Thursday, June 30, 2011

July = Summer Musical

It's almost July, so that means a great many things. Summer is here. Almost all of my schools are out until September. I have another book due in two weeks. Yikes! And for me it also means the summer musical opens in two weeks. This year’s Vanguard Productions @ Westminster Theatre is “Damn Yankees.” With a cast of almost 50 and most characters with multiple costume changes, it’s been a challenge for this costumer. I’m also in the show as Gloria, the reporter who makes Joe famous and then tries to find out who he really is.

There are many other SDUSD folks in the production. Bill Cobb, musical theater teacher at Dana Middle School, returns to the Vanguard stage as Joe Boyd. Consuelo Goodman, Super Lead Teacher @ CDC, stars as Lola. JoDarlene Reardon, retired from SDUSD, is our Doris, part of a laugh out loud sister team. Lesley Pearson, Administrator @ CDC, is producing the show. We also have lots of SDUSD students.

The show opens with a rousing song, “Six Months Out of Every Year,” that sets the stage- Joe Boyd would love to save his beloved baseball team, the Washington Senators, and lead them to the pennant. Enter Applegate- the devil who grants his wish. What Joe learns is that home and the life he had is worth more than his favorite pastime.

“Damn Yankees” opens July 15 and runs for 3 weekends. Tickets sell out quickly, so go online (new for us) and order yours today. Bring your family for a heartwarming and fun show.  You don’t want to miss it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bribery… Works Every Time

It’s the end of the year and you’re trying to get the library and textbooks returned. How do you get them back without feeling like a nag? Though you have to face the fact that some books won’t ever return, there are many ways to encourage folks to play along. One of most important ways is to think positive: try “rewarding” those who do before harassing those who don’t. For example:
  • Brownie Party: Have a drawing for the classes that return all their books. Reward them with a party- pizza, brownies. Maybe you could save money by having them bring their school lunches to the library and eating there with you.
  • Class Stars: In a high traffic area, post the names of the teachers (or students) who return their materials. People don’t like to be left out.
  • Library Lollies: Give kids who return their materials a lollipop, etc. when they return their materials. It could also be a trinket. Oriental Trading has cute, inexpensive things.
  • Return One-Get One: Students who return their materials get to choose a free book, magazine or lottery ticket for a door prize.
  • Book Return Countdown: Get the whole school involved. Post a thermometer in the hall. Use construction paper to fill up the thermometer. As books are returned, add more color until the thermometer is full and all materials are returned.
  • Amnesty Day: For those of you who charge late fines, announce an Amnesty Day and excuse fines for one day. Kids will bring them back because they won’t fear the fine.
  • Bring a Can-Feed the Needy: Collect food for the needy. If students bring in dry or canned goods, you can excuse the fine when they return the books. This works especially well in November and December.
  • Collaborate: Work with your PE teachers. Ask them to award extra points for field day if the class has returned all of their books.
  • Little Red Wagon: Go to where they are. Take a little red wagon and go from class to class picking up books.
  • Return Bins: Have a book return outside your secondary library. Sometimes kids just won't take the time to go inside.
  • Lunch Encounters: Go to the lunchroom and have them return books there.
Sadly you have to be realistic. Not all books will come back. Some students just have too many things going on and can’t find their shoes, much less a library book. Some of your students just don’t have the money to pay for lost materials or overdue fines. For those students you may want to try the following options.
  • Payment Plans: One of our Teacher Librarians has her kids bring in a dollar a week until it’s paid off. Little by little students can clear up their fines.
  • Work it Off: Hold students accountable by “hiring” them to work in the library at minimum wage until they pay off their accounts. Talk to them about the cost of the materials and how long they will have to work to replace it. Putting it in real world terms also teaches them a valuable lesson.
  • Replacement: Especially with paperbacks, you might take a different paperback for the one that was lost.
  • Paperwork: In actuality, handing out notices to teachers is rarely effective. They get buried in the bottom of the backpack. It’s more effective to hand a student an overdue notice when the rest of his class is getting to take a book or a prize. His paper can be exchanged for a prize when he clears up his record.
Do the best you can. Know that some loss is the cost of doing business. At some point you should forgive the students and move on. Clean up records after a year or so. Certainly by the time he graduates, his record of losing Brown Bear in Kindergarten should be off his record. Let it go and move on. Focus on the positive.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just in Time for Summer

With all of the end of the year stress and the staffing situations, this weekend I was dying to read something far from my real world. I wanted something light. Maybe something funny. Something that takes me away from it all and lets me relax. So, Saturday night at dinner, I grabbed a book off the big pile in the hallway. Alex Rider: The Final Mission- Scorpia Rising.

Fans of Alex Rider are probably laughing now. If anything, Rider books are certainly not light. I feel exhausted after reading most of the first chapters. Alex Rider is the James Bond of 14 year olds. His life is far from ordinary and full of adventure. It will take you away from your real life. Dishes will go unwashed. Homework will go undone. The world will fade away when you are reading books from the Alex Rider series. Scorpia Rising is the last of his missions- and it’s just as good as its predecessors.

Set mostly in Cairo, Alex again finds himself in the employment of M16. It seems, however, that he has fallen into the trap that Scorpia set for him. Having been twice defeated by Alex, Scorpia has no intention of letting a 15 year old boy get the best of him a third time.

Like every other book, Horowitz hooks you in the first chapter. There is no easy stopping place. If you wait for the end of the chapter, you’re too hooked to stop. Needless to say, on Sunday, when I should have been writing, I was reading. I sat on my patio-porch-balcony in the sun of the day and consumed it. In just a matter of hours, I was finished. Mouth open. Really? How can that be? Are you kidding me? Did that really happen?

Ah. Intrigued? Your turn to read Alex Rider’s final mission. Haven’t started them? Run to your library- and check it out. And thank goodness, it’s just in time for summer.

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's a Present, But it's No Surprise

Once in awhile a book comes along that warms your heart and teaches you a lesson. Enter True.. Sort of by Katherine Hannigan. Delaware Pattison “was trouble: little trouble on the way to BIG TROUBLE, and getting closer to it every day. Delly’s trouble wasn’t mean. It always started with her thinking something would be fun and good. It always ended with somebody yelling, ‘Delaware Pattison, to your room!’ or, ‘Welcome to detention, Ms. Pattison. Again.’ And there Delly’d be, wondering how something that had seemed so right could go so, so wrong.”

Delly is a kid who has heard “bad, wrong, trouble” until that’s all she can see about herself. That translates into a heart that only feels sadness until one day she feels the coming of a “surpresent.” What she gets is not only a surprise but could be a present not only to herself, but to all those who get close enough to be touched by someone who can’t bear to be touched.

Just like she did in Ida B., Hannigan writes a story that pulls at your heartstrings. It makes you laugh out loud. It makes you cry real tears. As an adult it makes you look twice at the “gray children” you teach- those kids who are quiet. Those kids who stay on the fringe of the crowd. Those kids who act out and seem uncontrollable. Like Ida B., this is a must read for any adult who works with kids.

It’s also a great read aloud. It has boy characters. It has girl characters. It has adults who pay attention. For kids who struggle, it will give them hope. For kids who harass, it can lead them to a higher path. They can see past their own weaknesses and choose to lead the underdogs out.

Hannigan's latest book is certainly a present to all who read it, but considering her track record, it's no surprise.