Things I Learned During My First Semester of Teaching Undergraduates

Love it, and it applies to high school students too!

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Despite having spent a lot of time in classrooms (a heck of a lot of time in classrooms), the fall semester of 2015 may well have been the semester in which I learned the most while sitting in a classroom. Incidentally, it was also the first semester in which I found myself sitting at the front of the classroom facing the inquisitive eyes (and blank stares) of undergraduates.

For this fall semester I had the privilege of working as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for an introductory course on media studies – and in this position one of my responsibilities was teaching two recitation/discussion sections. At the outset let me state emphatically that I found it to be a highly interesting and  rewarding experience and that I think I made a pretty good TA (the students refrained from pelting me with chalk and tried to be subtle about using Facebook in…

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Five Things Library School Should Teach, But Doesn’t

With a new title and new school, I’ve also inherited interns. These are three Simmons GSLIS students, as I was just a few years ago when Debbie took me under her wing. Two are School Library Teacher Program students like I was, and one is dual-degree MS/MFA with a focus on youth services. In my month+ of being at BAA with these interns, I’ve remembered and realized some things that I did not know when I was in GSLIS that I’ve learned in two+ years beyond Simmons:

 

How to cover books:

This seems like something simple. I’ll admit, I learned this skill back in high school when I worked as a student in my high school library. Back then, learned how to cover both paperback books and hardcover books. Covering paperback books is a pain I never want to inflict on anyone. Paperback book covers are basically clear, sticky plastic that you have to cut and place gently onto books and then quickly, but sure-handedly, apply to the entire cover: front, spine, and back. You then need to trim it just enough and cut the corners so you can fold over the excess and secure it onto the inside of the front and back covers. Then you have to push out the bubbles; because you’re going to get bubbles. It is not easy.

Hardcover book covers are a little easier. They are pieces of clear plastic connected to a paper backing, usually along one edge. You trim them to fit your dust-jacket, fold them in the appropriate places, and tape them to the book jacket. You then put this covered book jacket back onto the book and secure it.

Honestly, if you really suck at putting on covers, most book companies will cover books for you, for a price. And you still have to cover any books you get that are donations. Learn to do it!

Protective book cover (from  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmeuXCTeS1c) 

Processing books in general should be a class, but covering books is a special problem that is never mentioned.

How to refill a stamp pad:

Refilling stamp pads is a crucial skill. We buy stamps with the library name, or due date stamps, and the self-inking type is really the best. No separate stamp pads to keep track of. However, ink will eventually run out and you need to be able to refill the pads. Firstly, you have to learn how to take out the stamp pad. Every self-inking stamp is different, but usually, there is some way to “lock” the stamp in place so you can slide out the ink pad. Don’t forget to buy refill ink! Be careful, don’t rush, and don’t put too much ink on the ink pad. You will never refill it without getting some ink on you, but if you are careful, it will only get on your fingers and not everywhere else too.

ExcelMark self-inking replacement instructions

How to budget (if you have one):

Budgets are funny things. In schools, you’re probably lucky if you have one. If you do have one, it is highly recommended that you spend it fairly quickly. Budgets may, depending on the district, disappear by March, when everyone else needs funding for something that they didn’t plan for. Plan for what you need, spend your budget, and then ask for more. Also, always have a wish list of books/supplies/etc. You never know when you’ll be told “You have 2 hours to spend $1,000 or else it is gone.”

I highly recommend book subscription services, like Junior Library Guild. You don’t get to pick what books you get, but you do get to pick the genre. For example, JLG has multiple YA levels and genres, like “Fantasy High,” “History High,” etc., and many of the books they select go on to win awards. I like them, especially for fiction picks.

Basic Cataloging Etiquette:

MARC records are a language of their own.  I can glean information from it and I understand that I shouldn’t ever edit it because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not a cataloger. I love when books have the Dewey number with the bibliographic information.

Some systems are lax on their records, some are strict. Get a feeling for your system/district and pay attention to what the catalog people tell you. If you are the only librarian at your school, then learn what district protocols are for records. If you ever have to create bibliographic records, and not just adding copies to a record, import the Z-source with the most information and make sure that the ISBN, publisher name, and publishing date are all the same.

If there is someone in charge of bibliographic recordsnever make them mad. If you do not have the power to create records, the person who does create them deserves your respect, or at least your thanks.

Beyond Basic Technology Skills:

Everything is tech-based now. I was super lucky and took two online classes at Simmons with the epic Linda Braun. She’s a past president of YALSA, writer for School Library Journal, tech savvy, and a fantastic person to get into a Twitter argument with about if the phrase “Search our Shelves” is outdated in a virtual learning commons world. I loved her classes, hated getting stumped with CSS, and think everyone should have to take as aggressive of a class as she taught, even though I know I complained about the classes at the time and nearly didn’t take her summer advanced class because she’s intense.

I know I love technology. I’d rather play around with new software and try to break it before asking for help. Being in library science, you don’t need to be a wiz at all tech. I don’t always stay up to date on social media stuff. I like Facebook and Tumblr, even though “kids these days” are saying that Facebook isn’t cool (well, it isn’t. Not when their parents and teachers are on it). But, it is very important to realize that being a librarian means you have to be competent with some basic tech: Google Drive; Microsoft Office (Word, Outlook, and Excel, at least); whatever cataloging software you inherit; and some form of social media so you can at least try to make connections.

If you really suck at technology, make friends with the tech department at the school or branch you wind up at. They can help! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even from patrons and/or students.

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Thoughts on having a long name

I have a very long last name with a unique spelling. Whenever I need to spell my last name for someone, I chunk it into 2-letter pieces, or else they miss a letter.  In fact, it is such a unique spelling, that I’ve encountered two people with the same spelling and one turned out to be related to me. I didn’t check the other one because she was a student at the time and wasn’t in contact with her family. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is related to my family as well.

As a teacher, it is a hard name for students to remember and pronounce (it is a hard name for everyone to pronounce). At my current school, students are encouraged to remember teacher names and pronounce them correctly. This makes sense, in that students will be going into the *real world* fairly soon and will encounter lots of different names. However, I’ve been “Ms. D” for two years at my former school and I don’t want to be called anything else. I like being called “Ms. D.” The only time this will change is when I eventually get my doctorate, whenever that is since I haven’t even started yet, and become “Dr. D.”

I think of this as a lesson; it is a lesson in respecting wishes and respecting what people want to be known as. We all go out and “make a name for ourselves” in some way. This is my very literal version.

 

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The Milk Analogy

My new library collection is far smaller than my collection at HSC. I’m pretty happy about this, which seems odd, but it means I can pay more attention to it and really care for it. It’s like a garden! You can’t care for every plant on a giant farm, but you can care for every plant in a garden. That being said, oh boy, do I have some weeding to do.

See what I did there?

For those non-library folks, “weeding” is the terminology when librarians remove books from a collection. Weeding a library collection is very much like weeding a garden; just like you have to pull some weeds to let the plants grow, you have to get rid of old/damaged/out-of-date/unattractive books to let the collection grow. It sounds strange, but it is true. Teens especially see old, yellowed books and go “Blech, there is nothing here that I want to read!” when there could be a perfectly good and useful book sandwiched between two books from 1989.

Honestly, what high school student in 2015 wants to read The High-School Student’s Guide to Study, Travel, & Adventure Abroad from 1995? Yes, it looks like a cool book. Yes, it would have been fun for me to read in 2000 when I was a senior in high school, but the book is older than all of my high school students! How valid is this information now?

There’s a great analogy that compares weeding books to spoiled milk:

The Milk in the Refrigerator

The milk in the refrigerator is past the sell date, has an odor, and is curdled and lumpy. Would you?

  • Keep it, because you don’t know when you could get to the store to buy more?
    • Then why would you keep a book on the shelf with misinformation because you don’t know when you could replace it?
  • Keep it, because otherwise your refrigerator would look empty?
    • Then why would you keep outdated books on the shelf to preserve a false collection size?
  • Give it to a neighbor to keep in his or her refrigerator?
    • Then why would you send outdated encyclopedias or other materials to a teacher for classroom use?
  • Donate it to a food pantry for hungry children?
    • Then why would you send outdated resources to be used by children in this or other countries?

Dr. Gail Dickinson

I know not all of the texts I’m getting rid of are as bad as spoiled milk. Some are still interesting. I’m getting rid of two Joseph Campbell books, and I love his work, but it just isn’t something that students research, want to read about, or can’t find elsewhere. We are getting put on the Boston Public Library Inter-library loan delivery schedule, so students can even request books from BPL to be shipped here instead of picking them up at their local branch.

I have a goal; I want to make this library as new and as interesting as possible. It is going to take some time, but that’s OK.

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Life goes flippy: an update

I’ve been very quiet for a while on this blog. Hello to my new readers who saw my Modern School Librarians post. I love that it is popular right now.

I’ve been quiet because I’ve been planning a move and finally moving this past Saturday. I accepted a job back in Boston! I gave my full 30 day notice in Springfield and started my new job this past Monday. I was sad to leave Springfield, since I have some great friends though work and some now-former students who will always be “my kids.”

Goodbye!

So, with a tearful farewell, I loaded everything into a truck and spent far too much time in traffic, and am now back in Eastern MA and back at the school I volunteered at & worked for during my grad school years. It feels a little like coming home. I know the walk from the T. I know the library. It’s a little different sitting in the office and having a library team who look to me for guidance, but I have some big plans to make the library THE place to be.

This is a start:

Library art

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Teachers Told They’re Endorsing Hillary Clinton by NEA Leadership. Membership Opinions Unnecessary

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The decision has been made, teachers.

YOU WILL ENDORSE HILLARY CLINTON IN THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES.

Your union has spoken.

Now please donate to the Political Action Committee (PAC).

The National Education Association (NEA) represents 3 million educators. It is the largest labor union in the country. However only about 180 people made the decision to back Clinton.

The NEA Board of Directors voted today 118 to 39 in favor of the endorsement with 8 abstentions and 5 absences.

Thursday the 74 member PAC Council voted to endorse Clinton with 82% in favor, 18% against and some of the largest delegations – California and New Jersey – abstaining.

Check my math here. So 61 PAC votes plus 118 Directors plus one President Lily Eskelsen Garcia equals 180 in favor.

That’s about .00006% of the membership.

And we call that an endorsement.

But wait. It can’t really be that simple. All…

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Teach for America Deletes Educator Counter-Narratives; Educators Repost EVERY SINGLE ONE!

There are TFA teachers at my job. I think they’re great PEOPLE, but I don’t see them staying long. TFA is a stepping stone for them into something other than education. TFA is a band-aid on a far larger problem of teacher burnout and how teachers are turned into villains in the media. What we need are strong teachers’ unions and a receptive government who LISTENS to educators. What we really need is to fix the problem of poverty by providing for those with less and funding low-income schools so that children in low-income environment can be fed, clothed, and get the same education as their peers in well-off districts.

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On Sept. 23, Teach for America (TFA) published an article on its Website about the “Badass Women of Teach for America.”

Many of the more than 56,000 members of the Badass Teachers Association (BATS) commented on this article.

A few days later, all comments were deleted and the ability to make any additional comments was disabled. TFA then published two additional articles about the comments BATS had made. The authors of these new articles then attempted to debunk what had been written about them but was too dangerous to be left for their readers to see for themselves.

The counter-narratives of hundreds of people had been erased. But as any good public school teacher will tell you – nothing that is posted on the Internet is ever lost.

Below is every comment made on the original TFA article.

And, yes, I mean –

EVERY. SINGLE. COMMENT.

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