Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pushy? Bossy? No...Just a Leader!

Tomorrow is our official start day.  As always the summer flew by but not without numerous leaps all over the Eastern Seaboard and the Dublin metropolitan area. Now, I just keep dreaming of the leaps I will take on Wednesday when I reunite with my students.

Earlier in the week I took a figurative leap by sending my faculty a pretty lengthy email about the new year.

My mission was to get them pumped and excited to collaborate with me. I wanted to remind them that I am here not to give them more work but to be a co-teacher and support them.  Do I lose sleep due to fears that I sound too pushy?  Of course.  BUT...One teacher who I haven't worked with much in recent years, already responded that she'd like to plan a project soon.  Score! Maybe it isn't pushy after all.

I have a dozen audio books on hold from three different libraries but nothing on my bookshelf, so I'm back to my TedRadio Hour podcasts again--This time the inspiring topic was "Disruptive Leadership." Check it out here:
About seven minutes into the podcast I had to take a break and jot down this quote from a military General, "One of the things about being a leader is that you fail every day."  Wow.  If that doesn't give you permission to make mistakes, learn from them and move on because it's what makes you a better person, I don't know what will.  I thought my letter could be a failure this time and turn people off.  Maybe it did but maybe it didn't.  Either way, something else certainly will be a fail this year and I'm going to  remind myself to be ok with that.  Not going to lie--I might cry, scream, swear. But I know I want to be a leader and if that means I have to fail, then gosh darn it, bring it on!

Sheryl Sandberg talked about gender differences and leadership.  When we see an assertive girl, we call her bossy and yet with boys it's looked at as a positive trait.  I know I like to be in charge and express my opinions.  Just please don't call me bossy.

As school librarians, most of the time by ourselves in our space, we are looked at as leaders in our building.  I really don't mind because, hmmm...I like to be in charge. I like to lead.  But I also know when to delegate and I believe I do that well.  Isn't that a good sign of a leader, too?  Give people you trust jobs to do, then give them space to do them.  Together, to quote Lin Manuel-Miranda from Hamilton, "we get the job done."  And together this school year, we will ALL get the job of educating, leading, collaborating, making, creating DONE. Good luck! And as my NYLA/SSL peeps like to hashtag, #leadoutloud.

Some more leaps from Ireland:
One of the libraries at Trinity College. We learned his name is pronounced "Barkley"

At the Wicklow Mountains

With Natalia at Trinity College

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grit, Passion, Smiles and the Fun-Brarian

I took a break for a week from listening to audiobooks while I ran and tuned into the TedRadio Hour. Now that was inspiring, especially the episodes on success and education. I have been thinking a lot about both of those topics this summer, especially success.

I spent a few days with my cousins in North Carolina at the end of July.  I met their friends, Dave and Tasha, the owners of Rite Lite Signs in Concord. Very nice people who 28 years ago with only a ladder, a garage and $2500 from Dave's grandmother began their path to success.  I was fascinated to hear their story and tour the facilities. Honestly, I will never look at a sign the same way again.

Dave giving me the tour of the Rite Lite facilities. 

Choose Your Neon

Dave, Cousin Linda, Me, Cousin Dave, and Tasha with the obligatory leap!

 Was the key ingredient to their success grit?

In the past several years, I have offered summer book groups. We get together, have a snack and discuss the book.  Usually I don't get too many kids and this year was no exception.  In fact, I might have had fewer kids than ever, but I'm still going do it next year.

My husband came right out and asked me after the fourth one, one that actually was well attended according to the summer standards, "Why do you do this? Why put yourself through this for 1-2 kids?" Why?  Because I love it.  Why? Because I'm making a difference in the lives of those 1-2 kids. Why? Because I'm completely and totally passionate and driven about my job. 'Nuff said.

Two different, unrelated friends, told me recently on separate occasions that I must really love my job.  Is it that obvious? I can't remember if they were commenting because of my Twitter feed, FaceBook posts or my incessant leaps with books, illustrators, authors and students.  One even told me that if I don't love my job, I'm doing a great job faking it.  No fake news here, they nailed it.  I do love my job.  The forever optimist, I smile A LOT at school and just all the time. I'm happy.  And little did I know that one smile could taste so good, better than chocolate:

I've been thinking about my professional goals lately, too.  It was further sparked by this article, "Engineering Happiness at Zappos".  After I read it, I posted on Twitter that I was available to be a "Fun-brarian" at Zappos and we had a little back and forth. They don't have a librarian at the moment.  Of course, I have no desire to leave the job I love, although "Fun-Brarian" is pretty tempting.

Dear Zappos, 
Any chance you have an opening for a Fun-brarian position on weekends, school breaks and summers?  If so, I'm your girl!  I'm not kidding! I have grit, passion, dedication, smiles and hugs to share and definitely a sense of humor (a requirement when working in elementary education).  

It looks like those folks at Zappos are already having fun but maybe another company?

Another school year is about to begin.  It's going to be a great one, I just know it.  At the end of the 2014-15 school year, after the dust had settled from Spring visits from both Chris Grabenstein and Kwame Alexander, a colleague told me he was worried.  Knowing how competitive I am with others and myself, how could the next year possibly compare to this year?  And yet we managed to do some more amazing stuff that year and this past one.  In June, I asked him if he worried about me anymore. He flat out said, "No." We don't know what's lies ahead for us, but we know it's going to be AWESOME. As I told him recently via email, sometimes it's just a matter of clicking the "send" button. Happy, happy 2017-18 school year to all!

PS-Dear Ted Talk, If you ever want someone to leap onto your stage, I'm your girl...That's a goal of

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Greetings from Witness Protection

As I write this, I feel like I shouldn't even mention Nicki and just begin with Charlotte's story but I will take the risk.

In and out of foster care after her grandmother passed away and a felon for a father, the perfect new home has been found for Nicki.  Elena, now Harriet, is getting a new identity along with her husband and son.  "Elena is brave.  Very brave. Because of her bravery, many evil men and women are in prison. However, there are other evil people out there who are looking for her, who want to punish her." Here enters Nicki.  Become the second child in Harriet and "Jonathan's" new Trevor family in a new town in a new state, North Carolina.  Everything is new, even Harriet's engagement ring.

Charlotte has a special knack for stealing.  There's some irony here isn't there?  Isn't the US government "stealing" Nicki's identity to keep Elena safe?  In doing so, they stole every ounce of Elena, Pietro (Jonathan) and Lucas's (Jackson) old life.  As you can imagine, this does not bode well for teenager, Jackson. On top of that, he certainly doesn't want a new (old) sister.

Yet, time works its wonders.  Charlotte makes friends.  Jackson comes to the other side. The Trevors are one.  All seems protected until it doesn't.

This story, one I have never "witnessed" before reminds me a little of last year's All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor. Two very different stories, so I think the resemblance is because both books have very unusual plots. It's crime, mystery, family, friendship with a little twist at the end, all wrapped into one great middle grade novel.  So try and hold your "pawtuchins" till October 3 for that's the day you can pick up this gripping debut by author, Jake Burt.

Monday, August 14, 2017

It all began at PS 117 for Ruth Behar and me...

I can't stop thinking about Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar.  This is how my story goes:

I had been hearing a lot about the book so when it finally came in at the public library, I ran over there to pick it up.  It was probably around 8pm and my husband had already retired upstairs to work on his crossword puzzle.  Both of my kids were at sleepaway camp so the house was quiet.  I settled into the sofa, read the first paragraph, then the second and then I screamed.  OMG! I'm surprised I didn't trip as I galloped up the stairs to Kevin. Hyperventilating, I read the words aloud:

PS 117!  That was MY elementary school! I couldn't believe it.  I talk about PS 117 all the time! I am a firm believer that my upbringing in Briarwood surrounded by diversity helped form who I am today.  Of course, I hated that Ruthie began in the "dumb class" so I was pulling for her from day one to get moved out.  Why weren't the classes heterogenous back then? Even though the book takes place about 10 years before my time at PS 117, we were still tracked in the 70s, too.  Check out Facebook and you can see the success of the cohort of kids from Mrs. Brown's fifth grade class: successful attorneys, journalists, library directors, businessmen and women, chiropractors...

Anyway, back to Lucky Broken Girl.

This is the story of Ruthie, the Hopscotch Queen of Queens, whose Jewish family emigrated from Cuba.  She even has a Bubby and Zady (Grandma and Grandpa in Yiddish).  We just celebrated my Bubby's (my kids call her "Super Bubby") 93rd birthday!

Ruthie's life changes in an instant, when one day, in her dad's new blue Oldsmobile, the family gets into an accident that leaves Ruthie in a body cast for a year.

"My leg is fractured, but all of me broke.  Who'll put me together again?"-p. 52

"Just the other day I felt so grown-up in my go-go boots.  And now I'm like a baby in diapers again."-p.61

Like a famous fictional middle grade character, Margaret, who wrote letters to G-d, so does Ruthie.  "...if I had to choose between going back to the dumb class and not being able to walk, I would ask you to send me to the dumb class." And she can't shake her hatred for the boy who caused the accident.  "Do you think you can help?  Maybe, while I sleep, you can come and snatch away all the hate that is like a stone in my heart?"

Being in bed for one year of your life wouldn't be easy for anyone.  Some days "the sadness arrives and sits on [her] head. It gets comfortable and stays there. Like a dark cloud that won't go away." But with the support and friendship of neighbors Chicho and Mark, tutor, Joy, Mami, Papi, Izzie, her good doctor, ambulance and hospital workers, Bobbie and Clay...Ruthie is brave, optimistic and a survivor. "You helped me survive a terrible experience.  I know that all of you helped me to get through it."

"Why is it that bad things have to happen so you learn there are lots of good people in the world?"- p.174

Lessons learned. Tears shed. Smiles worn.  Giggles heard. This book has it all and will bring out the best in you. You'll be cha-cha-cha-ing in your go-go boots and pulling for Ruthie from Day 1.

Side note to my PS 117 alumni, how easy it will be for you to imagine the sidewalks of Briarwood, Ruthie's apartment, our elementary school.  And I have to ask because I'm only vaguely remembering but wasn't Mrs. Margolis our third grade teacher?