Saturday, July 14, 2012

Big Things Happening, So I'm Going to Blog It!

I did warn you all that I am a terrible blogger when it comes to consistency and timeliness. Look, I haven't been back for months! Yikes. Actually, I did blog in April, but using Tumblr, and that was for my amazing trip to Washington, D.C. with 20 jr. high students and World Strides student travel. I did a pretty good job updating that one, so feel free to check that out here.  Now I'm headed back to D.C. tomorrow. Crazy, I know! I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in the Library of Congress's Summer Teacher's Institute for the next week. That means I get to spend a week with 25 teachers from around the country learning how to use the LOC primary sources, resources and tools to create more relevant, engaging and critical lessons for our students and teachers. We all know something about President Lincoln being shot at Ford's Theater, but what if you could see the actual journal of a Washington insider who was in D.C. at the time and was the first to hear the news? How much cooler does history get then? Our kids' textbooks are outdated, heavy and really only tell part of the story for a select bit of history the publishers decided should be told. Adding primary sources (documents from the period in time being studied) to our lessons and their experiences will create opportunities for new ways to view events, new discussions, and challenges to what they think they already know (or what the textbook tells them). I am super excited to learn more and then get to share. Don't worry, all posts this week won't be about teaching (for those of you who are not teachers), but I thought it was important that you knew why I was choosing to head into the temperature equivalent of Hell for a week all by myself.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thin Mint Sleeves

I picked up my Girl Scout cookie order from an old friend today (so great to see you, Julie!). Admittedly, I didn't even make it out of the parking lot before I had the Thin Mints open and started tackling my first sleeve. I started thinking, what other cookie or treat gets as much "I ate the sleeve in one sitting" attention as this cookie? To prove my point, I just finished the 2012 Newbery Award Winner Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. There is a hilarious widower, Mrs. Volker, whose hands have become so arthritic she has to dip them in paraffin wax every day just to get 20 minutes of work from them. On more than one occasion, she has her faithful summer assistant, eleven year-old Jack, line a sleeve of Thin Mints on the edge of the counter so that when she is alone she can come along and sweep them into her mouth like hockey pucks. Is that perfect, or what!!??  I may not have consumed my sleeves in that exact manner (yet), but having a sleeve for dinner (or lunch or breakfast) is most definitely in my arsenal. Funny thing is that I am never tempted to buy the "knock off" grocery store Thin Mints during the rest of the year..has to be Girl Scouts. Anyone else have this obsession? I know you do because, as I said, I hear about sleeves of Thin Mints getting inhaled every single spring. Off to find another sleeve.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why I Tweet

Not a very original post, I know, but I have been trying to get folks on Twitter and they keep resisting. Why? Yes, I know you are all very busy people, and adding to Facebook feels like just too much, but I'm here to tell you that Twitter has a whole different purpose and feel than Facebook. At least it does for me. Twitter is immediate and concise. That means people are often responding in the moment to something that happened, something they love, or something they feel passionately about (good or bad). In keeping it short, tweeters are required to say what they mean with few words, so it better be good. If they have more to say, they can use links or a service like Long Tweets. When I am reading tweets, if I am not interested, it is easy to move ahead without wading through a ton of long posts, pictures, links, etc.

How do I use Twitter? I use it primarily for professional purposes, and that is my argument when I am telling other teachers and friends they should be using it too. I am able to control the tweets I receive by following people and organizations that have information, ideas, and products that I need to be a better teacher and teacher-librarian. Twitter really is the best professional development opportunity around. I am connecting with librarians and teachers from around the country getting teaching ideas, advocacy help, creating relationships that will serve us both in our careers and passions. I tend to re-tweet (copy others' tweets) more than post my own original stuff, but I am working up to my own curating. I have to admit I am a bit intimidated by some of the folks I follow and who are following me...I feel a little bit of pressure for the tweets to be super meaningful and profound. For now, mostly reading and re-tweeting works for me.

I have convinced some teachers in my building to use their Twitter posts to engage their students, to post questions and ideas, to provide learning and practice resources. The kids love it. In getting them involved, we have also begun to teach them that social networking is not only about gossip, drama and over-sharing (note: we are not following students; it is a one-way relationship, therefore deemed safe by the district that way).

The opportunities are endless for professionals, volunteers, parents, and students. Figure out what interests you, what you could use ideas for, what support you need, and begin searching...and tweeting. And if you need some help getting started, I love to teach!

Strep Throat Does Not Require A Throat

Well, not quite, but it certainly doesn't require a sore throat. This was our family's discovery on Friday night. My 11 year-old son had a raging headache all day, and developed a fever of 103. His stomach hurt as well, but more to the touch than nausea or vomiting. Of course the high fever was at 10:45 p.m., so I called our insurance company's nurseline. The fever, dizziness, and sore-to-the-touch-on-the-right belly indicated he should be seen right away. I have to admit I had moments in the waiting room where I wondered if we could leave although we'd already checked in...he was definitely walking better and seemed more comfortable as we waited. Can you do that? Can you leave? We didn't, and once the dr. saw him, he told us appendicitis would require a very localized right-side pain; Carter's angst was not so specific. The dr. then told us he thought Carter's breath was horrific, so he was going to test for strep. Huh?! No sore throat, no uncomfortable swallowing, no achy muscles, no visible white gunk in the back of the throat (all things I get when I get strep). You see where this is going...positive for strep! My husband's first response, "we feel pretty stupid." The nurse and dr. were very kind to tell us we shouldn't (they did just make $1,000 off our urgency, after all); it can sometimes present this way instead of the sore throat. We had the iPad with us, so I of course had to look it up while waiting to be discharged. Here's WebMD's take on strep: Not sure it would have helped. Meds are flowing, Carter is doing well, so I really can't ask for more (except maybe my $1,000 back? A $15 office copay sounds much more appealing). 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kelty at Gifted Ed Day in Olympia

Proud day in our house today! My daughter was chosen to represent the highly capable students of our district and state in Olympia today for Gifted Education Day. She got to introduce Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and then make a statement about how the program has impacted her and the 50,000 students in the programs across the state. Finally, she got to present a letter to Governor Gregoire and thank her for her continued support of Gifted Ed. 

Kelty and Superintendent Dorn

Thanking Governor Gregoire

After the presentation we took advantage of the day and decided to extend our civic experience by visiting Senator Kastama's office. We didn't have an appointment (I'll be honest, I was just focused on getting her there and having all of the right speeches done and approved), so we did a "drive-by". He wasn't in his office, so we did leave notes.  Kelty's was about Gifted Ed, but I took advantage to plug school libraries (of course!). 

Note: today was also the day the legislature was holding hearings of the legalization of gay marriage, so we were expecting big, maybe cranky, crowds.  Not so much, and all very civil (as we would hope, right?). All in all, a great civics lesson for Kelty and the family (now I hope the school will excuse her absence with all of that educational chatter).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Information Overload

A friend just sent this to me with the caption: Why We Need Librarians. Perfect!

Friday, January 20, 2012

PNW Ice Storm - January 2012

Here is a sample of the ice-encapsulated trees and shrubs in our yard...well, in everyone's yard. This is what six inches of snow followed by a day of freezing rain and under 30 degree temps looks like.

Kelty took this one. Love the bright red berries peeking out.

This cherry blossom tree is not nearly as pretty on its side with the roots poking out of the snow. This made me really sad as I'm pretty sure this tree dates back to our first year here (1999-2000).

What Do You Love (asks Google)?

I discovered something I love today...on Google (yes, I do that often, but I promise, I do use other search engines and tools, too). While hitting the "more" button on my Google home page, I found a box at the top that asked me what I love: What do you love? How can I not fill in the box with "books" followed by a little <3 that is my "search" button? My results were a page full of all things books: videos, trends, images, websites, blogs, news, even how to say "books" in 57 languages (with audio, of course!). You can even set yourself up for updates and feeds about your favorite stuff. I then tested with my daughter (theater) and my son (UW Huskies) and they too were filled with joy (okay, maybe a little heavy on the descriptor) to find a page full of love. You can go directly to and find what you love.

Educational Application: We all know that reading, writing and researching about things we are interested in make for much more pleasant reading, writing and research experiences. If you can give an assignment with some freedom of choice, have kids start here, then decide what are the best places/tools to get what they need (facts, trends, opinions, images, videos, arguments, etc.). Great opportunity to discuss the need to go to different sources depending on purpose and audience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Students and their Digital Footprints

As my own district considers cutting school librarians to half time at the middle schools, I find myself thinking of ways to make sure the school board, parents and community knows what a great, fully staffed library and information technology program can do. One of the best ways is to let them know what we teacher-librarians are doing to ensure the students are prepared for the digital world they live and work in. In my quest for balance, a number of my posts will of course be about the job I love.

Last Friday I spent the day in 7th grade math classes teaching about digital footprints after their teacher began using Twitter as a tool for sharing lessons, resources and engaging students in social media correspondence. Perfect time for me to point out the benefits and consequences of their online behavior. I went to Common Sense Media for ideas and videos  and we used Wall Wisher for a brainstorming activity about the good and bad about social media. Twice I was thrilled by the kids' level of engagement (wheels were visibly turning): when I asked them if they ask permission to post friends' pictures online and then when we discussed whether or not parents have the right to read their son's blog even though he didn't tell them about it and used a fake name. They were digging it! On Monday their math teacher had them write (Yes! Writing in math class!) about any changes they made or think they will make to their digital footprint as a result of their lesson on Friday. One of my favorite lessons, and relevant and current...even in math class.

Snow Day in the Northwest

My family's snow day (while I was in here creating my new blog. Yayy!)

So I'm Blogging (Can I Keep Up This Time?)

Okay, so I’m blogging. Well, as my parenthetical above indicates, I have established yet another blog on yet another hosting site, but time will tell whether I have really committed or not. Anyone who is reading this far needs to tell me they are here so that I have some motivation to keep going. I have actually talked about blogging any number of times, but as my blog name states, I am always looking for a little balance, and I couldn’t decide whether I was going to share my adventures, ideas, whims, thoughts and visuals about my working life or my home life. Sure, “do both!” sounds great, but maintaining two blogs does not (aren’t Facebook, Twitter and Google+ enough to keep us all busy and updated, anyway?). So my response was pretty typical for me: just don’t do either one, take a nap, and see how I felt about it later (you’ll find napping comes up often in my posts, I predict). Later has arrived. In trying to come up with a name for my blog, I think I found the perfect answer: here you will find me trying to find some balance. I am equally passionate about my family and my career, but making time for both is not so easy. I will think and write about both. I am not equally passionate about cookie dough and vegetables, but as a well-educated adult (thank you, I do understand that the scale should be heavier on one side than the other (A tablespoon of cookie dough weighs more than a tablespoon of green peppers, and I get that that I have to eat way more peppers…I just don’t like it). So, those are some of the things you’ll see in here (work, family and food), peppered with some fun and hopefully interesting bits and pieces from the hundreds of other folks I find entertaining and worth sharing. Here we go, and thanks for reading!