Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peanuts, Libraries and Making a Difference!

My previous post relating that we are more than the sum of our scores and evaluations really struck a chord out there. I know this isn't exactly the "Common" of "Common Core", but we really do share similar experiences, no matter what demographics our schools reflect. It's encouraging to remember, though, that we're all in this together! (cue the "High School Musical" soundtrack!)

I've been a Peanuts Fan since i first saw "A Charlie Brown Christmas" when it originally aired on TV. I went to school the next day with almost the same excitement I had for seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan for the first time. Television history! Shaping and molding me into the person I am today. You know, that's when we had maybe 3 channels, 1 television, so I appreciate parents who were into all elements of pop culture. Of course Saturday nights watching Lawrence Welk as a family was another matter! But my dad would imitate Joanne Castle, the bouncy piano player, and we'd all get to dance around the family room. BIg Fun on the Prairie. But I digress. 

This week, as many of us are enjoying some of the more fun aspects of our jobs, here's a little food for thought. Let's lay aside our concerns and apprehensions about whatever might be going on. Take a little break friends and digest the following. Oh, and if it looks familiar, it's from something I wrote back in March, 2009. Kind of like a "BFTP" (Blast From the Past) that Doug Johnson writes that never seem to go out of date!

The following is based on the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. See how you do on this quiz:
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman Trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. 
Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners .

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

How did you do?  Easier?

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care. As Media Specialists, friends, spouses, parents, and children, we are those people. Wherever you find yourself in the evaluation process, continue to be that person to someone and know you're making a difference.  

Have a great week and stay grounded, Difference Makers!


Sandy Penvose

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Stay Amazing, Librarians!

A recent post in Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog featured the following letter to students from an unidentified elementary principal that went home with student state test scores:
We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you-- the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have traveled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best... the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart."
It was something that really struck me as so true for what we are facing these days. Our students and our schools are so much more than the scores reveal. And add to that list, we Media Specialists. 

I know we've all received ratings which aren't what we expected or are lower than what we thought we performed at. Or our value added score combined with our written evaluation score resulted in a different rating than we hoped for. Whatever your situation, it's important to not let the words or labels affect your overall self esteem and sense of worth as a teacher and Media Specialist. I'm not saying that the recommendations or areas to focus on aren't legitimate, but don't let the process deflate you. When I have students that "want to stay all day" in the Media Center, I know I'm highly effective at something! When students want to come every day for the books we've studied in classes, I'm making a difference. When my principal comes pays me a visit first thing in the morning, just to "drink in this great atmosphere", I almost forget about my scores! No, make that I DO forget about them! 

So, to re-word a few items from that elementary principal's letter, your evaluators don't know all of the talents and skills that you possess that can't be graded or evaluated, yet add more value to your family and friends, along with your students and teachers, than any rating ever could. As a friend told me this week, when I was feeling less than stellar,  "Keep doing what you're doing. You know what's right for your kids and your staff. Stay amazing and inspiring, no matter who notices". 

Have a great week and Stay Grounded!

Sandy Penvose

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Library Diet, Part 2

The Library Diet, Part 2

How are you doing with your Library Diet, Media Friends? This week, I'm back with Part 2 and I hope you've been making progress in bringing some order, sanity, or just a little streamlining of your Media Center or even yourself. Every little change can help move you in the right direction. So here's a few more tips for the Library Diet, which I posted Oct. 19 with #1, 2, and 3.

4. Have Some Accountability
Weight-wise, some folks believe in weighing every day to keep themselves in check. In WW, I'd advise once a week, due to how much weight fluctuates from day to day. But besides the scale, having loving family or friends to report to or receive feedback from can boost your diet efforts.
So in the Media Center, where is your accountability? Administration, of course. Our supervisor and monthly reports also, But do you have some valuable educator or other media friends (PLC, PLN, etc.) who can provide guidance, encouragement, and words of wisdom to help keep you on track? You don't need to be entertaining too many voices, but seek out other professionals who can help and also challenge you to be better in what you do. As I read postings in our Media Conference, I've come to know and appreciate fellow Media Specialists whose opinions, ideas, even questions posed to others are inline with my philosophy. Often, rather than pose a question to the whole group, I might seek out their opinions. And it's not always the same folks for the same things. I have a few for tech questions, a few for book ideas, maybe my Area 4 PLC for issues particular to our area, etc. For newbies, you have the benefit of your mentor and the newbie group, and I'm sure they'll continue to be an especially close group for you.
And accountability isn't just a "yes" person or one who agrees with you (as my scale often attested to!); don't resist someone who will give you honest and direct advice if you are asking for it and give them permission for it.

5. Celebrate Success!
Reaching weight loss goals certainly deserves celebrations with non-food items that reward you for your hard work and persistence. So what will indicate success in your media center and how will you celebrate it? As with a weight loss diet, you can't expect overnight results; but you need to appreciate and recognize the small steps you make in the right direction. In the Media Center, there are many methods to celebrate your successes and accomplishments. When you have improvements in circulation, participation in programs, good media behavior, a dynamite lesson, or whatever your goals , etc. don't hesitate to share the good news on your Morning Show, window signs/data charts, faculty meeting announcements, or family newsletter articles. Let your administration know how your Monthly Goals were achieved when you share the monthly report with them.

So as you move toward having a more lean, mean, Media Center machine, I hope you have recognized that slow and steady helps you win the race, that you've weeded unnecessary habits/programs/interruptions from your daily routine; you have a plan and accountability for it, and that you are celebrating your successes.

May you find something to celebrate every day, both personally and professionally! Have a great week and stay grounded!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Library Diet

The Library Diet

As someone who has fought the Battle of the Bulge for, well, way too many years, I've accumulated numerous books, magazines, memberships, special foods, clothes, equipment and mental frustration that  have resulted in many more "Before" pictures and very few "After" ones. So much so that I've concluded that the best way for me to drop these pesky 15-20 pounds is to give away those magazines, books, memberships, unexpired special foods, clothes and equipment to a worthy recipient! At least my shelves and closet will be lighter. But that still leaves me frustrated.
However, as time goes on, my mindset has changed to adopt some principles that offer a much more realistic approach, reminding myself that this challenge is not a sprint race, but a marathon...long term! And with most life lessons I ponder, I can make some application to the Media Center and the day to day journey  we are on there. It's nothing extreme or revelatory or newstand-cover worthy ("Never Weed Another Book Again!", "Blast Those Shelves Back in Order by the Weekend!", "The Only Reading Motivation Program You'll Ever Need!"), but lends a degree of sanity to my life that offers realistic results. So here goes!

1. It's Not a Sprint, It's a Marathon
You don't have to do everything this week, month, semester or even year! Tackle one or two new programs, not everything you hear someone else doing. Give yourself time to implement a few quality ideas each year. I have yet to implement a specific grade-level program for all levels at my school, but I have added one or two special things a year that I have been able to build on. See what's important to your administration and go with that.

2. What Can You Live Without?
Foodwise I can identify the things that I know I don't need or will help me reach my goal. Nothing drastic, since I'm in this for the long haul. How about your Media Center activities? What are you doing that isn't helping you reach your media goals? What's getting in the way of your daily to do list that makes you have the last car in the parking lot? Checking e-mails way too often? Moving the same piles of paper every day/week/month? Making more files for more Pinterest Ideas when you haven't done the ideas from FAME 5 years ago? It might be difficult on a daily basis, but determine that weekly, you are going to get through your To Do list or just drop it!

3.  Do You Have a Plan?
Just like I'm trying to plan my meals each week, and failing when I wing it (grab the box of Cheerios to keep at school since I can't get my mornings together), you won't make much headway in a quality Media program just by showing up. If you meant to observe Hispanic Heritage Month, it's a little late! And Columbus Day is here now! But now is when you might plan for Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Native Americans, etc. Nothing big, but will you have a book display? Do you store your signage in a way that it's easy to locate each year? (wait, was that the Fall Box, November Box, Orange Stuff Box? Is Veteran's Day in the September Patriotic Box or the May Memorial Day Box? Do I have too many boxes?) If you spend more time trying to organize your stuff, try getting rid of the stuff! Then you don't have to invest in all the files/boxes/time it takes to organize it. And you can get on with your plan!

Okay Media dieters and others, that's enough for this week. As a former leader for the WW organization, I know all of the tips, slogans, recipes, etc, that are popular and can work. But only as they are put into practice on a regular basis. I'll post some more of my "plan" next week, no excuses! In the meantime, be good and forgiving to yourself and just determine that you CAN do this!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New Car Smell

New Car Smell

I don't know about you, but I kind of feel as if I'm just getting started in my Media Center this year, after one month into the year. I mean I've finally gotten through all of the Orientations, as of Friday, folders are out, apps for Media Helpers are ready, Morning Show is running, etc. But I feel now I can really get going! We've actually been checking out since Aug. 27th, thanks to my finally giving in to doing the Media Orientation for gr. 3, 4, 5 on Closed Circuit TV, then doing Second Grade with one face to face meeting, and First Grade with 2 face to face meetings. But thrown into that air-tight schedule was a week out due to an emergency eye surgery for my husband. He's fine now, and we're getting back to "normal" in the Media Center. But while it seems as if we are just getting started, it also doesn't take long for the newness to wear off, much faster than losing that new car smell! 

Our school's theme this year is "Excellence Without Excuses"....inspiring, but doesn't lend itself to any decorations from Demco! Search it on Pinterest and there might be clever signs, but cutouts? Window material? Reading theme? Well, enough, uh, excuses! I like it because making excuses is a pet peeve of mine. Our teachers all have wristbands with the phrase, and hold our arms up in meetings when someone starts complaining or giving an excuse about something. Quite handy...and enables me to hold my ever-ready comment for them. I've probably mentioned this one before, but a classic that I heard in a leadership meeting was when it was a resource teacher's turn to share data, said that she didn't get it done because she was in classrooms all day. (insert eye-roll, isn't that your JOB?) And of course we can cite countless examples of staff members who missed a deadline because they didn't know about it (like the written bulletin, e-mail to everyone, sign by the mailbox and announcement on the Morning Show?) Or the ones that walk into a Book Fair with the comment, "Oh, when did this start?" AAARRRGH! And it's not even "Talk Like Pirate Day'! How can you miss it with all the signs, announcements, etc.? So this year will I wave my "Excellence W/O Excuses" wristband at the person in lieu of an eye-roll or sarcastic mumble under my breath? We'll see! I'm working on reducing my "sarcasm to excuses" quotient this year.

So we can pretty much come up with the "Top 10 Excuses I've Heard" with our eyes closed and our scanners tied behind our backs, but how about the excuses we come up with ourselves. Are you in a big school? Great...maybe more resources/teachers/involvement/Book Fair profits/parking spaces/help for you. Small school? Less classes to schedule/closer relationships/books to shelve/names to know. Poverty school? Renaissance pay/Title  1 funds/attention/appreciative students. Wealthy school? Never mind, we all know you have it great (HA! Talk to them sometime!) The grass isn't always greener! It still has to be mowed and fertilized. Sometimes I'll mention the size of my school, not as an excuse (well, hopefully not), but more to elicit reponses from schools in a similar situation...what works for you, etc. Despite the challenges that come with my large high poverty, highly transient (teachers and students ) school, I'm still here after 10 years! 

I love my job, and try to maintain and convey that joy every day, to both teachers and students. Yes we work hard, are tired, and seem to never be done (sorry newbies, it's true!), but I think we are all in our positions because we chose this field and we love what we do. We're in the people business, so let's see what we can do to infuse some joy as we tackle our schedules, budgets, property control, classes, and all the other things on our plate (ooh, almost a twinge of a whine there, Penvose!). Your clientele will truly come to realize that "A Day Without the Library is like a Day Without Sunshine"!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stay Grounded

Welcome to The Grounded Librarian. I have been an Elementary Librarian (aka Media Specialist) for 14 years, and am in my 30+ year in Education. The Library is truly where I have found my niche and calling. The love I have for my job and this profession provides the inspiration for my messages. I have written motivational leadership messages for over 5 years for the Media Specialists in my school district. Hopefully, as I broaden my audience, you will also be encouraged in your daily walk in your libraries, media centers, classrooms, or wherever you find your day taking you. I'm all about bringing joy to those we work with every day: students, teachers, administrators and community.

I hope you enjoy and offer feedback in my forum for library ideas, leadership, encouragement and humor and that you are inspired to keep doing what you love, and as I do every day, "stay grounded".