Afternoon Adventures in Syracuse

I love literary adventures. A book that transports me to a new world. A story that challenges me to think outside the box. I also love real adventures. Exploring new places. Seeing familiar sites from a different perspective. That is what the Syracuse Downtown Living Tour did for me this past weekend.

Presented by the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, the event invites people to tour highlighted places in and near the city. Tours are for people possibly considering to live downtown, or people like myself that were curious to see what’s inside the buildings I pass by regularly. There condos and apartment units that were occupied, available or about to begin a revitalization project.

It was phenomenal to see buildings that were move-in ready, waiting for a person to make the place a home. But, my favorite part consisted of buildings that were underway with construction and historic preservation. These buildings still have a story to tell, about to embark on a new chapter of its history. It was so neat to imagine what the place would look like and how it would fit into downtown.

Going on this tour made me love Syracuse even more. I was given the opportunity to look at these buildings, inside and out, from a new perspective. Who lived here before? Who will live here in the future? I was able to imagine myself living in one condo right across from the downtown library, an apartment right next to The MOST or in a unit that has a café in the same building. It was breath-taking to sit on a bench on a rooftop patio, looking out on the horizon as I saw familiar Syracuse sites. The Dome, Tipp Hill, Sacred Heart Basilica, the reservoir, Onondaga Lake. I went on a fantastical adventure this past Saturday afternoon.

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Impressions of Schoology: Part 1

Recently, my school district purchased Schoology for students and staff. Though the usage of this content-management system (CMS) is in the initial stage, I wanted to get a head-start to learn the program. How does one do this? Simply explore, try functions and click on features of the site.

Being on the administrative, help-desk and students usage side of other CMSs like Blackboard, Coursesite, Moodle, Edmodo and ANGEL, I was happy to discover Schoology was similar to those. It has a Facebook-ish appeal to Edmodo, but the admin side works like Blackboard and Coursesites.

Courses work for academic content, attendance and students, while Groups work well for professional collaboration and sharing of resources. I like that the notifications center is on the home page. It shows new messages and requests so you can’t miss them.

Another strong positive to Schoology is that the CMS is social. You can upload a profile picture, add contact information or add a bio. Like Facebook, users can comment and like on a new post. Users can also upload apps like Google Drive, DropBox, Evernote and Khan Academy, plus much more. As a faithful user of Google Drive, I love this feature.

Some questions that came up as I explored the site:

–What browser works best with this?

–What grade levels could this work for most effectively? Will my younger grades understand what’s happening?

–How can I use this site to enhance the library and my specific classes?

–How can I use this for collaboration with PLC and PBL?

–Can I migrate content between courses and copy another course into a new one?

Weeding Update For Dewey-Free Fiction Chapter Books

It’s done. Weeding through the fiction collection is done. After months of looking at data and the physical books, I can finally move and label the books into genres.

Already, it looks like the shelves can breathe. No more overcrowding, no more stuffing books to fit.

Right now, I’m going through the books on the catalog to tag a genre for each book. I have about 400 more books to go. Then, it’s labeling the books with a colored piece of tape and moving them to the appropriate sections. This is going to be a summer job.

The fiction-books collection had about 4,000 books. After weeding, the collection is down to about 3,000. Books that we’re falling apart, had irrelevant information or had not circulated in 3 years went away.

It took some time to decide what genres should be in the library. First, I listened. Students kept asking, “Where are the mystery books? Where are the fantasy books?” Now, their questions will be answered. The genres now include: fantasy, humor, sports, series, historical fiction, mystery, horror, science fiction and realistic fiction.

Though this has been a long process, it’s another step closer to the place where I want my students to learn, collaborate and visit.

Where Did The Last Year Ago?

A year ago, I was board-approved for my job. A year later, the first year of teaching is almost done. Yet, there is still much to do. Between library duties, I am moving into a new apartment with the boyfriend at the end of May. Every weekend until July there seems to be a family birthday, a wedding or a shower. It’s time to get my butt into gear and make the all-famous checklist.

I’m finally to that point where I am confident with my skills and being a professional. It took almost a whole school year to achieve this. It was scary, yet exciting to meet students and colleagues in September. Now, I look forward to conversations with other teachers and love seeing the students smile every day.

It will be good to have the first year under my belt. I cannot wait until summer vacation to put better lessons and more ideas into motion. I’m ready to make next year better already, filled with good books, increased student engagement and more teacher collaborations.

Here are goals this summer:

  • Move into new apartment and get settled
  • Label genres for the Dewey-free fiction chapter book section of the library and move to appropriate shelves (All the categories have been labeled in the catalog and the section weeded over the past few months) 
  • Prepare and implement the beginnings of a makerspace
  • Tie half of the IFC standards to the curriculum map for PreK-6
  • Jazz up the library’s website with a new theme and pictures of new library space

After looking at this list, I wondered if this was too much to bite off this summer. But I plan to spend most days 8-3 in the library while school is open this summer. To achieve the vision I want for the library, it’s going to be a long, but worthwhile summer.

What did I achieve this year? It took some reflection to see what goals I had in September that have been accomplished, and the list is not too bad for a first year:

  • Collaborate with the grade levels at least once
  • Weed fiction collection
  • Create and maintain a group of daily library helpers
  • Build a library website
  • Develop a tech club