Friday, August 19, 2011

What has been missing from my educational leadership coursework

Being in the middle of two different grad programs simultaneously has been making me a little nuts, but last night something rather incredible happened.

I had comprehensive exams for the educational leadership certificate. We had to prepare a position paper on a controversial topic, and I chose school libraries materials challenges. Frankly, I wanted a little soapbox to talk about libraries, because they hadn't come up at all in the coursework. Not even one sideways mention of school libraries. If I had a nickel for every mention of coaches, or even yearbook sponsors, I'd be heading to Starbucks, but not one little utterance, from professors or practitioners, about the librarian and the media center. And, otherwise, the curriculum has seemed both pragmatic and exhaustive. So I wrote about materials selection policies and the importance of school libraries as laboratories for intellectual freedom and the wisdom of following an objection procedure to mitigate your chances of appearing in Censorship Watch.

In an intersting pedagogical twist, we had to describe and defend each other's papers. Anyway, after we completed the exam portion, the director of the program, who happens to be one of those indefatiguable educators, in his 70s but still energetic and incredibly thoughtful, said, as he wished us well, "I realize now we have two holes in the curriculum, libraries and counseling. We should cover those."


Now I have a two-week internship, a week each in two elementary schools in my district, then the Praxis next month...and then I can focus entirely on getting my dissertation proposal together for my other grad program...

Friday, August 12, 2011


I facilitated a two and a half hour literacy workshop for our faculty yeterday morning. It was really unlike anything I've ever done at school in that I did not break a sweat. Granted, it wasn't terribly demanding of me -- I introduced two hours of Cris Tovani video and led discussion every half hour, in between tapes (yes, we use VCRs, go head and laugh). But I do usually get anxious when I have to present anything to the whole staff.

I often talk to larger groups, usually librarians or technology teachers, but for some reason speaking to my own faculty always worries me out of all proportion. Maybe it's all the men, the sometimes loutish coaches (I mean the one who left the Mountain Dew can with the tobacco spit out in it where I had to pick it up this morning. Yuck!). I'm starting my tenth school year here, so maybe I have the veteran status which quiets them. Maybe it's because I'm old enough to not play the smiling ingenue. Or maybe just because I'm on my game after a summer off. Or maybe it was the incredibly applicable strategies Tovani showcased. Whatever the reason, I felt like the group was actually quite easy to manage and even engage on the topic of improving adolescent literacy, our school-wide mission.

We've 76 certified staff members, down from 81 last year, and of course more students. Our really wonderful principal, who has been in that position almost three decades, announced he will be retiring December 1st. When school starts on Monday, the classes will be huge, and this will probably be a third year without instructional supply money, including library materials funding. But, on the whole, it seemed like everyone was in an incredibly positive mood, despite the S.O.S. Rally, despite the teacher-bashing in the media, and despite the sense of gloom and doom from outside. We have eight new teachers, and I'm particularly excited about our new social studies department chair, since I especially love to work with history classes.

Today, my terrific paraprofessional aide returns, and I'll hold a website training for new faculty. I have a few new books I begged and borrowed to get to our kids, and four computers in the back room. If I can figure out a way to get them on the network, it would bring us to 18, which is how many we would need to accomodate a class with 2 students per machine. Since getting the second librarian unit for the second semester last year, I've been in the building more and have both recovered and scavenged some things.

I am trying to relax and savor the possibility and promise of this fresh start. Who knows where I'll be this time next year...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Could riots in London be bad for students in Alabama?

I have been trying to push for the use of student-owned hardware to help improve the overall level of technology integration in K-12 education for a bit. Now, in addition to the anxieties about cheating and sexting, I have to worry about one of the subtler thematic elements playing out now in the press coverage of the London riots, that of the subversive possibilities of organization, be it political or criminal, via mobile devices.

While the Blackberry might be uniquely suited for these purposes (and, meanwhile, I am the only one noticing the predeliction for BBs among teen texters, especially if they have a model with a grandfathered "text-only" plan without data?), I worry that the hysteria will extend to any device which allows students to communicate. Pencil and paper? Slates and chalk?

I guess I have been thinking a lot about organization versus control in school environments. I have been wondering how many policies have been put into place because of the inability of a handful of teachers to manage their students. But, chasing cell phones, I feel a little like these blundering security guards, pulling at some straws related to terror attacks:

Meanwhile, I have resorted to the Torygraph.