Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

It's twelve days until Christmas!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spreading the Love

Need positive, encouraging music and ministry? Find the K-Love station in your area, or listen online at for an uplifting message.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Social Networking as Educational Networking

Our school district is cracking down on employees' use of social networking tools. In a recent memo from Human Resources, we were reminded to use such sites responsibly. It was highly suggested that employees (i.e. teachers and administrators) not be friends with students or their parents.

This has created a dilemma for some of my colleagues. One teacher went so far as to unfriend all the kids in her neighborhood who were a part of her social network, including her own daughters. When does one's place of work supersede one's parenting? It doesn't! Having her own daughters as friends on a social networking site allows her to parent better.

Another teacher is concerned about being friends with the ladies in her women's church group on a favorite social networking site because some of these friends also have children who attend her school. God forbid, those kids see Ms. XYZ on their mom's friend list, especially posting to their moms' walls about Bible study on Thursday night.

Really? Really? Okay, I get it, the liability issues. I get that we have some professionals who lack a fair amount of commonsense. (Makes me wonder how they become educators in the first place, but I digress.) I understand the district's concerns about inappropriate use of such sites.

But when are we going to embrace the 21st century and embrace the technology tools that could really improve our academic and educational connections with students, parents, and colleagues?! When are we going to see social networking as more? When are we going to see the benefits of educational networking with social media?

There are so many great examples of educational networking on many of the social sites: students creating study groups, PTAs with groups or pages, teachers with subject area PLCs, whole core classes using social media to continue discussions outside of the classroom. How cool is that?! It's WAY cool!

If we're waiting for mainstream education institutions to fully accept social networking as an educational tool, we might be waiting for the 22nd century. By then, we'll have chips in our heads and not even district filters can stop the search and spread of information!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reflecting on the School Year

I've just returned from a working vacation in the country's capital city, and I'm taking inventory. Tomorrow is the last day of the 2009-10 school year, and Thursday, July 1 is the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. In a year-round school, there is not the same down time to reorganize and adjust from one school year to the next, but the self-reflection and inventory are still necessary, though somewhat compressed, in order to start the new year with plans and directions for improving teaching and learning.

Here are some of what I learned about myself, my career, my students and staff, and the profession this year and where I'm headed for the new year:
  1. Being the school's test coordinator is incredibly HARD. So the last two months of my school year have been spent organizing, training, administering, scoring, and disseminating testing materials, information, and score reports. While I know that I did a super, fabulous job (thank you for the kind words, dear colleagues), it is not a position that I ever want again. It kept me from the real work that needs to be done.
  2. Our students and teachers need MORE instruction on basic information literacy (i.e. ethical use of resources, evaluation of online resources, the research process). The teaching of the Big6 process in the fall was energizing and exciting, but when it came to assessing the process, my teachers and I did not do a good job of measuring student success. The product instead of the process became the focus and really diluted the whole research instruction.
  3. I need my professional learning teams! My LearningTeam Middle and other PLTs keep me focused on the issues of teaching students in the 21st century. If we did not have each other and the PLT's, I would dare to say that it would be the students who would suffer the most from not having this collective insight of school librarian teachers.
  4. I need to read more young adult literature. I joined my mom's group's 100 Book Challenge in hopes of pushing myself to keep up with YA lit and read 100 books in the calendar year. While I've logged almost 20 books, I'll not make it to 100 by December. I do not have the time or energy to read every night, but I will share with my students and staff what I have learned.
  5. School librarians have a hard time teaching and leading effectively without the support of administration and the assistance of competent clerical assistants. As long as the principal and administration at my school continues to support library media and instructional technology and as long as I continue to have a very capable, enthusiastic, competent media assistant, then the media facility and programs will be well-maintained and well-managed so that I can focus on information and technology instruction with students and professional development with teachers.
  6. My leadership in my state organization makes me feel accomplished. It's an incredible feeling to think that my leadership in NCSLMA can make a difference across our state with school libraries and school librarians. Just the sheer energy that is generated when Kelly Brannock and the other board members discuss our organization and its members and professional development for our members keeps me enthusiastic about the profession and my colleagues.
  7. It's important that we remember that we are teachers FIRST. Even though there is a huge management piece to working as a school librarian (managing the collection, budget, facility, programs, staff), it is the TEACHING that should come first. We must be teaching students and working with teachers to help them teach students. If we are not teaching, we are indispensable.

Goodbye, 2009-10. Hello, 2010-11!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keeping Up with Professional Development

I met with my "sanity group" today, one of my professional learning teams, a group of school librarians from all three grade levels who share a common goal of advocacy and activism and teacher librarian leadership to promote teaching and learning in school libraries.

I call them my sanity group because we began meeting about the first of May when testing season really got going. As my school's test coordinator, I've been drowning in end of grade and end of course testing for six weeks. As an educator at a year round school, this means yet one more week of testing to go. It also means that I've done next to nothing media and technology related, let alone teaching and learning related, for my students and staff.

And goodness knows, I've done very little to keep up with my own professional growth over the last six weeks.....except for meeting with my sanity group.

As a self-proclaimed professional development junkie, I'll admit that I'm having withdrawals. Of course, that's coupled with the high levels of stress and anxiety and sleepless nights that have accompanied the title of test coordinator.

As I have begun to check in with my colleagues on Facebook and my friends at some of my favorite blogs and my fellow teacher leaders over at the TLN, I'm feeling a little jealous. These traditional school educators are posting summer plans, summer trips, summer excursions, and summer adventures. Most folks might think I'm just a little jealous that my friends are having a summer, time to do what they want to do, which most would think includes fun in the sun.

Nope, what I'm jealous of are all the great workshops and conferences and educational trips that everyone's planning! Some of my fellow school librarians attended Big6 workshops this week, learning how to implement this six step research process. Another friend and colleague jetted off to Des Moines (exciting, right?) to attend the P21 Institute. Others are headed to D.C. next week for ALA national conference. Still others are crossing the country to Seattle for the National Staff Development Council summer institute. And others in my own district will attend week long workshops on reading strategies, technology integration, and literacy.

I'm also jealous of all the books and professional journals and blogs my colleagues will have time to catch up on -- reading young adult literature late into the night and surfing Doug Johnson's and Joyce Valenza's blogs to glean ideas and strategies for planning the new school year.

I'm starting to question how I can manage it all while continuing to work in a year-round school, or maybe I'm just starting to question how any professional worth her salt manages to keep up with professional development period. With so many incredible educational leaders out there sharing their insights, how can I not afford to read their articles, check their blogs, keep up with their publications?

With the changing culture of education and the tightening purse strings and the evolution of information and processes to gather, evaluate, and create new knowledge, how can I not afford to keep up with professional development?

What have you done for your professional growth lately?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rest, Relaxation, Rejuvenation

As I type this, I am sitting on the balcony looking out at the ocean at Topsail Beach. (Thanks, friend, for renting us your home!) It's part of my spring rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation with a group of school librarians.

Last night was a fun, relaxing time of letting our hair down and just catching up with one another, amid crazy professional stuff happening 2 1/2 hours back home. Talk ranged from books we are reading to cool websites to favorite music to family updates.

Today while everyone will take some time to visit the beach, I'll be going full force in getting materials and information ready to post on the NCSLMA website regarding the fall conference. (Of course, blogging at the moment is another ploy in procrastination.)

The rest of our weekend will be spent creating action steps in our advocacy plan, not just for our individual schools, but for our district and for sharing at the state level. But yes, there will be time for good food, more good conversations, a little reading, walks on the beach at dusk, and maybe a glass of wine.

As always, it will leave me utterly exhausted but completely rejuvenated and inspired about my profession and my life in general.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why I Give to My Alma Mater

At our weekly card night, we were all discussing our weekend plans, and I mentioned that I was spending part of my Saturday at my alma mater, Meredith College, with a handful of alumnae and the alumnae director, reconnecting folks with our college and doing the soft sale for making a gift to the college.

My friends really didn't understand why I would give money to my alma mater. "People pay tuition. Don't they have enough funding? We don't get it."

My question is Why wouldn't I give back to my college?

Ultimately for me, it's really never a question of why or why not, it's how much! I had such a great educational and coming-of-age experience at my college that I want other women to have the opportunity to get the same great education and experience that I had.

So here's my list of reasons of why I give:
  1. Tuition does not cover the entire cost of the education. Alumnae donations make up the difference.
  2. It's intrinsic: If you believe in a cause, institution, organization, then you should support it.
  3. More women in strong, influential, top positions attended women's colleges. There are benefits to single gender education.
  4. The percentage of alumnae giving is vital to the college for receiving grants and outside funding. If we ain't giving, why would someone on the "outside" want to give?
  5. Traditions: Cornhuskin', Spring Fling, Class Day, daisy chains, hunting for the crook, ring dinners, luminaries, Honor Code, clubs and associations
  6. Giving keeps me connected with the college, participating on committees and boards, staying in touch with the changing campus and community.
  7. Giving makes me feel good!
Do you give back to your alma mater?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

God Bless America!

This past weekend was a great time for watching sports and celebrating the good ol' U.S. of A. I've heard The Star Spangled Banner at least three times in the past week, as we geared up to watch the NASCAR races at Daytona and as we watch the Olympics.

While I've always loved hearing our national anthem, it's only been in the past few months (we've watched a lot of football, too) that hearing the song about Old Glory has made me teary. I'm not sure if it's just a basic hormonal response. (Yes, I'm getting old and my body is wacky.) Or if I'm just feeling more in tune and aware of the world around me and how really great our country and our people are, and ultimately our song embodies all those thoughts and ideas.

Mostly, it probably has to do with my thinking about the future of my young daughter and the traditions and nationalism and patriotism that I want her to have and feel about our country.

We really do live in the BEST country EVER. God bless America!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What are School Librarians Saying?

Too bad my friend and colleague over at The Tempered Radical has been listening to what the wrong school librarians are saying! And too bad he felt he had to remove this post from his blog and surrender to the emotional, stressful responses to his earlier posting.

Some of the school librarians who commented on your original post get it, Bill.

I know that as a language arts teacher, you are stressed, overworked, frustrated by the pressure of the tested curriculum. I know that you are working your arse off to provide creative, informative, valuable, technology-rich lessons to your learners. I know that you are the consummate educator, praising the strong outcomes of professional learning communities with your colleagues because the end result is improved instruction and through-the-roof student achievement.

I get it, Bill.

I felt this way, too -- stressed, overworked, frustrated. I also felt isolated, insular in my own little classroom, autonomous, and incredibly responsible for my 120+ students' learning. I felt all those things as a language arts teacher.

I realize that you don't feel like you have the time to collaborate with your school librarians and take them up on their offers to plan, teach, and assess with you and your students. I recognize that you are an intelligent, well-read, tech savvy professional. I recognize that you are an avid reader and that you take offense at comments that lead you to feel that school librarians believe themselves to be the "lead readers" in a school and the "make or break" factor in reading programs.

I take offense at that, too, because now as the school librarian at my current school, I'm responsible for creating 850+ information literate, life-long readers, and I certainly cannot do that by myself. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that I'm the "be-all-end-all" when it comes to reading instruction.

But I am smart enough to know that my students need our entire school community to become the most academically successful individuals they can be. I also know that I would be a better language arts teacher now because of my experiences as a school librarian.

I appreciated your disclaimer at the beginning of your post and your recognition of some of the strong school librarians in our district. Those are the school librarians you need to be listening to; those are the ones that can help us -- classroom teachers and school librarians -- figure out how to all be accountable for the learning that happens in our schools.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New Chat Tool

I just had the best professional meeting, and I didn't have to get all dressed up, leave my house, drive across the state, and spend four hours listening to people give reports. In fact, I sat right at my living room table with my shoes off and experienced one of the most productive meeting conversations using Chatzy.

The meeting facilitator created a room for us and sent out the link, and we all gathered at the appointed time to talk real time about the issues and new business of our association. We have a script of all that was typed that can be referred to, if need be.

We also used a free conference call set up by another member. We called the number, punched in a code, and voila! Six of us were connected via phone, cell phone, instead of landlines. At one point, I pictured the big conference table with folks sitting around and the phone in the middle of the table with speaker phone on -- two or three way conference calling. I realized how far we've come! Six of us chatting via phone and internet.

How could I have imagined anything beyond the party line that we had when I was a child? Of if you had used the term 'chat', I may have thought of a teenage friend and talking on my princess phone until Mama said to get off!

We've come a long way, baby!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

7 Books Read; 93 More to Read!

I took the 100 Book Challenge with some of my fellow mommies, and I'm plugging along with my reading. I haven't quite read two books a week, but I've definitely enjoyed what I've read so far, even staying up until 2:00 a.m. last night to finish this year's Newbery Award winner.

4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins -- This is the sequel to Hunger Games and finds Katniss once again fighting for her life and fighting against the Capitol. (YA) I absolutely loved this book! But she left us hanging AGAIN. Need to read the third installment now.

5. Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cooking by Paula Deen -- This autobiography of the accomplished Southern cook is an easy to read look into her rags to riches story. I was a little shocked by some of the secrets that Paula revealed, but as always, her voice rang through loud and clear. Y'all, she's a determined Southern gal!

6. Anything But Typical by Nora Baskin -- Story about an autistic boy from his first person perspective sruggling to "fit in". This won the Schneider Family Award for teen book about disability. (YA) I have a few teachers and students that I'll be pushing this book on once we go back to school.

7. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead -- Coming of age story of Miranda, friends and mysterious notes she keeps finding. 2010 Newbery Award winner. (YA) Now I need to reread A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle.

What are you reading?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow Day Means Saturday School

We had our once a year winter storm here in North Carolina this weekend. While many school children hope for an early release or an entire day off because of snow, I was thankful to see the snow come in overnight on Friday. That gave us Saturday and Sunday - a "snowful" weekend - to enjoy the white stuff.

But today is Monday. The white stuff was followed by some of the shiny stuff - ice - and has left many of the secondary roads and especially neighborhood roads still slick. So school was canceled today.

For traditional schools, the inclement weather make-up days are built-in to the calendar. Snow days are most often traded with workdays or days at spring break. The unfortunate news for year-round schools is that snow days are traded for Saturdays. That means Saturday school for tracks 1, 2, and 4 sometime before the end of the school year.

Now the question is will it be this coming Saturday, or will it have to be the next time tracks 1, 2 and 4 are all in together. It can't be Saturday a week from now because track 2 will have tracked out the middle of next week. It's these minor complications that can make year-round less appealing. But then again we are lucky to get snow once a year around here, so I guess I can deal with it for all the benefits and things that I like about year-round school.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Working with National Board Certification Candidates

I'm in the middle of my National Board Certification support workshops, spending my Saturday assisting teachers who are pursuing this advanced certification, reading entries and watching videos, and generally asking lots of questions to get teachers to come to their own conclusions about their instruction.

Is it working? Maybe.

I'm still amazed at this point in the process (deadline to submit is March 31st) how many folks have barely even gotten a start on the process. They've brainstormed, planned, organized maybe, but they haven't taught a single lesson that they are planning on picking to pieces and analyzing as part of one of their instructional entries. It's mid-January, folks! You don't have much longer, and what is it you're actually doing every day? Aren't you teaching already? Then use one of those lessons to describe, analyze and reflect upon to show you're an accomplished teacher!

Maybe I've forgotten how to work with those less confident educators or maybe I'm stressed or maybe I'm just ready for folks who decide to take the plunge into the NBC process to suck it up and actually read the instructions and BE. A. PROFESSIONAL.

But then there are the positive moments, when a teacher shares her portfolio entries and she's dead on, providing concrete evidence of how her particular accomplishment impacted her students' learning or how a particular instructional strategy really worked for that specific group of students. All questions answered. All evidence presented. Good, strong stuff.

Maybe I'm getting too cynical.

I do still believe that the NBC process is some of the best professional development, makes you more analytical and reflective on your teaching process. I'm probably most concerned that due to the changes in funding the process in NC that too many educators who were not ready for the process dove in head first with no real understanding of what they were getting into. And with the changes in funding, there will be fewer candidates and therefore, less money going into NBPTS. What will that mean for that organization?

And what will that really mean for this certification? Will it be valued? Or will it just be another piece of a paper in a nice frame on my wall?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Post It Note Wednesday

Thanks to my friend, Andrea, over at Good Girl Gone Redneck for the Post-It Note ideas.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

100 Books in 1 Year

Some ladies in my mom's group decided to start a reading group (through GoodReads) and kicked it off with a challenge: Read 100 books in one year. That's only 2 books a week, they said. Certainly we can do that.

Once again my appetite for reading and the number of free hours in my day to read don't match up well enough for me to actually accomplish this task. But my Type A personality eagerly jumped up and down and exclaimed, "Sign me up!" Right.

What I've read so far this year:

1. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson - The story of Isabel, a slave who gets sold to a not-so-nice lady and her husband, during the Revolutionary War and her struggle to survive. YA

2. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell -- This book makes logical sense out of why people are successful, using some famous and not so famous examples of successful folks.

3. Momfidence: An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting by Paula Spencer -- This is a book of essays on motherhood, funny and true. NF

What's on my list for the rest of the month:

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins -- This is the sequel to Hunger Games that was an incredible YA hit last year.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller

Paula Deen: It Ain't All About the Cooking by Paula Deen

What are you reading right now?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Give Up and Google!

For the past semester, we've been working with sixth graders on the Big6 Research process. We've stressed the use of appropriate resources for the type of information you need. We've shown them online databases for specific content areas. We've directed them to thick reference books with more than enough details for all the note-taking that needs to take place.

So what do the kids do today? They listen politely to my student intern as she reviews resources with them. She sets them lose in the library media center. And where do they go?


I'm going to have to just give up and give in to Google. It's not that I'm a Google hater. I use Google all the time. But guess what, folks? I get good results because I do good searches. Also I'm willing to scroll down past the first couple of hits or, God forbid, I'm actually clicking on the NEXT PAGE!

So I probably just need to rethink how I teach the research process, maybe do a whole class on Google searching. What is it that I want the kids to get ultimately? I want them to be able to evaluate the resource that they are using (whether that's a site they found while Googling or a book they pulled from the nonfiction shelves) and find the appropriate information from that resource.

Rethinking Google...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


It's NaBloPoMo , or National Blog Posting Month (even though technically it's NaBloPoMo every month!), and I'm committing myself to post every day. It appears I'm already five days behind!

But that's the trouble with making resolutions, isn't it? We rarely stick with them. We shoot for the perfect, all-or-nothing, and when we don't achieve it, or we have one back step, we completely give up.

Well, this year that's not happening! It's not that I haven't made any resolutions. I have. I have made the same three that I make every year:
  1. Do something to improve my health.
  2. Do something to improve my intellect.
  3. Do something to improve my spirit.

What will be different about this year? I'm not going to beat myself up when I backslide. It will be okay if I over indulge on an extra piece of cake, or if I oversleep and don't make it to church, or if I put a book down and don't finish it. It's not the end of the world, and it's not the end of my resolve.

So I'll keep writing, and hoping that I can post every day, but if I don't, I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I'll just write the following day!

Happy new year, folks!