Sunday, March 22, 2009

Musical Theater is NOT for "Wussies"...!

I am injured. I am NOT embarrassed to say it's a "musical theater injury". I WAS a little embarrassed when I gave my "why" at the doctor's office last week, and THINK I'm going to come up with another excuse, because people look at me with the ODDEST expression when I tell them how it happened.

The problem, however, is that I am not sure what that excuse will be (and have people BELIEVE me...). "Football injury" will just get laughed at. It's not soccer season (as far as I can tell), and ANYONE who knows me AT ALL will not believe "bunjee jumping" for a second...

Here's the deal. I think I'm getting TOO OLD to do certain choreography...ugh! A few weeks ago, we were learning the cadet march in "Seussical". Most of the cadets are in their late teens, and twenties. I'm not...

There's a move where we all march into a line, and fall into each other's laps onto the floor. We then proceed to "butt walk" across the stage (I think I mentioned this in my previous blog entry). As we were going down into the sitting position, I heard all of these "crackly noises" in my right knee. It felt a little uncomfortable, but wasn't debilitating. It bugged me, off and on, for a few weeks, but wasn't anything major. it is THREE weeks later, and I can hardly walk on it. It's been FINE up till this point, but now I can barely limp from point "A" to point "B". I'm sure it hasn't helped that I've had to work every day, and have had rehearsal every night...ouch!

I went to the doctor Wednesday, and they took x-rays, but didn't find anything wrong. My doctor's advice was to "stop doing whatever I'm doing if it hurts, take ibuprofin, ice it, heat it, and come back in two weeks if it's still bothering me". I'm THINKING it's still going to be bothering me, since I've now been limping on it for a week. At that point, we might do an MRI to check the ligaments and tendons, but the doctor said that sometimes you can't tell what's wrong with an MRI, either...TERRIFIC...!

He did refer me for some physical therapy, which I start on Wednesday, and the director of the play has been VERY patient at rehearsals by letting me WATCH instead of limping through the numbers (he's started referring to me as "Gimpy McSomething"...).

I'm starting to get VERY nervous about the show. We open in ONE month, and I'm NOT getting the practice on the steps that I (WAY more than any of the other cadets!) need, to make it through the songs without looking COMPLETELY moronic...

I also never realized how LONG my library at school is, and how many times I walk the length of it each day. I finally broke down and borrowed a crutch from the school nurse on Friday to make the "trek" a little easier (I also learned through this experience that I SUCK at using a crutch...must be a "balance" thing...which, apparently, I don't have!).

Big black cloud hanging over me as I worry about being able to make it through the show, and as I try to stay off my leg (I'm NOT very good at just "sitting around"...). Here's the KICKER...when I didn't get the part that I wanted, I spent WAY too long being whiny and pissy about it, then I realized how COOL the cadet part is, and how much I enjoy the people in the show. NOW, I'm faced with the possibility of NOT being able to be in the show, and am TOTALLY freaking out. I REALLY want to do this part!!!!

So...we'll see, I guess, how THIS all plays out...

Ugh! Hope YOU are in top physical form, and are able to accomplish all that YOU have going on in your life!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Seussical, The Musical"- rehearsals...!

I'm sitting here in a STUPOR, without anything to write, really, but thought it was time for a new post. I guess this will be a brief entry about "Seussical" rehearsals...

I'm EXHAUSTED!!!!! I guess I forget how TEDIOUS and TIRING the early rehearsals can all gets "glossed over" near the end, when the curtain goes up, there's an excited audience, and there you are ON STAGE, with everyone watching your DAZZLING performance.

Hmmmm...NOT exactly there present, we're learning a TON of choreography, and I don't have much of the music memorized yet, which makes remembering the dance steps interesting. Hard to keep track of which steps go with which words when what I'm MOSTLY singing is things like "We're who's here, mlah bloo hmmm hmmm, yadda, yadda, something something...."....UGH! I WILL have time to work on memorizing stuff soon, I HOPE, but so far...not so much...

I DID realize this week that I TRULY can't dance. We learned the choreography for the "Mayzie" number on Monday (IF the definition of "learn" is "run through the dance steps ONCE, and everyone BUT Jeff 'gets it'"...). It's all really cool "salsa-y" moves, and I did TRY to get it, but, when we got the whole thing blocked, and did a "from the top", FAILED MISERABLY.

It DID have "shades" of a famous dance sequence in an old show. UNFORTUNATELY it was the one where Lucy tries to cut into the conga line at the Tropicana, and Ricky makes her stop dancing... (I suggested that we recreate that scene in our show, but the choreographer didn't seem to like my suggestion...).

I also heard something "pop" in my knee when we did the "all fall down" sequence in the cadet march last Friday. I've been limping ever since...THAT can't be good...! NOTE TO future, if a choreographer says "then you'll all fall into each others laps onto the floor, and 'butt walk' toward stage right"...QUIT THE SHOW...BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE...!!!

I've also realized (wow...this is turing into QUITE the confessional/revelatory post!) that I need sleep...LOTS of it, and getting finished with rehearsal at 10:00, then driving 30 minutes back home, then needing another 30 or 40 minutes to "decompress" is NOT conducive to me being very rested (or NON-CRABBY) when I get up at 6:30 the next morning. Also, THREE HOUR REHEARSALS, FIVE NIGHTS A WEEK, is too much.

Okay...I'm going to stop now...I DO think this is going to be one of the BEST shows I've ever been in (even though I have NO solos at all), and I'm SURE that the "performance high" will push the "rehearsal hell" into that "amnesia place" that it tends to go whenever I finish a show, and it's REALLY fun to have three co-workers and one of my students in the show with me, and I've met some really, really cool new friends. DEFINITELY worth the effort, and, as the director said last night (and this is now my favorite new quote): "it's not brain's musical theater..."!

Hope YOU are EXHAUSTING yourself with something that will turn out to be AMAZING in the end too...!!!!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Library Advocacy!!

If there's ONE thing that today's library school students take away from their grad school experience, it's that someday you WILL have to justify/fight for your job. Library advocacy is practically "built in" to the program of study. I'm not suprised AT ALL that fewer and fewer people are choosing to go into this profession, because, more often than not, it's the FIRST thing to go under the "budget axe".

I'm HAPPY to say that I haven't had to worry about this...UNTIL NOW... My school district, having to make HUGE cuts because of the current budget MESS, has proposed that my position be reduced to half time. I'm not worried about only having a part-time job, because the other .5 can be filled with something else around the school...whether it be reading specialist, coordinator of this, half-time teacher of that...what I AM concerned about is the "fate" of the position.

Last night, I was asked to go to the "Budget Advisory Committee" meeting to give a presentation on my position, and why I think it should be kept "as is". The committee consists of school board members, selected staff members in the district, parents, etc.

Here is the (rather long!) transcript of the presentation. It's been "generalized" for purposes of confidentiality:

"The fear of public speaking is called glossophobia (or, informally, "stage fright"). It is believed to be the single most common phobia - affecting as much as 75% of the population. I would be one of those people. However, when the superintendent approached me about making a presentation to this group, my answer was yes…ABSOLUTELY, because of how strongly I believe in what I’m here to talk with you about!

When I started in this school district, there were THREE professional, library school trained media specialists in the district…one in each building. During my first three years, the media specialist position at the middle school/high school was eliminated, due to budget cuts.

A few years later, the other elementary school in our district, replaced its library school trained media specialist with teachers on special assignment. They did a fine job, but did not have ALL of the skills necessary for the position.

In the NINE YEARS that I’ve been with this district, neither of those professional positions has been reinstated. I am deeply concerned about the effect this is having on our students, and all that they are missing by NOT having a skilled media specialist in their building.

Libraries have changed ENORMOUSLY in the last 10 to 20 years. Where we were once book repositories, and our primary role was circulation of materials, we are now a technology hub, where students are learning research and literacy skills, computer programs, and how to find information in a variety of print and online databases.

Media specialists are teaching students how to critically evaluate websites. Students are learning about plagiarism and fair use, online safety strategies, and countless other tasks that can’t just be “picked up” as they get online…these skills need to be actively taught by a professional who understands “higher order” thinking skills.

To give you an idea of how the roles of librarians have changed, here’s an example of a “typical day” in the media center:

· 2nd grade biography website lesson using laptop computers. During this session, students are learning skills needed to use the laptops, including working with a “finger mouse”, and navigation of biography websites that I’ve selected as appropriate for use.

Students will learn how to navigate these sites, AND my focus will be on the fact that websites CAN be put up by anyone. Students will begin the process of using critical evaluation skills when using the internet.

· 4th grade author study: Gary Paulsen. I’ve built these studies into the schedule on a monthly basis, to expose our 4th graders to OTHER authors (besides Barbara Park, who writes the Junie B. Jones series, and Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants books).

· Kindergarten and 1st grade “storytimes”. I STRONGLY believe that kindergartners and 1st graders need to be in the media center on a CONSISTENT, weekly basis. With kindergarten, I use the “letter of the week” that they are learning in the classroom, and, use the Tucker signs (which assist with the assimilation of the sound) for each letter being learned. Every time the student hears the letter of the week, they make the sign, say the sound, and this reinforces their classroom learning.

With the 1st graders, we take a different letter each cycle, and focus on an author whose last name begins with that letter. After listening to the story, I take the students to the shelves and we locate that author’s books.

Through these storytimes, I’m working on their alphabet skills, beginning the process of “location” skills (finding books on the shelves, and assisting our students in becoming independent library users), and they are getting consistent practice in how the library works, the routine for checking out books, and, even more importantly, are getting to know the media center staff. The relationships that are formed are an ENORMOUS advantage, as students work their way through grade school, especially in the area of “reader’s advisory”…matching students to books at their interest and reading levels.

· 3rd grade team meeting, at which we discuss the current lessons I’m teaching, and plan the upcoming unit, to see where I can “plug” in needed library and research skills.

At yesterday’s meeting we created a lesson, utilizing the Kidspiration program, to create a “biography web” for each of the students. They will use these to write an “About the Inventor” paragraph for their “Inventions” presentations.

We didn’t have time to complete the assignment today, but they will be able to come back to the media center tomorrow to finish, because of the “flexible schedule” now in place in the media center.

· 6th grade exhibition lesson. This month, we’re focusing on interpreting data…taking the mountains of information they’ve found, and organizing it into usable “segments”.

In previous months, students have been in the media center to learn about website validity, plagiarism and collusion, research resources, interviewing skills, how to take notes, and will continue coming through the rest of the exhibition process to learn how to put all the information together, how to present the information, and how to evaluate the final project.

· 4th grade “Main Idea” lesson, using fables to teach the concepts of “main ideas” and “supporting details”.

All of these lessons are taught COLLABORATIVELY with the classroom teacher, and the students are getting the attention and skill sets of TWO teachers, each with different areas of expertise. By teaching these lessons together, we are able to accommodate multiple learning styles, and the teacher to student ratio is GREATLY improved.

An additional benefit of this collaboration is that I’ve heard MANY teachers state that they learned something new in the lesson. I really like that I’m able to teach the teachers as well as the students!

In addition to teaching responsibilities, I am also coordinating the community mentors for the 6th grade exhibition (which is a MUCH bigger job than I anticipated it being)!

Community mentors are the “guides” that assist our 6th grader exhibition groups in every step of the research and presentation process. They are not teachers…and need assistance with this huge undertaking. They are doing an AWESOME job, and I’ve LOVED working with them. It’s been a GREAT community/school collaboration!

I currently assist students with book selection, or “reader’s advisory”, as they come into the media center. I order books to supplement the collection (as we’ve moved further into PYP, collection development in non-fiction has changed, and I need to re-evaluate the collection, weed out books that are too old, or aren’t being used anymore, and replace them with updated, relevant materials that aid our staff in teaching these units).

Through the courses I’ve taken to get my master’s degree in library science, and 18 years as a librarian/media specialist, I’ve learned the “fine art” of choosing resources. This CAN NOT be done by a “novice”.

It takes a professional librarian to build and maintain a collection, and it’s something I will NOT have time to do, if my position is cut to .5. Historically, once a position is “reduced” in this district, it rarely gets restored to “full time” status. This will be a HUGE disservice to our students, and concerns me DEEPLY.

If my position at my school is reduced to .5, I will no longer have time to do many of the things I currently do. My biggest concern is that I will no longer be able to attend team planning sessions, as I’ll need every hour of my .5 time to teach the lessons that I’ve already written to teach collaboratively with each grade level in the building.

Not being able to attend these meetings is A HUGE disadvantage…if I don’t know what the unit is about, and have no part in writing/rewriting these units, I’ll be back at “square one”…teaching in isolation (as I did in the prep lineup), which makes “authentic learning” extremely difficult.

The suggestion that I work “half time” at one school, and “half time” at the other elementary school WILL NOT WORK for this very reason. If I can’t attend team meetings, I will have NO IDEA what the units contain, and will not be able to teach authentically, or relevantly, in any of them.

I do not know the units at the other school, and there will be no way to find out. Reading the planners is only part of the equation…the collaboration and discussion at the team meetings is where the lessons are truly created, discussed, and refined.

There are over 60 studies, across the United States and Canada, that show CONCLUSIVELY that having a full-time media specialist in the school IMPROVES student test scores.

“School Libraries Work!”, a document produced by Scholastic Research & Results, contains data from some of those studies. In the forward it states “Resource-rich school libraries and credentialed school librarians play key roles in promoting both information literacy and reading for information and inspiration.

When staffed by qualified professionals trained to collaborate with teachers and engage students meaningfully with information that matters in the real world, school libraries become sophisticated 21st century learning environments that offer equal opportunities for achievement of all students, regardless of the socio-economic or education levels of the community.

This research foundation paper, updated from the 2006 edition of School Libraries Work!, brings together position statements from a variety of organizations and findings from nearly two decades of empirical studies that cite the measurable impact school libraries and library media specialists have on student achievement.”

Margaret Spelling, then Secretary of Education, states “one of the cornerstones of NO Child Left Behind is teaching children how to read. School libraries play a critical role by providing children with books and resources so that they can improve their reading skills and achieve at high levels”.

The International Reading Association states:

School Library Programs influence learning outcomes and student achievement when:
- Library media specialists collaborate with classroom teachers to teach and integrate literature and information skills into the curriculum.
- Library media specialists partner with classroom teachers on projects that help students use a variety of resources, conduct research, and present their findings.
- Library media specialists are supported fiscally and programmatically by the educational community to achieve the mission of the school.

The International Reading Association also states:
Library Media Specialists enrich the teaching and learning process when:
- They teach skills and strategies students need to learn and achieve.
- They are partners in educating students, developing curricula, and integrating resources into teaching and learning.
- They teach the skills students need to become effective users of ideas and information. They seek, select, evaluate, and utilize electronic resources and tools, and instruct teachers and students in how to use them.

There is a LARGE amount of information in this document, and I’d LOVE to share it all with you now, but, in an effort to wrap this up, will leave the web address for the document with you, and you can look at it when you have a chance to do so.

So…to conclude:

The first of our district’s “Guiding Principles” states “We must support academic systems that expect continuous improvement from ALL students in terms of academic growth, proficiency, and graduation.” Helping our students succeed is our primary goal. I can’t IMAGINE NOT supporting having a full-time media specialist to help accomplish this.

The media program that I have spent so much time building, and so much time refining, and of which I have so much left to do, will be reduced to a shell of what it is, and of what it can become, if my position is reduced to .5. Our students will not have the advantage of a professional librarian in areas of research skills, reader’s advisory, or any of the other skills previously mentioned.

There are MANY difficult decisions to be made in the coming weeks and months. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask now, or send me a note. I created an e-mail link on the media center homepage, on the district website. You can contact me through that link.

Thank you for your time!

Here's hoping YOUR day didn't involve fighting to keep what you KNOW is a good thing from being taken away!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Couple Shots

Duane came along on the shoot Saturday, so that we could get a couple of "couple shots" are a few that I thought turned out especially well...

The "classic" couple shot!

The "even MORE classic" couple shot!

The "we remember Charlie's Angels" shot!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Head Shots...NOT!!

As promised...the "outtakes" from yesterday's photo shoot...

NEVER talk while the photographer is shooting film!!!

Always KNOW where the camera is (and it's NOT on the ceiling)...

DON'T spin on the stool if you CAN'T hit your mark and then find the camera...