has been really easy to fit into the rhythm of the media center. I am going to bring my camera tomorrow to take some pictures of my experience.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

High School Internship: Day 3

(24 hours down, 16 to go)

I think I have the routine down, because today was just a normal day. I had to meet with the principal (along with two student teachers) to go over the employee handbook. It was pretty straight-forward, and since I've worked in that district before, it was nothing I hadn't heard before.  The principal did tell us about how their whole internet system (including grades, payroll, and attendance) was shut down last year for over two weeks because of a virus that they think was brought in on someone's flash drive.  They have updated their system so that flash drives are scanned for viruses when they're plugged in to a school computer.

When I got back to the LMC I talked to Ms. S about it, because with the computer out for so long I wondered whether they bothered checking out books, and how it affected their daily routine. She said that the two circulation desk computers were out for only a week but during that week they had to search for books by memory, and using their Dewey Decimal books to jog their memory about where books might be. They allowed one student at a time to use one of the circulation desk computers for research purposes. She said the most frustrating thing was the lack of communication regarding when they could start using computers again. They weren't directly contacted and had to rely on word of mouth whether they could resume computer use. That is a huge problem, since card catalogues have been replaced by electronic (often online) systems. There needs to be a back-up plan for when things go off-line, and media specialists should know their Dewey Decimal. I'm pretty good at remembering it, although I often have to recite The Dewey Decimal Rap to jog my memory (my 4th graders actually listen to The Dewey Decimal Rap as they're working on the computer).

Since I'm on the subject of Melvil Dewey 's system, I spent some time today getting acquainted with some of its quirks. Ms. Y, the LMC para, has been wanting to re-classify some of the books in the 900s, so I helped her by pulling the ones that seemed out of place. Before doing so I checked online (of course) to see what was supposed to go in that section, specifically the 914s, which is supposed to be the section for books about Europe. However, in this school it was dedicated to travel books and geography (which is supposed to be 910) with some historical geography (911) and some travel memoirs (921) thrown into the mix.  It wasn't pretty, and many of the books were old and are possibly going to be weeded from the system.

During 3rd hour I went and introduced myself to Ms. V.S. who is the teacher I am collaborating with.  I got clarification from her that her expectations are that I'll have the entire hour (both 4th and 5th) so I decided to do a hand-out of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen poems (one poet on each side of a double-sided page). After my Prezi presentation, I'll have students break off into groups of 4, and two people will read the Hughes poems, while the other two will read the Cullen poems. They will then tell the other two in their group what they got out of the poems (not sure yet how I'll word this). I also decided that I was going to scrap the Prezi I've been working on for 2 days, in exchange for using the Prezi I found already made in the "share" section of Prezi, mainly because it is a bit more detailed, and I like the way the creator stylized his presentation.  I'll edit it by adding a bit more about the authors Cullen, Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, and change some wording. I'll be giving full credit to the original creator, of course, but I think it is a good idea to show students a nicer Prezi (and as a beginner I don't have the skills to make one really cool) so that they know what they could potentially create. And actually, just by modifying the Prezi, I figured out very quickly how to do what he did. I'll post my finished product later.

I also touched base with the other teacher who wanted to collaborate in a lesson on Digital Citizenship (the one I'm using BrainPOP! with) and we set up time on Thursday instead of Friday so that I could teach it. Ms. S wanted to see what I was going to do since BrainPOP was new to her.

I also spent an hour or two shuffling books in the fiction section, since some of the shelves were getting very crowded. That was difficult, only because I was once again distracted by the books themselves.

Hmm, it doesn't look like I did a lot, but I kept busy the whole day. I felt much more comfortable and relaxed today, like I belonged, which I think is good. I'll get more out of the experience if I'm truly entering in to the role of a high school media specialist.

And I'm thoroughly enjoying myself, just don't remind me that I'm supposed to be on Spring Break.