Teachers change the school environment

The very thing that upsets teachers about the classroom is something they created by turning a blind eye and saying “It’s not my problem.” When a building is so full of people, it is hard to even know faces much less names; it becomes easier for a teacher to say, “That’s not my problem!” The “personal touch” is no longer effective. Without personal touch – student learning is difficult.

To make an experience personal is the only way to make a caring atmosphere. When rules are sensitively enforced, people feel loved and safe. Without safety, no learning can occur.

The only way to ensure student learning is to make it “my” problem. The heart of the school means: we all care, we all work hard for student success. We are all responsible. Students feel loved and safe – how do they many of them even get to school with the odds so against them? They come back because they are well-liked and cared for by all of the school’s family. Not just a few, not just a couple – we all have to work for the benefit of the student. I BELIEVE and that makes students trust that I have their learning and welfare in my heart. Because where I work – It’s Just Better!

Education on the skids

Amazing that our world evolves so quickly now, and yet education plods along in too large shoes making it cumbersome and unwieldy – and certainly obsolete. I think that education is a reflection of our world. The more Washington gets involved in our lives – MIRRORS – The more education becomes bureaucratic, and how is learning assessed? Why testing, you silly rabbit! Because testing is a priority in education. I don’t know about you, but I learn best by doing, not by being tested! In fact, standardized tests make me become anxious and vomit. (Sorry for that picture.)

The days of student learning and educational classroom-time that is stolen from our students is a travesty! Why aren’t parents SCREAMING at the top of their lungs at the State/Nat’l Board of Education? Not only that – our tax dollars are going out of our state(s) to another state to grade the damned tests.

We only have about 182 days with students and take out 50+ (not exact but extremely conservative number) for testing and what do you have? A student who can take tests really well! Where the hell is that job? How much does a test taking job pay?

Side note if you please: If computers are the actual future, then why can’t we use them? Ever student could have a laptop or Ipad with their textbooks loaded – oh no! That’s a whole different story…

Things your teacher said

I’ll venture to say what some teacher along the way in your education has said something that has shaped your life and/or career choice.

We all remember something that a teacher told us. I have had students come up to me years after they were in my class and say, “I remember you wouldn’t let me write junk in your class. I’m a good writer now because you wouldn’t accept junk. When I write something at work, I ask myself what you would think about it and rewrite if necessary.” It is kind of scary how many students remembered something that I said to them on a personal level.

A few years ago a former student said, “Hi, do you remember me? You saved my life.” OMG! That is a bit much, but evidently it was true. I called CPS and she was able to get out of an abusive situation. This was many years before teachers were required to call and I remember she didn’t want me to. I told her that I had to protect her and had no choice. Wow. She is doing alright in life now all because she was removed from her home.

We forget that something we might think isn’t very important might resonate with a student for life. That is pretty heavy stuff. A teacher or school employee has to be careful with words to students. Those words can shape a life and change a person forever. And we thought that we were just going about our regular day. I make sure that each day I say something to make a student’s day. Sometimes the only smile a student might get is mine.

The other night I was privileged to hear a former student speak in front of a large group. He was so easy and relaxed; nothing like he had been in my classroom! I spoke with him afterward and complimented him on his speech, and he said, “You did that. I am a good speaker today because of you.” Gee, the things students remember.

What about those days that are just regular days for you as a teacher? Your words impact even then. I remember my fourth grade teacher who really hated what she did who said, “You and numbers just don’t mix, do they?” Of course I remembered that my whole life. One day in high school another teacher told me, “See, you can get this math!” Somewhat balanced out what the other had said…

I remember a principal saying, “Remember you put your hand in the river and you touch what floats by, you change lives, and you don’t even know it, so be careful.” That’s what this is about. Be careful someone may forever remember something you said to them and it may just shape who they are. Stay positive, and if you aren’t happy around students, then look for a new job because what you say does matter.

Why AR?

From elementary to high schools, Accelerated Reader is still in our schools! How many book lovers have been murdered and left bleeding by the book stacks because of AR? For those who don’t know AR, it is a program that has students reading books and taking tests over them. BUT the fact is, they usually don’t read the book. They Google the book and take the test from that information. Or in the case of my friend’s son, they share the info – two students read two different books and tell each other about theirs, and they each take the test and they get two books out of the way. My nephew is now a BIG HATER of books because of A.R. My niece will only read manga… HOW MANY STUDENTS HAVE TO DIE OF BOREDOM BEFORE AR GETS THROWN OUT?

So much money has been invested in public education for the AR system! We talk about a new millennium, so maybe this is when we should drop it! Many students hate it and end up “living” through it in elementary, intermediate and junior high. In high school, the students are book haters because of it.

AR is touted as helpful for teachers to get students to read or “Reading Management Program.” The books are chosen from various award winners and tests are created to see if the student read the book. One enticing thing is that students get to choose their own books from the list and read above grade level. Librarians are off the hook for book recommendations because there is a list to look at. Librarians become paper pushers instead of reading specialists. What hooey!

I don’t think that “one size fits all” applies to reading. Limiting is the least of the problems with AR. AR doesn’t take away a parent’s responsibility for monitoring what their child is reading. It seems like it might even lull a parent into giving someone else the responsibility. Using rewards is a whole other posting… You want to run a race with others then do so, but don’t use books to create competitiveness among readers. AR is one giant punishment for those who really like to read and it makes non-readers hate reading! It makes cheaters out of honest students who split reading or share answers or do lots of other shady things.

What might have been a good idea in the past has turned into a mess. It would be great if we all read or learned in the same way, but we don’t. Cookie cutter ideas rarely work in our world. I want students to tell me what they loved about a book. How they want to read more by that author. What THRILLED them about a book. Taking a test to punish a child for reading is like killing a mockingbird.

Genre set up

No doubt we would all agree that going to a bookstore is a great place to go. What happens in the bookstore when you can’t find the book you are looking for because you don’t know the genre? Sometimes you stumble upon it. Other times you settle for something else. Sometimes you look it up on their computer system or ask someone… AND sometimes you cry out in frustration!

The genre set up is too limiting for school age students. Especially with a younger audience. I have seen a student who wanted sci-fi reach over and grab an historical fiction just because the books were next to each other on the shelf. When a library is set up by genre, the possibility of a sci-fi lover to go to historical fiction is slim. If books are on the shelf together in alphabetical order by author, students stand a better chance of becoming more rounded readers and branching out to other genres. Genre book tags are somewhat limiting but less so than by genre. What about books that might be two or more genres? Do we waste our limited funds buying the same title so that they can go into different genre places? Our chances of creating life-long readers grows exponentially if the books are together.

I remember as a young reader in school looking for a book “just like that one.” I found many different genres because our library was set up by author. It made me look at certain genres that I would never have looked at if the books had been by genre. My public library has changed to genre and I find that I am running around like crazy looking for books.

This really isn’t about change. I don’t mind change. In fact, I embrace change because it’s healthy. This is about book access and crossing genre lines. Happy Reading!

Ramblings on reading and writing

Becoming a writer takes a person who is diligent with their writing and who writes everyday.  Journaling or blogging helps the writing process because you are always thinking of writing topics, as well as forming ideas.  Each day you write makes you a more fluid and thoughtful writer.  Sophocles wrote Antigone first and then Oedipus Rex and then Oedipus at Colonus.  His writing matured over 10 years and you can see the progression of that maturity.  As a writer reflects on topics, his ideas begin to take shape and evolve; until one day, he is a confident writer.  That’s what I want this blog to do for me.  I want to throw out ideas and thoughts, become more fluid and in turn become a better writer.  Lately, I have found that when I am driving, I need something to write on or record on.  I have come up with some great topics and lost them because I didn’t write them down.  

There is only one way to become a better reader and that is to read!  You can become a better reader by listening to a reader read and following along.  Everyone loves to listen to a really good reader.  Also to become a better reader, you can read out loud and hear yourself.  You must READ to improve your reading and comprehension skills.  

I hear students say, “I hate reading.”  It is usually because they don’t understand what they just read.  Their eyes jump around the page.  Okay, use this blue paper and the eye pressure will relax and your eyes will stop jumping.  “I never understand what I just read.”  Okay, after each chapter write a sentence or two of what you think happened.  Reading is a skill.  To improve this skill, you have to use it.  Reading just one page a day is a great way to start.  Or read just one article or perhaps, a blog? each day and see your reading skills improve.  Before you know it, you will no longer be reading just one page – you will be reading a chapter… And the wheels on the bus…

If you can read and comprehend, you are smarter than MOST people in the world!  WOW!  I’m not real into numbers, but I bet the percentage is very high as far as intelligence level from readers to non-readers.  How exciting that you can develop your brain through reading.  Again my mantra – it doesn’t matter what you read; as long as you read.

 

Read and write everyday and watch your brain power increase!

Pollyanna lives

I have always looked on the bright side of the world.  Through the years, students would ask me why I was so happy.  When I was a young girl, my daddy said that it takes as much or more energy to wake up on the wrong side of the bed as it does to wake up on the right side of the bed.  He said that we choose how we are going to feel each morning when we wake up.  From that moment on, I decided to be a “right side of the bed” riser.  I have pretty much lived a positive life and positive things flow my way.  The world has become a bit negative and students seem to be so downtrodden now, that they have a hard time with the concept that we make our own world or environment.

 

I am eager to share books with students, as well as my excitement about life. The students can’t help but catch the “happy” bug when they are around me. I tell them all the time- It’s about the attitude! You will get so much out of life if your attitude is a good one. You will “sell” a lot more books to students if you are excited about them.

I was at a librarians’ meeting today and a few of the librarians were bemoaning Manga as junk instead of a jumping off place for new readers. I had to say, “It doesn’t matter WHAT you read; it only matters that you DO read.” I told them that we rarely read classics and the same is true for our students. I mean, really how many classics have you read in the last few years?
Quite often, life-long readers are created by the “Pollyannas” in the world! We get people all hopped up on reading and they get addicted, and voila! they become life-long readers. Reading is how people become smarter and they don’t even it know it! All of the sudden, a new word makes sense and they hear it everywhere! Or a new idea has formed and they didn’t even know when the seed was planted.

This Pollyanna has to say it again and scream it to the mountaintops across the world – “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU READ; IT ONLY MATTERS THAT YOU DO READ!” Can I get a Hell yeah?

Judging books by their covers

It took a year before I would read Bloody Jack by L A Meyer and now I have read all 11 of the books! It is a Young Adult book about a girl pirate, and the first cover was hideous! It looked like a silly cartoon and I wouldn’t touch the book for an entire year. The books are wonderful and the books on CD are even better! The Cockney accent in the beginning is a bit tough for students to read at the start, but then the book takes you for an adventure! They also give a history lesson through time. I love all 11 of the books. Can you believe a book about a “girl pirate” would be so much fun?
We all judge books by their covers, so I asked students to find books with awful covers that made them just want to put them down and create new covers. Some students really enjoyed it and created some beautiful pieces. Those book jackets are now enticing, and students want to read them.
As a librarian, you have to stay one step ahead, so reading the young adult novels is imperative. When a student brings back a book, I ask, “Did you like this book?” If they say yes, I have a new book to tell them about. If they say no, I ask them what their favorite book was and find them a book along those same genre lines. If they don’t know, I have a book for that, too!
They students really get excited that I have a new book for them. Whatever gets them to return and check out another book, is what’s important. Students are never a number at my school and Never do they leave the library wishing they had never come in.
Years ago I had an assistant who wasn’t very nice to the students. The students would come and tell me, “I want you to help me find a book, because she isn’t very nice.” I constantly corrected my assistant and she would say, “But I am nice to them!” That wasn’t the students’ perceptions. I would tell her, “It doesn’t matter what you think. It only matters what our patrons think, and they think you are mean.” I would have to have this conversation about 4 times a year with her.
I don’t know why librarians and assistants have to make students feel like they are “bothering” them! The whole idea is to get students INTO the library and keep them coming back. But once “judged by the cover,” most won’t read the book.

What good are Young Adult books?

Quite often I hear from other librarians- “We only have the Classic Literature in our library.”  What hooey!  What arrogance!  What snobbery!  They are stealing from students!  They are stealing students’ ability to grow as readers because VERY FEW young adults start with the classics and continue to become LIFE LONG READERS!  (You really can’t tell that this is a pet-peeve, can you?)  Certainly it would be great if we all read the classics and this world were full of educated individuals.  How do we get there?  Do you think when we all learned to read that we started with classic literature?  Ha! maybe “Run, Spot, Run” is classic now.  

The point is.  Students develop their reading skills by reading YA books and move on.  Some, as adults, will read the classics and others will read spy novels, but the actual point is THEY WILL READ, because they were able to develop their skills with YA books.  I am like a lot of educated individuals who feel that our classic literature is being lost;  allusions aren’t understood anymore;   aphorisms have become a huge joke; idioms are completely misunderstood and misquoted.  Yes, many of these are found in classic literature which used to be our basis of learning; however, our world has changed.  Alas, so must how we learn and transfer knowledge change.  (Yes, grammatically upsetting but poetic?)  

Young adults might move on to classical literature, but first they must be readers.  When an allusion is placed in a YA book, maybe the young adult will want to know more.  Nah, just like adult readers – they will continue on with the story.  Maybe that is what we need to do – continue on with the story.

The only safety net we have in our world is Education.  The more educated a person; the less likely the person will live in the lizard part of the brain and other brain areas will activate.  Reading gets us beyond ourselves and our small world.  It allows us to flourish, grow and forget about our small problems and look at the world on a larger scale and maybe, just maybe understand a little more.  Sorry, but I have to leave you with this run-on sentence.  Have a merry Monday!

Censorship offends me

Okay, I know this will surely date me to prehistoric times, but do you remember the BOOKMOBILE? The bookmobile day was such an exciting day! We could check out two books for a whole week. Wow! Exciting times. Well, reading has changed. Or maybe that should read – Young Adult books have changed since the bookmobile days! I believe that students should have access to literature and that the student and parent should decide together what is appropriate for the student. That being said, I know that sometimes the books I wanted to read, I didn’t want to discuss with my momma. She tells how she became a reader when she got ahold of the book Peyton Place. She was in high school and the book was passed around her crowd until it was a wreck that no one could read. The more I read – the more “stuff” I would read about. That was much better than hearing false information from friends or no information from home.
When I first became a librarian, the other librarians would talk about how their principal would remove books from their shelves without going through the correct procedures on reconsideration of material policy. I believe that is censorship in its vilest form. It is the job of the librarian to remind principals/parents/people about the district policy that has been adopted about reconsideration of materials. Censorship should not be tolerated. Yes, books have changed, but it isn’t your call what I should read.
Talk about changes – I remember when Judy Blume’s books were all the rage because of content! I couldn’t wait to read them. I don’t think that I became warped because of a book!
My mom thought being informed was better than not.
This quote from Joseph Henry Jackson certainly hits a high note with me: “Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That book had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?'”
So yes, books have changed due to content and language, but does that make them bad books? It makes them “real” books. I think that librarians today would be hard pressed to find a YA book that doesn’t contain the F-word. Do words on paper really make us better or worse people? Isn’t it better to make your own decisions about what you read? In the words of Bob Dylan – “Times – they are a-changin’.”
In high school we teach Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 where books are banned and burned. I hope people today understand the awful implication of this and will stand against censorship.