Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Adventures in Writing

I'm taking a MOOC, my very first MOOC, called How Writers Write Fiction by the University of Iowa.  What's a MOOC, you ask? It is a Massive Open Online Course.

This is exciting and scary.  I keep reminding myself that we ask kids to do scary things all.the.time.  Much in the way that I strongly believe the world would be an altogether more lovely place if EVERYONE on the planet had to spend some time waiting tables and school administrators would be stronger collaborative partners with classroom teachers by spending some time in the classroom as a substitute on the regular, I believe that those of us who are continually requiring students to stretch themselves to grow ought to practice what we preach.  Thus, my enrollment into my MOOC.

I've been completing the assignments.  I've been pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  I've been opening my writing up to critique from other writers.  I am anxious about how my writing will be received.  Our kids are, too.

Sometimes I'm so tired at night when I finally have a moment to sit down and make time to write that I feel like all my creativity has already beat me to the bed.  Our kids feel that, too.

I have looked at a prompt with wide blank eyes,  not even sure I actually understand it, much less have anything whatsoever worth saying.  Sometimes our kids do, too.

Comparison may be the thief of joy, but she certainly is no stranger to me.  I read the work of others and find myself worrying that I will never measure up.  Our kids feel that way, too.

With all that said I'm having a ball, y'all.  I love writing.  I love learning.  I love growing.
Know what?  Our kids do, too.

Let's all work to keep that in mind--not to make smooth the road before them--we all have our paths to walk in life and learning to measure those bumps in the road evens up our rough edges and ultimately make us who we are-- but rather to show compassion, grace, & mercy--especially in the difficult times when those roads that must be traveled are twisting and turning and filled with brambles.

We are encouragers.  We are cheerleaders.  We are students ourselves.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Today I had an opportunity

Yesterday I was home sick with a sinus infection.  Monday morning I awoke and tried to convince myself I didn't really feel as bad as I felt--but luckily common sense prevailed and I hightailed it to the doctor right after dropping off my 7th grader at school.  I waited in the parking lot until the office opened up at 7:30 and rushed in asking if there was any way they could fit me in.  Thank goodness they were able to squeeze me in (relatively quickly, actually) so that I could be READY to be awesome today.

I was invited to speak to the elementary principals at their meeting today, on the subject of Strong Libraries = Strong Schools. I was SO excited about this opportunity, y'all.  I just wanted to do it justice.

I am passionate about libraries and librarians.  I had a captive audience. BUT...my goal was to make a positive difference, not just not bore them.

I had a PowerPoint--a short one--about 10 slides. Mostly quotes on pictures. A few with a few sentences.  None text heavy.

I had a library swag bag for each of the principals that I handed out at the very end of my short presentation.

Each bag contained:
A bottled water: because libraries with certified librarians are VITAL, not an "extra"
A LARGE chocolate bar: because reading for pleasure is so very sweet and we make that happen. We create a love of reading, a culture of literacy in our schools.
A hand sanitizer: because we reach EVERY person in our schools
A bookmark: because I want to know what THEY are reading. Are they reading to their students? Are they reading for pleasure? The bookmarks are ones I made especially for this event.  They said          Strong Libraries = Strong Schools 
Nacogdoches ISD (heart) School Libraries

I am really happy with how the meeting went.  I sincerely hope that I will be invited back because I certainly have more to say on this subject!

I am feeling SO good about today y'all!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I was teaching 5th grade.
Social Studies and creative writing.
My first year in Nacogdoches.
Back in the classroom as no librarian spots were open.
We mailed our Flat Stanley letters to all 50 states on September 10th.
2 to each state--one to the governor's office, and one to a business that "defines" the state.

Teachers in the hallway.
Passing along the news.
Unbelieving. Horror-stricken.
Then we knew.
Trying to keep brave faces for the children.
We had little ones.
Too little to begin to understand.
(Is there an age where understanding THIS is easy?)

One of my kids drew this the following week.
I've kept it all these years.
She was right.
No words for what happened that day.
No words.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A GREAT library (part 2)

What makes a GREAT school library?  I gave 5 thoughts on the topic yesterday and find myself thinking about this so much still today that I decided to continue the conversation.

One of the commenters listed actually having a librarian as something needed to make the library GREAT. Of course, I agree!  Sadly it isn't the case in many areas, but let's assume for my posts that you actually have a librarian in the library.  Then what?

1. Let my people READ.  Let then read far and wide.  Let them read regardless of points or levels. Let them be in charge of their reading.  Let them experience getting lost in a book they love. Fiction is reading. Non-fiction is reading. Graphic novels are reading. Magazines are reading. No more using the term "real reading"---it is ALL real.  I understand the pressures of increasing reading scores, but I find that allowing kids to experience the MAGIC of reading---it's GREATNESS if you will, does the job far more effectively than limiting their reading experiences via level, etc. could ever hope to do.

2. The STUDENTS have a voice. Last night's #txlchat Twitter chat was all about student voice in the library.  A GREAT librarian listens to the students and incorporates their ideas on space, on reading materials, on events. It isn't about ME it is about US. I'm not talking about throwing them a bone to have them vote on something that has already been decided just to make them feel heard, I'm talking about actually HEARING them.

3. Mix & Mingle.  You can't very well HEAR them if you aren't OUT amongst them, and they won't talk if they don't think you care.  Build relationships. Learn names.  Be sincere in CARING. Students know the difference and can smell a fake a mile away.

4. Know the literature. Once upon a time--not too long ago, actually-- I had a fellow librarian tell me it was "cute that I read the books the students read."  I find it far cuter that I can talk with kids about the books we are both reading AND booktalk to those I know would enjoy a particular read. Cute?  Please.

5. Don't be afraid to fail. Be it small or in grand scale, if we are moving outside the box (or inside for that matter) we will all experience failure. Learn from it and move FORWARD.  Don't think--oh, I'm never trying X again because I felt like such an idiot.  Instead, think--wow. that stunk it up royally, but if I tweak Y & Z it just might work better next time.

5 more of my thoughts on what makes a library GREAT.  I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts, too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What makes a school library GREAT?

I think about this a lot--how to achieve GREATNESS for my library.
Okay, according to Pottermore I am a Slytherin.
And...I am Head of Slytherin House in our HS MAGIC club.
(so this is where I mention Merlin was in Slytherin, Snape was actually a hero, and we are not all evil, btw)

So GREATNESS is important to me...but *mostly* I ponder this in terms of how can best propel my library into heights of awesomeness for my patrons.  ;)

Here are 5 thoughts of MANY on this topic. Please know that I put these out into the universe NOT to bash anyone who is not doing these things, or who disagree with me, but rather to work out my thoughts and invite discussion that can hopefully make us ALL better.
I am not yet GREAT, but I am committed to working my bootie off to get there, y'all.
  1. Be open.  Literally.  Open the library doors---best if it happens the very first day of school, but I get that sometimes you have no control of that.  If you DO have control over it, then by all means open the library for circulation day one even if that means you are doing checkouts old-school by hand and adding them to the computer later. Not only does being closed give the opportunity for resentment to build from the classroom teachers who are expected to be on point day one (and if you want to be seen as a member of the instructional team it is good to NOT build resentments) but it is just better for our kids if we are ready to roll day one. If we are going to soapbox about how important school libraries are then OPEN UP and show the world just how awesome we are. If you aren't opening up the library for weeks---why?
  2. Be open.  To new ideas. To change. To shift. To listening. To thinking outside the box.
  3. Know your priorities and live them. If you are there to support the curriculum then do everything in your power to make that happen.  If you are there to create a literary safe haven for kids then DO it.  I know we are all there for many reasons, but pick a focus and go for it. None of us should be there just to make a mean cheese dip on potluck day. 
  4. Don't get so consumed by the "library things" that you forget we are in a service industry.  We are a concierge business, friends.  I know we want the books shelved, but take a step back and remember why we have this amazing job---the people we serve need us. BREATHE deeply and remember that honestly----if you aren't helping the people WANT to be there it won't matter that the books are all shelved before you go home, or if everyone has the Dewey Decimal system memorized.
  5. Love your calling & have FUN.  If you are no longer loving the library life seek the reasons why and make changes, if necessary. It is too easy to get stuck in a rut, and it is too easy to become a complainer. If you see this happening to you, then by all means FIX IT. 
Thoughts?  What are the ways in which you make your library GREAT?  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What are you reading?

Happy Labor Day to all!

On this beautiful day of relaxation, I give you the list of what I'm currently reading/have just finished reading:

1. Just finished up listening to the amazing audiobook of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind read by Linda Stephens. It had been a million years since I read the book--honestly I'm  not sure I ever actually finished it as a pre-teen/teen reader. It was my "Rory Gilmore" book for the YA Buccanneers Summer Reading Challenge--and I caught a sale on Audible.  The resilience of Scarlett and the quiet dignified strength of Melanie completely stand the test of time despite my cringing at the use of  the word "ejaculated" instead of "said" (okay--I don't love the use of other words or situations which are clearly prejudiced--however--I understand history and the time & place the story takes place as well as the viewpoint from which the story is told. What I don't understand is the fabulous Ms. Mitchell's continued use of this word! ACK!)
Linda Stephens is a GENIUS.  If you can rock a great Gerald O'Hara as well as a Scarlett then you have my vote! I plan to read Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone soon while this one is still fresh in my memory.

2. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. This summer during my Teachers Write "summer camp" this author wrote the most lovely, lyrical post about writing.  I knew then that I must read her work. I am so drawn in by this story of humans as pawns in an eternal game played by old adversaries, Love and Death. It is just absolutely beautifully written.
"He recognized the song; "Walk Beside Me." But her voice nailed him to the floor. 
It made him feel as though something had slipped under his skin 
and was easing everything nonessential straight from his bones."

3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  In all that I read, I typically always have a book on writing going.  I love this one in that it is simple to pick through it and read a short chapter here and there. It is a sort of atta-girl--you can do it book for me.

4. Lastly, I'm now listening to After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman on Audible.  Ooh, but I AM enjoying this who-done-it!

So what are YOU reading?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On Tuesdays we write

It is the second Tuesday of my school year (the real one, with kids, not the fake one where just the adults are back at work) and I'm able to write a bit this morning.

This is sort of a big deal around my house as our desktop has crashed, leaving only my laptop to work with and a husband who seems to think he also needs some computer time.  ;)

I will say that this situation has caused me to do a bit of pondering on just HOW I can keep up my writing momentum until we get our desktop fixed (which may be a while because I've got a lot on my plate and the Mister will have to handle it).  I realize that I can do all the Internet stuff on my phone fairly well--you know, the mindless scrolling kind of thing---but I cannot write well on the phone.  I cannot work on my ancestry well on the phone.  These things require a different plan.

I've been reading a new-to-me book about writing, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Brilliant stuff. It just so happens that today is the perfect day to begin one of her suggestions----writing a spiral notebook of stuff each month.  I went to Wal-Mart last night--ugh! I try to live in a state of gratefulness, y'all--I really, really do--but Wal-Mart is a total test of my patience and takes all the grace and mercy I possess which isn't always so very much on a Monday night.  Especially when you live in a small college town and ALL.THE.KIDS.ARE.BACK. But I digress...I came home with a lovely black and white polka dot spiral notebook with a red elastic band to keep it closed along with some gorgeous new flowy pens.  I will fill this spiral with writing.  Good writing. Bad writing. Gibberish writing if I have to---but it will be filled.

Today marks the beginning of a new month, and I am excited to start it off with a new plan that I hope will both jump start and  free my writing.  I'll keep y'all posted!