Tribes

Fiction

Recently I read The List by Vivian Siohvan, which tells the story of eight high school girls who make the infamous Mount Washington list. An unknown entity selects the prettiest and ugliest girl from each high school grade level. Signs are posted throughout the school just before homecoming to reveal the “winning” ladies. Moreover, each winner has a tag line to explain her selection.

The ramifications are immediate. The pretty girls and the ugly girls react. The friends of these winners also react. Danielle, the athletic but freshman ugly, is called Dan the Man. Unfortunately, Danielle’s boyfriend, Andrew, doesn’t have the courage to stand up to his football friends who ridicule Danielle, and ultimately, Andrew too.

Candace, the sophomore ugliest, is angry because she knows she is pretty. Ironically, while Candace doesn’t understand her tagline about being ugly on the inside, the readers see Candace’s true colors time and time again. Some beauty is only skin deep.

As the story reveals the girl’s life after being selected for this list, each one responds differently. For the ladies on the list, friendships and family relationships are impacted for better and worse. This book left me contemplating those diverse groups within the high school culture.

The Fact Connection

A week after reading The List, I came across the book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Moving from the fiction genre to nonfiction, the tribe connections were rather striking. While The List showed the fictionalized individual high school students’ perspectives, Tribe explains the broader concepts of tribe based on situations and studies.

Using Native American tribes to explain the tribe culture, Junger described how groups of people live and work together. He also examined military personnel who work in units as well as his own experiences.

Drawing from both books, I reached a few conclusions. Some people understand the tribe concept and are able to adopt, and be part of, a healthy tribe. Others find themselves in the wrong tribe, which leads to self-destruction. Finally, certain people can’t find their tribe within a particular setting but do find it elsewhere.

I highly recommend Tribe for adults as well as high school readers. The List is a great read for high school readers. Reading The List first definitely impacted my mindset when I then selected Tribe. Ultimately, the outcome after reading both books was the same; everyone wants to belong to a tribe.

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Reader Tools

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How do you find new books to read? Are your options limited to reading everything your favorite author writes or whatever your friends suggest? Do you browse the displays at the library for new ideas, or do you rely on the best sellers’ lists?

If you want a new way to discover new authors and books, I suggest utilizing Literature Map or Which Book.

Literature Map

Type in the name of your favorite author and watch the author word map spin and reveal other writers. The names closest to your author are the best recommendations. However, other names appear that may also connect to your choice. Click on another author’s name and see more authors. If you like to read specific authors, this is a great source to find a new author option. Literature Map is a wonderful tool for young adults and adults.

Which Book

This is a great way to find new books using their multitude of options. On the left side of the home page, select four of the twelve categories. Then, rank your preference for each of the four. For example, category one is happy or sad. Once you select the category, move the marker to the side you like best. You can move it from one extreme to the other or somewhere in between. Once you have done this for all four categories, your book suggestions appear. They offer twenty suggestions based on your interests.

If the categories don’t work for you, try to find other titles by character, setting, or plot. If all else fails, explore the various books lists on the home page from short and sweet to slapstick to weird and wonderful. Select the list and peruse the suggestions.  Which Book is a wonderful resource for adult readers.

Try out both of these tools. Then, add them to your reader toolbox!

Learning

Lifelong Learning

Recently, my 8-year-old son learned a new skill. The first time he tried, he literally cried out in frustration. My husband and I both told him to try again. By the third time, he made progress and eventually learned the skill. However, his mental frustration during this process was physically evident.

After my son left the room, my husband and I discussed the learning process. We acknowledged that for us personally, learning a new skill is initially frustrating until we become more familiar with the process. As adults, we understand that learning any skill takes time and practice.

Unfortunately, people occasionally forget this normal process or perhaps choose to not learn new skills either from fear of failure or from lack of understanding. Both of these are problematic.

As a teacher librarian, I must continually learn new skills or I am a failure at my profession. The past five years alone have been a continual test in the learning process. From Facebook to Twitter to blogging to creating the newest library web page, my frustration level has been elevated, my understanding of social media has expanded, and my technology skills have grown.

Consequently, I want to share my two lessons learned.

Lesson one: Be a lifelong learner, not a stump.

If the analogy of learning is that of a tree, I want to be the tree that continues to grow new branches and produces fruit throughout my lifetime. I don’t want to be the tree that is cut down for not growing and producing because then all that remains is a stump. I intentionally choose to be a lifelong learner, not a stump.

Lesson two: The learning process teaches empathy.

If I regularly learn new skills where I experience frustration before obtaining mastery, than I am more empathetic to my students who are learning new skills as well. While my 8-year-old verbally cried out in frustration, an 18-year-old may act out that frustration differently. Sharing personal successes and failures of the learning process provides a connection that helps others understand better.

As you take that leap of faith by learning new skills, remember the process that it takes to become proficient and knowledgeable. Be empathetic to others, both young and old, as they broaden their horizons in the learning environment.  Ultimately, continue to be a lifelong learner.

Crossing the Data Divide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Receiving the following message, “You have used 75% of your data, and your data cycle ends in fourteen days,” causes much angst for families because an overage in data results in extra charges. Those fortunate people with unlimited data or high-speed Internet do not grasp the magnitude of this dilemma for some families, mine included. My daughter knows that data message has the impact to start a family argument because it ultimately impacts every family member for the next fourteen days.

For data users, webinars and audio streaming are not options. YouTube clips are a treat not a daily occurrence. Social media applications drain data like a leaky faucet, and Netflix is a dream, not a reality.

My family and friends hear my data lamentations often. However, due to this fact of life, I am better equipped to offer solutions to students, teachers, and parents because I truly understand the limitations associated with data. Fortunately, I can also share four solutions to this family frustration.

Solution 1: The Public Library

The public library provides computers with internet access to its users. Most of them also provide free WiFi access. I have used both their computers and their WiFi access with my own device. Note the library hours and pass code access requirements.

Solution 2: Google Drive Offline Feature

Google users can access their Google Drive offline to complete work without an internet access. Think bus, car, train, and plane rides where work can continue, offline. Once the device accesses an Internet connection, all the work done offline, syncs back to the cloud. (Note: To establish the offline component, you have to set it up while you have a WiFi connection.)

Solution 3: Manually Check for Updates

Set your devices, including cell phones, to manual updates. For example, I click on my email apps and manually check for new messages a few times during the day rather than having the device automatically check for updates at frequent intervals. Less data is used. Moreover, this also helps by eliminating frequent notifications, which in turn, increases productivity.

Solution 4: Communication and Organization

Three internet users access the data in my home. However, by communicating the individual data needs, the entire family can make adjustments within their own data usage. For example, an unexpected update to a device used a quarter of the family’s monthly data allotment, in the first three days of the data cycle. That resulted in school projects being done at the library, not at home, because of the limited data. Ultimately, everyone had to adjust and limit their usage.

The choice for data versus high-speed Internet occasionally is not an option. Fortunately, my many experiences with limited data can help your family cross that great data divide one solution at a time.

Favorite Vacation Read

Twenty years ago, I first read the book Freak the Mighty. I started the book at 9:30 on a Friday night and finished it before I went to bed. The book was that good! I was hooked from the first chapter.

I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that’s the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth, is how Freak would say it, and for a long time it was him who did the talking. Except I had a way of saying things with my fists and my feet even before we became Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world.

                                                                              Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Kevin is Freak, a genius with a too small body, and Max is the Mighty because of his small brain and large body. The two become friends. In the midst of an altercation with the local bullies, Max saves Kevin and Freak the Mighty is born.

Max lives with his grandparents because his mother is dead and his father is in prison. His father is known as Killer Kane and this legacy leaves Max with tremendous turmoil, most of which is internal.

Kevin lives with his mom next door to Grim and Gram, Max’s grandparents. Kevin’s medical condition is serious, and while Kevin knows the magnitude of the disease Max does not.

For Freak the Mighty, every day is an adventure filled with knights and fair maidens, rescues and explorations yonder, and stories galore.  Real life creeps into their lives as well. However, with the wonderful mix of friends, stories, adventures, and truth, Freak the Mighty will entertain parents as well as the kids.

An aside: We listened to the audio book on a recent road trip, and then we watched the movie The Mighty when we arrived home. The story was so fresh in our minds that we compared the vast differences between the book and movie throughout the entire movie. My 8-year-old said it best; “I like the book better.”

Life Lessons Found in Books

Life Lessons

Have you ever read a book that changed your life?  Did it impact the way you think or act? Did ever read one that you couldn’t wait to finish so you could share it with someone? Did you ever stop reading–just to share part of the book aloud with another person in the room?

Books like that are often dog-eared and dirty–those are the books that are well-loved.  Those are the books that share life lessons.

Two books often recommended for students and adults are Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture and Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson. Both of these books offer life lessons about living life well and to the fullest.

Three of my favorite life lessons shared by Randy Pausch, from Chapter 23 of The Last Lecture, benefit everyone.

  • “Time must be explicitly managed, like money.”
  • “Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?”
  • “Take a time out.”

In Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson, Mitch Albom visits his college professor, Morrie Schwartz, who is dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

They meet on Tuesdays.  Each time, they talk about a different topic. Even after the professor leaves the classroom, Morrie continues to teach and the student continues to learn. Morrie’s optimistic, yet realistic, views of life help Mitch.  Moreover, through these interactions, the reader learns from both men.

Start this new year by reading a life lesson book; then share it with someone else.

 

BOB Book Suggestions

If-I-was-a-book-I-would

Cornelia Funke knows that library books are “taken home by all different sorts of kids.”  Be one of those kids who visits the local library and borrows one of these two books.

Junior High Suggestion from this year’s BOB list.
          Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

This a feel good book.  Lucy and her parents have just moved to New Hampshire, where they live by a lake.  Lucy’s father is a famous photographer, and she takes pictures to enter a contest that he is judging.  Lucy becomes friends with Nate who stays next door with his grandmother; the friends spend the summer on the lake and observe the loons.  Lucy’s photography skills sometimes reveal more than meets the eye.  Family relationships and friendships are both impacted in this novel.

High School Suggestion from this year’s BOB list.
      Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

This is a great book!  After the students in one high school homeroom receive the flu shot, they can read each other’s minds.   In theory, this sounds like an exciting and powerful tool.  Unfortunately, you don’t always want to hear what your friends are thinking rather than what they are saying.  The group quickly discovers that secrets don’t exist.  They all need to work together to handle this situation.  However, the question is, can they?

A Book in the Pocket

Garden in pocketHaving a book at all times is indeed like carrying a garden in your pocket. While a garden start with seeds, the plants grow to eventually produce flowers and vegetables. Gardeners know the zucchini plant is a welcome joy at the beginning of the season that becomes a gift to share by the end of the season.

Likewise, a book is similar. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone started as a seed that grew with abundance. First published in the United States in 1998, J. K. Rowling’s series continues to be a favorite read. Children and adults found a connection to the characters and anxiously awaited the release of the next book in the series, even if it meant they had to read 352 pages to find out what happened to Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

After reading a good book, the reader wants to share it.  From the characters to the setting to the conflict(s) within the plot, sharing that good book becomes a must.  Often, that conversation leads to the other person sharing a favorite title.

In turn, discussing current books often leads to favorite books from the past. Did the Little House on the Prairie series turn you into a reader? Perhaps it was the adventures of the Great Brain JD Fitzgerald, Anne from Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, or the vast mysteries of the  Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew that planted the seed that grew into a love of reading.

A book in the pocket does provide a personal garden.  It can be one you read for the first time or one you reread for a second time.  The point to remember is to carry a book in your pocket and then to share it with others so that the garden of reading can grow.

Thing 30: Final Reflections & What’s Next?

In-doing-we-learn

The Summer Cool Tools for School experience has been a whirlwind. My limited internet access at the beginning of the course directly impacted how I viewed the various online resources as did my own digital footprint size.  Fortunately, I could use the public library for free wireless access.  Then, I carefully considered each of the tools to determine if an account was needed.

For the summer experience, I loved selecting my own topics, which allowed me to group them for an overall end product. I completely redesigned the library web page on Google Sites, and I incorporated my newfound media skills into the appearance of the site. Likewise, the productivity tool, OneNote, was a tremendous asset throughout this Cool Tools experience. Although it was intense, I preferred the summer experience because I had the freedom to select from twenty options and group them purposefully.

Moreover, exploring web sites and Twitter feeds during the summer offers a more relaxed learning experience. Watching other librarians change their web sites and update their blogs showed endless possibilities.

With Twitter, both my Professional Learning Community and my Professional Learning Network grew. Throughout the summer, I also met other professionals both in person and online. Consequently, my professional relationships grew as did my technology skills.

Now the question is, “Where do I go from here?”

Well, from here, I take the blog and move it forward to reach a larger audience. I continue to work on my media skills to the point that I might finally conquer infographics. OneNote will help me stay organized. Once I am back to the world of high-speed internet access I can see a few of those webinars that I missed.

I am grateful to another great Cool Tools learning experience and connecting with librarians from around the state.

My blog first started with George Herbert’s quote, “In doing we learn.”  With the Cool Tools experience, from there I began and from there I shall go.