Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dear Sonja

As my Tuesday SOL writing, I'm writing a letter to myself regarding the good, the bad, and the ugly of this year as suggested by Todd Nesloney in his Educator Learning Series.

Dear Sonja,

Hey there, chickadee!  We've sure come a long way this year, haven't we?  Do you remember this time last year when you had just learned you got the high school librarian job?  How utterly thrilled yet anxious you felt about your ability to be awesome in this new setting?  Yeah, aren't you glad it has all worked out better than you ever expected?

Not that it has been all roses, for sure.  I mean, there was the adjustment period when the newly retired librarian told you that you made her cry because you made some changes.  Yeah, um...that was a bit awkward.  She also mentioned that you were very creative and intelligent (like her sister who often forgets where she has placed her shoes).  Okay, so there have been a few awkward moments as you both settled into your new roles.  In the end, it all worked out okay, didn't it?

Working with high school kids has been the BEST time in your life, though....you realize that, right? I mean--I know you loved teaching kindergarten...and then 5th grade was a great time, too. And yes, all those years in middle school were fun, but high school--ah, high school--this is where you BELONG, sister.  You love those kids, you know--and they love you right back.  Remember when George copied your face and plastered it all over the library--and kids were even walking around school WEARING your face???  We'll never forget that, will we?  We laughed and laughed all day.  I still giggle just thinking about it.

Seeing all those kids you had in middle school--on the cusp of leaping out of the nest and flying off into their amazing futures? Priceless.  You've had such fun meeting new kids, too.

You've had a ball living in the chaotic state of procrastination and drama in which most high schoolers dwell.
"Hey Miss--can you help me print this in color?  It's due next period. You got glue? Tape? Scissors? Colored paper?"
"Can you read over my paper and tell me if it sounds okay?"
"Um...what exactly IS MLA format and how do you do it?"
"My computer hates me.  What do I do?"
"Can you recommend some good books for me?  My friend says your pretty good at it."
"I wrote something.  It is about my life. I want you to read it."
"I love him. I hate him. He stinks. I love him."
"She's beautiful. She loves him. I love her. Love stinks."

I'm really proud of  you for adjusting so well to life up there, actually.  You and your assistant seem to have a great time working together---and Tiara Tuesdays were a genius idea.  Now that y'all know each other you can better know how to be an encourager to her.

Over the summer I hope you'll take some time to consider a few specific changes.  One, you really need to do something about reorganizing your office space to have a better workflow for you when processing books.  Two, you really need to adjust the way you train your student library aides. Remember to train them in a way that encourages and rewards a strong work ethic. Three, work on specific ways to collaborate with teachers in order to best help them.

You are gonna feel SO good when your genre-fying project is complete!  Keep on keeping on, sister. The effort you put forth now and into the summer will be so worth it in the long run. Oh, and please DO the Read-a-Thon again--even if it isn't a national thing next year.  Everyone had fun with that and you got to spend an entire Saturday morning reading a great book.  And your videos?  They are getting better.  Keep going on those, too.  Don't be afraid of being seen as a fool--you are human. When you aren't scared to put yourself out there, kids sense that and it helps them to be brave, too.

Eat more salads, but bring more baked goods to share.  When it doubt always purchase more of the good coffee.  Remember to smile at the kids who make it hard to smile--they need it the most. I'm proud of you.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Finishing Strong

image from Pinterest via dailymail.co.uk

We have arrived at nearly-the-end, folks.  I'm off for the Memorial Day weekend, and will only have 7 1/2 days left with students before summer vacation arrives when I return to work tomorrow. Lately, I've seen many conversations via Twitter and various blog posts about ways to let your countdown be a positive thing--re-framing it to a "what amazing things can we accomplish in this time frame" thing. I love this---and agree with the importance of re-framing things not only for your students but for YOU, as well. 

We are tired.  We are near the finish line.  We need to finish STRONG, but how?  There are many suggestions out there to be found in many places---but since we all find inspiration in different ways and at different times, I'm adding a few of my own tried-and-true finishing strong recipes to the mix. 
  1. Laugh.  Loudly and often.  Authentically. From way down deep.  Life is fun, people, and laughter is stress-relieving.  I often see things much more clearly (those molehills I thought were mountains?  yeah, I see them for the molehills they really are) after a good laugh.
  2. Do nice things for other people.  Send good thoughts out into the universe.  Smile. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with all I have to do in the end-of-year stuff, I take a break from MY stuff and write a thank you note to someone.  It may sound counter-intuitive to take a break when you are already overwhelmed with so many things to do, but it really works.
  3. Pare WAY back if you need to.  Don't be guilted into feeling that you MUST be all things to all people right now.  This time of year I am just exhausted by the time I get home from work.  In order to self-preserve I do not do many of the items that we tend to think are "have to's" during this time of year.  If it isn't a show my kid is in, count me out on weeknights.  I love dinner with friends, shopping, preparing beautiful meals, and book clubs--but this time of year I need my hunkering-down-at-the-homestead time more.  It is OKAY for you to feel this way---or to feel the opposite.  The point is, don't berate yourself as "selfish" if you need to take more time than usual during this time of year to keep your sanity intact. 
  4. I find hot baths with Dr. Teal's Eucalyptus Spearmint Epsom Salts are fantastically stress-relieving.  Maybe you love a good run or a workout, or watching British comedy.  Whatever adds joy and relieves stress for YOU--do it!
  5. Hydrate appropriately.  Coffee is my fave, but I purposely add more water during the day at the end of the year to keep headaches and swollen feet at bay. 
  6. Get Enough Sleep.  
  7. Make a checklist of things you truly absolutely MUST accomplish.  Although I love my techie stuff, for me nothing satisfies quite like a good old-fashioned paper checklist that I can mark as I complete tasks.  This ensures that you won't forget anything, and also feels SO GOOD. 
These last few days are so important.  Students need to know that while we are ready for summer vacation, it isn't because we don't love what we do, and it sure isn't because they are not important to us.  
Let us be EPIC in our finishing, y'all.

image from Pinterest

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sharing our words and our heart

A student I've known for years (since she was in middle school, actually) shares her writing with me often.  I am one of the sponsors of the Teen Writers Alliance, but I am also one of her main Beta readers outside the group.  She stops by often with bits of her Fan Fic (mostly Avengers related) and sometimes her original work.  She pops in when she updates her work and is really happy about it, or when she wants some gentle critique. 

But sometimes she comes in with her poems. These are words that pour out of her when her emotions are eating her alive and threatening to devour her very soul.

Writing these words--these angsty, angry, dark and dank words--is cathartic for her.  They are often painful to read, and I am honored that she trusts me with them. 

She does see someone official to deal with her issues--and she absolutely gave me permission to share this poem marked with her initials. 

Writing is important.  Reading is important.  Sharing is important.  All on so very many levels. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The End is Near

Here is my latest video for the NHS Library.  These are shown during Advisory classes--and this one in particular is a reminder to the kids to get their books turned in and fines paid.

These videos are something I'm super proud of because I've stretched myself to learn a new-to-me techie tool (imovie app) and am reaching out to my stakeholders in new and hopefully exciting (or semi-exciting? not horrid?) ways.  In the beginning, I was helped by our great yearbook teacher, but I've moved into having my own "channel" and producing them myself.

My goal is to continue to improve them, and get back to making it a weekly video podcast.
Let me know what you think--and just maybe it will inspire you to try something new, too!

May 10, 2015 from Sonja Schulz on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Just keep swimming

I missed work yesterday.  I was out of town for a family funeral, and then drove four hours back home afterwards. Needless to say I wasn't particularly well rested today.
Coffee is my friend.
Despite my whole Tuesday-feels-like-Monday situation, I'm happy to report that I made progress in my genrefication process today! (woot!woot!)

Here is the process I'm using this time around:

1. Books are taken off the shelf in order, shelf at a time, until a LARGE cart is filled.
2. Books are then scanned/looked up to determine genre (I've utilized Titlewave a LOT--loving their new online tags for most titles.)
3. Genre stickers are then placed at the top of the spine, and I type up a new spine label.
4. Steps are repeated until I have a sheet full of spine labels.
5. Spine labels are printed.
6. I go through each book again to place new spine label on, and change the call number in the online catalog.
7. If the books are in a series, I make sure they are labeled with series numbers and that is added to their copy information, as well.
8. Books are placed back on the shelves.
9. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This sounds tedious---and it is, a bit.  However, especially since I am new to this campus it has been so helpful to actually lay my hands on each and every fiction title.  As I scan them, I sometimes find books that haven't been checked in properly, thus relieving a student's mind, as well as deleting fines that shouldn't exist! I'm cleaning off the shelves as I empty them, too.

At this point I have almost (one more row to go!) an entire front-and-back 3-section bookshelf completed!  Um...perhaps I should point out that I have about 16,000 Fiction titles.
No worries, though. I'll eat this elephant one bite at a time. I remind myself of this multiple times a day when I want to flail about a bit.
Just keep swimming, 
Just keep swimming...

Once I have ALL the Fiction books labeled and changed in the computer I will start the Big Switch. This will radically change the current library shelving sections.  Right now all non-fiction is around the perimeter of the library, with tall shelving, and all Fiction is in the middle of the library on smaller shelves.

see all the genre stickers?  and the series order stickers? 

fun perspective

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Librarian as Change Agent

I love, love, love my job.
I have a BLAST every day at work.
I love kids & I love books & I love technology.
I love knowing that I make a positive difference in people's lives.
I love creating a safe haven for my kids.
I love assisting teachers with lessons.

With all that said it kind of blows my mind that not everyone realizes how awesome & important libraries and librarians are in today's world.  We still have SO many folks in positions of power who do not yet see the light when it comes to librarians being powerful positive change agents and libraries as absolute necessities. I am beyond blessed to have extremely supportive administrators, but sadly, I realize not everyone has that situation.

It pains me even more to say that many administrators and other stakeholders feel this way because they have not seen what a positive difference an on-fire-for-learning-in-this-century librarian can make.  If your district's power players do not see YOU as a fellow power player than it is up to YOU to change that.  Gandhi's powerful quote--"Be the change you wish to see in this world" applies completely here.  Be the change and don't keep it a secret.  Instead, shout it from the proverbial rooftops, friends.

  *** note here to say I also realize there are many amazing librarians doing amazing things who are trying SO hard to be this change and are finding it extremely difficult to do so with little to no support.  Please know this is NOT to tear you down, but to attempt to help build you up. Together we are stronger!***

I am good at what I do and work to be better all the time, but I am by no means a rock star in the larger librarian world.  I admire the rock stars and learn everything I can from them.  What I am, however, is a hard working librarian, passionate about my job, and determined to make the world brighter in my neck of the woods each and every day.
THIS is what I DO have control over (and so do YOU!)

Here are some bits of wisdom I've picked up along the ride (from numerous bloggers, speakers, TLA sessions, Twitter chats, books I've read, etc.) that I hope will be of benefit to you on your journey, as well. This is by no means an exhaustive list, of course, but rather some tidbits to jump start you if you feel you need some jump starting!

1. Be positive.  H. Jackson Brown, Jr. had it right when he wrote #188 in Life's Little Instruction Book. Now, I'm not saying you can't be a realist, but it is always better to come at a problem offering possible solutions rather than just complaints.  I'm also not suggesting you must be over the top---just remember you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Be someone that folks want to be around. Remind yourself that we GET to do the best job in the universe---aren't we lucky?!

2.  Know your job. Be good at what you do. Be stellar.  With so many people mistakenly believing they don't need libraries now that they have Google and smartphones we cannot afford to have mediocre librarians. With the power of Twitter to build an empowering PLN all free and from the comfort of your own home, not to mention the amazing webinars available and great info that can be found in various blogs & books---well, there is something that fits everyone's style and budget to be found. You simply cannot remain solely the quiet keeper of the books and expect to remain relevant.

3. Stretch yourself. Create a plan and move forward.  What would best fit the needs of your patrons? Makerspace? Book clubs? Comic con? How can YOU with your vast librarian knowledge best fill the gaps that exist at the school?  How can YOU work with your teachers to create powerful lessons? What are the ways you can help the school get to that next level of greatness? What is listed on the Campus Improvement Plan that you can help make a reality?  With stretching yourself, I feel compelled to add---you must learn to push past the fear of failure and the fear of making a fool out of yourself.  Sometimes that happens in the learning process. When it does---learn, laugh, and move forward after tweaking your plan.  

4. Inform your stakeholders.  This can the hardest part for a lot of folks.  You can be doing the best, most creative amazing things in the world but if no one knows about them....well, then no one knows. You aren't changing perceptions.  If it bothers you to "brag" on yourself--then don't, but by all means then BRAG on THE LIBRARY.  How can you get the word out to your stakeholders?  From posters to social media figure out how to ping ALL your stakeholders from students & teachers to parents to admin and school boards--and then DO IT.  
5. For Pete's sake, HAVE FUN!  We have the very best gig on the planet (well, I imagine rock star has its perks, too, but you get what I'm saying here, right?) Have a ball every day. If your work follows your passion then it doesn't feel so much like work.  Technology is fun! Books are awesome in all their forms! Life is GOOD, people! Enjoy the ride.

 "Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world. And the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy."                     --Bill Clinton

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."                                                                       --Apple Inc. motto

and a few resources for your learning pleasure:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dystopian Novel Options

Created for the amazing English teachers at NHS for use with their classes.

Follow this link to see the video:
 Dystopian Novel Options