Tuesday, September 18, 2018

School is in full swing and I'm spinning just a bit...

We have a new schedule this year and it makes my head spin just a little. We went from a 6-day cycle to a 4-day cycle. This means classes of students rotate into the library (or art, P.E. & music) every 4 days.  Because they are rotating quicker my days are filled with 7 classes almost every day, leaving very little prep time or time to work on library projects like processing new books.  The elementary school where I work has the most students in the district and to create balance I have two other librarians with smaller populations who come to my school for equity purposes; one teaches a solo class of kindergartners, the other teaches two afternoons of k, 1st, and 2nd grades, which does give me time to work independently sometimes.

Seeing students more frequently gives me the opportunity to explore new avenues with them. I've gone back to reading chapter books aloud. I'm reading The Map Trap by Andrew Clements to 3rd grade, Wish by Barbara O'Connor to 4th grade, Liberty by Kirby Larson to 5th grade, and Horizon by Scott Westerfeld to 6th grade.  We have book discussions and still have time to do a short lesson on a skill plus check out books. I'm enjoying my time with students and implementing some of the ideas from my summer classes- a lot of which involves bringing more JOY to their day.

The great downfall is that we've built a fantastic set of readers at my school.  They use the library when they finish a book, not waiting until their next library time, to find their next great read. I love that kids are pumped about reading. My first few days of school were filled with writing down recommendations from students of books they'd read over the summer and want to have here.  You say "what's the downfall in all that?" Well, it has two sides; I spend a good portion of my day helping students find books and checking them out in our system because I've raised readers! - usually, this is during times when I'm supposed to be planning or eating lunch so my day gets all mixed up and I miss those days when I'd only have 3-4 classes with breaks in between to get work done. I feel a little more rushed at certain parts of the day and more laid back while students in our library space. It's an adjustment and I'm adjusting.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer Reading List 2018

I managed to do quite a bit of reading this summer and as we just turned the calendar page from August to September I'd love to share what I read.


June:

1. A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler - okay
2. Tangerine by Christine Mangan -interesting locale, predictable story
3. Real Friends by Shannon Hale - beautiful and brilliant graphic novel
4. The self-driven child: the science and sense of giving your kids more control by William Stixrud - excellent advice, easy to read
5. Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha - odd, kids may like it
6. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade - loved it and I'm going to her workshop
7. The adventures of a girl called Bicycle by Christina Uss - cool adventure
8. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova - loved it!


July:

9. The honest truth by Dan Gemeinhart - loved it as much as I loved Some kind of courage by Gemeinhart
10. The tea girl of hummingbird lane by Lisa See - really interesting story
11. The Formative Five by Thomas Hoerr -school work yet interesting
12. The mysterious moonstone by Eric Luper -surprisingly good for a beginning chapter book, plus a shout out to libraries!
13. Everything, everything by Nicola Yoon - Interesting story, a major surprise, and a strong female character
14. Creative Schools by Ken Robinson -school work and I learned a lot
15. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm - great, emotional story

August:


16. All Rise for the honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Conner -loved it
17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng - excellent story
18. Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai - wonderful story to help anyone understand the conflict in Syria
19. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson - quirky mystery with a look at the past
20. Horizon by Scott Westerfield - twisted sci-fi and I'm now reading it to 6th-grade students


20 books in one summer is great even with all the homework I did. Hopefully, you might find something here that will appeal to your own reading tastes.







Thursday, August 30, 2018

Jason Mraz


Last weekend I took my husband to a Jason Mraz concert for our anniversary. It was simply fantastic! He and his band put on a show filled with love and joy and had us swaying our arms and dancing in our aisles. Mraz's band plus Raining Jane, an all-female foursome of talented musician/singers made it really vibrant! His opening band, Brett Dennen, was new to us and we loved his relaxed Southern California vibe. The whole night was meant to fill us up and bring us "Good Vibes" and it certainly accomplished that for both of us and the hundreds of others sitting outside with us.

{Chris Schorn Photos}

Here is a little Mraz playlist and Brett Dennen via Spotify for you to enjoy.

With all that love flowing around us it was hard to watch one woman one row ahead of us who spent the concert alternately flipping through Facebook posts and videotaping whole segments of the show and then listening to them right after. Peace, love, happiness and all that; I know she has the right to watch the show in her own way. It was distracting and annoying and yet just a small blip of an otherwise magical show. We left singing and smiling...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Back to school


The end of school vacation is here. {try not to sob} 

Summer remains-I prefer a long summer. This summer was the busiest I've had in a long time. Two grad classes to spark my imagination and recreate my classroom and two lovely vacations to relax my brain and prepare for the year ahead. I'm ready to celebrate more JOY at school and at home. I've finally fallen head first back into my yoga practice and feel ready to keep that going every day with intention.  Today as I practiced my mind took me back to Loon Lake in Northern Minnesota. A perfectly calm place to be.


Groovy Girl is back at the dance thing and we'll spend 4 nights at the studio each week. We've picked up a small batch of school supplies here and there. Today she managed to choose a new backpack (difficult b/c of ALL the choices) but she prefers to wait until her classes begin to see what she really needs. I'm freaked out about the need for a $180.00 graphing calculator...?   I'm also shocked that my baby is a junior in high school and my firstborn is about to graduate from college! My - how time flies. It seems like yesterday that I was rocking my way through library grad school with a 6-year-old and a baby. And now I'm in my 16th year of teaching.


This past week I've made new binders for myself, got a little organized, mentally prepared my brain, and made a new batch of my homemade salsa.  My mom has huge batches of tomatoes and I wanted to remind myself of all the steps so I did it alone one night this week; chopping onions, banana peppers, jalapenos, and skinning 20 cups of hot tomatoes while listening to music. It was magic in motion and a whirlwind of hot, spicy, and a few tears shed to get to the final-6 jars of salsa!


I made a simple dinner tonight with farmers market fare and I've had a lovely glass of pinot noir. I ate an amazing dark chocolate bar with blackberry sage and I shared with G, J, and K. In a few minutes, I'm going off to do a little bedtime yoga. This year is going to fly by and I want it to begin (and end) with flare. Are you ready for school?


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Slow August Day in Fertile

{Cloth napkins-YES!}
We had an lovely vacation getaway in Northern Minnesota the past long week. It was spectacular and I have many stories to tell but on the way home, we stopped at an amazing restaurant, Cafe Mir, in the small town of Fertile, IA. Honestly, I'd never heard of Fertile before today. Now I'm a fan and I will be back. I was impressed that they have their own small public library.

My mom's garden provides swiss chard to the chef and they use sustainable, local ingredients when possible. Not hard to do when you're in Iowa; we have so much produce and organic farmers raising sustainable meat. While many restaurants are on this bandwagon not always is the food as amazing as the concept. Everything we ordered was delicious. There were 5 of us and we ordered a sauteed eggplant dish as a starter, and as meals, we had a pork and beef lasagna, a braised leg of lamb, Hrbek's ribeye steak, and a wood-fired Margherita pizza for Groovy Girl. I had a "cornucopia salad for dinner, the lighter eater that I am, which is roasted sweet corn, feta, mixed hot and sweet peppers, cilantro, and lime.  It was such a refreshing combination and a perfect amount. We had rhubarb pie for dessert and they make their own fresh bread as well. 

{rhubarb pie}
The table was interesting with a lot of mismatched glasses, plates, and bowls giving it an authentic old farmhouse appeal. Also, they used real cotton napkins which just warmed my heart. I don't know when I'm going to take the time to drive an hour and a half north to dine again at Cafe Mir but I know there are other treats on the menu I want to try. Road trip anyone...?  I'm also curious to see what they will change seasonally. 

{unassuming front of Cafe Mir}
After being on vacation I am realizing that my need for real food, homecooked, slow-cooked grub plus my natural inclination to eat small meals is often confounding to people. I just like to know where my food comes from and I've purposely spoiled myself. I like real greens not iceberg lettuce in a salad. Why bother? I'm not a meat eater and I prefer small batches of food compared to large platefuls. I'm not trying to be a pain; I just like what I like.   

Monday, July 30, 2018

Highlights of summer

I finished all the assignments for one of my grad classes and am on the homestretch for the last class, Creative Schools. My major goal is to finish before my birthday which is just around the corner! I've done some deep learning and am excited to implement changes in my library this next year based on the two books I read.

(Source)
My stepsister, Robin, and her family came to town for a weekend.  I made these delicious dairy-free rhubarb-pecan muffins for breakfast one morning. I liked that the recipe had orange juice and orange zest as ingredients and I substituted lemon zest because that's what I had. They were really easy to pull together and came out nice and soft. Diana, my niece was my assistant baker and took care of all the mixing and measuring. I found lots of great rhubarb recipes and these muffins at Thyme and Love look really good to try too.

I'm on the last legs of a major summer cold, luckily it's lasted just about a week. We've gone through a major amount of kleenex between G.G., husband and myself. Which by the way he finished RAGBRAI on Saturday in good spirits. I'm happy to drop him off for his start and I'm happy to pick him back up again, safe and sound. Ragbrai is his happy place.

Yesterday I hosted my 2nd annual Croquet & Cocktails game and it was perfect weather for it. We had snacks and margaritas and hit the balls around with heavy mallets in thick grass. It was a perfect summer break with teacher friends especially because that morning I'd finished the 3rd module of this last class. Today I started on module 4 and should be able to finish in the next few days. I'm school obsessed right now.

What have I been reading other than Creative Schools and Formative Five you ask? I finished Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.  Thanks to Verda and Sela for the push to read it. Now I have to find time with Groovy Girl to watch the movie. She was dubious about the story; she liked it, read it just a few days, but was like, that wouldn't really happen. Maybe she is more of a nonfiction, biography reader?  I loved the story and yes, it is somewhat unbelievable but that's what fiction is! 
If you haven't read it please pick it up from your local library. 


Quick review: Madeline is sick and she cannot handle outside germs so she has been inside her (fancy) house for years. One day a new family moves in next door and she meets a boy, Olly, through the window. Her house nurse, Carla, conspires with her so the two can meet inside her airtight, vacuum sealed house.  Young love-it can't be beat. What would you do for love and how do you protect those you love? 


I'm now reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Until I finish the very last homework assignment I only have a few minutes to read at night. This one is very good though and I'll read more by both Ng and Yoon.

What are you reading? What have you filled your summer up with so far? 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Summer classes

I have two grad classes this summer and they are not easy; lots of homework, and projects. The good thing is I am learning quite a bit and the two books assigned are both very good.


The Formative five: fostering grit, empathy, and other success skills every student needs by Thomas R. Hoerr

This book explains how schools need to get back to the "basics" of teaching a deeper thought process so our students will be better achievers in the job market.  Grit, embracing diversity, integrity, empathy, and self-control encompass the skills they need to be successful. The book breaks down each skill and shares methods to integrate into every day. This was an easy read and I will use the new ideas with students. I've already compiled lists of picture books to use with students that highlight each essential word. 


Creative Schools by Ken Robinson, Ph. D.

I've watched Ken Robinson's Ted Talk "Do schools kill creativity?" and the book extends that thinking. The book shares many examples of schools and programs that are reaching beyond the normal school day.  Like Thomas Hoerr, Ken Robinson is looking for a different type of education for all of our students.  His ideas are radical and very interesting to me.  The book makes me want to set my classes up differently and not sweat the small or big stuff; students need to enjoy school more to keep their creativity and the joy of learning alive! 


Outside of my summer studies, I read The tea girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See for book club. See does an amazing amount of research for her books and this one is no exception. This one has great characters, lots of information about the Ahka hill tribe in China, and the tea industry. If you are looking for a good, thrilling read-give this one a try.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Inspired food

(Fuji Mama 1-hour bread)
Last week I offered to make a meal for a theatre set designer and old friend who traveled from St. Paul, MN to come and help put his design into action and work with my husband.  Because we haven't seen this old friend for awhile I offered to make him dinner so we could relax and talk together. I made a pasta sauce from one of my Giada cookbooks, a simple salad and this bread from Fuji Mama -Simple One Hour Homemade Bread

You see I'd forgotten to pick up a baguette to round out this Italian-inspired meal and I knew I needed bread or the meal would feel incomplete to our guest.  When I shared my concern with Groovy Girl, she said: "just make some bread!" What!? but of course, I know how to make bread and have many recipes to follow for wonderful crispy loaves yet they all take at least a couple of hours to create. I had less than 2 hours.  Her answer to this: "just Google it". So simple!

After a quick search for fast homemade bread, I found Fuji Mama's easy recipe and we loved it. It makes 2 peasant loaves that cook in 25 minutes. They were crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, the perfect combo. 

Here is Giada's Bolognese Sauce that I tossed over fettuccine noodles. The meal was delicious, the conversation lively, and ended with another mutual friend's treat of cookies. 

I'm short on time for everything I do this summer.  Two grad classes are keeping me seriously hopping.  The two books I'm reading to go along with each class are interesting, The Formative Five by Thomas R. Hoerr and Creative Schools by Ken Robinson, but the assignments cause me to think HARD for hours at a time-not my favorite summer activity.  I just want to be reading chapter books for school, hanging in my hammock, or cooking.