Sunday, December 30, 2018

It's the end of 2018 as we know it, and I feel fine.

I'm not super in the mood to reflect. I wrote a whole post about our year, my family, what we've been through and where I hope we go, and none of it really meant anything to me. It felt like what Shonda Rhimes calls "athlete talk." The stuff basketball players have to say before they're allowed to go back to the locker room. "We moved the ball and they put up a fight, it came down to them outplaying us." Just words devoid of substance.

I am in the mood to start fresh. There has been an interesting backlash against resolutions, especially in the blogging/podcast world. I love how all these women are pretending like they invented the word of the year, or that they've *always* hated January 1st goal setting, when I used to eagerly read every single one of their carefully listed resolutions they posted with filtered pictures of sunrises and coffee cups and silhouetted families. I love that shit! Now everyone's like "I've never ever been a fan of setting myself up against undue pressure. I'm more into WORDS, you know? I've just started doing this and changes everything. I'm DONE with dieting but I'm totally ready to eat clean this year." I stand in the kitchen shaking my head. It's actually one of the reasons I'm really grateful for the #pashfam community (the only hashtag I follow on insta)- goal setting is not vilified and lots of people are posting different spreads to track their small habits and larger plans.

All that to say, my biggest lesson learned this year is that absolutely nothing is true for everyone. Not a thing. Not a way of pursing health, not a way of setting goals, not a way of preparing meals, not a way of raising children. It's hard for me because I have spent probably 15 years of my life in pursuit of the perfect template. And I'm starting to figure out that it'll never work like that. You might find a person to look up to or a life philosophy to follow and it'll fit for a time but not forever. Eventually one of your personal needs or values will press up against the general idea you were adopting and the dissonance can cause real panic, if you thought you found the way things were going to be from then on out. You have to make your own template. It's corny and it makes me sigh.

I'm not in the mood for athlete talk, but I do want to play through this exercise of answering some year end questions, in case it sparks something for me to help me understand how I want to move forward. I'm getting together with some friends today to think about 2019, set some intentions, burn some stuff we want to let go of. I'm hoping my own template will start to emerge from this interesting work.

1. What are the three most important things you learned this year?

My kids need me more than I thought they did.
I cannot be home for an entire summer and stay healthy.
I have to figure out my own template.

2. What are some things you accomplished that you're proud of?

Ended first year as a Media Specialist.
Helped Ben get through his tumor scare.
Changed the look and feel of the entire front of the house (with Ben) into a living space I enjoy.

3. What did you do this year that you'll remember for the rest of your life?

Ben and I working through everything with his health in the fall will stick with me forever. The raw fear and the way that everything felt frozen, and then the strange, slow-to-come relief when things were okay. Making the appointments and talking to the doctors and planning every second of our lives to pretend to have control. It ending as fast as it started. It changed me.

4. What was your most memorable day and why?

Honestly, the day of the surgery will be memorable, and the way that people rallied around us with shocking, breath-taking love and support. But I want to focus on some other positive memorable days this year- our trip to North Conway and spending the day hiking was amazing, or playing hours and hours of Werewolf with my family at my aunt's house over Christmas. 

5. What would you have done differently? Why?

I would have worked this summer. There is no way I could have known that I would feel the way I felt this summer, no way I could have seen that the total lack of routine would make me fall apart. I haven't worked during the summer since the boys were born, but when they were smaller, they took a lot more energy and we had to follow a routine- meet up with friends or go on adventures in the morning, excellent napping skills from 1ish to 4-5 in the afternoon, then dinner/baths/books/bed. There was time for me, time for socializing, and even a few chores worked in. Ever since we've moved into this house (this was our second full summer here), the boys haven't napped, and now that they're much closer to self-sufficient, it's way easier for me to spend a day doing nothing, and not in a good way. Short vacations are perfect for laziness- two full months of the year should not be spent that way. This summer will look different. 

6. How are you different this year than last?

As a person, I'm more stable. I am able to look at myself and see positive or negative patterns. I understand my reactions more than before. I haven't implemented every single piece of knowledge I have, but I have learned a lot about myself. I'm also closer to understanding my family. This has been a time of transition for us- new house, new life stages, new jobs, new goals. Everything I knew about being a mom is changing. I laugh at newborn-mom Ashlie who was quite certain that as soon as her kids could entertain themselves and eat without choking, this whole gig would get much easier. It never gets easier. But it's kind of comforting to grow into what you don't know. 

7. What do you look forward to accomplishing in 2019?

A better relationship with the family that lives in my house, based on our newest needs 
Secretary time (more to come on that one)
Physical thriving
Better money sense (less Target bans, more long term plans)

I'm just going to link to the Passion Planner site because honestly, get one, they're wonderful, the Instagram community is wonderful, and planning has become a treasured hobby of mine. If you want to use my email address ( as a referral name, cool, but more importantly, check these out and see if they might get you closer to your goals! I'm not affiliated, just deeply in love.

I'm also going to link to my intentions for 2018, which I finally got around to posting IN MAY, if that gives you an idea of the kind of year it was.

Tracy Shutterbean is a blogger I've been following for years, and she lives the intentions life way outside of January. Her weekly intention lists are completely different from mine but they inspire me every time. Definitely a worthy follow (her Instagram @shutterbean is excellent, too).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Coffee and Blogs No. 29

I have been reading so much good stuff lately, and I haven't done a coffee and blogs post in...years? Way too long. It's the season of reflection and goal setting and celebration, so lots of these articles have me pondering on what my focus will be for 2019. ($$$$$$$, your time has come)

I'm breaking things into sections that might help you pinpoint the area you're most interested in exploring in the coming year, but of course, freewheel browsing (my favorite strategy) always works, too. Get a mug of something warm and cozy yourself. Coffee and blogs is back. 


A "feeling" of wealth is much more than the sum total of your assets.

This is the scariest thing I've read in a long time. It could be my family in a heartbeat.

These people seem to be working harder than I am and still struggling. What's the point?


I'd like to have one of these.

I'm- wait for it- dying.

Now that we've had a tumor in the family, every ache and pain is more suspect.

In 2019, resolve to cut out the diet shit. 

Stretch it out.

I think about this a lot- or am I just distracted by my phone?


We run a household with an equal division of labor and its magic.

I have driven away from a child dawdling to avoid climbing in the car.

Slightly cheesy but incredibly necessary. Same disclaimer for the following: you have to keep falling back in love with the person you choose to spend your life with. That's what they mean when they say marriage is work.

I'm guilty of the expensive treats. I'm guilty of the preaching.

I'm shocked at how strongly my anti-Santa feelings are turning out to be. 

Food for thought

Time Management:

Not sure.

I mean, take what you need. The scariest thing about this is that we already know most of these strategies. We're usually googling them instead of getting shit done.

Facts are scary.

How to be productive while living a life.

This is intriguing.

Best Life:

Speaks for itself.

For the comments.


You can't say this until you're 90.

Art by Sanaa Kassou, an illustrator I'm obsessed with- she has a book on sale here and you can follow her Instagram here.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Looking Back After Shit Times End

A year ago, I was unraveling. It was a scary time. I felt like a husk of a person. I honestly can't believe that was only 12 months ago.

The morning of the surgery.
A month ago, I was terrified. In September, Ben discovered he had a tumor the size of a second eyeball growing in his eye socket. It was large enough that it was moving his eye out of place and, due to a small gap in the top of his orbital bone, was interfering with his brain. My husband, who lived in mortal fear of needles and tests, lived with constant needles and tests while we made preparations for a major surgery to get rid of the tumor and close up the disrupted bone. In a large way, Ben was processing his mortality. In a smaller way, he was perseverating on getting an IV before surgery. In a large way, I was processing the way this echoed the brain surgery my father never woke up from during the same week 21 years earlier. In a smaller way, I was feverishly planning every single thing I could to fake some semblance of control.

Even before he went under, we were wrapped in love. Friends and family
24 hours post op!
supported us with gifts of money, home cooked meals, and their physical presence- my mom and sister stayed with us for a week, taking care of the boys and making sure life ran smoothly so I could concentrate on Ben. Everyone had good words and good luck vibes to send. The prayer committee was working overtime. It was truly an embarrassment of riches, and support we wouldn't have survived without. And then every step of the process yielded a best case scenario. They were able to remove the tumor without going in from the top of his skull, which meant 3 hour surgery versus 8, and a much quicker recovery. He went home the next night. He was driving in two weeks. He goes back to work on Monday. The most relieving news of all? The tumor came back from pathology benign and unlikely to return. My mantra in all of this was "It will all be over by 2019!" And it came true. 

I am well aware that you don't get out of an MRI machine to a panicked tech telling you to go straight to the doctors and have the entire issue be cleared up within two months. That simply doesn't happen. We dodged a huge bullet. 

Thanksgiving Day, strategically posing to hide the incision.
It's a weird time to be reflecting. Maybe also an awesome time? I was thinking about how jumbled things were a year ago, how frozen I felt a month ago, and how interested I am to see how things proceed. All this hardship (which is relative, and mixed in with some extremely wonderful moments/stretches of time throughout 2018) teaches you a lot about what feels good. Knowing I physically couldn't take on the amount of work that slayed me in 2017 made me more thoughtful about how I spent my time in 2018. That felt good. Expecting that I would spent the end of 2018 caring for a significantly sicker husband than I ended up with, I cleared my schedule. We ended up using those empty days to spend family time- lots of dinners together, movie nights, and fires in the fireplace. That felt good. And I woke up this morning knowing I could do anything (It's Saturday, bless!) but I wanted to get my feelings down here. It's not Instagrammable and it won't build my freelance resume, but it will let me look back in a year and see what was happening in the aftermath of this big life event. I love going back and reading about what I thought was worth writing down at different times. That feels good. 

Maybe that's the plan for the new year- focus on what feels good. Not necessarily in the moment, but what actually feels good, as in strong, thoughtful, gentle, supporting. What will build a feeling of good that will outlast a moment of desire and help me get to where I want to be? I think it's things like appreciating family time, making sure to reach out and thank the people who helped me survive November, and looking back to celebrate the growth that happens whether you're paying attention or not. It feels good to write here, and have it all down. Thank you for reading it. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Coping Strategies for Shit Times

Some really scary health things are happening in my house right now. I never withhold information to be mysterious, but this isn't my story, and so I can't gush every detail the way I usually do. Everything is going to be okay, but this fall is shaping up to be different than I planned. I've never been more grateful that I took a semester off library school, that I freelance with an organization that supports it's contributors so gracefully, that I have family medical days at work, that my family is ready to swoop in and buy plane tickets and make me pumpkin chili at a moment's notice. I do not take this support network for granted. 

Still, I'm scared. I'm making connections to past trauma. I'm sad to see people I love in uncomfortable situations. I'm emotionally drained. My body is doing it's "let's-shut-down-shit-is-getting-heavy" thing. I can feel stress curling around the muscles in my upper back. All I want to do is sleep. Sometimes, that's the answer. But that's not going to get my family and I through the next few months. SO...

Here is a list of things I do when everything is falling apart. They might not be the things that YOU do when everything is falling apart. The goal for me has been to do things that serve future me- the me that will be stressed, sore, and scared PLUS have to go to work, or figure out the holidays for my kids, or take a block of time away from all responsibilities and be a caregiver. Typing this is list is a literally a way to shake off my depressive feelings and remind myself that there are clear-cut accomplishables that will help.

1. Move
I don't FEEL like it. But I know that movement is going to save me right now. I'm not calling this "exercise" because that conjures visions of working up a sweat, forcing yourself through drudgery...that's not the goal. If you can't afford to get a massage, STRETCH and give your muscles some kindness. If your body is feeling stiff and stifled, walk outside and let the cold wake you up. I am always happier when I read, but I haven't been prioritizing reading...getting myself on the elliptical with a book improves my mood and wakes me up and is generally A Good Thing. Putting movement on my list helps A LOT, especially in times of crisis when it's socially acceptable to let it slide. It's a reminder that moving your body is not something you have to do, but something that can help you.  

2. Cook
When this bad news first crashed into the family sphere, my first impulse was to cook and freeze tons of dinners. It was a smart move. A big batch of a soup, a bunch of marinated meat...even when my brain was fried mid-week, there was no excuse to buy takeout that wouldn't nourish us- dinner was already set. This weekend I want to lay in bed and order lots of Chinese food (a prospect made more tempting by the fact that we were paid and could actually afford this), but I know that I'll be happier and feel stronger if I make a grocery list and chop up a bunch of veggies. THERE IS A TIME FOR is coming. But right now, but I'm going to type "soup" into pinterest and be a suburban mom in the best possible way.

3. Plan
Christmas and Thanksgiving are going to look different this year, full stop. I'm hating the out-of-control feeling I have not knowing where we will eat turkey or what our funds will look like mid-December. One way to handle it? Do everything possible to be ready for the most hectic time of the year RIGHT NOW. Your girl who is, at the mo, struggling to shower regularly has made a Google doc with a spreadsheet with every person we're buying a Christmas present for, a budget range, and gift ideas, as well as place to check off when the gift was purchased and when it was wrapped. I've already scooped up a few gifts using Halloween sales and made plans to take a family picture for our Christmas cards. I'm not usually this on top of things, but it's giving me a small sense of control in an out-of-control time. 

4. Comfort
If I'm good at one thing, it's comforting myself. I'm watching my comfort shows with zero shame. I'm turning to Christian mommy blogger podcasts with increasing regularity- I find them deeply soothing when I'm stressed, in particular ones that detail chores, housekeeping, and other homemaker-y routines. (This is strange to me, too, and I'm currently exploring this in another essay. Stay tuned.) I'm making time to play with stickers/washi tape/highlighters in my planner and on our family calendar, because it makes me happy AND makes me feel like we're more organized. Is is the BEST use of my limited mental bandwith right now? Actually, yeah. It comforts me.

5. Forgive
Yourself, when none of the above works. About half the time recently, these tenants above have kept me breathing and kept our family running. The other half, I've used my gym time to eat an entire box of Triscuts while sitting in my car, or took a two hour after-school nap while my kids play too many video games. It's survival, honey. It's not pretty. It's okay. Video games and Triscuts are coping methods, too. Do what feels good. When it doesn't feel good, reassess. Or write a blog post about what feels good. 

Pinterest is my friend right now. I have a private board which I am unlocking called BEST SELF. It's a board of reminders about who I want to be, what I am up against, and what I am capable of. I look at it once a day. I'm also stockpiling yoga stretches and soup recipes and cutesy stocking stuffers as I'm trying to be my most productive survivor self. If Pinterest is one of the things that further stresses you, DON'T CLICK. For me, it's almost like a weird template with ideas I can take or leave, and right now, it's helping.

How about you? What are some of your basic coping strategies when shit is hitting the fan? What strange thing comforts you? I hope you're doing okay <3 

Monday, September 17, 2018

This is not a library school post.

Last year, around this time, I started library school. All of my dreams were coming true at once, and I was so freaking optimistic. My kids were both in school full time. I had the job I had always dreamed of. I was in classes full of likeminded people. I was sure I had peaked- I felt weird guilt about how great every single part of my life was. Funnily enough, it wasn't the cakewalk I thought it would be. I overscheduled myself with grad classes and ended up having a really tough fall. I stopped all my medication and my mental health was a mess. I was out of touch with my family, and my marriage and relationships with my kids really suffered. And I stopped writing.

It wasn't useless hardship. I've come really far with self examination over the past year. Right around Christmas, when the shit was really hitting the fan, I set myself a group of goals, and they helped me prioritize my life. I pulled back on my classes and finished my first year as a Media Specialist. I got a great therapist and started taking a new medication that I never skip. I committed to communication, and I talk to husband and my kids a lot about things that bother me. I'm working really hard not to be defensive when they bring up the same to me. I'm still hard to live with at times. I still shut down when things get too real. I'm still scared to watch shows or movies that might make me feel emotions. But I'm working on it and I'm very happy in a real way- an earned way.

One really tough part of this past year is I completely stopped writing. My blog posts were just for library classes (sorry about that). I wrote very few Book Riot articles. And my fiction stories were completely abandoned. I dropped my writing group the second I got my new job, and I deeply regret it. There's no way I could have done them the justice they deserve on top of my courses and my scattered lifestyle anyway, but I miss them. I miss my friends and I miss reading each others' work and being deeply invested in the process of writing. I know I'll have it again, one day, and right now I'm trying to make that be enough.

This fall, I'm cautious and optimistic. We have a big huge calendar hanging in the kitchen, a shared Google calendar that we update religiously, and my personal planner- every detail of our lives is written down three times at a minimum. That helps. We have a weekly meeting where we talk about events and chores and every family member can bring up issues (Milo, day one: "I want to talk about how much you guys are on your phones." Ouch.) None of the classes I need are being offered this semester, so I'm taking a break, updating my paperwork with the Department of Education, and trying to be super organized so when classes pick back up, I won't fall to pieces.

I think all the time about what I know was the best year of my life so far: 2015. I had two kids that were so cute, a handsome husband who had just redone our back porch into a little writing oasis that made my heart soar. I had a job that I was good at, that I had been doing long enough that I no longer agonized over every single detail. I had friends I adored, and spent the fall being fawned over as I turned 30- shows, fancy hotel stays, luxurious meals, surprise parties. I ran a book club, blogged, wrote 500+ words of fiction a day, went to the gym regularly, tried new foods and beers all the time, and felt amazing. I felt amazing. 

On paper, my life is "better" now. We bought a bigger house. I got my dream job. My kids are older, out of diapers, in school all day with childcare significantly less difficult. It's all "better," but so, so much harder. And that annoys me. Why is it harder now? It's obvious. I leveled up. I can't have a cozy, lived in feeling in a house automatically- that shit takes work. I can't be an expert at a job in the first year- that shit takes work. I can't anticipate my kids' every need when they're in a completely new section of their development- that shit takes work. 2015 was so great because I had reached the ceiling for that part of my life. I'll think of it fondly for a long, long time. And now, back to work.

(Art via Pinterest by Camila Rosa- her work is absolutely amazing and you should buy some of it.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

LBS 850- Module 12 THE END

It's the last day of my Emerging Technologies for Libraries class, and we're revisiting the Top Ten Tips lists we made at the beginning of the summer. While my big ideas haven't changed, I have definitely acquired a ton of new tools to help me reach my goals. I have two major take aways- I need to make time to stay on top of these tech developments, and focus on the TYPES of tech, because there are too many tools to keep track of without sorting them.

As far as making time is concerned, I know it needs to be a part of my routine in order to take root. Last year I was very worried about staying on top of age=appropriate titles for elementary school when most of my pleasure reading was YA. I implemented a daily silent reading timing as a part of my routine and when the students were reading, so was I. I used the time specifically to read things I would want to add to or recommend in the library. I'm going to set up a similar daily time period to stay up-to-date with tech. MY administration mandates a consistent typing practice, so during the class typing time, I will research or work on tech tools. 

For the sorting, Barb organized things for us during Module 3 into ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF, FIND NEW STUFF, and FIND NEW BOOKS. For my students, I might choose categories like "FIND NEW INFORMATION, ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION, PRESENT YOUR INFORMATION" Being able to describe the tools and figure out what category they belong to will help students realize how the tools will be used and if they need it or not.

Below is the list I posted at the beginning of the semester. It still stands, but thanks to this class I have a ton of new tools to flesh out the list and meet my technology goals.

10. Don't overwhelm yourself. Pick a technology that you're already somewhat familiar with on a personal level and leverage that for use in the classroom. Then move on to new things.

9. Focus more on the types of technology (communication tools, research tools, databases, etc) than the actual products. Products change, but the needs remain the same.

8. Give yourself time to play with new products.

7. Give your students time to play with new products.

6. Seek out professional development about new apps/tech- so much is available, a lot of it for free!

5. Use social media (Instagram and Twitter!) to seek out other educators who are doing similar work- these connections will inspire you and keep new tech on your radar.

4. Figure out the curriculum connections before you choose the tech to teach- use these tools to enrich the education already taking place.

3. Check and find out what your students already know before you plan your lessons. Especially in this 2018 tech-heavy world, students already know A TON. Check in before you plan to teach them.

2. Ask students what they wish they could learn. Ask them how they would use the tech they want to learn. In general, involve them in this process.

1. HAVE FUN! The future is now.

Friday, August 3, 2018

If you're new around here...

Welcome! I'm Ashlie, an elementary librarian and writer who LOVES books and fat people. This is a space where I've word-vomited about everything from whale-inspired bathroom art to body acceptance to books by ladies. It is also a space where I currently post a bunch of stuff for my library grad classes cause I GOTTA GET THAT LICENSE. I use Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth) and Twitter (@mygirlsimple) a lot, I live for Goodreads (ashlieelizabeth) and I'm a contributing writer for Book Riot. I also have a freelancing website at check me out! 

Monday, July 23, 2018

LBS 850 Module 9- Teaching Teachers

This week, our task was to create some professional development for teachers. I was excited for this project, as I believe it will be really useful to implement in real time when I'm back in school. This is a technology class, so I struggled with whether I had to be making up professional development that taught a form of technology or if I could teach any topic as long as I used technology. I finally settled on teaching technology because it felt like the biggest stretch for me and I want to get as much as possible out of this class. I'm proud of myself because I really wanted to do a webpage dedicated to helping teachers find diverse books and use tech tools embedded to leave mini-reviews and network about which lessons and standards they were able to meet with each. I'll tuck that idea away for another time.

We talked a ton on the discussion boards this week about how useless a lot of PD is, and I've heard this from numerous sources during my 10 years as a teacher. I'm really proud of how my district has been moving away from pointless PD- a teacher-led committee solicits ideas and sets up mini workshops for staff to choose from at the beginning of every year, but through out the year the building principal usually has the final say on individual days of PD. In general, if you can prove that what you're doing is standards-based and building professional knowledge, we're given a lot of space to make the best choices for our personal practice. I know that's not the case everywhere, so I feel really lucky.

I think, in my actual real-life practice, my best bet is going to be things I can explain via screencast and/or protocol document and then leave up on a website for teachers to access on their own time. I'll also continue to make myself available for one-on-one time helping teachers, if anyone ever has enough time to take me up on it. Meet them where they're at and give them what they need!

Monday, July 16, 2018

LBS 850 Module 8- Top Tech Tools

This week our class took a look at integrating tech into lessons for our students. The natural culmination of familiarizing ourselves with these tools is to apply them to our teaching. We were also challenged to look at the tools that are most important to us and rate our absolute top five. I'm struggling between tools I already use all the time and ones that I would like to develop my practice with, so I did a little of both.

Twitter/Instagram: My social media in the library is still developing- I post to Instagram more often and Twitter rarely, but I find this way of connecting very important and am definitely working to use it more.

Flipgrid- I'm hoping to use this tool more in the coming year. I love the idea of students making videos of 90-second book reviews.

Biblionasium- I can see this tool supporting the development of our school reading culture, which is a major goal of mine. Safe, fun, social reading community? I'm sold.

Kahoot- I've heard amazing tales of student engagement skyrocketing when using this quiz app, and I would love to get my kiddos that excited in the library!

Scratch-  This has been a goal of mine for at least half the year. This coding curriculum is already very popular at my school and these are skills that can be developed from a young age!

Monday, July 9, 2018

LBS Module 7- Social Networking and Gaming

This week we looked at games! While I found the gaming information interesting, I was really stuck on the importance of the social component for teens especially. I think it's crucial to honor what our students are doing with their time and give them tools to be safe and successful. Basically, my bottom line is that the internet is here, kids are using it, and our job as Library Media Specialists is just to train them up right. Judgement-free zone necessary because frankly librarians need to stay cool and relevant and anyone harping about "kids these days and their gaming!" is not helping our image!! Below are some resources I really like for talking about digital citizenship with kids.

Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Curriculum
Great classroom posters here
Pause and Think Online (adorable song and video)

BrainPop Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Dot by Randi Zuckerberg, illustrated by Joe Berger

Once Upon A Time Online by David Bedford, illustrated by Rosie Reeve

But I Read It On the Internet! by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

The Pirates of Plagiarism by Lisa Downey, illustrated by Kathleen Fox 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

LBS 850 Module 5

In the library, one of my big goals to grow a pleasure reading culture, which is something that can be tough in an environment where barriers to learning are many. One of the ways to pump it up is to make book recommending exciting. Students were wild for a unit on emoji book reviews, and I'm taking it to the next level next year by trying out 90 second book review videos using Flipgrid.

I've done a test video to get started, which you can find by going here: You Don't Have To Take My Word 4 It and using the password Swicker18 to see the topic starter. If you're feeling adventurous, I'd love to have you record a book review in response to my demo! Any age level of book is fine, as I won't actually use this one with my students when we roll this out. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

LBS 850 Module 4- Applications

This week we did more exploring, this time of applications that provide one singular use. This was another “don’t fall down the rabbit hole!” week, and I spent most of the time trying to keep my interest surface level, as I am a person who can get hyper focused on a single thing and the world is too full for that!

In organizing these apps, I’m trying to find a single “frame” to have things fall under. I’m spending some summer PD time on developing my Google skills, because my school uses Google a ton. I want students to be able to track reading and share presentations that are NOT Google slides (because they use this a lot in the classroom), as well as more of a social outreach in general. This brought things like Flipgrid to mind, for sharing information and book reviews- I really want students to replicate the 1 minute book review format that Reading Rainbow has at the end of each episode- and Voki, for reenacting historical situations we might learn about. I would also love to share more student work on our Instagram and website, and I can see that apps that let you create graphics, like Piktochart, could be helpful here.

Ending my first year in the library, I’m in reflection mode and this is the perfect time to be wading through these apps- I know what I got to this year and what I hope to focus on next year. I’m trying to find apps to strengthen the goals I’ve already identified and resisting the urge to add a million more projects. Mastering things one at a time!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LBS 850 Module Three- Tools

“Men have become the tools of their tools”
Shut up, Thoreau, we're trying to learn here...

The above notes from our class materials made me laugh. This week we delved into tools and apps, a huge umbrella under which so many different things can fall. We roughly split things into three types of tools- things for organizing, things for finding new things, and things for keeping track of your books.

I'm going to be honest- this type of week/exploration can be very overwhelming for me. So many great resources and as I explore each one, I start to ping around- "I could use this for X, Y,  and Z, and should probably go check with administration right now let me immediately sign up." To avoid this, I tried to be very selective with what I dove into, but I also was worried that I'd have some FOMO about the other apps I didn't spend time with this week. For that reason, I am going to group some resources in general lists below so I can revisit.

Even though is is an area where I have a lot of organization already in place, I was really drawn to the book organization tools shared this week. I'm already an active Goodreads user (my account is here!) and I was really excited when a classmate shared that you can set up your email signature to show your currently reading selection. This is such a good idea. I also use a reading spreadsheet developed by a Book Riot contributor, Rachel Manwill, to keep track of my statistics within a year. I wanted to share it here so others might experience the magic I have this year tracking so far! There are tons more details in this article.

For further tool research, I felt most comforted by the articles and posts that rounded up a ton of links for exploring down the road. The list of best websites for teaching and learning from AASL is definitely one I'll be returning to. I was also really drawn to Livebinders- especially the examples set up to walk students through certain units or summer reading programs. This is something I can see myself setting up as I gather resources for grade levels or teachers around standards and yearly projects.

More for further reading later:
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. 31 Educational Web Tools Every Teacher Should Know About. Links to an external site.
Google Tools for Educators - Links to an external site.
Joquetta Johnson. Google LiveBinder. - Links to an external site.
In summation, from the Kellet article: If you have multiple tools/apps to do the same job something is wrong. DAMN!

Basically, I'm going to need to secure my learning targets before I commit to certain tools. I'm far too susceptible to the flashiness of new things to trust myself as all this terrific technology is presented to me. Teaching on a weekly schedule in the library as opposed to teaching on a daily schedule in the classroom really lets me set up units and use universal design to set up my year. For my first year in the library I kept a printed monthly calendar and a single paper notebook, keeping notes as things popped up that I either wanted to avoid, repeat, or anticipate for next year. As I look ahead for 2018-2019, I'll return to both my notes and these posts to pick and "perfect" (as much as possible) the tool I want myself and my students to use.

Monday, June 4, 2018

LBS 850- Assistive and Adaptive Technology

This week we were asked to explore Adaptive and Assistive Technologies from a librarian’s point of view. We reached out to experts and point people in our district, read articles about the need for accessible and welcoming spaces, and were encouraged to begin crafting a plan for evaluating accessibility in our Media Centers.

There were two articles from Janet Hopkins, both of which included punch lists of actionable items to help librarians ensure accessibility for all their patrons. The first one (written for the journal Teacher Librarian in 2004) gives background on what Assistive Technology is and then shares very simple steps that librarians can use to evaluate things in their own spaces. These tips are very elementary, and I suspect this is on purpose. Asking librarians to start by reaching out to special education colleagues and commit to viewing the library space from other perspectives is non-threatening and reinforces the idea that, while very important, this change will not happen overnight. Librarians are given permission, in this article, to seek professional development before diving deeply in.

The following article, written two years later, seems to encourage librarians to reach further beyond the planning stage. This article has more explanations about aspects of AT in the media center and planning for a longer haul commitment. Although the articles are framed differently and weren't published consecutively, they really compliment each other and continue to urge librarians to go further in providing accessibility.

I also spent some time this week exploring Project Enable, a service through Syracuse University specifically targeted to librarians. While the 20-hour training seems very intriguing, the resource list is also extremely helpful.

At the intersection of the book world and the need for accessibility is an issue that came up this weekend at Book Expo, one of the largest publishing conventions in the country. One of the invited authors, Tee Franklin, uses a wheelchair and accommodations were not taken into account when she was asked to speak on a panel about comics. She arrived to the panel with no way to join the other authors on stage, in an embarrassing position in front of the audience already gathered. This is the emotional video she posted on Twitter soon after she chose to leave the panel and sign her comic elsewhere. It's a real life face on these issues we discuss academically, and extremely important.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

LBS 850- Top Ten Things Educators Should Know About Technology

For my latest Library Science course (Emerging Technologies for Libraries), we were asked to browse this thread technology "musts" for educators. People generated top ten lists and gave advice to educators who might be nervous starting out with technology. You can find the list here.

While I browsed the lists, I tried not to glom onto any one piece of advice. I'm hoping that I have lots of space in my mind for the new ideas I'll be introduced to over the course of this class. We were assigned the task of creating our own list of top ten tech tips which we'll revisit at the end of the course. Here is where I am as of today.

10. Don't overwhelm yourself. Pick a technology that you're already somewhat familiar with on a personal level and leverage that for use in the classroom. Then move on to new things.

9. Focus more on the types of technology (communication tools, research tools, databases, etc) than the actual products. Products change, but the needs remain the same.

8. Give yourself time to play with new products.

7. Give your students time to play with new products.

6. Seek out professional development about new apps/tech- so much is available, a lot of it for free!

5. Use social media (Instagram and Twitter!) to seek out other educators who are doing similar work- these connections will inspire you and keep new tech on your radar.

4. Figure out the curriculum connections before you choose the tech to teach- use these tools to enrich the education already taking place.

3. Check and find out what your students already know before you plan your lessons. Especially in this 2018 tech-heavy world, students already know A TON. Check in before you plan to teach them.

2. Ask students what they wish they could learn. Ask them how they would use the tech they want to learn. In general, involve them in this process.

1. HAVE FUN! The future is now.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Week 15- What You Read As A Teen

This is so FUN. Even though we spent a semester talking about books and our childhood connection to them, and even though this specific prompt was fodder for an awesome week on the discussion boards, looking up titles for this post took me down memory lane.

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This was one of those titles that I remembered REALLY fondly, but had forgotten the cover and the name. The details tickled the back of my brain for years, and when I saw the movie THE VILLAGE in the early 2000s, I was so offended, because that "original, groundbreaking" plot basically ripped of this book chapter-for-chapter. Haddix mixes all things I loved as a girl in the 90s- thriller with zero gore, historical fiction, fearless teen heroine. I recently ordered a copy for my adult bookshelf.

Fearless by Francine Pascal
I happily read all the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books by the time I left middle school, and in my first year of high school, I found Pascal's more "grown up" series. I have posited before that I think this was my first exposure to a trope I see a lot in YA: the gorgeous girl with lethal fighting skills who can save the day when faced with evil but doesn't know that she lovely and hopeless with love. That's a thing :) There are about 36 installments in this series, I think? I only remember the first ten or so and mostly I remember swapping them with friends. I tried to reread them a few summers ago and they didn't age well, but the memories are nice.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Oh man, this one. I know there's a whole incredibly mystery and that is the magic of the story, but I loved the details of how Claudia pulled off the escape to the museum. Several random descriptive sentences have stayed with me powerfully for 25 years: the distaste Claudia has when Jamie eats mac and cheese for breakfast, even though she recognizes they had to eat something filling to get the most bang for their buck, and a line about how hard it is to hold on to a thought when you're starting to fall asleep. A descriptor about Claudia pinching the corner of an accidentally-discarded train pass and grimacing as she removed it from the trash- I can still see that. I don't have my copy out and haven't reread this in years, so Konigsburg's writing style has definitely stuck with me. I don't know if this one would hold up but man do I love it.

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney
Quick bonus title- OMG THIS BOOK! I know this baby holds up because I have fifth grade girls fighting over it right now. A girl eating lunch in the cafeteria sees her baby picture on a milk carton ad for missing persons. There are a bunch of companion titles that I also read, and a made-for-TV movie starring Kelly Martin that I'm not sure I ever saw but I feel like I did. I had to include this book!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

2018 Intentions

At the very end of 2017, I thought about what I wanted for this year. I went about this differently than I normally do- I usually review the year, then think about 10-15 amazing things that I want to add in, come up with ambitious plans about how to get better at the things that are messy/floundering/failing, and then create a shiny road map, a couple of Pinterest boards, and ultimately crumble within two months.

Last year, however, things were such a disaster at the end of the year that I was too stunned to do any of my scheming. I was over scheduled with a new job and classes and was late on most things (like seriously everything). I had stopped taking my medications a few months earlier, with pretty bad results. I was unhappy at home and plastering a smile on at work. One night I started crying and I couldn't stop. I wrote this blog post. It was one of the scariest times in my adult life. 

I went on a trip to Florida, a death in the family forcing me to fly down early with just one of my kids. This maybe saved me? I had such a tenuous grasp on my sanity that for the first time in my life, I literally could not do more than get through the next moment. I remember packing snacks to keep my son quiet during the funeral we were attending, using every ounce of my concentration to find a ziploc bag and fill it with Goldfish crackers. It was the kind of thing I did at home mindlessly, while also making dinner, checking Instagram, scanning the Book Riot Slack channel to snatch up an article idea, planning out my next discussion board post, and reminding a kid to hang up their backpack. It was something my hands could do without any permission from my brain. But on this day, in my mom's kitchen in Florida, it was a singular task. Snacks in bag, make sure you have wipes, find his shoes, find your shoes. For the first time ever, I was ready on time. 

I see the trip to Florida (I trip I was dreading, because trips are messy and tiring and I was already so messy and so tired and I just kept thinking, HOW WILL I SURVIVE THIS because even in serious crisis I am dramatic) as a reset button. That time where my only, seriously ONLY responsibility was getting my son and I dressed for whatever was happening next will always be precious to me. We were joined by my husband and other son a few days later, and I had calmed enough to enjoy them, to enjoy our family, to feel prepared for the rush and excitement of Disney at Christmas. The drive home was not awful (no amount of personal growth will let me cherish getting from FL to MA in two days), but on our actual return there was another shock. Walking back into our house was like walking back into the nightmare I had just slipped away from. Everything looked as frantic as I had felt in the days leading up to the emergency get away to Florida. Piles, unvacuumed carpets, mouldering birthday cake, a shedding Christmas tree. Homemaking was never my strongest skill, but I knew something needed to change. It was a second rude awakening. 

All of the above was on my mind when I tweeted out the intentions I shared above. This was not a declaration made after a ton of reflection- I did not comb through all of 2017's posts and carefully select the way forward. I went from the gut, something I am just learning to listen to and trust. I wrote one and then another until I realized that those feelings truly summed up exactly what I hoped this year would be. At nearly halfway through 2018, I find myself referencing these ideas ALL THE TIME. Some of them are already highly developed: we've completely redone the living room and everyone in the family has routine jobs with the end goal of feeling comfortable and happy when we walk in the front door, which is the last thing I felt in January. I changed medicines and found a therapist I really like. I only took one library class this semester, one that does not require me to rack up observation hours, and is actually just reviewing children's/YA books. I love it. I am reading with the boys and spending a bit more time with Ben. I need to do a better job of carving out time for pleasure writing and I need to do a better job of prioritizing exercise, but I'm getting there. I'm balancing. 

2017 knocked me off my axis, and being aware of that is harder than ignoring it. I could keep my head down and keep adding things to my plate, telling myself not to be dramatic and using a whole host of different things to keep myself numb, and I could maybe get a whole other year in before I had another breakdown. But instead, I've been using 2018 to examine, and question things. To take situations down to the studs and rebuild them. It's hard and messy, but it way that has results, so the mess doesn't feel like a complete waste. I'm figuring out what is important to me and what I can live without. It's so weird but I am ending up so happy. 

Nothing is perfect and I definitely still have my moments, but I am more able to put them in perspective than I was six months ago. I'm getting through 2018 very deliberately, mostly using eight off-the-cuff tweets to guide me, and so far, so good.