Six-Word Wed: Celebrate Librarians/Media Specialists!

The Many Hats of a Librarian PosterAlways endless effort, media specialists ROCK!
(6)

 

In the twenty years I’ve been teaching and training fellow teachers, I’ve often said our school’s Media Specialist is one of our most important resources.  He or she wears so many hats and now more than ever, has an expanded role that requires much more knowledge and ability to juggle.

Thank you for keeping our classrooms, training sessions, testing, etc … running smoothly every day of the school year and throughout the summer!  I appreciate you greatly!

Thank you Note on Typewriter

I stumbled on to @cybrarian77, Ms. Julie Greller’sblog [here] while researching National Library Week.  What a great example of today’s media specialists!

 

Help Readers Read: Banish Boredom!

Quote - Reading is Not BoringFive years into my teaching career, I decided to move from English Language Arts to Reading, specifically. I began working on my Master’s in Reading Education, and while I learned a lot, my biggest A-ha! came not from the volumes of textbooks read or the 1,000s of words written. No, my biggest lesson came from my students.

“Reading is boring!” they said.

“What??” 

There was no hiding my surprise … or confusion!

“What do you mean, ‘Reading is boring?'” 

I wanted to ask, “Have you lost your minds?” but I had been teaching long enough to know that was not an appropriate question –  at least not in that tone.

Turns out, reading comes down to two things for kids (and adults??):

  • Am I interested?
  • Do I understand it?

Notice which comes first:  Interest.  Plain and simple – If I’m not interested, don’t bother me. I don’t have time. I could care less.

Add:  Understanding it or the willingness to struggle to figure it out.  You lose lots more kids:  What do you mean I have to think? That’s too hard. Lose adults, too?

Add:  I don’t have time, I’d rather watch TV, etc….  Our current technologies make on-the-fence-readers fall quickly, but that doesn’t have to be – if marketed well and planned for.

Why is this important to educators and writers?

Because we both have to know how to reach readers.

To think nothing is interesting or to not be willing to figure something out is where we get into ‘doing it wrong.’  We have to teach them how to ‘do it right’ so readers will have ‘buy in.’

Now you might be thinking, Well, Robin, there are a lot of other things that we read – job applications, e-mails, medicine bottles, food labels…  the list goes on – that have nothing to do with interest.  That’s true.  But, if I’m bored in school and tune out when it’s time to read, then guess what? My skills are limited and I can’t read the other, important stuff.

So what do we do?

  • Build interest.
  • Teach and develop skills and strategies.
  • Make reading (and writing) as natural as eating and breathing.

 

1.    Start at home. If you have kids in your life – related or not – make reading so much fun it can’t possibly be boring. This is easy when kids are wee ones, but how do you keep them interested when they become ‘tweens and teens?

  • Make reading accessible.
  • Make reading part of every day.
  • Make reading cool.
  • Talk about reading, model good reading behaviors, subscribe to magazines, and let kids subscribe, too.
  • Dig into the digital world.  From book trailers to e-readers, there are lots of ways to incorporate digital content and process into today’s reading. Did you know book publishers use YouTube to share their books?  While I like to think of myself as ‘old school,’ with 300+ books in my home office, several magazine subscriptions (print + digital), and frequent visits to our library, I’ve discovered in the past year that I like some aspects of digital reading, too.

Whatever your choice, share it with the kiddos in your life!  Buy them gift cards for books.

2.    If you’re an educator, talk about books every day… not just in primary grades, but through high school – and beyond.  My classroom is ‘print-rich’ – a term often used to describe primary/elementary classrooms – with lots of books, magazines, posters, and other things for kids to read. I teach 16 to 19 year-olds.  When they first arrive in my classroom, they balk at the idea of reading (You want me to do what?!?).  They also go to great lengths to show off their boredom and disdain (This is stupid!!!).  I’ve learned this often means their reading skills are limited.  Acting like a jerk is a survival technique; if I get into trouble and make a scene, I won’t have to read today.  In my college classes, I’ve added numerous professional articles, electronically, to supplement textbook reading; it’s typically well-received, seen as interesting. (There’s that word again!)

3.    Finally, if you’re a writer and want to grow your readership, interact with your young readers and their parents/teachers at the ground level. Let them meet you. Let them know you.  Let them know you are human!  😉  Year after year, I find when I talk about books with students, they seem surprised to learn that a book is written by someone. I know, sounds funny, right??  Students often don’t make that connection. To most of my students, books are inanimate objects meant to torture them by being ‘required reading’ – textbooks and ‘reading’ books (novels, etc…) all lumped together.   No interest, no pleasure, no joy… until the kids learn there’s a person talking ‘to’ them – telling them a story, often an interesting story, at that!

Writers, reach out to your young readers via Skype, Facebook, or Instagram. Let them see you and your writing process. I recently tweeted with Roy Peter Clark who graciously bantered through a silly word game with me, and was favorited by Austin Kleon, creator of newspaper blackout poetry, after I tweeted about my students’ progress in creating their own blackout poetry.  When I shared this with my students, they thought it very cool!

Since I began my own writing projects, I share my process with students, whether it’s a few pages written, a chapter completed, the struggles of editing or finding just the right word. Some ask questions, many do not, but by talking about books and writing daily, I’m planting the literacy seeds.

My takeaway:   Reading should never be boring! Life is too short.  If reading is boring, we need to rethink how we’re doing it, indeed!

Life is too short to read boring stuff.

Read.Good.Stuff.Every.Day.  

(My own quote in my classroom that typically raises a few eyebrows)

How can you help a reader get past ‘boring’ and on to the good stuff?

 

 

Week in the Rear View1

Week in the Rear View1Earlier this weekend, I read Tara’s weekly Week in Review over at The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! and got to thinking about ways to share some of the events that make up my own ‘life process’ in a week’s time. There are always so many things happening in our lives that influence everything else, and sometimes – at least for me – slowing down to reflect on how they’re related, takes a backseat to the effects they cause.  When I asked if she minded if I borrow her format, I’m sure it seemed like a newbie question to Tara, but it was more to say, “Hey, I like the style you’ve created.”  She was not only gracious in her response, “Borrow away!” but also suggested I link to other bloggers as well – to show off more styles.  This lady is a true connector and I’ve got some blog homework to do. It’s been a few years since I participated in a weekly link-up, but looking forward to joining the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s here very soon! Tara’s weekly feature got me thinking about what I might want to share. Last week I did a Friday Five post, but realized I don’t want to get locked into five every week. What if I only have one event to share?  Or ten things?  I’m kind of stuck with a Five in my title, right?  So as I was commenting on Tara’s Week in Review post this week, two things struck me:  I take a lot of pictures, and, in my life as a high school teacher, there’s always something going on!  Thankfully, the rest of my life is fairly quiet. After that intro, you’re ready, right? Last week had a lot going on – some good, some not so much.

Here goes….

I finished the resignation process from my adjunct position. This felt really good to be done with! While I enjoy teaching, especially online, I desperately wanted to recapture the hours I was losing each week and get back to my writing projects. Done!  Last week, I logged 20+ writing hours, the most in a week since last summer.  Finally!

I also found and interacted with many fellow writers on Twitter – some published, some not – all #writing.  It’s a great way to help me focus my time and goals while learning from others, and hopefully, offering something of value in return.

In addition to productivity, I also found tragedy impacting my week.  A student, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, was killed a week ago today, as she returned home from a day at the beach.  Clipped by another car on a local highway, the car Brandie was riding in flipped numerous times, I’m told. I’m also told she was not wearing a seat belt.  In the twenty years I’ve been teaching, there have been countless students in whichever school I was teaching, to die. This time it was one of my own, current students. I took the news very hard and we collectively struggled through the week.  This came just a month after we lost two other students.  It’s been a tough year at our high school.

blackout_poetry_book_tAs March gave way to April this past week, we began National Poetry Month and the final days ’til my students sit for FCAT, the mandated state test here in Florida. Poetry lends itself to lots of language learning, particularly the figurative and descriptive kinds.  Remember these from high school:    similes, metaphors, allusions, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, and idioms?  To get my kiddos’ creative thinking cooking and to do final test preparation, I introduced Newspaper Blackout Poetry to my juniors and seniors, via Mr. Austin Kleon, one of my favorite writers.  He doesn’t know it yet, but his books have inspired my own, in progress:  compact size, large, cool font, and immediately-applicable ideas – love it all! Blackout Poetry in progress2  April 2014

After sharing some of our first attempts at blackout poetry on Edmodo and getting lots of replies from fellow ELA teachers – of all grade levels – who said their students love it, too, I discovered more ideas from the National Writing Project, through their tweet:

 

Overall, it was a week filled with new things to learn, new questions to ask, and tragedy to keep us grounded. I hope that I offered a few things in return… Looking forward to the week ahead!

P.S. ~ Plenty of web design (learning) happening, too. You might have noticed some design changes to the blog already… Saving that for another post. 😉

Caution: Curve(s) Ahead

How do you feel when faced with a new Learning Curve?

Excited? Overwhelmed? Motivated? Exhausted? Hopeful?

NC Road

Is it more like an uphill climb or a long road laid out ahead of you?

For me, it’s a combination of any of these at any time, and sometimes a euphoric blend of all, at the same time. Mind-numbing.

Returning to WordPress (origination date: 2009), migrating my blogs [this one and the Turtles] back over from another blogging platform (where simple style was the norm), and visiting fellow WP bloggers’ work, I feel a Learning Curve kicking in.

Today, a week after returning to WP, I took some time to explore blogs.  Fellow WP bloggers, your work is beautiful, especially the photographs! I feel I’m in the ‘right company,’ yet I don’t feel I’m quite there yet. Still working on my party dress ;-).  I am, however, ready to learn by example and create equally beautiful, evocative, emotional, informative, and soul-stirring posts — housed in beautiful themes and creative customization.  I look forward to learning from each of you and offering something of value in return.

Process is incredibly important to me. It’s been the foundation of my instructional philosophy for twenty years, working with middle school students to college students, and many peers in my field.  Knowing why and how I’m doing something is as equally important to me as knowing the what that I’m supposed to be doing.  Yes, I was the kid who always asked, “Why?” from the time I began to talk, according to my mother.  Then the question became ‘how’ as I wanted to know more about everything.  I’m naturally curious.

So here I am, in 2014, back on WordPress and admiring all the beautiful work out there. I’m up for the challenge, embracing the learning curve, and ready to share my process with you —  here as a seasoned educator and blooming writer, and over at the Turtles blog, as a mindful runner finding her way to the finish line.

Thanks for dropping by!

Cheers for Process AND Simplicity

I love it when working the process ends with a positive result, don’t you?

I also love customer-centric business sense:  Make it user-friendly.  Keep it simple.

This Week’s Process:  Question confounded me.  Process began.  Struggled, walked away, pondered, came back, tinkered awhile, struggled some more, walked away (again), and finally….. got it!

Backstory:  I began blogging in 2009, trying out WordPress and Blogger.  I  started with WP, selecting a title and exploring the dashboard, but found it too advanced for my newbie technical skills (read: nearly none!).  I moved over to Blogger, a simple place to hone my technical and writing skills. Check out my first post ‘ever’ [here].

Blog posts included the ups and downs of running, eating healthfully, positivity, and eventually, professional stuff (added in 2010).  Result?  Big ‘professional stuff content gap’ from 2010 – 2014 on WordPress, with plenty of posts over on Blogger.

Fast-forward to Last Week.  Need? To get the words out of my head and writer’s notebook, into my blog, and combine two blogs’ content. But how?  Let the struggle begin. 

Pleasantly, I discovered WP is now more user-friendly, with an efficient dashboard that combines simplicity with necessary features.

Meantime, behind the scenes, I struggled with Blogger’s new dashboard requirements, use of external providers for custom domains, blah-blah-blah.

If you noticed moisture trickling from your computer recently, it might have been my sweat. No kidding. There was a LOT of struggling going on:  advanced settings, dns settings, IP addresses, more stuff I didn’t understand or care to figure out right then.  Geez.

Result, One Week Later:  Two blogs blended. Figured it out Friday night. Archives tripled in size.  I wonder:  Could it have been the DD coffee and red velvet cupcake for dinner??  😉

With one click, the process ended with a positive outcome.  Thank you WordPress for keeping it simple and efficient.  Thank you Google Search and YouTube for answering my gazillion questions.  Thank you Blogger for giving me a place to grow over those years.

Kismet? Maybe.  I began with WordPress in 2009.  Now I’m back. My words have a safe place to gather….

On to tidying up broken links and polishing old posts for Remix debuts.  Let the editing begin!

If Only I Knew

Death. A dreadful event.

“Why did it happen?” they asked yesterday.

If only I knew.

Navigating daily twists and turns with teens broadens my perspective, tickles my funny bone, sharpens details often overlooked in a chaotic adult world, but in the never-ending ‘tragedies’ teens create, death – a real tragedy – brings pause. And confusion.

“Why did it happen?” they ask.

And in that brief pause, the air heavy with sorrow, I have no answers for these young people who’ve come to expect reasonable reasons and enlightened explanations.

If only I knew ….  is all I can muster.

Death. A dreadful event.

R.I.P.  Axel and Cameron.

Time Flies… A New Year Awaits

 






“Quitting is not an option but resting is.”      Author:  Jordan D. Ulmer  

 

Has it really been an entire year since I last blogged here? 

HOW does that happen??  WHY does that happen?

Even after nineteen years, the ‘busy-ness’ of a school year continues to surprise (and overwhelm) me.  Fellow K-12 educators know exactly what I’m talking about. One minute it’s August/September and you’re dragging your supplies (and buttola!) back to school, readjusting to 21-minute lunches, a bladder that’s offended by the lack of relief, the never-ending paperwork, and ongoing lesson plans. The next minute, it’s June and you’re sending your students home for the summer, or for some of us, off to college and the military.  It’s a time for tears and reflection. 


Then, it’s time to rest.

Aaahhh…. summer, that much-deserved and anticipated time, finally arrives. Some of us take time to rest. Some of us don’t…..for a variety of reasons. I’ve had the opportunity to experience both kinds of summers, and prefer the former to the latter.  

So what happened during those ten months that kept me away?

High school offers, of course, its own unique perspective on life. Ups and downs shift as quickly as the tides… faster, in fact?  And they often feel like glacial shifts for kids dealing with new emotions for the very first time.


What’s a teacher to do? Be ready for what comes Aug – June:

  • August immaturity gives way to June maturity for some (and then there are the students….lol!).
  • New friends are made, old friends outgrown.
  • New interests
  • New sports
  • New talents revealed
  • New loves
  • Broken hearts
  • Pregnancy and its alternatives/choices
  • New jobs
  • New cars
  • College acceptance letters
  • College rejection letters
  • Military enlistments
  • Death
  • Engagement
  • Graduation!  (hopefully)
  • Summer school for some…
  • Dropping out for others …..
Looking back, it’s easy to see how a year got away from me. My students and I laughed, cried, fought, and celebrated together.  We shared stories and secrets, and we made new memories.  It was a fantastic year, in spite of its challenges, which is why …..

“Quitting is not an option, but resting is.” 


Now, ‘rest time’ is nearly over, and the whirlwind of the 2013 – 14 school year quickly approaches …… 

Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, or teacher, are YOU ready? 
Me?  Not.Quite.Yet.