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Getting Ready for the First Day! June 2, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Homework Help, Library.
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Today is my first day at my new job, and I am super excited! It is sort of like the first day of a new school year. I’m going to meet all my new coworkers, figure out lots of information I need about my job and their expectations, and jump right into work. The only difference is that I am the only new student starting right now.

Just like starting the first day of school, I did a little clothes shopping in preparation. Back when I was in grade school I always went shopping with my mom to get all the clothes I would need for the school year. She and I didn’t always agree, and I’ve never been the most fashionably dressed. But somehow in elementary school it was enough to do a big shopping trip before school began, and get through the school year with maybe only the purchase of a few sweaters for Christmas. For my new position at the library I don’t exactly need a new wardrobe, but it is the beginning of the summer so my wardrobe needs some nice staples for the warmer weather. I bought two pairs of khakis and a new black skirt, a few short sleeved tops, and a new pair of brown shoes.

Beyond worrying about looking nice for the first day, I’ve been getting ready in other ways. I got a new notebook, a stack of books for a program next week, piles of stickers and prizes, and files of information on schools in the area. It is kind of silly in a way, because I don’t really have all the information I need to start making plans, but I’ve been so excited to start that I run ahead of myself.

Since I really want to get all the staff excited about the HHC and my work in general, I am concerned about making a good impression with my coworkers. I really should have taken more time to try to familiarize myself with the staff I will be working with–all of their pictures and job titles are on the intranet, but I was too busy at work to take the time, plus it is a little stalkerish. My hope is that they will be as excited to have me as I am to join them–or at least excited about having a HHC!


Math Reference May 29, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in books, Homework Help, Library.
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One of the scariest parts of my new job is going to be providing homework help in math, since it has never been a strong subject for me. But in my quest to become as prepared as possible, and in my class assignment of creating a core-reference collection for the center, I have been examining a variety of math related reference materials. Since I don’t have a passion for math, I didn’t expect to be terribly excited about these reference materials, but I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of math reference materials out there.

In particular, I found the book A Mathematics Handbook very colorful and informative on all kinds of math problems and concepts. It is aimed for middle school students, but could help younger children and even older ones.

Core Reference Collection May 28, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in books, Homework Help, Library.
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I’m currently taking a four week class called “Reference Services for Youth” and our main project is to create a core reference collection of about 30-34 works both print, electronic, and hopefully audio visual. Personally, I am not sure of what the professor means by “reference” as she sometimes seems to refer to all non-fiction books and other times to refer to a distinct sub-set of non-fiction. Regardless, I am finding this particular assignment to be very helpful, and am creating a core reference collection for the homework help center.

Since the homework help center is a distinct area within a larger branch, it doesn’t need a full complement of reference materials. Students can bring reference materials into the center from other parts of the library, and certainly if there was a project that all the students were working on that needed a specific set of books, we could move them temporarily into the center. This said, there are some basic print reference materials that we could keep in the center for use of the students.

In deciding which materials to include, I’m trying to select works that can be used by the broadest range of students in the largest amount of projects. Since the library system has a lot of amazing databases, I will work on marketing those as well.

Here is the tentative list:
Random House Webster’s unabridged dictionary 2005 423 R1948r2, 2005
Macmillan dictionary for children 2007 423 M16, 2007
The American heritage student thesaurus 2007 423.1 H477s, 2007
The Facts on File dictionary of mathematics 2005 510.3 F142f4
Larousse French-English, English-French dictionary 2007 443.21 L332, 2007
Bilingual visual dictionary – French 2005 443.21 B595
Collins Spanish dictionary 2006 463.21 C7123c3
Writing Aids
Grammar essentials 2006 428.2 G7451g3
Ready, set, write! :a student writer’s handbook for school and home 808.02 R287
The World Book Encyclopedia 2008 031 W92, 2008 Almanacs
The World almanac and book of facts 2008 031.02 W927
The world almanac for kids” 2008 031.02 W9273
“School atlas–DK” 2007 912 S421s, 2007 Historical Works
Opposing viewpoints in American history 2007 973 OPP

This is just a start–I’m still thinking that I’d like a general science reference work, but I’m undecided on what would be general enough for the largest variety of students and assignments and not take up too much shelf space. In case you are wondering about the two French dictionaries, we have two French immersion schools in our service area, both k-8, so it seemed reasonable.

New Job May 19, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in Library, Ready to Read.
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In two weeks, I will be starting a new job, which I am super excited and nervous about. It is an amazing position, with the potential to do a huge amount of good in the community, as well as giving me TONS of good experience. I will be coordinating the new center to assist students k-12 with their homework. The job is one that combines advocacy, programing, and hands on, one-on-one interaction with youth. Plus, it is the sort of position that responds to the needs of the community and the season, meaning that I will have a ton of freedom to design new programs and visit new locations to market the center to students and recruit potential volunteers.

Another advantage of this position, is that I will be full time working out of one location. This will make it so much easier to arrange my schedule and plan ahead. Even though I wont begin for a couple of weeks, I’m bursting with ideas for the upcoming Summer Reading Season and the build up to the new school year at the end. It will be adventure to get to know a new branch, new customers, and a new job!

For the next two weeks, I’ll be getting the R2R activities set up to continue after I go, and wrapping up all the other details of my two jobs. I’m sure that I will have lots to post as it gets closer to the time for me to start my new job.

Challenges of At-Risk Youth May 5, 2008

Posted by swegene1 in General, Library.
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Over the last five days or so, I’ve been reading as much as I possibly can about the struggles and needs of at-risk youth in some of the nation’s poorest neighborhoods. My research has taken me in two directions–one has been to read scholarly and anecdotal articles and books about the specific educational and developmental crises the youth are facing, and the other has been to read juvenile fiction that recounts their tragedies and triumphs.

Some of what I read was not particularly new, coming together to paint a grim picture, but also a hopeful one. The stark reality is that poverty, according to the Children’s Defense Fund in 2001, is one of the largest factors for family stress and relates directly to failure at school. The stresses that children face at home are huge, as a result of economic status and of the consequences that result from that, such as poor nutrition, unstable family lives, less access to mental health care, and frequent absence of stable male role models. These factors are added to a culture that does not put a priority on education and particularly on school.

One of the saddest aspects of this situation is its self-perpetuating nature, both as parents who had poor experiences with school perpetuate this attitude, and as student’s failures or perceived failures leave them with strong negative feelings towards school as a whole. Students, who experience failures early on in their education, frequently do not feel that they are capable of succeeding. They may have negative perceptions of themselves, school, or both. Without the basic foundation of reading skills and mathematical skills, students find school increasingly challenging. In particular, students who fall behind in reading skills, may never be able to make up the reading practice that students who have been reading all along.

Furthermore, many of these children are left unsupervised in the after school hours, the period in which they are at the greatest risk of committing or falling victim to violent crime. A fair number of these children are in turn responsible for the care of even younger children during this time period, which means they have no motivation to work on school assignments.

While this is a grim picture, there is hope! Public libraries have long been locations for latchkey students to spend the after-school hours, frequently in undirected activities with friends. Now, however, libraries are starting Homework Help Centers (HHC) to provide a location dedicated to school work, with staff and volunteers trained to assist at-risk children. These centers provide many advantages beyond a few math pointers. HHC help participants develop self-confidence, connection with the community, ability to solve problems in their lives and in school, a greater ability to cope with the world, and an improved self-control through learning to make decisions and delaying gratification. Also, participants have models in volunteers and coordinators of adult behavior and academic success, that are frequently more acceptable then teachers and the school.