Friday, August 31, 2007

Decatur Book Festival

today began the 2nd annual Decatur (GA) Book festival. I went to see a few author there last year and my favorite part about the whole festival was just walking around the square in Decatur and being around other people who LOVE books and reading and literature. i am hoping to go on Sunday to see Melinda Long, author of How I Became a Pirate. I have an ulterior motive in seeing Ms. Long, I am hoping to bring her to my school this year as a guest author! this also gives me an excuse to visit my favorite children's book store, Little Shop of Stories in downtown Decatur. I've blogged about this store before and it really is a special place, I just wish it were closer!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Letters to a Young Teacher

Today in the Atlanta Journal Constitution there was an excerpt (which I cannot find available online) of the new book by Jonathan Kozol titled Letters to a Young Teacher . The chapter excepted was titled Down with Middle School. I was especially interested in what he had to say, since I am a parent of a new middle schooler and I have previously taught in a K-8 school. He was talking about inner city schools specifically, but his suggestion was, do away with middle schools. Have K-8 schools, where older students can mentor or help "teach" the younger students, have the older students have a sense of responsibility for the younger students in the school. I have to say, that I agree with this. One of the things I loved about working in a K-8 school is that the middle school kids had younger "buddy" classes that they read to or did projects with throughout the year. My daughter is STILL in touch with her 8th grade buddy that she had in kindergarten, she is in 4th grade now and the "buddy" will be graduating high school this year.

He also touches on the fact that so many of middle and high schools are overcrowded. I am in the MECCA of large schools. My current school has an enrollment of about 1100 students (K-5), believe it or not, we are not overcrowded or even over the projected enrollment for our building size, we are just a HUGE school. Now, many of the middle and high schools in this area do not face the problems that Mr. Kozol talks about, such as the schools looking worn down since many of the schools in my area are new, but I am certain that many of the schools are affected in many ways because of their sizes. One of the quotes from the article that I loved was : "I believe aesthetics count a great deal in the education of our children. Beautiful surroundings refine the souls of children. Ugly surroundings coarsen their mentalities. It's one of the most decisive ways in which we draw the line of caste and class between two very different sectors of our student population." It makes me feel good about what I do in the media center in terms of making it a bright and inviting place to be."

I now have to go check the book out of the library, I am very interested in what else he has to say on the subject of education in America today.

I forget how EXHAUSTING...

the first few weeks of school are! Between lunch duty (with Kindergarten no less) and running around the school delivering teachers books and overheads and overhead bulbs not to mention doing my orientation (to 5th grade last week) and trying to learn the names of not only the staff, but now the students. I have had many things I have wanted to blog about, but am just to darn tired at the end of the day, which doesn't end once I leave school, with three kids in 3 different activities, I run around town the rest of the night! I can't wait until our area has public WiFi, then I can blog and work on the net while sitting at football practice!

Another note, or should I say a complaint. It has been over 100 degrees almost every day since school started (10 days ago) and many of our classes are not going outside for recess because the air quality if very poor and our poor PE teachers, the gym is not air conditioned, so PE is a very HOT activity no matter where they have it. A year or so ago the Georgia Assembly tried to pass a law that stated that school could not start in the State of Georgia before the 4th week of August. While next week is the 4th week of August and it is predicted to be almost as hot (I hear it might cool down to 89!!), I think for the health of the students and staff, they need to look at this again. not to mention how much they are spending to cool off the schools!

Luckily for me, the media center at my school seems to be the coolest spot in the building!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Media Center orientation

In a school as big as mine (approx. 1100 students K-5) I figure that I will spend a better part of the next month getting all the classes in for a 30 minute media center orientation. Since this is my first year at this school, not only will I be teaching the kids the rules of the media center and how to care for library books, I will be introducing them to ME. My first year of being a media specialist I came up with the idea of using a "mascot" to help me teach the rules. At my old school I adopted a giant bear who stood guard in the office (I believe he had been donated to the school and they couldn't think of anywhere to put him so he ended up in the office). I created a PowerPoint with the bear "acting" out the rules. When I moved school, I wanted to use the same approach, but needed to find a new mascot. The school's mascot is a raptor, and as luck would have it, they didn't have a life-size raptor I could use, SO I did what any media specialist would do, I turned to the Internet. What I came up with was not quite a raptor, but was in the dinosaur family and had two of my requirements, it was large and cheap (Oriental Trading, the teachers best friend). So I've attached a few pictures of my "raptor". He doesn't have a name yet, but that is part of my presentation, a contest to name him. I will share some of the suggestions I get from my students.

My raptor returns his library books......

and Raptor never goes out of the playground with his books....

and Raptor always uses a shelf marker....

one more, Raptor in front of my office window, isn't the mural FABULOUS!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Odds and Ends from the Blogosphere

thanks to Jen and Miss erin for the news that Noel Streatfeld's Ballet Shoes will be made into a BBC movie. I *hope* that it is shown in the US - I love the book and introduced it to my daughter who also loved it!

And thanks to fuse#8 I can add another reason to not like the First Lady very much. She is poised to become a children's book author. While she WAS a school librarian and hence has a few more qualifications to write a children's book, say more than any other first lady, the idea of another celebrity book is just, well icky. Even worse, will be the fact that I am SURE that I will have parents asking me to buy it for the media center as soon as it is published.

And on a totally unrelated note, school starts tomorrow for my kids (and my students) and right now my 9 year old daughter is dancing around the house asking to go to bed and singing "I can't wait to go to school!" - I'm not sure how I ended up with this kid!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


It has been a whirlwind week getting the media center ready for the students on Monday, getting used to how things are done at my new school and meeting the HUGE staff at my new school. Everyone seems really nice and the school environment seems to be great, but it is frustrating for me to have to keep asking people their names, but hopefully by the end of the school year I will know most of them - I can't even imagine when the kids come in on Monday, 1100 names and faces to remember - YIKES!

I came across a video called Did You Know the other day that really makes you think. It was created by an educator in Colorado last year and he has updated it. The music is a little annoying, but the statistics are really amazing. As educators I think that we need to think about how different life is for our students than it was for us and how different their adult lives will be. The creator of the video explains why he made it at his blog, The FischBowl, I think it is one of those things that every educator should see before they head into school this year.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A New Begining

For those of us in the education field the first day of planning for the new school year is like New Years day, full of promise and exciting things. Full of expectations and new ideas.

Tomorrow is my official first day of school. I have had a few days of training at the county office and at the school since I am new to this school, but tomorrow is day 1 of my 190 day contract. I have been busy this weekend getting supplies and navigating my new laptop (provided by the school) and doing lots of thinking. Thinking about all the ideas I have for the new school year. Thinking about how I can take those ideas and make them into meaningful lessons for the students. Thinking about how I am going to get the teachers on-board with me so I can do all these cool lessons with the students.

As Tom Hanks types to Meg Ryan in the movie You've Got Mail
" Don't you love New York in the Fall. It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, if I knew your name and address."

So, although here in Atlanta we are far from Fall (I think the high will be in the 90's tomorrow) I am thinking about bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils and the start of what I hope will be a great year.