Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nine months a year

"Must be nice to have the summers off."

What a fiction! Of course, some of my colleagues might spend two scant months by the pool, but I will be working pretty much every week. School was over Thursday, but I was back yesterday for a couple of meetings and have promised to pop in Monday as well. I am going away Tuesday, so will not be accessible for the rest of next week. What will they do without me? Muddle through, I am sure.

I have been keeping summer at bay with school. It is easier to check out books and make small talk about Sara Zarr and Barry Lyga than scramble around putting together all sorts of presentations and handouts, which experience have taught me are absolute requisites, no paper handouts having been well-noted in evaluations.  And why am I running around the country like a madwoman, spending all my disposable income on supporting my own and other people's professional development? Once I am caught up in the conferences themselves, meeting all sorts of amazing librarians and authors, I will forget these doubts. For now, the pool is looking rather attractive.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Do Something, or the Squeeky Wheel

Last week, I had a personal triumph. After begging my local school tech contact time and again to defrag my student machines and remove the student profiles downloaded whenever even one logs in (and some on the computers had THOUSANDS of profiles, accumulated over 5 years of computer life), I was really at the end of my rope. I know our young people are ridiculously impatient when it comes to the school hardware, what with the slowness concurrent with live virus scanning and net nannying, but some of the machines had available disk space in the single digit percents. Students couldn't even log I raised a cry, going beyong the building and getting almost instant help from my district computer services folks -- the same group had told me last fall it was the building contact's responsibility to maintain them. But it was a case where voicing my need worked well to rectify the situation.

This weekend, reading Barbara Ehrenreich's column "Trying to Find a Job is Not a Job," , I realized that I, too, was guilty of the passivity Ehreneich identifies a current phenomenon. Since I could grouse all the time, I worry I will be branded "the problem" or "the complainer." I have never asked my principal for anything for the library -- not one thing. But I need more computer furniture, new carpet, and money for books since we won't be getting any next year.

In the same vein, I have been too scared to call the faculty assigned to act as my dissertation committee. What if they are mean to me, what if they tell me no? It's all hazing, the doc. process, but I am going to screw my courage to the sticking post and do something. After all, it could turn out a lot better than I have hoped.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Casting into dark waters

When public school teachers achieve National Board Certification in the state of Alabama, they receive $5,000 for classroom materials. This year, we only received $4,000, but that's a story for another day. Like everything involved with education, there are some strictures and limitations. I can take 60% of the materials with me, should I choose to leave the district for another school in the state, 100% of my materials should I transfer to another school in the system, and I forfeit it entirely if I leave Alabama public K-12.

It was exciting have money to use to really enhance my instructional space. Unfortunately, I had to break down and buy and a $850 PC first thing, so maybe I could run my circulation system and read email simultaneously without restarting the computer four times a day. Then I was seduced by technology, and bought a $400 Mobi tablet that's no better than the $35 one I have at home for my minimal requirements. My funds were dwindling, but I had my eye on one more splurge, one that just about me that 60% I could take within the state, too -- a Mac.

Now, I work in a PC district. When I asked our instructional technology specialist about Apples (she has a very cute little Macbook, I have seen it), she passed word up what I wanted. I had to write a rationale and get my principal to sign it, harrowingly enough. When I finally got around to ordering the thing, I was slightly horrified at the sheer cost of it. I was spending $2400 for a computer (and that didn't include the $400 for Microsoft Office!) when I could have bought a dozen netbooks for my students. Well, in an ideal world -- at my school, I could have bought 5 PCs, of 2 1/2 laptops, given the network requirements.

But when I see the iMovies and the really slick slideshows people cobble together with that software, I want to play, too. But part of me wonders why am I spending this money for an Apple? What is it about them that is so seductive? I'm not even a position to answer, I haven't really played with one since I left my little box at college in 1995. Take that back, did play with one at a multimedia workshop in Ann Arbor, it left me in tears. I remain utterly dependent on the right click. Did I throw all my classroom money away on this computer which doesn't interface with our school networks basically at all? That remains to be seen, I suppose.