Monday, September 25, 2017

Forever Banned

Today marks the beginning of banned book week.  Do you remember the first banned book you read? Where you read it? I do.

Well, I take that back.  I remember the first book I was banned from and where I subsequently ended up reading it.

It's the early 80s and I was a huge Judy Blume fan. Everything she wrote about I could relate to--divorce, being Jewish, the friendships, the families, intermarriage, coming of age...everything really except the suburbia and boy did I want to live in the suburbs back then. Having gotten through all her early middle grade/upper elementary books, I thought I was ready for Forever.
Mom disagreed.  I just had to read it.  So where did I go? If Mom wasn't going to easily put it in my hands as she did every other book then the library was the next logical stop.

Enter the Briarwood branch of the Queens Public Library.  I can still see it so vividly.  Walk in the doors and go straight back to the Children's Section. Since we had a set of Encyclopedia Britannica at home circa 1967, I fell in love with the World Book Encyclopedia at the library.  It was so much more accessible!

Walk in and turn immediately to your right. And there it was--one tall bookcase of Young Adult literature screaming my name.  I remember taking Forever off the shelf (a very beat up paperback), sliding my back down the wall slowly for effect, ending in "criss cross applesause" (we called it something different back then) and diving in head first.

I didn't finish the book the first day so I memorized my page and came back to it the next time I could get to the library. I was meeting up with a "friend" and it felt sinfully good. I never told my Mom and I could see why she wanted me to wait to read it. But we all know. Once you tell a kid they can't do something, they are surely going to find a way to do it. And that I did.

I cannot tell you if the book was banned or censored in my public school. At the time it was just banned from my eyes.  But there it was at the library calling my name.  I was free to read it--just off the Van Wyck Expressway--to escape once again to the suburbs and young teenage love. Thank you, Queens Public Library and thank you, Judy Blume.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A-S-D-F Tap-Tap-Tap

Here's an odd question:  Do future ready libraries loan out typewriters? Should we?

Last night, the whole family, including my 11 year old who wasn't thrilled about it, went to see the new documentary, California Typewriter.

California Typewriter Trailer from American Buffalo on Vimeo.

Oh how I wish I could be typing this on a typewriter right now.  It feels weirdly strange to be "blogging on a computer" and writing about typewriters. It's been awhile since we've been to a movie that had us engaged in conversation and reflection the whole car ride home and then some.  We were still talking about it today.  See, right there I just deleted some words or letters because I changed my thoughts and yet, I wouldn't be able to do that on a typewriter.  There.  I did it again.  Those thoughts are gone permanently.  Yet, on the typewriter I could xxx them out but you would still see my mistakes.  It's a fascinating concept.  John Mayer was great at expressing that whole idea in his segment of the film.

Do you remember your first typewriter?  I don't necessarily remember my first but I do remember my Mom telling me that once I passed my typing class in high school, I would be allowed to use her electric typewriter.  That was a huge deal. Until then, it was all manual.  And right at this moment, I wish I could go back to the tap-tapping of that first typewriter.

My step-dad has a bunch of typewriters in his basement.  I'm going to make it my mission to check them out.  How fun would it be to have one in the library? Put aside the technology for a bit. So what if the Internet goes out?  If I could find a couple of rotary phones, too, and we'd be in business. (No joke--we got a new phone system at school this summer and it is connected to our computers so when the Internet goes out, we have no phones.)

Then there is Jeremy Mayer.  He is an artist that "destroys typewriters" and uses their parts to create sculptures. Talk about a Makerspace idea...

"I love typewriters, even though I love them inside out."-Jeremy Mayer

We may think of future ready as moving forward into the 21st century.  But maybe we need to look at it from a different angle. What objects from the classic "Carousel of Progress" GE ride at Disney World can we reunite with, revisit or even repurpose? The typewriter, says Jeremy Mayer in his TedTalk "reminds us of our past and maybe something we should retain for our future and it shows us who we've been and what we are now." What other objects out there can make us future ready while preserving the past?


I just had to get my hands on a typewritten letter today so I took a voyage into my attic.  The first box of treasures I came to was from college.  It didn't take me long to find a couple of typewritten letters, one from a friend and one from my Mom.  Only after watching the film do I realize how special these are.  I tried to highlight where both authors mentioned typing pretty early on in their prose.

 I love how my mom thinks she has a "great advertisement for a computer/word processor"!

Here Chris mentions how people "have expressed dissatisfaction with my typewritten letters."  Yet, in the film Tom Hanks expresses how if someone thanks him with an email it is automatically deleted. If they send him a typewritten note, it is so much more meaningful.  Future ready library, do you have a typewriter for me to borrow so I can write a personal letter to Tom?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Procrastination is my game

A long time ago a friend of mine gave me a card.  The quote on it is my daily motto (so much so that I mentioned it in my speech to my daughter at her Bat Mitzvah).  It defines me in every sense of the way:

If you leave things to the last minute, they only take a minute to do.

Even when I swear I am "not going to procrastinate THIS time" I still manage to do it.  In fact, as I type, I should be showering and getting ready for school.  I should be eating breakfast.  I should be AT school.  But, alas I am not. It will all get done, just in a quicker fashion. Sometimes I am "fashionably late" but, honestly, never to school.

Last night (the night before the due date, mind you) I submitted my application for the Bill Morris Seminar.  The funny thing is that I knew I was going to apply months ago and the woman who wrote a reference on my behalf sent it to me hours after I asked her.  I didn't do it all summer long, even though I could.
I even wrote on all my notes and lists that it was due September 1 (really September 14) but I thought I could psych myself out to get it completed ahead of the night before.  But alas, I still waited to get it done two weeks past "my deadline", yet on time.

Fast Forward to this evening...

Now it is 5:49 pm.  There's dinner to make.  A book to read.  Emails to respond to.  Laundry to fold. Bills to pay. Classes to plan. The Sunday NYT to finish.  And yet I am sitting here re-listening to the Ted Radio Hour.  Tim Urban seems so comfortable with his procrastination.  It slows him down.  It sounds healthy.  For me, I just do all these other things instead and then get more stressed out. And yet, I never change. But maybe I can try and look at things differently.  Being in control of my procrastination could actually have a positive effect on my health.

"Be in control and to know that it is smart to slow down and to do that 
in a controlled, intentional way."-Tim Urban.

Adam Grant's excerpt also fascinated me. How creative are pre-crastinators, procrastinators and chronic procrastinators? Since I actually thought about the Bill Morris Seminar application all summer long, I'd like to think I'm not a chronic procrastinator (one who truly leaves things to the very last minute) and have a little bit more of that extra creativity in my blood than those pre-crastinators.

My list keeps getting longer and longer.  I've got lots of new exciting projects on the fire that I need to dedicate some serious time to.  Will I?  Eventually.  Will the projects be awesome?  You bet.  I promise not to chronically leave things to the last minute but will wait enough time (not really by choice) to spark that creativity for the benefit of all my students.

Fast forward again to late evening...

Some of my best projects have been planned the day before.  The teacher and I will sit down and within the short amount of time we have, a lightbulb will go off and we got it.  This happened a couple of times just this week and countless times over the years, including the original idea for our annual gala. Just think of all the hours we saved--
If you leave things to the last minute, they only take a minute to do. 

Now go procrastinate, take advantage of all that extra time you have and then CREATE!

ps-My glasses are Warby Parker.  Coincidence? Doubtful.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

BreakoutEDU? The Reviews are POSITIVE!

Yesterday was a great day.  So great that I couldn't sleep last night (hence the pre-5:00 AM get-out-of-bed) thinking about what today might bring.

In between raindrops, I took a leap outside with a first grade class in front of the tree
that was planted by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in 2013 in honor of my daughter winning a statewide poster contest.  Every 6th of the month this class and I will go outside and leap. It will be great to see the changes on the ground, on the tree and the faces of these adorable students.

But I think what I really wanted to share was how me, this inexperienced #BreakoutEDU librarian, managed to pull off a successful (I'm not making that up--ask the kids) "mystery bag" activity in the library with 62 fifth graders.

We began whole group in our Common Area outside the library.

I asked the kids if any of them have ever done the Mystery Room before at the mall.  Many have wanted to, but never did, because "it was too expensive."  "Well, guess what, " I said. "You can do it here with me and it's FREE!"  I know they didn't expect it to be as fun as it was and would be rating it a "10" at the end and yet they did!

One advantage of knowing the kids is that I was able to pre-assign groups without a problem.  I had 13 teams of 4-5 kids.  They had 30 minutes to answer four clues and break into their double locked bags.  The clues were fairly straight forward--go onto Destiny Quest and use keywords from my clues to get a call number for a book.

Find the book on the shelf and move on to the next clue.  Kids forgot where chapter books were located.  They didn't write down full call numbers for the Dewey books.  It was a good review of the library. Finally, with a little addition or subtraction, the call number on the Dewey Section book would give the combination.  With only seconds to spare, every group "broke out."

Feedback when we got together as whole group? "That was fun!" "It was awesome!"  Most of the ratings were a 10, with nothing lower than a 7. They liked finding the clues and working as a team. Oh yeah, and they did like the candy in the bags, too. :-) I couldn't have said it better, though--AND the teachers thought it went well, too! One teacher even said it would be "Lemoncello Approved!" I'd say success!

What's up with the Popcorn Bags?

This is my attempt this year to save some books from being damaged in the backpacks by either water or just shoving books inside in between one another. Every student in my building is going to get one and I'm instructing them to keep the bag INSIDE the backpack and just take library books inside and out of the bags. We'll see how it goes.  I've had too many water bottle, sunscreen, yogurt incidences over the years that I thought I would try something.

Examples of some of my clues:

So I'm definitely not an expert, but I have to say if you are considering doing something like this--take the leap and do it! It is worth it! And if I can do it, you can do it!  I bought all the supplies myself at the Dollar Store and used Aldi bags so it cost me less than $30.  The bags worked great! I'm going to try it again with fourth graders tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Leaping into the 2017-18 School Year!

The alarm went off.  It's wasn't even 5:30 yet and I took a giant leap out of bed.  My husband whispered, "You're getting up already?"  I think he was surprised that this multiple snooze presser was not pressing it today.  Today.  Our first day of the 2017-18 school year!  I didn't sleep well last night.  Do any of you the night before?

I don't think I have ever been this excited for the first day.  I had such a good, re-energizing summer that I am so excited to see, hear, leap with students today!  I haven't figured out what I'm going to wear yet, but that's the least of my worries.

Clues are hidden in books all over my library for my very first attempt at a "BreakoutEdu" with the entire fifth grade this afternoon.  I had dreams about Modpodge and Destiny and eSchool and the 400+ paint sticks I got to be "library cards" for all of my students.  Next week I will begin a full week of solar system research with first graders and a folktale and fairytale unit with second graders.  Other teachers are easing into it but "I've got this feeling, inside my bones/It goes electric, wavy, when I turn it on..." that it's all going to be awesome.

Speaking of music, did you see this video?

My friend, my colleague, my inspiration, librarian extraordinaire from Syracuse, Sue Kowalski, shared this with me and I LOVE IT!  I want to do something like this at school. Starting today.  A leap every day.  I shared it with one of my friends and she suggested we do our teacher lip sync to the song.  She, who is also amazing and creative (I like to surround myself with folks like that), suggested yesterday that I take a leap picture outside with the same background (a tree?) to watch the seasons change. Brilliant!  Don't let me forget to find that full-of-green-leaved tree today.

So if today or yesterday was your first day or last month or it's tomorrow, I wish you well. Make it the best year ever. Fill it with positive change, smiling young people, funny stories to add to your collection, challenges, risks, some movement of the hips and, literal (or figurative) leaps!  GO FOR IT!

Now, you must excuse me...I have to get my coffee, wake my kids, make my lunch and figure out what I'm going to wear....