Friday, January 30, 2009

Conquering My Reading List

I feel like I'm actually making a little progress and slowly but surely getting a grasp on what's required of me in my classes. Today was especially productive because, in one trip to our local high school, I managed to finish three assignments (observation, interview, book talk) and start another (bibliography).

I've also been able to wade through the gigantic reading list for my young adult literature class and decide what I'm reading when. That sounds like an easy task but trust me--it wasn't!

Plus, after combing through our local library system and high school's card catalog, I've also discovered what I can read for free. I love free.

I'm doing okay on my reading list. So far I've managed to read:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (my favorite)
Holes by Louis Sachar
Hero by S.L. Rottman
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (my second favorite thus far)

I'm considering starting another blog to share my personal book reviews on the books that I'm reading. Not only would it be a fun blog project, but it will be a helpful resource when I am a librarian and need to remember the plots and characters of these books in a pinch. I'm still on the fence about it. Maybe now is not quite the time to take on another project.
We'll see!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do Unto Others

Professors are busy folk--I get that. Many times, they don't have time to answer everyone's e-mails in a timely manner...probably because they are swamped! That's why students should try to take care of one another. Lately, I've had more of my questions answered by friends and random co-students than I have by instructors. I'm always so thankful when someone takes the time to reply to an e-mail or share a informative link or give insight on a project.

The best advice I can give on taking online courses is to live by the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Take time to reply to an e-mail if you have the answer. Encourage a fellow student who seems to be overwhelmed. Direct someone to a good resource online or in a textbook. "Live" education is all about sharing ideas and online learning should be no different.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Internet Courses: A Love/Hate Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with internet courses. On one hand, they make life so much easier. I mean, I can do my classwork while sitting in bed in my pajamas, or after I've just worked out when no humans would dare to be near my smelly, unsightly self. I can even do my classwork while I'm traveling. It's super handy. On the other hand, you are basically left to teach yourself. Remember the old Mike Myers sketch "Coffee Talk with Linda Richman?" It's sometimes as if a teacher posts all the necessary information along with a syllabus, then in true Linda Richman fashion says, " amongst yourselves."

I feel like I've spent most of my week trying to sort through all of my class information and create some sort of workable schedule. I still haven't successfully managed to do that because there have been so many changes to the syllabi and, adding to the confusion, several different reading lists are floating around.

It's frustrating! I feel like I'm spinning wheels even though I'm trying to get ahead. For instance, I managed to read a couple of books this week (working on a third) and have written partial book reviews for them. I thought I was doing pretty well since--by my calculations--I need to average two per week. I also made arrangements for my observation & book talk times next week (which requires me to read another book in preparation for that). However, last night I got a call from a classmate concerned about an assignment that she found online that is supposed to be due on Monday. I'm glad she called it to my attention because in all the syllabus-change confusion, I had no idea that it needed to be done this week!

I hope that after next week's face-to-face class, I will have a better handle of the flow to these classes. Ironically, the one class that I'm taking that is entirely online is easily managed; it has a definite "flow" already. Of course, that may be due to the fact that it is a class about online education methods!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Today was supposed to be day #2 of class for me, but since it is a national holiday, it was canceled. This sounds totally stupid (because who doesn't love a day off?), but it has really disrupted the whole "rhythm and flow" part of getting back into school for me. Grrrr....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Out of My Element

I'm not sure if it's being in a non-traditional classroom (ITV + internet) after getting used to a traditional class setting or just being in grad school or because I'm back in the education genre (almost everyone else in class has working experience in the field; I do not), or if it's just that we've only had one class day & I haven't gotten into the flow of things yet, but I feel a little bit like a fish out of water.

As an undergrad, I already had working experience in the areas I was studying, so I was confident. I feel a little intimidated by the many teachers who are in my classes. I guess I feel that I have nothing of value to offer despite the fact that most of them are newbies to the Library-Media world, too.

Luckily, I was chatting with my good friend online this morning and she said this:

"You'll get in the groove at school. That's exactly how I felt when I started, going into a new field that I didn't have as much knowledge about and everyone seemed to "know" more. In the end, I liked grad school much better than undergrad."

It's so good to have encouraging friends who have "been there, done that!"

I am a hard worker, so I have no doubt that I will do well. Okay, well maybe I have a little doubt, but at any rate I know I will survive. Everything happened so quickly, I kind of feel like I'm still caught in a whirlwind. Hopefully, things will settle down soon and I will get into a rhythm with schoolwork and better understand what is expected of me on a weekly basis.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Going to Grad School: The Backstory

I decided to go to grad school last Thursday. Classes began on Monday. How'd I manage that??

First of all, I had been encouraged by good friend (who is also a librarian) to consider Library-Media studies more seriously. She and I had discussed it in the past, though I had never really spent much time researching which universities offered Library-Media graduate studies. I began looking at our state schools just to see what was available. I also looked at one program--entirely online--that was out-of-state because I had a friend who was enrolled in it.

What really propelled me to start this semester instead of later was free tuition! I found out that one university had received a special grant to extend their library-media studies to the western part of our state (a.k.a "the boondocks"). The grant covers nine hours of graduate tuition! Awesome! The catch: students must come stay on-campus for three weeks during the summer term to take those 9 hours. On the upside, that's nine hours completed in three weeks...nine FREE hours I might add. Also, room, board and transportation are taken care of through the grant. Sweet! The downside, of course, is that I will have to be away from my family for three weeks. I will come home on the weekends, but I will be missing a lot of their summer activities and put extra strain on the husband who will have to juggle work and kids all on his own. Also, the campus is quite a drive--3 to 4 hours away--so there will be no quick trips home mid-week for anything. I keep telling myself that three weeks away from the family is a small price to pay in order to be on my kids' school schedules for the next 12 years of their lives.

When I actually started thinking, "I should do, right now!" I had two pretty big hurdles: deadlines for enrollment were looming & I hadn't taken the GRE. Actually, the university that I am now enrolled in had started classes the day I called to talk to someone about the program. Talk about last-minute!

So, I quickly made the decision to give this a shot. I'm actually glad that there was a small window of opportunity to make that decision, otherwise I might have agonized over it for days. I started typing up applications, faxing unofficial transcripts, requesting official transcripts, e-mailing a trillion people for information, etc. Though I had once been an undergrad student at this particular university, it had been so long that I actually had to reapply for admission. That ended up holding things up a bit, but we finally got everything completed....yesterday (four school days after starting the process). I wasn't actually enrolled when I attended my first class. In fact, I paced the floor all day waiting impatiently to hear word whether or not I should drive to my ITV (interactive television) class. I had to leave by 3:30 to get there in time, and I finally heard back from the university somewhere around 2:30.

Luckily--VERY luckily--for me, this particular program didn't require the GRE for admission. God bless 'em.

I put out the admissions and enrollment fires, now I'm tending to the teacher certification fires! I'm getting a lot of different answers about whether or not I have to be certified before or after I complete the program and how I will go about certification. So now, I'm making tons of phone calls and e-mails to that end.

Maybe I should just be a firefighter instead!

Going to Grad School: Why?

Obviously, if you've been reading my posts for the past year, I wasn't seriously considering enrolling in grad school. I didn't plan to start grad school a only few weeks after graduation, either. Honestly, I had been tossing the idea around for a while, but something held me back.

I am now enrolled in a Library-Media Specialist program. Why?

*I love to read.
*I love technology.
*I love researching.
*I place a high value on education.
*I'm a life-long learner.
*I'm curious (reading/researching helps satisfy my curiosity).
*I have a strong desire to be in a steady job.
*Bonus: I want to be on the same school schedule as my children.

Thirteen years ago when I started my college career as a "true freshman," I was an English Education major. When I started back as an adult student, I still intended to get my teacher certification, but I had planned to go through an alternative certification process. Somewhere along the way, I began to reconsider; the alternative certification process would have been a little more difficult since I had a Mass Comm degree rather than English. I was also a little concerned about the way teacher's are required to teach these days (a.k.a. "teaching for the test"--standardized tests). Still, I always pictured myself working in the school system in some manner.

Throughout my Mass Comm studies, I was encouraged to try my hand at freelance writing as a career choice. While it appealed to me in many ways, I did express my qualms about constantly having to track down work and (once again) I also desired to have steady employment...something that would (for the most part) allow me to go home at the end of the day and not carry my work home. I also wrestled with the decision to send my resume in for a newspaper position that I was definitely qualified for and probably could have taken. I debated with myself constantly, and it never felt like the right thing to do for myself or my family.

I have come to realize that what you CAN do and what's BEST to do are not always the same things. People think that I am a skilled photographer. I could continue in this profession and continue to grow my skills, but it is an unpredictable job--income is unsteady, it requires countless hours of time working in front of a computer and the best hours for photography are often the times that I most want to be with my family (nights/weekends). I could write for a living. It would be interesting work--I would get to research a variety of topics and meet interesting people--but I would also have to basically "beg" for work each day (it's called "marketing" in the freelance world--lol!) and I'm not sure my fragile ego can handle the constant rejection that is part of daily life of a writer.

I'm not going to lie: I'm a job snob. I hate this about myself because I was always taught that no job should ever be beneath me. Not everyone is meant for white collar work; we should all just do whatever job we're given to the best of our abilities. But still...I find myself asking, "What would people think if I did this?" or "Is this a respectable profession?"

What do you think of when you hear the word, "librarian?" Chances are, you are remembering a librarian from your hometown or school. It's probably a woman, she's probably older, and she may or may not be a little grouchy, right? I think the one thing that was holding me back from looking into this (seriously) earlier was that negative perception. That's so childish, I know, especially since most librarians that I know these days don't fit that mold at all!

Honestly, librarian is a very good fit for me in many aspects. I'm actually excited about this new journey, even after surviving my first night of classes. I've got a giant list of young adult literature to read, and I can't wait!

A professor once told me something (twelve years ago) that I've never forgotten: "It's not what you know, it's knowing where to find the answer." I live by that statement. You don't have to be super-smart or remember everything that you've ever read, but if you have the tools to find the answers that you need, you will never lack for anything. Librarians give people the tools to find the answers that they need. This is why grad school--and becoming a librarian--is perfect for me.

P.S. Did I mention that librarian was listed as one of the top 30 best careers for 2009 by U.S. News and World Report?

Monday, January 12, 2009

And the Big News Is....

(drumroll please)

I'm STILL a University Mama!

That's right, I've decided to enroll in grad school! It has all happend in a whirlwind, last-minute kind of way. It's a story that I'll have to share tomorrow because class starts this evening and I have to leave soon!

And you thought it was the end of this blog....

Friday, January 9, 2009

Surprising & Exciting News!

My lips are sealed for now, but come back soon for the big reveal! Oh, the suspense!! :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Question Suggestions

Plenty of well-meaning folks who just want to congratulate me on my graduation and really don't know what else to say have been regurgitating the same blasted question: "What are you planning to do now?"

I don't know, already!!

First, I'm pretty agitated with myself that I don't know; I'm a "planner" and this is totally unlike me. Secondly, I'm actually in constant stress over this issue. Between racing thoughts and/or waves of sadness, I'm really struggling with big questions like, "What do I want to do?" and "Where do you see yourself in ten years?" or "What's most important in life."

So, yes--many thanks for all the well-wishers who are making me aware of my current state of limbo.

Maybe I should simply suggest a few new questions to ask me. How about:

1) Where did you get that lovely sweater? (What sweater?)
2) Are you enjoying this wonderful winter weather? (Absolutely not.)
3)Boxers or briefs? (Um...not sure how to answer that one...)
4) Do you prefer fried chicken or grilled chicken? (Fried, but we try to eat low carb meals.)
5) Are you excited that LOST will be back on January 21? (YES!!!!)
6) Why did the chicken cross the road? (To get to the other side. Really. True story.)
7) If a train leaves Point A traveling north at 45 mph into a 25 mph wind, how long will it take to reach Point B, 192 miles northeast of Point A? (I dunno...I haven't had a math class in ages and I wasn't any good back then, either!)
8) Are you going to enjoy not having to drive 120 miles to school each day? (Yes, very much. Thanks for asking.)
9) Would you like to use my vacation home in Hawaii for a couple of weeks, rent-free? (HECK YEAH!!! When can I leave?)
10) Junior Mints are quite refreshing, aren't they? (Yes, they really are.)