I am an elementary school media specialist (librarian) and a new mom. My daughters (born 12/27/2010 and 6/27/2013) are teaching me all kinds of new things every day. One thing they have taught me is that sometimes, there just isn't room for much else besides learning. If you're not sleeping, eating, talking, blogging, or whatever, it might just be because you're TOO BUSY LEARNING!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Best School Year Evvvaaar

My Top Ten Reasons Why 2008-2009 Will Be the Best School Year Ever:

10. I have my MLIS degree finished, so I'm getting paid appropriately to do what I do.

9. I'm going for my National Board Certification this year. This may not end up being my favorite professional development task ever in the world, but people are coming out of the woodwork to support me as I work, and I think the process will be beneficial. (Plus, I get a big pay boost when and if I pass.)

8. I think maybe I'm getting a budget to order books and equipment. Hope has diminished somewhat since the summer, but there's still enough left for me to persevere in asking/begging/advocating for money for the media program.

7. My assistant is nice, helpful, and willing to learn new things.

6. The specialists are working well as a team. With the exception of some minor drama, we are unified and pretty much rocking out.

5. I really like my administration. They have the power to make or break a school, and we are blessed at my school.

4. I have tweaked the schedule to near finality, and although it's not perfect, it does mean that I have very few periods where I see two classes at once, and I even have some flex time for collaboration and various media-related endeavors.

3. We are starting a cool thing with our specials schedule (enrichment stuff like art, music, PE) where the kids get to choose a club to go to once a week during the school day. Clubs are supervised by specialists. This will be such a marvelous opportunity for the kids, and a great time for me to work with some special small groups of students. This is an innovative plan that I want to present at a conference next year if it works out.

2. We have a new Tech Facilitator! Yay! We are one of the only elementary schools in Guilford County to have a full-time certified technology teacher. (Who knows why though... I think it's absolutely essential!) In addition to enjoying a wonderful new partner in crime, this also means I no longer have to take care of technological problems in the school building, which means more time for media and literacy, which makes me inordinately happy.

1. My job is great every year, but never have I been so full of hope for innovation and creativity and exciting change happening in my school.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Advice for Media Specialists

I don't know how many media specialists (or school librarians) actually read my blog, but since school is starting soon, I thought I'd do a quick post on advice for beginning media specialists. I started in my media center a mere two years ago. I was blessed to have no precedent to uphold, since my school had been without a media specialist the previous year before I came, and I have had a very successful two years. But certainly, there are things I wish I had known when I started, or learned quickly after I started.

If you are just starting out in a media center, here are some things (in chronological order) that I would suggest you do:
  • Know your purpose and your mission as a media specialist, and let that be the measure for all that you do.
  • Make friends with the office staff, including secretator (not a typo), treasurer, and SIMS operator. You will need their help, and it will be sooner rather than later.
  • Make friends with your custodian.
  • Make friends with your administration.
  • Make friends with your school-level and district-level technology coordinators.
  • Do something to make the physical space your own. (Move furniture; add decorations; just do something to make it different than it was before you arrived.)
  • If possible, take the summer before starting in your position to assess the collection and move it around on the shelves if necessary.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, train her or him immediately, well, and thoroughly. Do not assume anything.
  • Find a buddy who is a media specialist in your district, preferably close by. Media specialists can have a very lonely job since there is usually only one per building, and it's hard to learn the specifics with no other media specialist to help you.
  • Start with a clean slate for patrons (both students and teachers), especially if the media program was previously a little fishy, as it was in my case. You don't want to fight a battle that someone else started because you really don't know who was right in the situation.
  • Make sure you have policies and procedures in place for students on the very first day that they come to the media center. They will not automatically know how to act. You will have to teach them explicitly, no matter the grade level, which means you will have to know and explain exactly what you want.
  • If you teach classes regularly, make seating charts. Kids like and need to know exactly what to do, and it will help you learn their names quickly.
  • As soon as possible, begin analyzing your collection, weeding regularly, and coming up with a long-term collection development plan focusing on different parts of the collection every year for five years. (I'll cover this more later and give some of my favorite techniques.)
  • Present a budget to your principal or Leadership Team as soon as possible. Try to gain access to data concerning how much was spent in previous years, average county or state spending for media centers, etc.
  • Be friendly and inviting to everyone on staff. Although a media specialist can sometimes be lonely, you also have the advantage of being politically neutral in most cases, which can be of great benefit and definitely where you want to be in order to help everyone and get their cooperation in return.
  • Go to all of the district-level media specialist meetings, even the optional ones. Network, network, network. Who knows when you'll need something that someone else is giving away?
  • In the same way, go to conferences (and join professional organizations). You do have time, and it is worth the effort. Get re-charged, meet some authors, network, and bring back fabulous ideas.
  • Get on your Leadership Team as soon as possible. You are the representative for the media department, and you need to be a school leader in order to be effective.
  • Don't stress. It's your first year, and you can't do it all. Just keep track of all your great ideas, and look forward to implementing them in years to come.
Any other ideas from those in the field? Personally, I am looking forward to a fantastic new school year! I'm no longer the new kid, so now I can start really having some fun.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Getting My Foot in the Door

Remember how I said they should hire me to write for Unclutterer? Well, I'm on, sort of. Here's a before and after project post in which one of my projects is featured. The post is on the Real Simple: Home and Organizing blog, but blogger Erin Doland is the editor-in-chief of Unclutterer. Neat, huh? (Disclaimer: No, they're not hiring me or anything. I just sent in my pictures when Erin asked for before-and-after project pics. But hey...)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is that a purse or a duffle bag?

There is no doubt in my mind that physical space is at more of a premium now than ever. Airline luggage is just one example. It used to be nothing for my grandparents to seriously over-pack and end up with their two carry-on items each, plus two checked bags each, every time they came to visit. Now, they'll be paying out the wazoo to do such a thing. Since my post today is more about everyday space-saving, I'll direct you to this post from Unclutterer for avoiding bag check fees at airports by packing more efficiently. I'm a pretty good packer already (winner for smallest/lightest baggage on church trip to London two years ago), but a lot of the pointers at Unclutterer are specifically for newer airport regulations and restrictions, so it is quite helpful.

As far as day-to-day packing, I do have a few favorites.

1. Space-Saving Items: If you must carry it with you, at least try to find it in a compact size. Some of my space-saving items:
  • fold-up shopping bag from Target -- For 99 cents, I get a reusable shopping bag that folds to the size of a check book. The bag isn't huge, but it works for quick trips, and I don't forget to bring it into the store because it's already in my purse.
  • fold-up hair brush with compact mirror -- Gotta have it, and it would be completely impractical to carry around a full-size hairbrush.
  • teeny tiny flat Bible -- Not completely necessary to carry around everywhere, but nice to have at times. I got this as a gift. It is the thinnest one I have ever seen, and it's leather bound, so it holds together well. I think it would make a great backpacking Bible also, for my outdoor-adventure-seeking friends.
2. One item I wish I had: iPhone. In another great post by Unclutterer, Erin posts about iPhone apps that reduce clutter.
  • planner: Instead of carrying a calendar or planner, use the iPhone to access your Google Calendar.
  • wallet: Instead of carrying around huge amounts of store membership cards, take digital pictures of them, and put them in your iPhone. Sonja gave me a great demo of this on her iPhone. It really is snazzy.
  • address book: Duh, you don't need one if all your contact info is accessible by iPhone.
3. Other stuff to remember:
  • If you don't use it, don't bring it. I used to carry around one of those little tiny stuffed-in-a-bag rain slickers in my purse, but I never ever used it. Too much trouble. I keep it in my glove compartment now, and that pretty much does the trick. By way of another example, I don't carry Advil anymore. I only rarely need it, and it's usually at work, so I keep a bottle in a locked desk drawer at work. No more rattly purse.
  • Empty spare change periodically. For as much as I do not use cash, spare change weighs a lot for little benefit. Put it in a jar at home, and buy something when the jar gets full.
  • Carry in pockets when practical. The last thing I want to do at a concert is lug a purse. I'll put my driver's license and my debit card and maybe some cash in my pocket and lock my purse in the trunk. This would work well for movie theaters too if I could remember. Theater floors are gross and not really somewhere I want to put my purse.
  • Carry a smaller purse. Instead of using a huge purse because you have all kinds of crap to put in it, try using a smaller purse so you'll be forced to take only the essentials. You'll be surprised by how well you can live off a small one in most cases.
Leave some reader tips on reducing carried clutter in the comments!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Chore Scheduling for Sanity's Sake

I'm looking forward to going back to work full-time in a couple of weeks. Summers are great, but I miss doing what I love, which -- fortunately for me -- is my job. But that's not to say I haven't enjoyed pursuing some new hobbies, projects, and much-needed relaxation this summer. I've even started some good habits (exercising daily for example) that I need to really make an effort not to drop when my schedule gets fuller again.

One time-saving tactic that has been a lifesaver for me in recent months has been the development of a chore schedule. My husband initially balked at the very idea that I would do this. His feeling was that I would become a slave to it, but the fact is, the schedule has freed me up; I was already a slave to needing to get stuff done, and I didn't have a good way to handle it.

I pretty much have one or two chores and a load of laundry scheduled for most weekdays. So, here's what my week looks like:
  • Monday: I go shopping after school using the list that I created Sunday. This is supposed to be the major trip for the week where I go to WalMart (evil corporation I know, but cheap and convenient) for groceries and everything else we need. This is also the day I wash bed and couch linens as needed. (Limiting laundry to no more than one load per day and none on weekends has improved my marriage greatly.) In the evening, I change all the towels in the kitchen and the bathrooms so that I can just throw the dirty ones in the washer before I go to work in the morning.
  • Tuesday: I clean bathrooms (spot clean or deep clean as needed) and wash a load of towels. My new and exciting washing machine has a delay feature, so I usually throw the laundry in the washer before work and set the delay so that the load is finishing around the time I come home. Then, I can throw the stuff in the dryer right away when I get home without my wet laundry sitting in the washer getting stinky all day.
  • Wednesday: I clean the kitchen and wash a load of regular cycle clothes. Wednesday is our church small group night, so I fix a snack for the group instead of a full dinner, so it's a good day to clean the kitchen, since I won't be turning right around and messing it up when I'm finished.
  • Thursday: I vacuum and dust (only if I can't stand it) and wash a load of delicate and permanent press clothes. Sometimes, vacuuming has to happen more than once a week because of Scratchy the Dirty Beast, but Thursday is when it officially gets done.
  • Friday: Rest and have fun! Also, change the towels in the evening, because they're usually getting yucky by this point, and I hate smelly towels.
  • Saturday: Fun fun fun, all day long!
  • Sunday: Plan three dinners and a Wednesday night snack for the week. Create grocery list based on meal needs and regular needs. I usually jot my list down on paper while I'm creating and then transfer it to a spreadsheet for easier store-wandering. My spreadsheet is currently on Google docs so my husband and I can make additions and changes during the day on Monday while we're at work. I have it categorized by store area. Here is the list I used yesterday:
Some other housework considerations: We have a cleaning service, and they come in once a month. That means I never have to mop or scrub floors or scrub the bathtub, and lots of months, I can get away without dusting. Those are the chores I abhor, so it's worth it to have the service. And also, if I get totally behind, and my house gets totally disgusting, it's not that big of a deal because it won't be long before the cleaning service comes, even if I don't get my act together.

Some other food considerations: As far as grocery shopping and cooking, I am usually responsible for weeknight meals, although my wonderful husband pitches in on it too. My husband usually takes care of most weekend meals, and he often cooks a big vat of deliciousness on Sunday night so that we'll have leftovers to take to work for lunches during the week. Many times, he'll do the grocery shopping for the meals he wants to make, unless he gets to me on Sunday or Monday to make his requests known.

Some other management considerations: I have my Remember the Milk service set up to remind me which chores to do each day at work and at home. I also keep daily to-dos on the list, so everything is together. The Remember the Milk gadget for iGoogle is excellent, so I usually just keep iGoogle up all day, now that my OS doesn't hate it anymore. (Incidentally, my other stuff on iGoogle includes Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Google Bookmarks, Google Calendar, and Weather. All excellent applications and gadgets.)

Some other approval considerations: I am taking a bit of a leap posting this for everyone to see because the initial reaction of others to my system is usually unmitigated disapproval. If you adopt a system similar to mine, people will call you names and assume that you have a stick up your butt. Let them. If it works for you (as it does for me), do it anyway.

Friday, August 1, 2008

You can even organize your hair.

Whenever people laugh at me for putting a high priority on organizing stuff, I tell them that when my stuff is a mess, it usually means my life is a mess. Sometimes, getting the mess in order can at least symbolically start getting my life in order. That's the main reason why I like my stuff clean, simple, and organized. Yeah, it's all about control, but at least I admit it.

So, when my stuff gets out of control, that bothers me. Recently, I've been aware that when my personal appearance gets out of control, that bothers me too. For example, when my hair situation is such that I can make a hobby of picking split ends, the bathroom floor has a veritable brunette carpet, I have to dump Dran-o down the shower regularly every two weeks to clear the hair clogs, and I'm not even bothering with anything but a ponytail anymore, I finally realize it is time for a haircut.

So, I haul myself and my gigantic hair over to Leon's to visit Amy. Amy takes one disapproving look at me and says, "You haven't been blow drying, have you?" Uh... actually, I did blow dry this morning, but it probably didn't count, since there was no styling involved. (Try getting 8 pounds of hair dry. You won't want to style it afterwards either.) So, I tell Amy to chop it all. I want it jaw-length, layered, thinned, and parted on the side.

Half an hour and seven inches later, I have organized hair, and my life feels like it's in better order.