Saturday, September 29, 2012

Myers-Briggs/Book Reviews

 Thursday I posted about my recent Saturday at a local Children's Literature Festival.

Being with other book people was a great opportunity for me to hear information that validates one of my theories about readers - and book reviewers. One of the woman at our lunch table was sharing a story about another librarian who read voraciously and could remember details - and page numbers - from everything she read. The woman telling the story said when she reads a book, she can remember impressions from what she read or impressions of what she liked and didn't like, but never the details.

Another one of my passions is Myers-Briggs personality type. I have a theory that people who have an "S" in their personality type are the ones who remember the book details and folks who have an "N" have more impressions about what they read rather than the details. I thought it would be a little awkward to ask this stranger at the lunch table about her personality type, but I did think this conversation could fit perfectly into my theory! I struggle with coming up the details when I review a book - I know what I like, but pinning down the exact things I liked can be difficult. (I am an "N") A comparison of my husband's reviews a couple months ago and my regular ones seems to validate this theory. I think it's fascinating.

I do love when my passions collide!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Odd Girl Out - Not

I recently attended a Children's Literature Festival at the local university. This was my second year to attend, but I almost didn't go. The week before, I debated. I was only familiar with one author/illustrator who was going to be there, but it was a passing familiarity. It was an 8 hour event - 8 hours that could have been spent on other home or school projects that are more pressing. It was an 8 hour even that started at 8am on a Saturday morning - the one day I can usually sleep in.

But, as my husband reminded me, I made a commitment to go. Chances were good that I would enjoy myself once I got there. And I did. The one factor I didn't think of in all of my debating is how seldom I get to be with other people who are as passionate about children's literature as I am. The closest I get is an occasional conversation with a parent who is looking for reading material for their kids or a student who really liked the last book they read. I live for those conversations in my week. But I don't have a lot of people in my circle of relationships who care about when the next Percy Jackson book comes out (October 2nd) or who know who Mo Willems is.

But the people at this conference were MY people. I sat by a friend from church, and we had a delightful conversation about her kids' reading habits. I met a children's librarian at lunch who told me about the last three books she loved (Wonder, Crunch, and another title I can't remember). In the afternoon session, I spied another librarian reading a book from my TBR pile (To Be Read). Talking about that book led to a conversation about the second book she packed (in case the conference was lame - she originally had 4 in her hand to bring along, but she settled on just 2 - a woman after my own heart) which reminded me of another book which she put on her reading list.

It was delightful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Art Journals

This year I introduced my students to the concept of a Writer's Notebook. We are still introducing the idea - I think it will go even better as the year goes on - and next year - once the kids (and I) get more used to how the notebook can work.

I made this switch because I read a great book (surprise, surprise) about using them in a classroom. I loved the idea of my kids having something they can take with them, somewhere they can keep their ideas, somewhere they can safely try new things and new expressions of themselves and their creativity. In our first week writing specific entries in the Notebook, my heart just swelled as I watched 24 heads bent over their notebook and listened to 24 pencils scratching across the paper. I almost couldn't contain myself as I listened to them share what they wrote. I love these kids. I love the stories they represent - the potential.

Just as I am getting excited about this idea of keeping a writing notebook myself, and helping my students get in the habit of it too, I found this - a pin board on Pinterest about Art Journaling.

It inspires me - it makes me want to draw and color and keep an art journal myself. I am NOT an artist and my stuff won't look a quarter as amazing as these. But - I think - an art journal could be a place to try anyway. It could be just for me - a safe place where I can be a horrible artist but not care - a place to experiment and try something new....

Maybe there's an art journal in my future....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Two Lost Weeks

Sometimes my husband and I toy with the idea of going away on a trip, just the two of us. Travel with just three people is fairly easy, especially at my son's age, so these ideas have never materialized into anything concrete. And I don't feel like something is lacking in my life or my marriage because of it. I'm happy to have the three of us together, to "do" life together.

The other day, I was thinking about the time I spent with my dad before he passed away. I was thinking back to the logistics we put together - the friends and family who helped - so I could go be with him for the last couple weeks of his life, and my husband and son could do work and school respectively until the school year ended and we could see where things were going to go from there.

I was dismayed to realize that I have a two week gap in my memory of my son's life.

I have no idea what his life looked like while I was gone. Sure, I talked to him on the phone and Skype while I was away, but I don't have a mental image of what it looked like to have a cousin come over and get him ready for school in the morning (what did he have for breakfast? how did things go when she dropped him off for school?). I can't remember what he did after school (did he go to after school care? did my husband leave work early?). I'm pretty sure I missed a field trip in there, and I know I missed a major school presentation (my in-laws came over so he had someone there).

I don't like having that two week gap. I know as he gets older, those gaps are going to naturally become more plentiful as he becomes more independent. But for now, I want to soak up as much time with him and memories as I can to compensate for those two lost weeks of his life and to prepare me for the gaps yet to come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jealous Much?

This year I treated myself to a subscription to Publisher's Weekly, a weekly magazine about the publishing industry. It has articles about publishing trends, publishers, new books being released, technology and books, etc. as well as book reviews.

A recent issue highlighted some forthcoming young adult books that were getting a lot of buzz. Since the magazine is focused on the industry, the article said nothing about the plot of the books (annoying to someone like me who is reading the magazine mostly for ideas about new books my students might like) and focused instead on how the story came to be published in the first place - the author's background, how the story found it's way to a publisher, etc.

As I was reading the article, I started to feel jealous. Imagine the thrill of reading through a slush pile and finding a gem! I imagine it's like being a librarian and reading a truly well-crafted story that you just know your students are going to love. Except, in this case it's on a much larger scale - finding a story you know the world is going to love.

I started wondering, "How do you get a job like that? How do you get to be on the front line of discovering new talent or a perfect tale and bringing a book to life in that way?" What a dream career that would be....

But then I thought of times I have completely fallen in love with a book [The False Prince, The Candymakers] and then introduced that book to a student who has also fallen in love with it. Would I rather be on the front end - the first person in the industry to discover a story? Or would I rather be part of leading students to the story once it's published, getting to interact directly with readers about a brilliant character or plot, watching kids "get" what I got when I first read it?

I think the answer, for me, is obvious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Spirit

"Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord Almighty." ~ Zechariah 4:6

Our pastor preached on this passage a couple weeks ago and it has hung with me since then. I feel like this is a message for me regarding school, especially this year.

My general nature is to charge through things on my own. God has given me gifts and skills and opportunities, and I just need to meet them. I prefer to just muscle through, put in the work, and make things happen.

But I know this isn't always the best way.

Sometimes I say yes to things I should say no to, which makes either more work or less time or both.

Sometimes I wear myself down trying to do things in my own strength, depriving myself of the power available to me from the Lord to do the things He has asked me to do.

This year, I want to try to remember this. I want to incorporate this principle into my life, both at school and at home. Less might. Less of my own "power." More Spirit.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Recently I was talking to a friend about the new school year. I was sharing my fatigue and adjustment woes (as I have enumerated here already) and she asked how things were different this year.

"Last year I had 14 classes. This year I have 17. I was actually part time last year but this year...."

I'm working full time.

I'm working full time.

I haven't worked full time like this (outside the home) in 9 years. Even then, it wasn't like teaching; I put in my 40-45 hours and then I was done. With teaching, you work 40 hours and then work at home on lessons and lesson plans and bulletin boards, and curriculum plans, etc.

I used to have hours if not days off - to myself - to go to the book store or do the grocery shopping or take care of chores at home. Now I have to do them on the weekends like every other mom who works full time.

I'm severely out of practice.

But this does build a larger degree of hope that this will pass - I will build up my endurance, my family will find new routines that work for this new schedule, and life will feel manageable again.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sophomore Slump

Sophomore year of college was my least favorite. The newness of freshman year was gone, the anticipation of graduation and the future that would come for juniors and seniors wasn't there yet. I hated my major. I didn't want to get out of bed. Many days, I didn't. I had my lowest GPA of my entire educational career during my sophomore year.

In sports, when a rookie goes into a slide in his/her second year, they call it the "sophomore slump." Some even use that term to describe my experience during college. I would like to apply it to the second year of teaching as well.

While this year is going well, the newness and energy of my first year is just not there. I think most schools do a good job of supporting first year teachers, but when the second year rolls around, some are less intentional about providing support. Folks think you are capable because you've done this already. Instead of feeling capable because I have a year under my belt, I think I am just more aware of all that I'm lacking.

I am hanging on to the idea that it is still early in the year. As a family, we are adjusting to the work load and expectations of a new grade. I am still laying the foundation for the rest of the year with my students, reviewing basic skills and learning new names. I trust the "slumpiness" will abate once second quarter is rolling along.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Earlier this year I retired from Fantasy Football.

For the last several years I had a team in a 12-team league my husband started with some folks from our church. And I enjoyed it. It gave my husband and I a hobby to enjoy together, it gave me football knowledge about more than just "my" team. 

But for me, fantasy football became too much work. Last year, once I started teaching, I didn't have the energy or the desire to research who to play each week. I feel like I "phoned it in" for the last season I played. So, when the season ended, I retired.

The others in the league have been very gracious, saying they are sorry I won't be playing this year. And I will miss the camaraderie because our group is hilarious! 

But I feel free now.

Free to come to the draft without pressure of who to pick first or dread that the player I want (Aaron Rodgers) won't be available when the pick gets to me.

Free to enjoy the banter without pouring over cheat sheets to figure out who to take with my next pick.

Free to root for my team and against all the others without feeling divided loyalty because I drafted someone on a team in the same division.

Time will tell if I'll miss it and regret my choice to retire. But for now, I am enjoying the freedom of retirement.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lesson Plans

Many (many) years ago, when my husband and I taught upper elementary and middle school Sunday school, I enjoyed lesson planning. I had a theme or plan for the year (Women in the Bible or Children in the Bible) and I had theme verses I wanted students to focus on. I loved plotting out the lessons, writing out my thoughts and observations on the scripture passages. I loved teaching the material and interacting with my students over it.

I am typing this post after over 2.5 hours of lesson planning for school. I am not yet experiencing the same joy I used to feel.

I teach 17 classes a week to kids in 7 grades. So I am "only" planning 7 lessons a week - far fewer than my dear colleagues who teach that many lessons in one day. And my lessons have to be short enough to fit in a 40 minute period where I need to check in returned books and check out new books for anywhere from 10 to 25 students in a group as well as teach the lesson. Right now, I am just trying to plot out all of the library orientation material I need to cover depending on the age and skill level of the group. I'm having a hard time even remembering what all I taught last year.

My main challenges are

  • My preference to plan a full week at a time. My first day of teaching classes was a Thursday. I have 4 classes on Thursday and 4 on Friday, so about half of my load. But in those two days, I taught two of my fifth grade classes. I didn't see the other one until Wednesday of the following week. So, during the first full week of classes, I spent three days (nine classes) covering our orientation material and two days (eight classes) covering Week 2 material (the always thrilling discussion of shelf markers!). After two full weeks of classes, we have a Monday off for Labor Day. It will take me about a month of classes to arrange the material so that the three fourth grade classes (which meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday) are all on the same lesson in the same calendar week. This problem continues throughout the year thanks to breaks and school events and book fair, etc. I've already plotted out the dates of meetings through December so I can see where my partial weeks are and try to plan around them.
  • Planning developmentally appropriate lessons. I am still learning what books and what concepts work with which ages. Two years in a row now, I have read Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? to my kindergarten students and both times it has completely bombed. I finally got smart and started keeping a file of books I am using, what lessons I do with them, and when they work and don't work.
  • Planning lessons that prepare kids for more than just finding a book in the non-fiction section of any library. Library usage skills are important to me. Not only do they minimize the cyclone-like appearance of the library when a class leaves, but I believe they are skills necessary for life-long learning. But I want my students to leave with so much more - a love of reading, an appreciation for the impact a well-written story or well-developed character can have on your heart and mind, an understanding of the world that can come from digging into a well-written non-fiction book, a new depth of understanding of Scripture that can come when you know how to read for understanding.
  • The overabundance of material available to me. I almost have too many choices as far as lesson material. I have the things I did last year (some of which worked and some didn't). I have fun things I have found online from other teachers. I have a file cabinet full of material from my predecessor that I haven't even had time to open. I have shelves of library magazines full of lesson ideas. 
  • The pressure of having to develop a scope and sequence by October. I knew this time last year that I had to put together a scope and sequence of lessons for each grade level by this October. I had every intention of doing it this summer, but it didn't happen. In part, that is because of the other library projects I was doing instead. But honestly, part of it is because I hate having to commit to a scope and sequence this early in my librarian/teacher journey. I have so much to learn. I have so much material (see previous bullet point). I'm afraid the minute I submit this curriculum plan I'm going to hate it and want to do something completely different (or I'm going to try to implement it and find it's a complete flop)!

What's sad is that I realize this 150 minutes I just spent was really just for formatting an outline of what I'm going to do on certain days - and I haven't even finished all of September yet - not even planning the exact lessons.


I am expecting to feel a lot better about the manageability of my teaching life by October. I haven't lost the hope of someday being able to leave school at 3:15 again!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


My school day officially ends at 3:15, but I rarely leave the building then. Either I have an after school activity to supervise or I am trying to make the most of quiet hours without students to get caught up on tasks that don't fit into the daily school schedule.

But one day, during the first few days of school, I left at 3:15.

It was glorious! We came home because we thought a service provider was coming and we had to be here to meet him. (I didn't know I'd come home to a message that he was going to have to reschedule.) I couldn't believe how much more time I had when I came home at 3:30 instead of 5:30. And for the two weeks leading up to the start of school, there were many days I came home at 8:30. Leaving at 3:15 was a completely foreign experience. And I liked it.

My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic. My only-child status ensures that I am a perfectionist who is not satisfied unless I have plans and materials in place at least 2 weeks out from today and that everything has to be done with complete excellence. The painful losses during the last year gave me an excuse to work like a manic woman so I didn't have to deal with all of the emotions and ups-and-downs of the last 18 months.

But I am getting to a place where I want more - or is it less?

I want to be productive and I want to do my work with excellence, but I also want to have a life. I want to have time with my family and time to pursue my hobbies, and time to actually sit down and read a book - something I seemed to have a lot more time for before I started working as a librarian, ironically enough.

Maybe, once I get "on top" of things at school and get back into the routine of my work, I'll enjoy the freedom that comes from leaving at 3:15 more often.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ten Apps I Love

This is the last in my series of list posts. I should be back to regular posting on Thursday. This one highlights apps I am enjoying right now.

  • - I use this a lot at school to look up how something is spelled if it isn't in the student dictionary or when I do my own writing.
  • Book Crawler - I discovered this when I did a search for book apps. I haven't really dug into it completely, so at this point I love it in principle. You are supposed to be able to keep track of your book library on it. If it actually does what I want it to once I use it more regularly, I'll be sure to rave about it.
  • Stack the States - this is an educational game I downloaded for my son. You answer questions (state shape, capitals, landmarks) and earn states. It really helped him when his class was learning the states.
  • Solitaire - there are bunches of different solitaire options on iTunes, but my favorite is the one from Tri-Peaks where the cards are set in different shapes, with cards layered on one another, and you have to clear the field. Awesome!
  • Kindle - I own a Nook, but it is super handy to have the Kindle app so I can jump on free books I read about on Twitter or Facebook. I also had a chance to read an author's upcoming book and she had free Kindle copies to distribute. She emailed it to me and I was able to download it on my phone/iPad
  • IMDB - I use this all the time to figure out voices in animated shows/movies and other actors I see and go, "I know this person from somewhere!"
  • Paperless - this is the to do list app I found that I was able to make work for electronic notes as well as my book shopping lists. It's not perfect, but it works better than anything else I have found.
  • Chicktionary - my SIL asked me to play Words with Friends. I stink at it! So I searched for other word games I could play and I found this one. There are two ways to play with time limits and goals, but the basic idea is you get 7 chickens, each with a letter, and you try to make as many words with those letters as you can. Love it!!
  • Scramble - When I mentioned on FB that I was playing WWF even though I stink, someone suggested I try Scramble. I still lose frequently, but I have a fighting chance on this one at least.
  • Lego Harry Potter - I don't have much time to play this because you get locked into a stage and need to finish it so it saves and you don't lose your progress. But I enjoy gathering studs and tackling the tasks.

Have you played any of these? Have any app suggestions for me?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ten Songs I Love Today

I hope these links work - I figure, what's the point of talking about music if no one knows the songs I'm talking about!

Where I Belong performed by Building 429
Unto the Lamb performed by Prestonwood Choir
Revelation Song performed by Kari Jobe
He'll Hold You performed by Selah
God's Not Dead performed by Newsboys (actually, I am a huge fan of Michael Tate and I think he is what I love about Newsboys these days)
Brandenburg Concerto 3, first movement composed by Bach (the audio and video don't line up, but it is a nice performance)
Power of the Cross performed by Sisters (link is to iTunes)
Fix Me Jesus from the Joyful Noise soundtrack
Morning Always Comes performed by Shelly E. Johnson (link is to iTunes)
Overflow performed by Beckah Shae

Did you like any of these? Have any recommendations for me?