Is It February Already?

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted!  This happens every year; I go into a sort of social media hibernation in November, due to an unfortunate confluence of events beyond my control.

First we have our two-week circus book fair in the Library which, when combined with the publicity beforehand and the tying up of loose ends afterward takes us straight into the Thanksgiving holidays (a whole week off in my district!), and when we return we’re thrown into the Christmas season with its inevitable family obligations, and in January it’s time to get back into the routine of work and catch up on what didn’t get done during December, and it’s not until the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced at the end of January that I lift my head dazedly and exclaim, “Yikes, where did the time go?!?”

The last few months have been a whirlwind of professional activity, including collaborating with teachers, presenting at conferences, and re-examining my role as the teacher-librarian at my school.  I’ll be sharing documents, resources, and reflections on all of these things over the next couple of weeks, including some advocacy materials that might be helpful to other media specialists, but for  now here’s a sampler of items I’ve been creating and/or using and sharing with my teachers:

Time Life Photo Archive – great database of historical photos for social studies and history classes

I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) Blog – the published nonfiction authors who write this blog are giving us an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Common Core is affecting the publishing world

ActivCarolinas Conference Flipcharts – for those who use Promethean boards and ActivInspire software, here are the flipcharts the presenters used.  (The flipcharts from my sessions can also be found on my ActivCarolinas page.)

It’s nice to be back!


Image: ‘Marmotte — Groundhog
Found on
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Saying Yes

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In our first back-to-school meeting last week, our faculty was challenged to think about our attitude for the new year.  When the two Sumter school districts merged into one last year, there were many fears and frustrations as everyone adjusted to doing things in new, unfamiliar ways.  But that difficult first year of transition is over, and everyone is eager now to focus on making this year successful for our students.

So after an inspiring “welcome back” speech from our principal, everyone was given a stress ball (hey, the most difficult part of the transition may be over, but no one expects this year to be easy!) and asked to choose one word to define our focus for the year.  One word that sums up what we want our students and co-workers to notice about us, one word that we can use to remind ourselves – as we squeeze that rubber ball and take deep calming breaths – what is truly important this year.

The word I chose is Yes.  That one simple word represents my desire to assist and support our teachers this year as we begin implementing the Common Core standards in our school.  So many times in the past I’ve had to tell them “no” – either by word or deed – when they needed something because my time was too taken up with conducting Library classes.  This year I want to be there with resources, with ideas, with collaborative teaching plans, and with technology innovations to empower them in their classrooms and beyond.

Whatever a teacher asks me for this year, I want to be able to say Yes to it.  Technical difficulties with your printer?  Yes, I’ll come down and look at it right away.  Enough folk tales for every student in your class to have one?  Yes, I’ll bring them down to your classroom.  A Promethean flipchart to give students practice classifying different types of rocks?  Yes, I’ll help you create that.  A website to help students learn more about the Greek and Roman gods?  Yes, I’ll find one for you.

Yes, it will be a juggling act at times, but yes, it will be worth it to help our teachers accomplish their goals.

What’s your word this year?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Image: ‘Friday, 13th, Nov‘  Found on


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This is Why I Will Never Be Joyce Valenza

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They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the new Delicious interface, and if you read it you already know that I wasn’t thrilled.  The site looks different, and some of the features have changed, and there’s some new terminology to learn.

Did you catch those key words?  New.  Different.  Change.  Oh, how many times have we shaken our heads in pity over our less-enlightened colleagues who bemoan these very things?  (tsk tsk tsk)  I thought I was above all that.

The day after I posted my reaction, I read Delicious Stacks by Joyce Valenza at her Neverending Search blog.  (Go ahead, take a moment to read it; then meet me back here.)

As you can see, Joyce immediately embraced the positive aspects of the new Delicious and began using it with her students.  She didn’t waste any time freaking out over the unfamiliarity of it; she just plunged right in and made it work for her.  That’s why she’s Joyce Valenza and I’m just me.

So I’m taking this lesson in keeping an open mind to heart, and I’ll remember my own feelings of resistance next time I’m sharing a new way of doing something with an apprehensive teacher.  I think Joyce would approve.


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OmmWriter – When You Just Want to Think and Write

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A few weeks ago I was catching up on some older Clever Sheep podcasts, and Rodd Lucier mentioned a free download called OmmWriter.  Its purpose is to turn your computer into a Zen zone that allows you to focus your mind entirely on your writing, and after trying it I think it does a pretty good job.


OmmWriter takes over your desktop with a watercolor-ish background that blocks out everything else.  (The black control buttons disappear unless you hover over them with your mouse.)  You have a choice of four different fonts and font sizes, and you can drag the text box to make it larger or smaller.  The program offers you three soothing soundtracks to play while you write, or no music at all if you prefer.  There is a save option, or you can simply cut-and-paste your writing into a Word document, email, blog post, etc. 

Now, I am not New Agey at all, but I do love me some good relaxation music, so this feature is what convinced me to try OmmWriter.  (Track 3 is my favorite.)  It has not been as helpful in writing blog posts as I anticipated, mainly because I’m constantly referring to other writings and linking to various sites while I compose, and all the switching in and out of OmmWriter really harshes my mellow.  But for reflective writing – things like newsletter articles or letters to congressmen – it does help me keep my train of thought.

You’ve gotta love a site that lists their FMQs (Frequently Meditated Questions)!  If you decide to try it, let me know what you think.


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Library Lessons Online – Do You or Don’t You?

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One of my goals this year is to do more to reach out to the families of our students.  I want to share the good things we are doing at school, and to get families more involved in the learning process. 

So, in that spirit, I spent some time this past weekend setting up a new blog with the intention of posting my lesson plans there.  My idea was that parents could see what their kids are doing in the library each week (complete with links to the resources we use), and I could also include follow-up ideas to promote literacy at home.

But now that the time has come to share the site, I’m feeling a bit reluctant about publicizing it, and I’m not entirely sure why. 

I realize that many of you don’t have scheduled library classes like I do, but for those who do:  Do any of you share your lesson plans online?  Why or why not?  What are the pros and cons?


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A New Year of Blogging

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It’s been almost a year since my last post. Where have I been all this time? Well, last year was a difficult one, both personally and professionally. In addition to dealing with some serious family issues, I was also dealing with some rather debilitating school issues, and I just didn’t have the heart either to dwell on them or ignore them in blog posts.

Sumter School DistrictThis year will be different. Very different. In Sumter County, where I work, we’ve always had two school districts. This year, those two districts merged into one. We’ve had three years to prepare, but we’re all learning that you really can’t ever be fully prepared for such a sweeping change in policies, personnel, and procedures.

We have a new superintendent this year, since the former superintendents of each district have retired. In addition to all the new department heads at the district office, our school also has a new principal. (Our former principal also retired.) We have a new assistant principal, too. (Our former assistant principal was assigned to another school.) And we have a new curriculum resource teacher. (Our former CRT became our new assistant principal.)

So the name of the game this year is “Change.” Now, I’m not opposed to change; change can be not only good, but necessary in the raipdly evolving world of education. But too much change at once, particularly when the stakeholders (i.e., the teachers) have had little or no voice in the decision-making process, can be overwhelming. It can be frustating. It can be discouraging to the point that you just want to sit down and cry.

So why do I want to start blogging again now of all times, you ask?

I’ve stated before that for me, one of the most beneficial aspects of this blog has been the time spent reflecting on what I’m doing. In an earlier post titled Fighting Burnout I said,

 “Through writing this blog I’ve come to appreciate the importance of taking time to reflect on what I’m doing in my professional life and why…. I can see the benefit of including more posts here about what is working in my library, and what impact I’m having on the students I see each week. I need to remember why I became a school librarian in the first place, and resolve to keep that at the forefront of my mind…”

This year, I want this blog to be a celebration of everything good in my library, in my school, in my district, in my state, and in education in general.  I want to focus on the positive, rejoice in the successes, and share what’s working for me in my little corner of the world. 

After all, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”  (Epictetus) 

By the way, the logo you see here is actually not exactly what our new district logo looks like.  This is the original design, but it was changed at some point (I’m not sure when), and in spite of searching the district website, several of our school websites, and Google Images, I cannot find a save-able image of the new logo.  The words “UNIFIED FOR SUCCESS” have been replaced with the words “EDUCATE*EMPOWER*ENRICH” at the bottom of the circle.  Not that it really matters to any of you readers out there, but it does give you a small taste of the way things are going for us so far this year!

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The Conference Experience

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As I was checking my feed reader yesterday, I saw a post by Mother Reader titled Kidlit Con 2010 Recap.  (By the way, Kidlit Con is a conference for children’s literary bloggers, authors, illustrators, and publishers.  Doesn’t that sound heavenly!)  I was interested to see what she had to say about the conference, but the opening paragraphs of her post are what really struck me:

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been having trouble writing up my experience at KidlitCon 2010, and I finally realized that I was trying to write about the wrong thing — the conference itself.

Please don’t take that the wrong way. The sessions boasted wonderful speakers featuring interesting presentations with useful applications for blogging. You’ll find helpful recaps from a variety of posts on the KidlitCon blog…. But though I enjoyed the sessions, the KidlitCon experience for me was the people.

That really resonated, because I have also been struggling this week to blog about my experience at the SC EdTech Conference, but I couldn’t figure out why it was so difficult to write the post.  Now I understand that what made the conference so invigorating for me wasn’t merely the words of the speakers, or the resources they shared.  It was the ideas those words and resources sparked within me, and it was having the time apart from work and family to really develop those ideas and form a plan to put them into practice.  So actually, just sharing a description of the sessions I attended doesn’t tell the full story.

For example, in my post on Thursday I mentioned that Lights Camera Action shared many different ways to use video in the classroom, which is a great session topic.  However, with all due respect to Dennis Duszynski, the most important thing to me about his session was the cool video idea I thought of during his presentation!

So I’ll continue sharing my conference experiences with you via this blog, but to paraphrase Levar Burton, don’t just take my word for it!  Check out the links for yourself, view the presentation notes through the lens of your own mission and vision, and let your imagination lead you into brand new territory!


*In case you’re wondering what my idea was, our book fair starts next week and I’m going to make my own promotional video to display on my school website, since the book fair company doesn’t supply any online videos of their own for us to use.  Can you believe Scholastic hasn’t already thought of that as a marketing tool?)

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