The New Job

I’ve refrained from saying a lot, but the news is out. About three weeks ago, I resigned as a high school/middle school ESL teacher. About two weeks ago, I started as the high school library media specialist in a new district. Many have shared their congratulations, which is sweet, but congratulations have been hard for me to accept. While I ultimately have been looking forward to making this change eventually, I ethically have a problem with breaking a contract (that’s why it’s a contract, you know–because you make a commitment), but the circumstances were such that I did it anyway.

As I considered the possibility, I ultimately landed on a dating analogy about how sometimes you spend too much time with someone who is good enough, but ultimately you know it’s probably not what you want for yourself.

For the record, the political climate here in Wisconsin in regards to public education has made this an even more difficult–and expensive–feat. For example, the fine was five percent of my salary. Do the math in your own life; who has that kind of money to throw around? Not me. The adage that “if you don’t like it, find something else to do” is a pretty tall order. But trapped animal that I was in this situation, I chose my happiness. That is all I will say.

It has been wild trying to properly wrap up one job that I was deeply invested in and learn a new one at the same time. The position was empty for the first week of school (and the teacher prep-time the week before), so there was also a bit of catch up to do. It is also very peculiar to go into a job not as an expert, but as a rookie again. This is my first real experience in a school library. (So far, I am so thankful for everything I’ve learned working with children’s literature at the CCBC! What a life-changer!)

So the new job… well, I find myself looking forward to going to work on Monday morning. (By Thursday and Friday morning, I feel exhausted as usual when I get up, but at least it’s not dread!) I was starting to forget that feeling! The school is a one-to-one school, actually the district grades 4-12 is one-to-one–this means that every student has their own school-issued Chromebook. (They lease every three years. Outside of that, I don’t know how they pay.) Every teacher has a MacBook Air and they teach on an A-B block (four periods that meet every other day). Also there is a homeroom/flex period for enrichment/support/remediation that teachers personally schedule the kids in. Every staff member–including the principal, counselor, librarian, etc. participates in the scheduling and teaching of the flex period.

A large part of my responsibilities now is to manage the flow of broken and repaired Chromebooks and our loaners. Lots of cracked screens and charger port problems (this is year 3 of the lease). A big perk I’m noticing about all the kids having a uniform device like a Chromebook is that we can pass along a lot of our messages to students through email or chat–thus eliminating the constant overhead announcements like “Will so-and-so please report to the attendance office? So-and-so to the attendance office” that kill your ears all day long. It is just so much calmer without that. Also, it is sooooooo cool to look around at students productively working on their devices–not just Facebook and YouTube.

My new school has a great reading culture going on, and it seems like a lot of kids approach me looking for “a good book” (dream come true!). I am also trying to wrap my head around the budget money I have available and getting some orders pushed through. I am also working on setting up a MinecraftEDU server because I have this tremendous pile of teenage boys who come in during “breakfast break” and sit on my library couches playing Minecraft on their respective personal mobile devices. What an opportunity! My principal is really hoping to re-work a back room in the library and have me create a Makerspace area in there too. What an even bigger opportunity!

Wish me luck, clarity and grace as I travel down this road. I feel like it was the right, err, a good, umm, a solid decision. I pray that I look back on this tumultuous August someday with affection and relief.

Much Ado About Me?!

Herb KohlOn a personal note, if you hadn’t heard, I was named one of 100 educators in the state of Wisconsin to be honored as a 2014 Kohl Excellence in Education fellow. (These are the teachers that are then considered for the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year Award… I actually met our winner at a Read On Wisconsin Advisory Committee meeting a few weeks back. She is an 8th grade language arts teacher from Baraboo and is far more worthy than me!)

Kohl FellowThe Kohl Award is a big deal and a big honor. They printed a wonderful article about me in the local newspaper last week. I am so very humbled!

WIABE awardAlso, back in April I was honored at the Wisconsin Association of Bilingual Education as one of 13 “Educators of the Year.” Talk about a humbling experience! I was presented with a beautiful glass award and congratulated by all sorts of bilingual educators and supporters.

Now, I am proud of the work I do, but when in such company, I definitely don’t feel worthy. I am a long ways from being qualified enough to be a licensed bilingual teacher. It was the second time I had attended this conference, and I was reminded of how far I have to go.

The reason I bring it up, though, is because it really made me think. If you have ever seen a bilingual or dual-language classroom, it is remarkable. These are people who are truly bilingual (whereas I am “good enough” with Spanish) working with little kids, teaching them to be fully biliterate. These are the people who NEED quality bilingual books and Spanish-language books to be published, because these children depend on them!

Bilingual Educators of the Year

Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/wisconsinassociationforbilingualeducation

One of my high school students was honored at the same conference yesterday for winning the essay contest at the high school level. I work with a lot of bilingual kids, but the bilterate piece (reading and writing, not just oral/aural proficiency) is much more elusive. His winning essay was about how he doesn’t feel like he is bilingual or biliterate yet but can see the value in it and wants to keep working on it. It’s easy to get swept up in the language of the dominant culture, and let heritage languages go.

Melvin got to read his essay in front of the group gathered at the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education on April 12, 2014. He did an amazing job. Here is a video of his “performance”:

It’s kids like him who deserve the recognition… I’m just along for the ride!

(P.S. One of my teacher friends is a big proponent of “Things come in 3s”… and she insists that I’ve got another thing coming. I’m hoping that if she’s right that the hail-damage to my car last week wasn’t it–I’d much prefer an engagement ring or winning the lottery. Heck, I’d even take some free tuition money!)

That’s What I Like About You

I did my undergrad at Marquette University, a Catholic Jesuit school located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While I love Marquette, it was ridiculously expensive, especially considering the value and quality of the flagship public university here. Hindsight’s 20/20, right?

In my experience, the cool thing about a Jesuit university, is that while we were required to take an extensive core curriculum, including significant amounts of theology and philosophy, I never felt like their religious views were being crammed down our throats. In fact, it was more like, “Yes, this is what we [as Catholics] believe, but here are ALL of the points of view. You decide.”

Or, in the words of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities:

Jesuit colleges and universities are places of intellectual integrity, critical inquiry, and mutual respect, where open dialogue characterizes an exciting environment of teaching, research and professional development. The Jesuit ideal of giving serious attention to the profound questions about the meaning of life encourages an openness of mind and heart, and seeks to establish campus communities which support the intellectual growth of all of its members while providing them with opportunities for spiritual growth and development.

All in all, I loved the Jesuit approach to education because it honored my liberty of thought. It’s funny, but it is exactly THAT emphasis on liberty of thought that draws me to Library and Information Studies as well.

Consider this, from the ALA on Collection Development:

Librarians have a professional responsibility to be fair, just, and equitable and to give all library users equal protection in guarding against violation of the library patron’s right to read, view, or listen to materials and resources protected by the First Amendment, no matter what the viewpoint of the author, creator, or selector.

Basically, one of the tenants of librarianship in the United States is intellectual freedom. Between that and an emphasis on privacy protection for patrons, the ALA’s view on intellectual development is right up my alley.

The Renaissance

This blog has been reborn. Actually, this post has been reborn too. Reborn in the way that the internet ate the first post I wrote just as I was ready to post it (and apparently there was no draft temporarily saved) and now I have a second chance to write it again. I just want to go to bed after all that, but I feel like I need to try to re-create what was lost, even if it is more succinct and less jovial.

As of September 9, 2012, this blog (formerly known as “Lead me not into temptation, especially not bookstores” located at www.learn.thecorkboard.org/hennebe) migrated to www.liburiedalive.com. The new name, “Li-buried Alive,” is a play on the mispronunciation of the word “library” by little kids. As for the “buried alive,” the focus is more on the “alive” part, since I believe that libraries are very much alive. You could say they are a “buried treasure” that just needs to be sought after.

Even though I do not have my former instructor Kyle prompting me on blog post topics and timing, I still have plenty to say (without the pressure of writing something that I knew was being graded). In fact, I have a small stock-pile of notes that I want to translate into posts.

Obviously, there was a bit of a silence from me since my last post in August. Let’s just say that August was rather tumultuous for me personally (and I’m glad it’s over). And well, September was back to school–the day-job kind, not the higher-ed pursuit. Things are a bit more under control around here and now that both organization and inspiration have struck, we’re back online!

Speaking of my day-job, if you weren’t aware, I am a high school ESL teacher. I am working on a new teacher website for the ELL program that I run at www.fortesl.wordpress.com. It’s not live for the students/parents yet, but I’m liking how it looks so far.

Oh yeah, introductions…

This morning, I am sitting on the terrace at Memorial Union waiting for class to begin. Not because I’m an early bird, but because I got a ride this morning and that’s how things went. It is a beautiful morning though, so I shan’t complain.

A little more about me, for those who are interested. I am beginning my studies in LIS this summer, as I concurrently take a Children’s Literature course and a Digital Tools, Trends and Debates course. They overlap for about three weeks, so for a little while, I’ve got a ton of reading to to. Good thing I like to read, right?

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in Library Science, but I always let myself (or others) talk me out of it. *You’re in the middle of a program, just finish it. You don’t need a second Master’s. There are no jobs! Especially now that everything is online. You wouldn’t like the politics (HA! You think I don’t know about politics–I’m a Wisconsin schoolteacher!). You’re too old to start a third career.* I could go on and on. But forget it, long story short, I’m doing it. It’s what I want and you only have one life!

I didn’t figure this out and get decisive until this February and it was too late for me to be admitted for fall at that point. So instead, I am a “special student” until [hopefully] fall of 2013. Special, indeed!

Since I am a schoolteacher (I teach high school English as a Second Language), it makes the most sense for me to pursue my certification as a Library Media Specialist (school libraries). I also wouldn’t mind working in a public library someday if I decided I wanted out of K-12 land. I plan on keeping my job and working full-time, doing grad school part-time. That’s the plan at least.

You have no idea how exciting and refreshing this library stuff is for me! I always joke about how what I do (ESL) was a plan B for me and even though I do like it, it’s so cool to go after a dream!