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.

Yuck.

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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hgh School Internship: Day 2

(16 hours down, 24 to go)

When I got to the high school this morning there was a message from another teacher that wanted to collaborate with me. It is a bit awkward when I get the "so what were you thinking?" type of question right away, since I haven't had a chance to think yet. Fortunately I was able to come up with an idea right away that was good. The teacher is a Read 180 teacher (Read 180 is a 2 hour daily block that works on reading skills with students who are targeted as needing extra help). They're just about to enter into a digital citizenship unit so I thought right away of using BrainPOP!'s free digital citizenship tutorials.  They're geared toward jr. high kids, but I think they'll work really well for this group. There's a funny little video, and then 10 questions that go with it that kids can complete online and e-mail to their teacher.

Unfortunately the only day that will work for them is Friday, and I'll be done with the internship then. I talked to Ms. S and she said she'd  teach it on Friday. It's a simple lesson, pretty self-explanatory, so I think it will work fine. She showed me how to edit the Online Links section of her website, and we put the Digital Citizenship page of BrainPOP! on there, so that it will be easy for the students to get right into.

This morning I spent about three hours doing inventory.  Many schools wait until the end of the year to do a library inventory, however since the LMC is open during the summer too, it doesn't really need to be at the end. Ms. S and Ms. Y start their inventory in January, and usually get their student aides to do the work, but since I've never done inventory I wanted a chance to see how it was done (this was especially helpful since they have the same cataloguing system as I use). They have a nifty hand-held device which they can take over to the bookshelves to scan every book. I got through the 600s and 700s this morning (about 1600 books), with only 2 books unaccounted for.

Most of the time I was scanning I was reading through the titles, enjoying what was out there, and part of the time was spent trying to figure out how I could do an inventory, too. I don't have any student aides, or a nifty hand-held device. Ms. S thought that maybe I could use a laptop connected with a scanner (although I'm thinking our scanners don't connect to Macs) and do just one section at a time, maybe even only one section a year, just so it gets done every once in a while, to weed out books that have been long-gone.  I think I'll wait until June when we reorder the library, it might be a good time there.

I also had the chance to talk to Ms. S about her tech responsibilities. Her district is pretty tough about not giving out any administrative passwords to the media specialists, unless they have "tech" specifically built in to their job description. She's actually worked really hard to try to get the chance to go to district tech meetings, but since they take place during her working day, she wasn't allowed to. Right now her school does not have a tech committee; the past assistant principal headed it up previously, but it fell apart when he left. There is a tech committee in the works, though. Ms. S had the chance to work in Bloomington for a year, and that district seemed to have a great model. There was a weekly half-day meeting which all the district media specialists went to, and were frequently visited by the district leaders in other areas. As it is in her current district, there is a once-monthly meeting before or after school (which is the same in my district).

It's kind of silly, really, since Ms. S still is an in-a-pinch building tech. She gave me a tour today and showed me the school's auditorium (with an elaborate sound booth/system) and a room called The Forum which has room for about 120 students in a lecture-hall type setting with a state-of-the-art projection system. Ms. S is responsible to help out with these if there is a need.

It was a pretty slow day as far as kids are concerned. The LMC hosted only 3 classes today, the rest of the time there were individual kids in and out, but it wasn't nearly as busy as it was on Friday.  I had an interesting discussion with a girl about the book  Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters  by Ben Winters and Jane Austen. She really liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , and was excited to see this Austen classic re-done, too. I found P&P&Z really hard to get into, the contrast between the Austen text and the Winters zombie inserts was just too weird for me (but really creative! I admire Ben Winters' for re-doing the classics).

I also had the chance to work with a girl who had done a slide show on her mac at home, e-mailed it to herself, and was trying to open it on the PCs at school. Unfortunately, she didn't use PowerPoint on her mac, but she is going to bring in her laptop tomorrow and hopefully we'll be able to work something out.  I'll bring some cords from home for her (she has to present it tomorrow), since the school has no macs nor the accessories to go with them.

I'm still working on my Prezi presentation on the Harlem Renaissance. I am getting really interested in the subject. It is great working on Prezi, because it is almost like I'm taking notes on what I'm reading on the Prezi workspace, and then just reorganizing my notes into a presentation.

Off to do more Prezi-ing!

Friday, March 26, 2010

High School Internship: Day 1

(8 hours down, 32 to go)


This could be the start 
Of something new 
It feels so right 
To be here with you, ohh 
And now looking in your eyes 
I feel in my heart
The start of something new!


There's nothing like a day in a high school to make it crystal clear that High School Musical was way off base. Of course I'm blocking my own high school experience out of my memory, so I thoroughly enjoyed my first day at Mounds View High School with Ms. S and her full-time para Ms. Y.


I learned so much today. It was really tough being ready so early, for MVs early start (my High School work day: 7-3) but the nice thing about LMCs (library media centers) is that they're all pretty much like coming home. 


First off, I'm very excited to say that I have a co-collaborator for next week. I was aggressive in my search for a good collaboration match for this internship so it was one of the first things I started talking about after I had had the tour. Ms. S had me e-mail out the entire staff this morning, pleading my case. I made sure to put in there that my intent was not to disrupt their normal schedule of events, but rather to enhance what they were already working on. 


I had one taker. 


Ms. V, a social studies teacher, e-mailed me back (she was the only one to e-mail me back, but that's okay, I'm pretty excited about the lesson). Her students are doing background research on the 1920s on a variety of topics, which they'll present to the class in short oral/visual presentations.  She asked me if I'd like to do a presentation on either the KKK or the Harlem Renaissance. I'm going to do some research this weekend, but I think I'll be focusing on the Harlem Renaissance, using Prezi to create a multimedia presentation. I figure this way I can not only teach a bit about the time, but also teach them some cool tricks about giving good presentations (Prezi will work great with this, and its easy enough to use that high school students should be able to learn it if they want to use it with their presentation).  I think it will be a good way to combine what she wants with what I can bring to the table as a LMS. 


Okay back to a more chronological ordering of the day. I had the obligatory tour first off. Great collection of books, many on display that were shiny and well-cared for (or else very new). There were about 20 computers at stations, and 20 laptops available for check-out. The 2 computer labs in the building are located on the opposite side of the building, and are monitored by another teacher.  There was a constellation of small back rooms. Several offices (Ms. S told me that there used to be 3 full-time media specialists, as well as a tech, and a desk clerk). One of the offices is now a viewing room with a TV available for students to watch movies that they might have missed due to an absence. There is also a small classroom which has occasionally been used as a regular classroom, but Ms. S said the disruption of kids coming through was hard to deal with, so they lobbied to have it no longer used. It is now only used once a day for a small group. 


There's a really nifty back room (that I think I'll call The Stacks) that has about 20 shelves that roll together to conserve space. The Stacks hold all the teacher sets of books, AV materials, back issues of magazines (they keep magazines for 4 years, although there were some donated National Geographic issues from the 50s, from which I got to tear a dozen maps to use for a book display) and every issue of the yearbook published.  Ms. S used these today to track down photographs of a teacher who used to work there, and is retiring at the end of the year. 


I had the chance to re-do the book display. It was set up to highlight books about what it is like to live in America as a minority. I re-did it using the ALA's list of Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learner (from which Ms. S always buys new books for the collection). I decided to highlight books dealing with the social sciences: Tuesdays with Morrie, A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier, What Color Is Your Parachute?, Wheelchair Warrior: Gangs, Disability, and Basketball, Sold, Three Cups of Tea, Nineteen Minutes, Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines, The Devil's Highway: A True Story, and The Glass Castle among others. I used small black-and-white maps torn out of old National Geographic issues to write blurbs about the books which I taped jauntily on the covers of several of the duller-looking books (I'll insert a picture here later of my display).


Which brings me to my #1 reinforced realization of the day: I would love to work in a high school LMC, if only because I would never run out of reading material. 


I also had the chance to help a kid who was scanning some pages from Maus which he had to e-mail his teacher (there are about 5 scanners available for student use in the LMC) and spent about an hour with Ms. S and a visiting tech trying to figure out why a projector wasn't projecting any sound. Turns out it was a faulty cord. 


Busy day, fun day. 



Of all the books I saw today, the coolest one was Material World by Peter Menzel. It visits every continent and socio-economic status by literally emptying out all belongings of a household in front of that house, along with the family. It was amazing to see what families around the world are holding in their homes. The picture I've included will enlarge if you click on it, and you can visit the photographer's website by clicking on the book link. Such a new way to look at the world.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Website Wednesday

100 Best Blogs for Librarians of the Future

(in other words, 100 Librarians who are blogging more effectively than I am. Sheesh, the competition!)

I actually found this linked onto the website of Ms. S, my High School Internship host. She does a great job keeping her website current, I am thinking I'll have to borrow some ideas! I try to keep mine updated, but I always have the sneaking suspicion that nobody ever pays attention to it.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I made my first graders type letters home today. About half of them had overdue library books, and although they're not allowed to take the books home, it is good practice for them (and their teacher and I think that a few may have slipped home accidentally). I modeled a "Dear Mom" letter, with a body of only a few sentences, and then I stapled their missing book slip to the letter and sent it home with them in an envelope. Most of them were very into the process; I think I'll have to have letter writing a bigger part of my future.




Currently Reading: Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan. Super popular middle school book, and super not my style. For one thing, there are spiders on each chapter page which I don't appreciate. I think if I had seen the website before I started reading the book, I wouldn't have started. But it is a current hit, so I'm considering it just a part of the job. It's in the current "I Love Vampires" genre, but give me the eye-rollingly dramatic Twilight anytime. There are something like 12 books in the series, which I don't think I'll be adding to the library (although mostly because this one copy of Cirque du Freak is in pristine condition, a sure sign its not popular among my kids).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

countdown

I'm all set to head into my High School Internship (40 hours) this Friday, and in conversation with the media specialist I'm a bit nervous about the collaboration portion of the assignment. Again, I'm discovering that my interpretation of collaboration is much more planning-heavy on my part. The high school classes are so tied in to their curriculum and set timeline that it is nearly impossible for me to come in and do any assignment that is supplemental. Rather, there are many opportunities I'll have to go into the small groups that meet in the media center and lab and help out in any way I can. There is a College Writing class that is coming in next week to use research databases so hopefully that's a chance for me to collaborate.

I'm hoping that by going in Friday I will have the chance to catch a few teachers that will be accommodating to what I need.

But right now I have a body-shaking headache which only an early bedtime will solve.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Elementary Internship: Day 15

(120 hours down, 0 to go)


I realized today that I've been stress eating about the prep schedule, mainly because every good adventure works up an appetite. Thank goodness I have muscle relaxants to keep me from dreaming about it.

Today was another very busy day. I got there early enough to work a bit on the schedule. Still just crunching numbers at this point, to make sure there is enough specialist hours to cover the amount of classes we need. The next step is fitting them in to where classes will go on the schedule.

My second grade class this morning was a repeat of yesterday's lesson, working on writing names down (after reading Rumpelstiltskin) which went a lot better. I had less students needing help, although I really am not sure why. I don't know what I did differently today. That's frustrating, because I really would like to replicate the results with my classes the rest of the week. Behavior was a bit of a struggle, but I talked to the teacher about it as they were leaving, and she said it was most likely because they had a sub yesterday, and they were going on a field trip later in the day. That explains it.

Kindergarten was rough, too. Even though 5 kids were absent, another 5 of them came in completely disengaged and obviously upset about something that had happened before class. It took nearly 20 minutes to read The Three Little Pigs because I had to keep stopping and waiting for them to get it together (I've been working on ignoring low-level disturbances, as long as they're not affecting the rest of the class, but this was beyond that). I had to have three students sit quietly on the story rug while the rest of the class started working on the computers, in order to have them "pay me back" the time they wasted during the story. One girl had to sit for nearly 10 minutes before she could compose herself to where she was sitting appropriately.

In first grade I started working on Word, mainly because it has been such a struggle for my second graders (and hopefully by starting earlier we'll eliminate some of the issues). We simply opened Word, and they learned how to use the shift and return key by writing their full name five times. It was really successful, although with a few kids I had to take their fingers and show them how to use shift. We barely had time to check out books, though, because I was interrupted half way through class with an urgent tech need, and again the last 5 minutes with something related to the first interruption (I'm not going to expand on this, as it is an issue of some confidentiality).

Third and Fourth grades worked again on Study Island, and fourth grade earned 5 minutes of choice time.

At the end of the day I had another conversation with Ms. W. the principal about some changes to the prep schedule for next year. Our part-time building tech will be reducing his hours at our school to only 10 hours/week which means I'll be picking up the slack, and as a result have to try to build in a bit more administration time into my schedule next year. I probably won't really be able to (the schedule is pretty tight) so I talked with Ms. W about how  I'll be focusing primarily on being very clear in the beginning of next year what the procedures are for: staff requesting help (and making it clear that it will not always be immediate), media check-out (including books and equipment for staff), and also distributing some of the responsibility to others. We'll be transferring the library to a traditional Dewey Decimal system (it's AR right now) so that staff will be able to find their own books easily. I'm going to talk at the next tech committee meeting about having a tech representative from each grade-level team bearing more responsibility, and maybe be better trained in procedure, and hopefully distribute some of the responsibility. That is probably the most frustrating thing about my job, is how often I have to explain the same thing to staff. Clearly I need to be more proactive to prevent this, as simply saying "oh sorry you didn't understand the first time" is not an option.

All of this really encompasses so much, I'll be starting in on staff development manuals over the summer. I don't mind so much, it will make my job easier in the long run. It is a good thing that I am scheduled to be done with my LME certification by then, so that I'll have more time to dedicate to my job.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Elementary Internship Day 14

(112 hours down, 8 to go)

SO NICE to be back in my own school! As much as I enjoyed and learned from my middle school internship, I missed having my own space, and windows.

Of course I was much to busy today to enjoy things like space and windows, except in passing.

My principal, Ms. W called me last night with some hard truths about next year's budget, and what that will look like for the specialist team and the prep schedule (which has been placed into my hands to arrange). The prep schedule is like a very complicated equation. It takes awhile to figure out, but logic plays its role, and little is left to guess work, although a fair amount of creative thinking is needed. Once that equation is solved, there is definitely a sense of satisfaction. I almost enjoy the task of doing the prep schedule, if only I had more time to work on it.

Because right now I just want some french silk pie left over from Pi Day yesterday, and a book to read.

This morning budget talks continued. I missed a budget meeting on Friday, but saw the notes and wishes of the staff, and of course my conversation with the principal last night. We had another meeting this morning, although it was optional so only about half the staff came. Ms. W let the staff know that they could e-mail me and herself with their grade-level's requests for next year's schedule. I rather like doing the Prep Equation alone because there's more satisfaction when it's done, but the feedback I got from staff was very useful, and I think it creates more unity when voices are listened to.

Today I only had three classes, and they all went very well. All of my administration time was taken up working on the prep schedule, and conferring with Ms. W. I had to force myself to stop and eat, and got a hand cramp from working so hard on it.

– – – – – – – – 

In conversation with two second grade teachers a few weeks ago I was asked to help with teaching the second graders to type up stories they had written in class. They left up to me the particulars of the typing, and will come to class prepared with their written work.

Today I focused only on them writing their full name, using the shift key to capitalize, and the return key to type their room number below their name. Only size 18 font was allowed, and no fancy writing (they love to play with the colors and font styles, to the detriment of the overall product, so I let them write it again fancy for extra credit if they had time).  Even that simple assignment was a challenge for most of the class; only a handful of the class got it correct with no teacher input.

In the fall, one of the 2nd grade classes typed up a story they had written with their teacher, so I foresee that class doing much better with the lesson. Another 2nd grade class has been focusing on The Three Little Pigs, and rewriting it in their own words, so I decided to do that same assignment with the third 2nd grade class, who will not be coming with anything written up. Of course a few students will come with nothing to type, whether they were absent a few days or off-task, so they will still participate, only they will have to make it up as they go.

The hard part is getting the shift key and return key ingrained in their minds, so the actual writing of the story has been much simpler in past experiences. The real challenge will be in timing. I did this last year, and it took several weeks since I only see them once a week. They enjoy it, though, and tend to work very hard. As evidenced by the 4 they earned for behavior today.

The next lesson (next week) will focus on centering the title, and beginning the typing.

I just realized that we only have two weeks until Spring Break, so chances are very good the project will be split over spring break. Ugh. I don't like doing that. It really will test their memory.

- - - - - - - - - -

The three little pigs in second grade set me in a fairy tale frame of mind. It truly is shocking how many students have never heard classic fairy tales. I read the second graders a great version of Rumpelstiltskin, and only a few of them had heard the story before. It was actually a great lead-in to the assignment of writing their name, since it was a main concept in the story. I would like to get some of the classic Grimm's Fairy Tales to share with the older students, they would probably love the gore.

I read The Three Little Pigs with the kindergarten class today. It was a rather grimm version with the wolf eating the first two pigs, and the third pig eating the wolf (in soup form) at the end and they of course loved it. Again, I was surprised at how few of them were familiar with the story. I am going to have to amp up my reading of classic tales.

After my administration time (95% working on prep schedule, 4% checking to see if Study Island was working for my 4th graders, 1% lunch), I had my 4th graders work on Study Island, which is how I think we'll do most of our MCA prep. This group has done quite a bit of MCA prep in the past few weeks with their teacher, but most of them haven't done much on Study Island, so that was a nice change for them, although they seemed really sleepy today and a bit more distracted than most days. Tomorrow we'll do Study Island's game format, which rewards students with a 10 second game every time they get a correct answer, I think that will help motivate them.

Off to crunch some more numbers in the Great Prep Equation (and eat some pie, too)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Middle School Internship Day 5

(40 hours done, 0 to go)

It was a weird day today.

I realize how much of my days are categorized as weird. There is no norm, and normal, low-key days are starting to feel weird.

When I got to the media center this morning, all of the book fair things were by the front door waiting to be hauled away by Scholastic. They didn't come until close to 2:00, so we were staring at them all day long.

There was no aide again today, so I stationed myself at the circulation desk. I figure if I can be of a real help in that way I'll do it. I spent most of my time doing odd jobs, mainly covering three bulletin boards with black paper and posting all of the entries for the book fair bookmark contest (shoot! I had my camera but I didn't take a picture of the bulletin boards, they looked really nice!).  The five winners were displayed on one board, and two other bulletin boards held the rest of the entries.  It was so interesting to see the variety of styles that came in (and all the spelling errors). I think this is a contest I'd like to undertake in the future. I would have to think about what the reward would be, as I truly have no budget for anything exciting, but maybe if I get some extra books in sometime I can set them aside for a contest like this.

Very few kids were in during the morning. One class came in to use a computer lab, but that was about it. Ms. S remarked several times how odd it was, usually there are kids in all day long. Hardly any books were checked out, even. I didn't have to shelve any books today, because most of them were shelved by a few kids who come in during lunch time and can work on the computers in exchange for shelving books.

Right after lunch, there was a "light lockdown" which meant that we were restricted in movement from room to room, so nobody came into the media center in the afternoon.  Ms. S was very busy getting ready for her research unit coming up. I really only helped by cutting up the notecards she uses. The way she teaches research is pretty interesting. She has a video that she shows the kids without sound. She provides all the information, on which the kids take notes. This way they are prevented from copying directly what is said, and have to put information in their own words.  She can also scale the difficulty of the content up or down depending on the class.  Once the students have all their cards, they can group them into like concepts and begin constructing their paragraphs around that.

It was a very slow day, although it went by incredibly fast. I really enjoyed the experience (except for the cell phone drama) and I know that Ms. S will be a connection I keep strong. I really learned a lot from her, and it is so nice to have other media specialists in the area that I know I can depend on. As I was leaving it didn't even feel like goodbye, we were both in the same mind that although the week was done, our relationship isn't.

Which is very cool.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

panic attack

I had a momentary panic attack a little while ago about the collaboration requirement for the internship. I was suddenly worried that the collaboration I did with Ms. J on Tuesday wasn't enough of a collaboration to count. I was all ready to try to do something else, and possibly come in on another day to get it done when I realized something.

I am so used to collaboration looking different in my school. As a full prep provider, when I collaborate with teachers I have so much more control over what goes on in my classroom, because usually the collaboration consists of the classroom teacher doing one aspect in their room, and me doing a component within the time I see those students. I can make the lesson much more in accord with my own standards because I have the time to do so.

In a setting like the middle school where the media specialist does not have pull-out classes, the role is different. It is more of a support to the objectives of the classroom teacher, and that looks a lot different than I was expecting. It doesn't really mean that I'll be in front of the class teaching a lesson. I might just be in the sidelines (or even behind the scene). From what I've seen this week, Ms. S will pop into the adjacent computer labs for awhile to offer support, sometimes just technical.

I know that Ms. S does a huge research unit all spring quarter. I'm going to have to ask her more of what that looks like, if she is running the show, or is more of a support.

Middle School Internship: Day 4

(32 hours down, 8 to go)

Still no phone, and I am missing my folder where I kept all my internship papers (and had a work-in-progress copy of my school's prep schedule). They're nowhere, and I saw them last the day my phone got stolen. I can't imagine anyone stole those, though. Luckily I can reprint what I had as far as internship documents.

I sure do hate to redo that prep schedule, though.

On with today. The media center aide called in with a flat tire on her car, so we were out an aide today. Since I was there, I covered half my time at the circulation desk, the other half stripping down the book fair in preparation for the Scholastic people to pick up tomorrow.

I really enjoy the circulation desk. I've always liked data entry type jobs and there is something relaxing about how systematic book check out is, or should be. Of course, the human element gets in the way of the system, and with middle school kids, the human element hasn't had time to be diluted and mellow. Fortunately, there was very little drama, only a lot of "ohh, my book is overdue? I think it is in my locker. . . no maybe my classroom. . . hmm." Ms. S. has a pretty firm rule of only having 3 books checked out at any time, and none if there are overdue books on a student's record. Most kids won't argue with the rules, especially with a stranger.

Her library checkout system is run by Sagebrush, which is not the same system my district uses. I had time today to get into the corners of Sagebrush, so I feel that I could handle the system if needed. It is a much simpler system than I am used to, and easy to pick up. A student will simply give their ID (or type it in, I turned the keyboard around so that they could do that) where their record is accessed.  I had a couple of kids want to put a book on hold, which was simple to do, however I was a little annoyed with the system when students wanted to check out a book and also renew a book as multiple transactions required multiple entries of the ID. Of course, every system has its drawbacks.

I also got a chance to talk more today with a teacher who is currently teaching english, but also has her Master's degree in library media education. She was asking questions about my job and was dismayed to hear that I teach full prep at my school, do a lot of tech support, and run the media center. It was interesting how undesirable that seemed to her, and she was reluctant to look for a media specialist position if it meant doing so much. I told her that in my experience it seems that most school districts have a media specialist and a tech teacher. One handles the library and all its job entailments, and the other teaches the tech preps to students.  At one point she asked something about whether I still liked the job, and I was surprised to realize that in listing off all my job responsibilities I had given her the impression that I didn't like it. I was quick to assure her that I really do love my job, I'm just very busy.

In comparison, actually, my days at the middle school are slower, even though there is a lot to do, I am just not as busy. It is definitely different to be a media specialist who is in charge of no preps. There is still a lot of student interaction, it is just different interaction than I am used to. Less structured, which is okay.

I also had the chance to help a few students find books.  I have seen Ms. S do this throughout the week, and so it was fun to have the chance to try it myself. I can't remember the exact dialogue but it was something like:

Student: Can you help me find a book?
Me: What kind of book are you looking for?
Student: umm
Me: Do you want a story or something real? (This is one of the prompts Ms. S uses)
Student: A story
Me: Okay (begins steering student to fiction section) can you tell me some books you have liked?
Student: Well, I really liked this one about a girl who has a crush on this boy and it was written different
Me: (steering student toward the romance display) here are some more like that if you're interested.
Student: (picking up What My Mother Doesn't Know) yeah, this is the one I read last time.
Me: (opening it up) Oh, it's written more in a poetry form, do you want to see if there are more by this author like that?
Student: okay (with a positive shrug)
Me: That would be in the S's(steering over to that section, finding more by that author)
Student: (finds one she wants) okay, thanks!

I hardly ever have the chance to help students in my library like this, mainly because when they're checking out their books I'm busy managing the rest of the class that is working in the computer lab.  I am kind of sad now that I miss this kind of interaction with my students, it was fun, sort of like a puzzle to find exactly what she wanted.

Also, the middle school library seems vastly bigger than my library. It is clear that being very aware of all the books in the library is an important part of the job of a good media specialist. I am sure Ms. S. doesn't read all of them. I'll have to ask that question tomorrow.

And hopefully find my folder.

edit later: I reprinted my internship requirements and realized that I am missing a major component of my requirement, specifically the collaboration with another teacher. I am going to talk to Ms. S tomorrow and hopefully connect with the English teacher I was working with earlier this week and maybe come in on Monday to do a lesson with her class.  All the drama this week with my phone has seriously turned my brain to mush.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Middle School Internship: Day 3

(24 hours down, 16 to go)

Nothing like a little cell-phone initiation rite to make a teacher feel right at home!

I spent half of my time at my internship today straightening out the situation with my stolen cell phone; talking to the assistant principal, filing a police report with the school officer, trying to get Verison to track down my phone via GPS to see if they could spot what locker it was in (seriously!) and I realized by the end of the day that I truly felt at home in this middle school, a kind of "I could do this" attitude settled over me.  I would have preferred to have waited until my day was over to deal with these issues, but it became obvious very quickly that stuff like this is a part of the job. That and it was important that we figure out who had done it so that they could face the consequences.

While I was dealing with the phone issue, Ms. S was helping kids and testing all the computers in one of the adjacent computer labs. There is no building tech at her school, she sort-of oversees any issues and reports them to a floating district tech who comes when available (he was there by the end of the day to fix the 50% not-working computers in that lab).  I am trying to see how that would work in my school, and I can't see that it would, mainly because I teach full prep with really no time to do things like run up to look at someone's Promethian board, or test a lab full of computers.

That wasn't the whole day, of course. I was actually pretty busy! I didn't realize until it was almost time to go that I had forgotten to eat my lunch. Ms. S never takes an actual lunch break, she'd have to close the media center if she did which in her view just isn't worth it. I'm assuming she eats in between helping kids, but I never saw her do it.

And there are a lot of kids to see! More groups in today, mostly to view the book fair. Ms. S says usually there are large classes that come in to work in the media center, and she helps mainly by circulating and assisting when needed.  Generally speaking, it is the special education and ELL students who take up a lot of her small group and individual time.  She has a nice system to help them figure out how to find information (and get very familiar with how a library works). She has several hundred index cards with topics from simple to complex for students to find in the media center. A student might receive an index card simply with the word "dog" on it, and they must figure out how to find information about a dog. On the more difficult end, she has cards listed with things like "find a book with only a chapter on Martin Luther King, Jr."

Just recently, one of these groups has neared "graduation." She pulled out the "find a map of the New World as seen in the 17th Century," bringing together number skills (what does 17th century mean, in terms of years?), social studies skills ("what was going on during the 1600s?"), and of course library searching skills ("the library search is NOT Google, so I can't type in "show me a map of the New World").

Oh, and I learned a bit more about Accelerated Reader. Now, I've been working in an Accelerated Reader library for two years, and thought I had learned most of the ins-and-outs, but I guess I missed the obvious. You see, each book in Accelerated Reader has a corresponding quiz. I've been frustrated in my media center when kids come up to me with books that they want to take quizzes on, that we haven't bought. Up until today, I thought that the AR administrator had to buy each quiz, even though I knew that there was a section to make a quiz.

Ms. S makes all her quizzes, or she has students do it. She doesn't buy quizzes, she reads the book herself, and comes up with 5-10 (sometimes 20) questions that will test the reading comprehension of the student reading the book. I did a quick quiz after reading a Flat Stanley Adventure book, and loaded it into the AR system, ready to go for a teacher who really needed a quiz for that particular book. What looks like a really good excuse to read during the day is actually a hugely time-consuming prospect. Which is where bringing students in on it comes. Even at the elementary level, it would be easy to have students come up with the 5-10 questions per book required.

I'm actually pretty excited about this discovery. We're reorganizing my school's library at the end of the year into a traditional set-up (using Dewey Decimal) instead of ordered by book level as it is now.  Seeing how successfully run Ms. S's library is, utilizing good old Dewey Decimal and also incorporating AR makes it a lot easier for me to see how things are going to be run in my media center after this year.

I also spent a good deal of time helping with the book fair, checking out books, and, of course shelving books.  I am realizing what is so difficult about shelving books (besides the backache, because there is definitely that): 1) it never ends and 2) it takes me longer than it probably should because I want to check out all the books that kids are finding interesting. There are a lot! It is good to have an idea of books that are out there, even though my students aren't quite ready for that level yet.

They're getting there.

and so am I

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Middle School Internship: Day 2

(16 hours down, 24 to go, minus one cell phone)

In the seven years I've been teaching (not counting all the years I was an educational assistant, and worked in after school programs) I've only had two things stolen. One was a really nice stapler that I still miss. The other is my cell phone, stolen today from my coat pocket, where it hung in a tiny little closet, in a back store room of the media center.  It wasn't locked, because Ms. S also keeps her coat there and has never had any problems in the 20 years since she's worked there. The most annoying thing is just having to spend the time dealing with it. I have to file a police report since the thief also sent some inappropriate texts to my husband (lets just say he knew it wasn't me sending them), and it definitely puts a damper on the whole internship experience.

Ugh. Well, it takes an experience like this every so often to jog the memory that we are working with young people. People who will make bad choices.  Its life. The key is to handle it in a way that allows them to learn from their mistakes.

Anyway, I did learn other lessons today. It was another book fair day, so I spent some time helping out with that. Ms. S is quite concerned about the low level of books being sold. She needs to sell $1800 worth of books/trinkets in order to get a higher level of the money back. In the past, she's made that in the first few days, but for some reason it is just not moving this year. She said it might just have more to do with the economy than anything else, a lot of kids are saying that they just don't have any money to spend. Also, she was concerned with the selection sent by Scholastic. Many of the books are just too difficult for the majority of the students (something like 60% of their school is reading below grade level) so that might have been a tactical error on her part.

- - - - - - - - - -

Today Ms. J and I worked with her class on the TweenTribune project. It went pretty well, although it took a long time for some of the computers to log on, and then students seemed to have a hard time creating a TweenTribune username and password. The site required a bit too much information (for privacy's sake mostly) for a log in and it took at least 15 minutes before the whole class was logged in. Once students were in they were able to find the article indicated by the graphic organizer pretty quickly, but figuring out the topic, main idea, and supporting sentences seemed a bit difficult for some of the students.  Only a few got through all four articles, nobody moved on to reading any other articles (there was space for them to do two other articles). I have no doubt, however, that without the graphic organizer, the lesson would have been quite chaotic.

A few students were also more interested in making comments on the article, and on other students' comments, than completing the assignment, and we had to start directing them away from making comments at all (which was the only reason to create a username) in order to get the main objective completed.

After class, we talked about what could work better in the next class. Since it seemed that creating a TweenTribune username and password was more complicated than it was worth, that was cut. Students will be given the option of creating a username and password at home if they are interested in making comments on the articles. By not creating a username and password, the option to leave comments will also be gone, which will eliminate the two main problems we had with the lesson.

It really is too bad, because they were excited to be able to make comments on the articles, and so was I. Hopefully the other classes really will go home and create usernames in order to make comments. However I know that will probably be a pretty small group, unless maybe it is an extra credit opportunity.

I'm beginning to see how having a media specialist as a prep provider is a good thing.  The concept of global citizenship and interacting in an online community, if only to make comments on an article, are ones that a media specialist could easily expand upon but there is just not the time to do that within the context of a regular class.

- - - - - - - - - -

Throughout the day, individual students come into the media center for one-on-one help. I worked with a couple of these students today who specifically need help with boosting their reading ability. I showed them Encyclopedia Britannica Online free to all MN residents, which is nice because it reads articles out loud and has links to other web sources. I also showed them Tumblebooks , which, although it contains books aimed at lower grade level readers, held their interest. One girl made sure I wrote down how to get there, because she wants to do it at home. This girl was amazing. She came to America from Egypt only a year ago and knew no english at that time. She's like a sponge, just soaking up everything she hears.

I worked with the other student for another hour or so, as his regular class had a sub, and he doesn't do so well with subs. We had a nice time, though. We worked on specific reading skills and trying to memorize new words (that's how reading works for him, he memorizes what words are what, rather than sounding them out).

It was a pretty low-key day (the cell-phone incident wasn't discovered until I was leaving for the day), but it sure went by fast.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Middle School Internship: Day 1

(8 hours down, 32 to go)
(urban middle school, quite diverse population, weird to see no uniforms)

Um wow. I'm tired!

Tired in that trying-to-take-in-as-much-as-possible way. It was actually a pretty low-key day. The supervising intern, Ms. S. has been a media specialist for 20 years, and was a social studies teacher for 12 years before that, so I definitely have a lot to learn from her. She has never taught prep, but focuses on running the media center and often runs small discussion groups (there are kids in and out of the media center all day long), works with individual students, and will be in classrooms pretty much all of the 4th quarter teaching research skills in collaboration with the teacher. Previously she had to simply shut down the media center, but she is fortunate to have a full-time volunteer right now that keeps the circulation desk going so that kids can still check out books and work.

This week the school is hosting the Scholastic Book Fair. Ahh, the book fair. I have very fond memories of book fairs, and since I have not had the opportunity to host one so far, it is definitely a learning experience.  It's pretty cool, actually. Scholastic seems to be a good company to go through for book fairs. Unfortunately I'm not working in a school that has the chance to host a book fair, since there really isn't as much profit for it 1) in elementary schools and 2) there isn't anybody to run it since I'm teaching classes all day. Bummer.

So today was pretty mellow, however I was mistakenly assuming that because no actual classes were taught, that it would be a quiet day. Like I said, there were kids in all day long. Some in to take Accelerated Reader tests, some in with classes to check out the book fair, some were in to complete online assignments (it was frog dissecting day, so they were in to do an alternate assignment, worried about the dissecting).

I already have a cooperating teacher for my collaboration part of the internship. Ms. J, a language arts teacher came in to talk to me about a lesson she is planning on doing with her 7th grade class. She has one of the computer labs reserved for the time tomorrow. Students are going to be working on the concept of main idea, and supporting details using the website TweenTribune. Her class has already been introduced to this concept, so this is a lesson to support that learning. MCAs are also coming up, and I know that in my district the concept of main idea has been a weak link. This lesson will help support that aspect of the MCAs.

As I had never used this website before I took the chance later to become familiar with it. I think it will work perfectly for the lesson. TweenTribune contains short articles from around the world, many of them written by students. Ms. J's class will first create a username and password on TweenTribune, so that they have the option of commenting on the articles. Students will then be directed to different articles which they will read and decide on the topic, main idea, and also write two supporting sentences. Ms. J has already started a graphic organizer* to guide students along, which is perfect for the assignment as main idea can sometimes be a bit abstract to students, and a graphic organizer helps students see it a bit more concretely.

It is a pretty simple lesson, but I think it is a great 21st Century Skills lesson. The concept of main idea aside, students are learning to interact in a global community, which is a skill that will be more and more necessary as they progress through their lives. Students will be gaining perspectives from different areas throughout the world and possibly differing viewpoints when they also view the comments other students have made, and make their own. So much casual writing today is done in this type of arena. Local and national newspapers are now informing the public via websites, which most often have the option to leave comments. I get most of my news on StarTribune, and I get almost as much information from reading the comments other readers have left, as I do from the article itself, not to mention I see the obvious need to teach students how to interact in this type of online community. We will not have time to get into that type of lesson tomorrow, except maybe in passing.

I also had the opportunity to run two discussion groups (sent in from an AP language arts class) about the short story The Most Dangerous Game (I read it quickly while I had lunch, and fortunately was given some discussion ideas from the language arts teacher). We talked a lot about what was inferred in the story. It was really nice to have the chance right away to work with students (and they didn't seem at all shy to talk to me), especially in discussing a story. I really enjoyed it, but remember again how fast-paced some middle school students need things to be. Fortunately just as I was starting to worry about what else could be said (and after I'd impromptu had them draw a picture of what they thought the island in the story looked like), it was time for them to go back to class.

The truly exhausting thing, though, was resisting all the books! I'm not used to having so many books all around me that are more "grown up" (one gets tired of seeing only elementary library books). I kept having to resist the urge to grab a book and go hide in a corner to read it. It was seriously difficult. I even had the opportunity to read during my lunch time, but instead I worked on the 2010-2011 prep schedule. Which was relaxing in its own way, like a particularly difficult sudoku puzzle.

I know I'm going to learn a lot from this experience. Teachers hardly ever have time to see others at work, and its really the best way to learn.  Ms. S and I had the chance to chat a lot about what we do and although nothing in particular jumps out at me about our conversation, just talking about our perspectives on education and how the role of the media specialist has evolved so much over time was good.

*Graphic Organizer: used to be called a worksheet, but amped up a bit. It is a document that is used through a lesson to guide a student to the lesson objectives. In the case of the TweenTribune graphic organizer, we are going to have each article named (and where to find it), along with a place to write the topic, main idea, and two supporting sentences. Without this tool, using just lined paper for example, students are given more opportunity to misunderstand the objective.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Elementary Internship: Day 13

(104 hours down, 16 hours to go)

One of the best parts of being a media specialist is the fact that I always get a room with a view.  Gray, wintery days seem tranquil rather than cold when viewed through the ceiling high wall of windows, and on beautiful spring days like today, the media center is the next best thing to actually being outside and enjoying the warm sun. Come to think of it, that warm sun isn't quite warming the air enough, so maybe I do have the prime place to enjoy early spring days.

Of course, we do have something of a greenhouse effect in the media center. The sun starts to shine directly in at about 2pm, so we have to close the blinds otherwise we absolutely bake when its sunny.

Well today was another interesting day.  We had a staff meeting this morning. The principal received our school's budged allocation from the district last night, which she shared with us this morning. At this point, there's not much to know. Once the school's declare who they're keeping, the district decides if there are enough positions for each job type. That's how I got excessed two years ago, suddenly there were more media specialists than jobs available. Lucky for me more positions opened up in the summer, which brought me to my current school.

After the staff meeting, the principal met with me and let me know what I need to know to get a 2010-2011 prep schedule drafted. As it turned out, first and second grade was on a field trip all morning so I had two extra hours, so I spent most of that time talking to various people (like the secretary, they always have the best overall perspective of how the building works) in order to hopefully get a few possible schedule options done in two weeks. I'm actually thinking of asking someone at my middle school internship next week what they do for prep scheduling, just to gain some perspective on how its done in other schools.

The rest of my extended prep time was spent getting my plans ready for my sub next week. I'm glad I secured a sub that is well-known in the building. It really helps with behavior.

I really only had 3 classes today. My kindergarten class was good. I read them There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly. They really enjoyed it! I forget sometimes that kids just don't hear those classic rhymes. Only a few of them had heard it before.

My last two classes I administered the student survey again, and gave them the last 20 minutes or so as choice time. When I get back from my internship I'll be starting a concentrated MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) prep time with my third and fourth graders  (using Study Island mainly) so I figure a little time to play now is needed.  Only a few weeks then until Spring Break (yay, that's when I'm doing my high school internship) and the MCA starts soon after we get back. . .

. . . and its the beginning of the end.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Elementary Internship: Day 12

(96 hours in 24 hours to go)

Huh. Two uneventful days in a row. I had much the same day as yesterday. All of my classes were pretty well behaved with nothing standing out as remarkable or note-worthy.

I had time to revamp the All-Star Student Section (in preparation for being gone next week for my Middle School Internship, and because it just needed to be done). The theme is spring, and I found some fun and educational websites in line with that theme.  There was a really fun virtual butterfly garden that I found that seemed to be really popular (I tried it out on my  2nd graders) as well as a word search, hang man, and jigsaw puzzle that all support the theme.

There's a fine line with doing fun stuff like this in class vs hard-core projects. I think there is a time and a place for projects, but this isn't it. I'm trying to re-train my classes to get rid of some behavior issues, which means I'm going to try to make it really easy for them to be successful.

Also, I would rather teach them fun SAFE websites to go to, rather than some of the other popular gaming websites that are out there which contain inappropriate ads and games.

If I had my way, I would teach kids how to use online communities like Facebook and Myspace safely (that is if I taught middle school or higher, the elementary kids are not engaging in social networking yet), rather than assume they know the unspoken rules. Of course, no way will the district allow those sites to be unblocked. Which I definitely understand. The temptation to sneak onto Facebook during lunch break would be too strong for students and staff.

That's also why I teach e-mail to the 4th graders.  If they're not taught early, they'll learn on their own and pick up bad habits.  I used to teach e-mail in 7th grade, but by that time they had picked up some bad habits and it was difficult to get them to understand that what they were doing was not okay.

I'd rather be proactive.