End of a semester

Today is the last day of my first semester in graduate school. I have been reflecting. Here is what I have come up with:

  • I am a horrible formal writer, but have improved immensely in just a few months. 
  • I thought being a librarian was going to be about books. I was wrong, but I am learning all the amazing that it can be and I find that exciting. 
  • I need to work on my procrastination.
  • I am proud of myself for reading so many young adult books, even while taking this course, and having the baby, and working, and singing, and cooking and cleaning. 
  • I need to read & re-read more library science articles.
  • I need to talk more to my librarian and my mentor. They are great resources.
  • I love that this class, INFO 5001, has been a, what feels like, comprehensive class about all things library.
  • I am grateful for wi-fi and Plano ISD Chrome books
  • I am grateful for Dr. Marino and Michelle Farabough. I was talking to my friend who is doing his master’s at a nearby school and shared that his current grad class was a waste of time and money. I told him I was sorry. 
  • I know now, that I can do this (graduate school).
  • I see the library in a completely different way. I appreciate things more, I see a product or event, and can imagine the process that led up to that event.

In my current position, as a choir director, I want to practice my emerging library skills, or rather skills of awesomeness. Next school year, I plan to: host a composer talk (like an author talk), ask for more student feedback throughout the year, compile more student data, advocate more, use more technology in class and during concerts. 

I believe starting this degree is one of the best decisions I have made in this decade, in addition to sleeping more, quitting marathon running and baking bread.

Today I met my mentor in the aisles of the library

Life as a teacher, and as a librarian, I presume, is busy. Add onto that, being a sponsor of extracurricular clubs and then one is, I presume, busier. Add onto that, having a side gig working part time at a library (my mentor) or as a paid singer (me) and one is..busiest?

I have been in contact with my mentor, but with our very busy schedules, we decided to meet in mid-May.

The day is Friday or a day I know as, being raised Catholic, Good Friday. It is a day, therefore, that I have off from school. I sing later in the afternoon, but I take advantage of my free morning by taking my 1 year old to “Rhyme Time”.

“Rhyme time” at Davis library is different from the library near my house. The songs and rhymes are different. There is a book display set up for us to peruse after the event. This display has about 20 different books, and as a Mexican American or Tejana, my eye is drawn to the board books of Selena and Frida Kahlo. As a new parent, I constantly consider how I will share my Hispanic heritage with the baby since we live so far from home (Edinburg).  So, who is in charge of making these displays? How do they pick these books? How do they know I considered purchasing some of these books the last time I was at Target?

Upon leaving “rhyme time”, I grab the Selena board book as well as a Hindi book called ” Follow the ants” and exit the children’s area. During our one phone call, and emails, my mentor has mentioned that she spends time working at the public library. With this in mind, I walk slowly and look closely, but not too awkwardly at the name tags of staff members who are, what looks to be, re-shelving books. I inspect one name tag, nope, not her. I walk slowly, observing the way in which this library serves their Asian community with books and magazines. I see tutoring sessions to my right. I turn the corner and see another staff member. I get close, but not too close to the name tag. It reads, ” Lisa.” That is my mentors name! I make eye contact and ask her last name. Yes, it’s her, my mentor. After we hug, I tell her what I was doing there. In a mere 4 minutes, Ms. Scott’s purpose was obvious. The library is her passion and her act of service. She mentions the tailoring of this specific library’s resources to meet the needs of the community and demographic. She said that working at the public library has helped her so much with organization in her own school library. She talks about how library staff are visible and accessible to library patrons, which was how I ran into her. I couldn’t think of the term that I found on my readings that match this definition. I discovered it later in my quizlet set of library science vocab. The term is ” roving” and according to ODLIS (online dictionary for library science) refers to “the practice of discreetly walking about the reference area of a library in search of users who need assistance, as opposed to remaining seated at the reference desk.”

When my baby starts getting fussy ( nap time), I say a quick goodbye, confirm our mid-May meetup and rush to check out my books. As I fumble for my library card, she approaches me asking if she can help and that helping parents as they checkout is a norm here at this library. I tell her thank you.

How fortunate am I to be with Ms. Scott? She is empathetic, understanding and knows her purpose. What is my purpose? I love teaching, I love the library. Why can’t I formulate a purpose statement?

Here it is: I perceive the library as this entity separate from human hands. It is an institution that is a right. There are 5 in my city alone. I realize this is ridiculous. Libraries exist because of people like Lisa, who advocate. They exist and offer amazing resources because someone has worked to get those resources for the community. That book display with the Selena board book was curated by someone. I try not to be too hard on myself as I reflect on the words I told Ms. Scott when she asked why I wanted to do Library Science. I imagine myself twirling my hair, looking up at the ceiling, shrugging, in a Cinderella voice, ” the library is…magical.” It is not so. Someone made it magical, one step at a time.

How a Hydro Flask can change your life

I am messy. I spill things. I lose my keys. I have dirty Tupperware in the backseat of my car. I spill coffee everyday because it sloshes easily out of a mug. But here is the thing. I cook almost all my meals at home for myself, my baby and my husband. So, I am going to continue to be forgiving of myself for my aforementioned weaknesses. Also, I have had 10 different coffee tumblers in the past two years and they have all broken or lost their tops. 

My husband, Mark, under the correct impression that his wife (me) , who is thrifty (true), would not spend money purchasing an easier way to to transport her coffee, came home one evening with a gift of a Hydro Flask for me. 

I never do it the easy way. We had an assignment due recently, where we needed to answer a few questions about Intellectual Freedom:

  1. What thought “struck you” or was an “AHA” moment for you as you looked through the readings and resources, and considered the idea of intellectual freedom in schools?
  2. As a school librarian, how will you promote AND protect the intellectual freedom of your students?
  3. Share at least two challenges that you can foresee in your efforts to promote and protect the intellectual freedom of your students, and how you will address these challenges.

I jotted down a few notes in my spiral about what I was going to say and then was eager to record myself speaking on Flipgrid. I pressed record and then immediately realized that this post was timed. I only had 1 minute and 29 seconds to answer these three questions. I spent the next 35 minutes recording this 89 second recording. Why? Because I refused to write my answers out and read them, or mostly read them. 

By the time I submitted my final recording, my voice was tired, and I realized I really need to start working smarter and not harder. 

Fast forward 5 days. It is day one with my new Hydro Flask and I have already had two major spills (of hot water- always- coffee on my way to work and hot water for the rest of the day). How can it be that I have this ergonomic piece of technology that cost as much as my annual flu shot ($26), and yet I’m spilling water everywhere on the carpet of my choir room? Easy- I am not closing the lid properly.

I take deep breaths on my way to work and on my way home. I take deep breaths when I am breast feeding. I take deep breaths in the shower. I realize what I need is a little organizational make over. I need to slow down…in some ways. I make sure to close that lid. I check and double check the mass email I send to choir parents. The tupperware is just going to be a daily thing. Except, I empty my car out daily. I feel bad for not engaging with the baby after being at work all day, so I strap her to me while I do these chores. 

The last two days have been very successful. I did not spill my coffee or hot water. I attended two of the three required events for my upcoming Field Project: Community Reading Advocacy! I was about to submit the wrong Purchase Order request for a lunch next weekend, but stopped, re-read my emails, found the correct invoice to fill out, filled it out and submitted it in a timely fashion. I’m proud of myself. A little Hydro Flask that you didn’t ask for from a husband that sees your areas of need can be a game changer. 

Great learner ≠ Great student

The theater teacher/ department head at my school, had the fine arts team watch a video lecture/clinic. It was a lecture by a theatre director, Rick Garcia, who was speaking to fellow theatre students. He rallied for them to take risks, using the phrase, “Ready, fire, aim.” I found out later that it was a reference to a book by called “Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 in No Time Flat,” about taking risks in a business and entrepreneurial world. Immediately after, my co-worker looked at me and said, “you do that really well.”

That is my default setting. I do. I do, and then I read the directions. I skim directions, I do, mess up horribly, then read the directions more carefully. This has earned me, in some of my closest circles, a comparison to the character Dory, from the Pixar movies Finding Dory and Finding Nemo

Here is the problem. While I relish in taking risks, this practice and habit of doing first has caused stress and wasted time in my life. For instance, I do not take notes. I do not outline. When I had the idea of starting a YouTube book review channel, my husband suggested I storyboard it and he could help record and edit. I laughed, saying something like, “yeah, no.” 

Fast forward to today, when I have assignment due and I am struggling. I need to change. At first, I thought I would make my goal to take notes, make outlines and create a storyboard, but Nessa needs to start from the beginning. I need to read directions. Today, for instance, we have a piktochart due by 11:59pm that has all sorts of requirements. I’ve been working it all week, playing around with graphics, and reading articles, then piecing them together. At 2pm today, I re-read the directions and it turns out I did it on the wrong topic.

So, here I am, not panicking, but realizing there are many lessons to be learned from this experience. I will finish this homework, I will close my chrome book, inhale, exhale and start fresh as the student I know I can learn to be…tomorrow.

Hello World

Hello World

I have now been pursuing my Master’s for one month. There is life before now and there is life now. There is life before baby and there is life now. There is life before being a teacher and there is life now. Life now is all these things and more. And yet, it is calm in many ways and therapeutic. There is a mindfulness that occurs everyday when I wake up as I scan how I feel, gauge how my sleep was, and start the day. 

I don’t know what I expected starting this degree other than the face that I would be filling in a lot of gaps in content since I currently teach choir and not language arts or reading. I do know that I expected to read more young adult books. Here are two things that have happily surprised me. 

I have been able to apply what I have been learning immediately. I had never heard of inquiry based learning and as soon as I read the Levitov article from our required reading entitled, “School libraries, librarians and inquiry learning,” I tried some things out in the choir classroom the next day. After going over a very rough lesson (my first time) on using objective vocabulary to describe the tone and pitch of a singer, I had students answer a few questions on an exit card. The last question was, “What questions do you have about the voice?”

  1. How would you describe the tone of the singer
  2. How would you describe the pitch (range and register)
  3. What questions do you have about the voice?

Why had I never done this before?

I found the rewards and joy in this inquiry based approach. Some questions the students asked were about me personally, “Why did you cut your hair?” Others were questions I didn’t know they had, “How can you hurt your voice?” “How do you become an opera singer?” “How high can you sing?” 

Secondly, I realized that young adult literature isn’t awful. I have been so elitist in my view of literature, that for the longest time, I refused to read anything other than classics with authors like Tolstoy and Proust. I have come to realize that I have been limiting myself to Western male literature. In the past 9 months, I have read a dozen young adult books. I have found that instead of vapid stories of cheesy teen love, there exists poignant, funny, honest and devastatingly heartbreaking young adult literature

Spring Break 2019

Spring Break 2019

1st Day of Spring Break

Already, I have cleared, organized, cleaned, laundered and started reading the Hunger Games. This morning, I went to the Schimelpfenig library to return a book. I was returning Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt. I read the first few chapters, knowing all of its merits. It was strongly recommended by a friend, and it is a Newberry Medal winner. Still, I turned it in. I’ve read multiple blogs that say if you don’t love a book, don’t force yourself to read it. Put it down and pick up something you do love. So, that’s what I did. I regret nothing.

Flashcards and the word “toggle”

I saw it. I saw the word toggle for, to my knowledge, the first time. I was turning in my aforementioned Johnny Tremain book in the Plano automated system. I have returned so many books via this method, but had never noticed “Toggle languages” before. I have studied this word in my quizlet flashcards but was excited to see the actual word in front of me. I “toggled” and flipped through Spanish and Mandarin. I still used English.


After I checked out a bunch of 2×2 books, I took my little Alana to meet up with an old friend from High School, Criselda, at restaurant in a place called “Legacy West.” We updated each other about the ages of our kids and shared stories about life with kids and people around us. I told her about my starting graduate school and she very quickly said, “Veni, I can see those two professions fitting who you are.” Of course, she is referring to my current position as a choir director, and the position I will seek in several years, school librarian. I don’t feel like I need validation, but it is nice coming from someone you trust and respect.

Later that week….

After some serious nebulizer treatment for Alana’s cough and cold, we went to our first library event. “Rhyme Time” is a library offering where babies 0-24 months can be exposed to “songs, nursery rhymes and books” for early exposure to language. It was amazing. As soon as it started, I had a hard time not crying because I was so moved by the sweetness of it all. At the end of the event, the staff strongly encouraged us to fill out a feedback card. How much better would we be as teachers if we constantly asked our audience for feedback at the end of a lesson? After a 30 minute lesson, I definitely do not ask, “what did you like?,” “what can you start using at home immediately?,” or “what could the teacher do better” for feedback. I consistently have students complete exit cards asking what the learner has learned. Occasional exit cards, however, are very different from chronic feedback. What would my choir classroom if I constantly asked for feedback about the lesson?

We’ve been studying equity in our INFO 5001 course and this is it. The library is the most equitable place I know. The staff leading “Rhyme Time” were engaging, thoughful, kind and most of all, focused on modeling what type of interactions parents can be having with their kids. 

How does this relate to my being a future librarian? It makes me think of how I would offer services to the community I serve. How can I serve parents, students? More specifically, how can the library at which I work, serve parents and students who do not have resources? Even more, what resources can I help provide for families who do not have resources?

The week ended with time outside with little Alana, planting vegetables, reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy, napping and cleaning. Sunday night, I pulled out the handout from “Rhyme Time” and showed Mark, my husband what we learned that week. While I did not make it to a beach (which I love), or skiing (don’t know how), I feel rested, excited to teach and happy that I rested through learning.

Advocacy or #whendidthe AASLgettheirducksinarow?

As a non-native to the literacy teaching world, I am impressed with the content to which I have been led by Module 5: Advocacy. I am checking out all these toolkits that they offer: “School Librarians Role in Reading Toolkit”, “School Library Health and Wellness Toolkit” and “Parent Advocate Toolkit”, just to name a few of my open tabs.

The link I have just spent a few moments on is entitled, “Elevator Speeches.” The criteria to be an elevator speech is a speech that is 100-150 words and answers questions such as, “What the product, service, or project is” and, “Who you are and why you will be successful.” As you scroll down, you then see actual examples of what your “elevator speech” can be depending on the audience. 

Where were these elevator speeches when I first started teaching? I remember so often in my first years of teaching trying to come up with words to get my message of music advocacy across. I always felt it came across as jumbled and incoherent. Even now, I don’t think I could give an elevator speech for my craft. 

Dear AASL, 

When did you get your act together? When did you realize that in order to keep the school library relevant, you needed to make all sorts of tool kits? When did you realize that with all the things a teacher librarian has to do, creating sites that can quickly address advocacy to stakeholders was something that you’d take care of for all of them? 

AASL, I know you are not one person, but I like to anthropomorphize organizations like you. You’re so amazing. You know your purpose. You are here to help. You are here to serve the world of library. You are here to serve students. As some of my colleagues say, “Yaaaasss!”