Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things 10 and 11: Certification and Mentoring

I came to the media program in a rather roundabout way, but find such total satisfaction and sheer joy in this profession, that I thank my lucky stars that I did finally get here. Like so many others, I've had a long love affair with reading and books and the fortune to spend many, many hours in a variety of libraries around the the US and even overseas. I am hard pressed to remember much about my growing up that didn't involve books and reading.  When a book wasn't handy, the cereal box would do.

However, as I entered the university, my love of reading led me to major in English. My passion for history inspired me to switch over to that department, and then I thought, "What am I actually going to do?" I was so caught up in loving the study and learning of it all that I never really thought about a career. I immediately thought, "librarian", but an utter dearth of jobs in the field at the time made me doubt the viability of that route. I switched over to education, upholding a tradition of teachers in the family, and took a survey course on children with exceptional needs. I was hooked. Teaching it was, and not just any teaching, but teaching those that had diverse and challenging educational needs.

Personally my life went a little crazy, with ups and downs, and transfers to other schools, but I graduated with high honors and landed my first job in our local school system. Like any new teacher I was filled with enthusiasm and, rolling up my sleeves, worked hard, taught a lot of kids, and had some fun along the way. After 5 years in the classroom I was ready to go back for my Masters of Education, with one little, niggling problem. I didn't want to spend 2 more years of my life sitting in classes to learn yet more about special education. I wanted to spend two years (and the money) to add a little diversity to my portfolio. At about the same time, a new program was starting up in the district that would allow educators to target reading skills of the district's struggling first graders. I began a program to simultaneously add on a certification in Reading Recovery and enrolled in a Masters program for school library media. Life was very busy, but very, very good. My days were filled sharing the joy of reading along with teaching the mechanics of reading, and my nights were filled with learning how to be a collaborative instructional partner, program administrator and an information and technology specialist.

Wrapping it all up (as this is getting quite a bit more involved than I anticipated), I did finish, though it took 3 years and not two.  I once again graduated with honors and found my way into the school library.  I was a librarian at last.

I learned so much about how to design a program that met the needs of my school and my patrons because of the time and talent of those that generously and patiently answered question after question. Time and again, my mentors (and a mentor became practically anyone that was willing to answer my incessant stream of questions) would show up and walk me through a difficult piece of wiring in the head end or brainstorm ideas to get collaboration going. A few of the elementary media specialists met in a small cluster and we became each other's sounding board, support system, source of ideas, and yes, at times, even shoulders to cry on. Our group made us stronger and better individually so that we could wear the very many hats it takes to work in the unique environment of an elementary school media center.  Over the last few years, I've tried my best to mentor others, because the only way I know how to say thank you to those that helped me, is to pay it forward and help others.

I love my job, the kids, the technology, the books, the teachers I work with, my wonderful elementary cluster, and yes, I love them all....even on the (very rare) bad days.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thing 8 and Thing 9-Organizing Yourself

Wow...Evernote! I had never heard of it until cpd23, but I'm hooked.  Funny enough, just after exploring with Evernote, we received a massive upgrade on our computers at work, to include Microsoft Office OneNote. After playing with Evernote (and discovering it wouldn't sync through the filters at work), I was happy to begin the transition to OneNote.  However, OneNote does NOT have an Android app yet.  Yes, there is an app for the iPhone, but if you don't have a Windows phone, you don't have OneNote. Sigh..two good tools, each with a drawback. Which to choose? (Yes, that means I'm ready for suggestions, feedback, or sympathy.)

Google it...use it for work, personal, sharing with parents and teachers. Next project, to see if I can link the calendar with my catalog system for sending out reminders by email to faculty and parents. I'll need to explore our newly updated catalog software and find out what goodies are in the upgrade, then on to tech support to see if my dream is possible. Wish me luck!
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We should be good at this organizing stuff, right?  We're librarians!  We create extensive catalogs linked to a wealth of print and digital resources. We meticulously shelve print items.  We sort, stamp, quantify, label, tag, bind, file and more. Here's the rub though.  The sheer quantity of stuff, both print and digital, paired with many, many interruptions (Not a complaint, we're in the business of being interrupted.), and mixed in with extreme multi-tasking can be an organizing nightmare. The wealth of organizing tools available to us can become overwhelming all on their own. Sort of reminds me of all the weight-loss aids that say, in the fine print, "when paired with low calorie diet and exercise." None of the tools are magic pills. A tool is only as good as it is used. We're exploring, learning, evaluating, but in the end, we must choose and use a few basic tools that help us. Tools we can integrate into our personal style. Tools that work best for our libraries and our patrons. Our next task is to become proficient with our chosen tools. Use them consistently and with great skill and share the knowledge with others.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Checkout Begins!

I just had to drop in and tell the world how happy this week is for me! School is in session and the kiddos and teachers and even our first parents have been streaming through the doors empty handed and leaving filled with books, magazines, audiobooks and lots and lots of smiles. There is such joy in a library and a school when filled with busy students, helping parents and tremendous teachers. Getting paid for doing what you love? Priceless.

We just finished celebrating our summer readers and this week we are gearing up for a schoolwide reading competition, then next week we host a local author in residence. Our fall book fair will follow in September along with a writing workshop for our third graders hosted by another local author. We are in the midst of planning a story time partnership for our PreK and kindergarten classes with our local library, supplemented by some of our retired faculty. Planning times have been marked on the calendar and soon collaborative lessons will begin. We're marching on with our International Baccalaureate application and things are really heating up with planning and teaching at our school.

DoDEA grant training begins soon and new SMART boards are being delivered along with an iPod Touch lab.  Every workstation in the school has been upgraded to Windows 7 working on Exchange servers and we're just waiting for the software to be reinstalled to finalize that stage of the migration. Unfortunately, all my working project files for our broadcasting team aren't compatible with the new systems, though the finished videos will work. Next tech project for me will be to develop new project files in the new software.

As you can see, we have started the new school year with a bang. In school a week? It feels like much longer, but in a really, really good way. Instructional time is too precious to squander. I am so thankful to be part of this vibrant profession!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thing 7-Professional Organizations

As you can see by the spelling, yes, I'm American. However the word is spelled, the purposes are the same and I'm grateful to our professional organizations for their wealth of information.

Back in library school, we had to compile a section of our portfolio with information on professional organizations.  We were also encouraged to choose one to join, and I chose the American Library Association (ALA).  I liked that student rate and felt it was a good national organization to help a new library media specialist gain a better understanding of librarianship.  I was right and I loved having so much information available online. I have since been an on again, off again member and I have to say that the main reason has been the cost.  Yes, I make a professional salary, but the dues are steep. I join every couple of years, but then my membership lapses. I am truly grateful that anyone can access the wealth of information provided online, whether a member or not, and that is one of the reasons I keep coming back.  I also feel that having to pay for each individual division membership is a barrier and drives up the cost unnecessarily.  That being said, I realize these are excuses....resulting in my ambivalence about the cost vs. membership benefits for this organization.

At one point Bobbi Newman from Librarian by Day ran for (and won) a council position with the ALA. She asked for feedback on membership. I didn't respond at the time, but it did get me thinking more about my own professional involvement with librarianship. Involvement beyond my own library doors. I've come to the conclusion that to truly get the most benefit from my professional organizations of choice, I must also commit to be involved beyond paying dues.

I began with my educational organization PAGE by becoming the building rep.  I had agreed the year before, but didn't do very much.  Last year, I committed to learning how to truly represent PAGE and began networking with our district representative. This year I'm bumping my participation a notch by meeting with new employees and hosting our rep for Desserts. This organization provides many benefits for educators of all types while keeping costs very reasonable.

My next goal is to join GLMA...Georgia Library Media Association. It is the state affiliate to the ALA division AASL (American School Library Association) and, for a very reasonable cost, I plan to dip my toes in the pool of professional involvement with a library organization.

That's it.  Two organizations.  There are so many more to choose from, including a variety of technology organizations, that I could quickly get overwhelmed. For those that are interested, here are a couple of the other options for professional organizations out there today

Georgia Educational Technology Conference-Not really an organization, but certainly a great opportunity to learn about educational technology.  Looking at the committees that put this conference together, there are many opportunities for educators and librarians to get involved.

International Society for Technology in Education-GLMA is now an affiliate of ISTE. In today's world, our educational tools are changing. Library media centers play a central role in helping increase access and understanding of digital tools in education.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thing 6-Online Networks

It's taken some time, but I've picked up the strands of my professional online networks these past couple of weeks.  They had sort of unraveled over the years, but now that I'm focusing on developing professionally I can see each loose end weaving into a lattice of support, encouragement, and knowledge I need to be better.  A strand of librarianship, woven into a strand of professional growth, strands of technology weaving throughout, and an interweaving of networking to bind them together make up into a better me all the way round.

I've really focused on using Twitter and Google+ professionally. Learning my way around them both and knocking off a little shiny newness of these tools. Google+ has much potential for being the place to network with various library groups. The ease of grouping and of including those not using Google+ has many advantages over the one wall stream of Facebook. It's even easier than remembering all the right hash tags to use in Twitter.

I've really enjoyed using Twitter for the speed and convenience of seeing many, many resources and professionals in one place though. I find that creating lists really help me narrow down the tweets to look at, especially on a busy day.

As far as Facebook, well, that is mostly personal for me. I do have a professional list, and though it often duplicates my Twitter feed, I like it for when I'm just on Facebook. As part of my professional duties, I also help admin our school's group page. It has really taken off this past year and many of our parents and teachers check the group for information and announcements.

I've rejoined the GLMA listserv and will renew my membership this week.  It provides an affordable and local organization for me to become involved with this year. I also am part of the DOE listserv and GALILEO listserve...both great resources for professionals.

I think what amazes me most is how much is out there...on the world wide web...for network with each other and experts in our field. I often wish I could tell people how generous I find the sharing of their time and talent online so that I can read it and, if I wish, respond at midnight in my pajamas with a cup of tea in my hand. It is no wonder that so many, myself included, have been overwhelmed by the wealth of online tools and resources. I'm very glad that this project has really helped me step back and then dive into the world of online networking. I know my library program will be stronger for my involvement.

Students report on Monday...and amidst the craziness and chaos of first days...little will the students know how very much I'm learning too.

PS:  All my professional networking via Google+, Twitter, and Facebook are currently blocked by our district's filters. That may change one day, but for now, I network from home and from phone.