Social Media Week – Attacking “Fake News” Countless Ways…

Social Media Week Resources

On November 01, a great webinar by the American libraries live aired, tackling something that has been in the social media a lot, fake news. What I took away was not that term, used so frequently lately, which not new in concept, but the use of the phrase replacing others through the years.   I think many fail to realize that when it comes to hearing a new buzzword to a concept. This hit me with the news of Russia meddling and impacting social media and helping push forward the advent of fake news. Many other takeaways were given, and the webinar, represented by Nicole Cook, MS/LIS Program Director at the University of Illinois, Joanna M. Burkhadt, full librarian at the University of Rhode Island Universities, as well as Donald Barclay, Deputy University Librarian, provided some amazing resources that can be utilized during this Social Media Week.

When I first heard the term Fake news, it was associated with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, but this webinar made me realize that this could also be referred to in past years, in terms like Yellow journalism, propaganda, information literacy, and basically finding the truth in news and information is at the base of this category. I do see the need to show students how to critically view news and information is vital and I am sure has come up this week during social media week. Another challenge is talking about this issue without making it political and dealing with the situation itself, that of what is fake, what is a credible source, etc. This webinar was stacked FULL with potential resources, so I am going to provide some pf the resources below Dunning-Kruger effect – I am a little unclear how/why this came up – this refers to the fact that individuals think they are better than they are, when their work is subpar at best. individuals think they are better than they are, when their work is subpar at best. 

I believe this could be the belief of knowing what an article is saying, believing it, when the article in reality is not based in truth at all. This does indeed set up a false sense of understanding, or believing, the information presented is legitimate.

This image shows how important an article can seem to be, and yet still have no substance while holding large audiences captive.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 3.45.07 AM

Importance of “fake News” 

 

I do like the fact that the topic of misinformation versus disinformation came up, the difference being, Disinformation versus misinformationMisinformation is accidental, while disinformation is purposely spread.

I do see the next term, click bait, representing how individuals can be tricked into clicking on something they feel is real, to the wealth or income of another – so this also can play with what is real and what is not real. When, in this webinar strategies were discussed to approach this topic, many creative ideas did begin to pour out.

One was being able to compare sources outside of their social media newsfeeds so students became familiar with unfamiliar sites and what they were encountering. It would be a good project to have students from say, Mexico, and the states, representing different classes share what they consider fake news from abroad, then compare to real news in their area. This helps bring actual aspects of news to the forefront of reinforcing what fake news is and discerning what is true and what is not. Another acronym you might be familiar with is CRAAP – which in evaluating sources stands for: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

Another strategy was this “A librarian here at PCT includes a tab in her libguide for mediabiasfactcheck.com because it applies to every subject” – I did like this site as it provides a great overview on how to critically look at and consider news sources. breaks down the process of critically thinking and makes it more physically in nature. This launches off another acronym, BRAIN (bias, reliability, authority, intent and new). I like that this breaks down how to approach various sources analytically.

This source, Stanford History Education Group article, offers free history resources related to fake news and plans to really delve into how to critically analyze information.

Yet another acronym, the CARS (Credibility, Accuracy, Reliability, Supporting references) test, suggests databases over random searches, and you can demo the website here – Factitious – (This game is super cool!)

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 3.53.17 AMAnd yet another acronym– ESCAPE – (Evidence, source, Context, Audience, Purpose, Execution) (cool poster here –  An open-source textbook referenced in a story on NPR looks useful: What I LOVE is this open source book provides even MORE sites to show and help detect if a source is valid –

Politifact,

Factcheck.org,

Washington Post Fact Checker,

Snopes,

Truth be Told,

NPR Fact-Check,

Lie Detector (Univision, Spanish language)

Hoax Slayer

I also think open source books are AMAZING for resources for educators. What was mentioned in the webinar was repeated sources for Fact checking – Snopes for checking out validity of information, while Snopes was questioned at times for truly being free from bias. This just made me think of the ease, even with sites recommended free from flaws, similar to Wikipedia. I feel there is no excuse for anything but maintaining skills to discern how you can tell valid, solid facts from those not.

Surreal sites also exist discussing conscious awareness of topics (I am a little skeptical of these, lol) . It seems slightly surreal on this topic as it states the site, “…investigates thoughts and feelings that exist outside of conscious awareness or conscious control.”   I am not sure how I feel about this site yet I often, in a rush, have learned the Facebook posting lesson, when I share something, in a state of “hurriedness”, to find out from others it was old, not true, etc simply from not reading the inside of the post and just seeing the headline. A big learn lesson always follows after such a folly.

The site allsides.com, reminds me of the opposing viewpoints books that often help readers think, contemplate, and consider both sides of an argument or social issue.

Karen Storz, a librarian specializing in topics of international nature, seems to be a great resource for resources that are of a primary documents nature to keep realistic information close by.

Having used Google all this time, I still was not a frequent visitor of news.google.com, but also realize it is an important tool for discussion on discerning information and see that allows info to be valid. I did notice at this point, some references to having students realize they needed to “Put some elbow grease into it” and felt there was no real way of having this being interesting, it was just something that had to be done.

I of course disagreed as an educator because I felt my job was to turn all topics into something students did not think about, in order to draw them in. To me, that is the art of education, finding the spaces no one knows about to get points, educations, and concepts across. While everyone agreed that teaching critical thinking skills was necessary, it seemed to me a spin on how we participate the knowing of a culture, DEFINITELY takes longer working in a community of values. Especially with so much conversation dealing with politics, I like how this site breaks down these factions with information that can be organized much more clearly in my mind showing how different perspectives affect the news that we read and receive.

This article on fake news in a post fact world is a great read and source for discussion based on how much “rubble” we find ourselves having to wade through in a complicated news world today.

Also, this glossary of terms is essential for a thorough until that could be come discerning the role of fake news and the individual in today’s society.

When specific books were being mentioned, I listened. ESPECIALLY with the tax bill in the government now passing or not passing right now, Dark Money by Jane Sayer, never seemed more appropriate to this topic. Then there were the following books as well:

Metaliteracy Thomas Mackey and Jacobson

The Influencing Machine (Graphic Novel) . – Brooke Gladstone on the Media 

Social Problems -Joel Best

Deadly Decisions 

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business -Neil Postman 

The Organized Mind 

Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate- George Lakoff 

Thinking Fast and Slow

Taking on the stance when examining information such as, Who benefits from the info?, is a great way to discover an approach to analyze information for truth. In the chat for this webinar, someone posted, “I wish we would be more deliberate about actually teaching the “political economy of information. I presented yesterday to a group of school librarians and a significant number of them actually asked me why the Gilded Age editors did not just publish unbiased news. “

Wow. To me, that was a deep point and question and one worthy of a research topic, though, could it be that articles and information was biased and we just did not realize it? This toolkit for consumers and journalists also is a GREAT resource, including topics such as conflicts of interest and analyzing informational broadcasts and look below for,

if you can believe it,

even more resources to assist in the Detecting Fake News skills:

Journalism Code of Ethics

Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers:

http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/how-to-spot-fake-news/

http://www.opensources.co/

https://www.ifla.org/publications/node/11174

http://libraryguides.mta.ca/fake_news

Campaign for Accountability 

One year on, we’re still not recognizing the complexity of information disorder online 

Melissa Harris Perry’s The Syllabus 

Facebook and Fake News

http://guides.library.illinoisstate.edu/fake_news

FACT SHEET: UPDATING MEDIA OWNERSHIP RULES IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST 

Propaganda

The Chicago Guide to Fact Checking is actually a really nice source of fact-checking method.

Tree Octopus and Velcro crop

Consequences of Reading Inaccurate Information

If you connect a public library with a school library, establish a scavenger hunt, and dead ends from fake clues versus real clues, it emphasizes that point

Politics & Current Affairs program

Pew Research Center in the Las Vegas Shooting

The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online 

Journalism Code of Ethics

I watched Eli Pariser’s TedTalks, on filter bubbles – how links were being chosen for individuals by editing out links that did not seem to match searches individuals do. Wow. That freaks me out a lot! 

In discussing movies and other materials that portray “what is real and what is not,” The Truman Show and the book A Million Little Pieces came to the front of the discussion as examples. I found myself also not familiar with the phrase, “Follow the Money” and found it was this – “Follow the money” is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 drama-documentary motion picture All The President’s Men, which suggests a money trail or corruption scheme within high (often political) office. (Wikipedia).

In seeing that definition, I see how so much news and information can be a maze even with the basic skills to seek through the mixed signals of what is true, what might be true, etc.. Whoa. All this from ONE webinar. But after sifting through all this information, you also get the idea of how complicated, how intense the sifting and knowing what is correct, what is a myth, what is a story, what is not, etc…and the magic of having information and lessons to guide us towards a more further method of HOW to get better in sifting the mystery and complications news can provide today.

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Cornucopia – Literary, Social and Everything In Between…

November as you probably will know, in fact is National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO – get it?  take a close look at the abbreviation and you will see how that works out) and I stare down a 7th year of participating, with two years of truly finishing a 50 000 word novel and this year – well so different.  Yet I found I puled some amazing self discoveries about myself, from living in Mexico, with me.  

It so different for me being in the states and participating in NANO after 6 years in Mexico, and why just not sure.  I still get this apprehension of “What am I going to write?  Where is this going?” that everyone feels and often feeling dejected about what I have written and despite trying to remove my inner editor, always having that editor sitting right there then easier than ever, gone.  

Yet, there is literally a cornucopia of things happening since I arrived in the states again, despite my best attempts to distance myself from all.   What I do see a connection with the role of librarian in the middle, and I feel that is the way it should be for all librarians all over the world.  Listing specifics, Homecoming, reviewing a collection of materials, discovering place in various cities to present how writing connections are supported from a librarian perspective, making connections and partnerships with students, community members, faculty members, discovering new ways to redefine what a library is by presenting relics of the past, connecting with Educator book nights, with Independent Book stores, established books stores, searching for funding for projects let alone books, discovering creative ways to obtain research materials in all forms (electronic, texts, databases), creating a new space in the library for Open Mics, meeting places, gathering places for student organizations, scholarship information, being a voice for change in the form of jumping right in to what students are jumping into – here we are at NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month).

NANOWRIMO certainly is a test of the self, a test of pushing yourself past the excuses you do not allow yourself to do the things you want to all year, but it is more than that.  The whole risk of putting yourself out there when so much ELSE is going on, of course there is never time to get everything you want done, there never is.  NANO always becomes a free pass to realize certain truths about yourself, and to ride out the doubts.  I can count on my hands how many times a WEEK I had doubting what I wrote was garbage, or how many times I LOST what I had been working on for a whole month and being reckless for not saving as carefully in places I should have.  THEN, I wanted all those words back that I lost.  I realized ANY words I think of – that I did not think of might not quite fit right now into a pattern, but it would down the road somewhere, so it is important.

Ultimately, we always find snags, and can’t figure out how to move on, yet having a mantra such as sure, you feel as if you are in a dead en right now, but what happens if I just walk away for a minute, let me mind wander, and simply write about the firs things that come to mind?  This is on strategy that seems to always work.

Also, I have found myself going to the very students I surround myself all day, and asking them hypothetical questions about topics I am thinking about writing, and usually those one word lists they provide trigger a path I could go with one of my characters, a setting etc..

Also, places.  Also as if I had nothing going on in November, we have an amazing return to a 5k HEROn and 5k series coming up in November 26th, adding to that an appointment to speak at the International Writing Centers Conference then a benefit at DogFish head, and oh yeah, there is that portion of November called Thanksgiving.  But wait, if you alway put all the things you NEED to do in your head, often there is NOT room for what you WANT to do, and that is the same with NANO.  No matter how packed a schedule is, I have always found it is VITAL to NOT abandon any creative options and kill what MIGHT be with thoughts of what you have to do, as soon as you do, you ‘clear the table’ and turn to your story.  Once you get over that wall of disbelief or doubt, you feel stronger, not only as a writer, but regaining confidence to simply get through things (sounds like life, eh?) I have found finding places to write, and breaking it up to be a different place every week sets a pattern of variety and also helps my writing ideas.

Connections, yes!  We are doing a 5k right this mont, right? So why not highlight the very nooks and private places that many people might NOT be aware of, ask them to be a partial donor to the 5k in the form of a gift certificate, and interview then and feature them for places to do NANO through YELP, and reviews of your own, while also featuring them for bringing more people to them AFTER NANO, and PR’ing them as sponsors of your 5k?   Being able to bring aspects together somehow and find a common bond that many would never see or think of, that is a partial art of teaching AND learning as well!

These are just a few tips that get me going through surviving when there seems to be already so much on my plate, and yet there is so much more to discuss.  As we head into an awareness of Social media week and how people use social media to its best benefit, you run into people that  just simply let their emotions, frustrations, and anger come out on social media and divides begin.  Yet the minute you realize this potential exists, you can better learn how to use social media to actually ease the frustrations you have rather than let the frustrations dominate you and let social media offend others.  The trick is, how do I use social media positively, not negatively, to cause a meeting of diverse ideas and opinions, without offending – but that is another blog post so stay tuned.

I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself the only one at a movie, at a restaurant or an event, but wanted to do something so badly, that was al that matters.  Such is the case with NANO, at your lowest, most difficult, to trying moments, you often feel alone when you set ambitious goals and have LIFE still happening.  That is what pushes you to see how much you want something.  In November, that is NANO.  With 196 + other writers in Delaware ALONE participating in NANO, there is definitely something we can find for ourself to keep us going.  Something as simple as being mentioned live during the virtual write (check out 7:43 AND 21:37 in this video)  in’s is a reminder that each of us can be noticed and recognized, and motivate us to keep pushing on.  That is what I like about being a part of NANO, a librarian, and involved with education, despite the setbacks, there are ways to find your path and find the truer you – it just takes a person to find creative ways to get around those roadblocks, no mater how oppressive they might seem at the time!  Go NANO’ers – it’s about life as well!

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Magic Castles in Your Community.

IMG_6064“I’ve never seen a castle inside a library before!”  Those weren’t the exact words, but since I am getting older, my memory in some cases is not as stellar on some things than with others.  Yet, the implication as told to me by the Friends of the Library at Lewes reinforced the way I felt when I walked in the Lewes Public Library.

It had been maybe 12 years ago when I found myself in Delaware, and I fell in love with the look of the Lewes library, and “had” to volunteer there, based on how I felt when I walked in.  Imagine my surprise when I returned to Delaware, and witnessed the “new” (wasn’t the Lewes library new in 2005?!) and I was – well I was floored.  

The fireplace in the back, the amazingly LONG space that looked like a hall from a scene in Game of Thrones, yes in a castle, there are simply NO WORDS.  The feel of the books and how they draw you in is about 70% of my love for librarians, and being a Media Specialist Librarian, but the personality is the remaining 30%.  Yes, a majority of my life to date, has been surrounded with either librarians with much personality and like a family member, or no personality and the cardboard cutouts of the Presidents with more personality, there never seemed to be much in between.  THEN, there was the personality of the library itself.  Without having to say a word.

Visiting the Lewes Public Library in a new spot but not far from its former location, and with this new “outfit” had me reeling.  Being here first for the Fall Book Sale in general, then a week later for the Lewes Historical Book Festival, and being able to accommodate so many aspects of titles needed for our own High School library at a fraction of a cost it would normally cost, many revelations came out.

The relationship between communities is never strong enough, nor enough in general.  I saw a direct line of working together between the public libraries and school libraries I wanted to strengthen. Right here was a community within a community, the Friends of the Lewes Library helped fund the books needed on part of the library, and the store within the Lewes Public library was itself a novel idea yet another step in how a community insured their public library will only continue to grow in relationship to its ties to the community.

I cherished the relationship we started with Greenwood Public Library in getting students their own library cards, showing them how their research projects could be delved into more deeply, and not just through the high school library, and the ability to bring in the community to the high school, an exchange of the outside, in, and the inside, out.  Thank you Donna Carter, we have only just begun to redefine the roles of libraries in our communities.

The staff of the Friends of the Lewes Library, and the Lewes Public Library itself was a breath of fresh air.  I stood outside watching the tall Kentucky-like grass

blowing in the wind, in front of the “castle-like entrance”, there was such a calmness.  I saw the neighborhood coming in and out, and this truly was a center for Lewes, as such every public library should be.  Building a home within the library for the Friends of the Lewes Library, as such an integral part of any library, and community, it was easy to see the bonds for the library, the search for knowledge, relaxations, and information for information’s sake would never disappear thanks to the events, as well as the materials open to the public and invested in. 

In a world today that is so full of competition, politics that border on tyranny and unrest, the need for a sense of community and revaluing the projects that add to the wealth of neighborhoods had never been more important or essential to put the meaning back into lives that often have to jump to keep up with the newest, latest, and best, and frankly, that just drains you of the valuable time to reflect, enjoy, and relish other’s contributions to the world and your local community itself.  This model of libraries, ties with volunteers helping fund materials when funding does not seem to be as important for culture and the arts as it used to be, as well as the community continually being the backbone of information, was inspiring.  

I saw a microcosm of what the educational field should be to all students.  A daily field trip of possibility of what the future can hold, and what individuals can creatively do to redefine their neighborhoods and make connections to so many ideas, creative possibilities, and the future of learning.   I hope individuals realize they can step off the light speed-paced technology highway every once in awhile to look at themselves and allow time to grow within their own neighborhoods.  

Seeing how the Lewes Library works hand-in hand with the Friends of the Lewes Library and taking the time to find out what interests, abilities, talents, topics of interest are in their immediate community, I saw a business model of what I would want a library to do for me: Know me, cater to my interests based on knowing who I am in the community, and always challenging me with new ideas, new experiences, and new projects.  Certainly the Lewes Public Library did in this in two weekends I was there, and to think of how much more they do this on a daly basis, is all the more reason to seek out what possibilities exist in your own neighborhood.  The course and institute I took from the Jane Goodall Institute kicked in again where I valued what was in our community and what wasn’t to fit the needs of the immediate community.  It was so refreshing to see the Lewes Public Library and the Friends of Lewes Library in tune with this aspect on such a high scale.

I am proud of how we have begun to transform our own high school library.  We have placed a puzzle on a table that attracts the most unlikely students every day on a activity hat brings them a sense of calm.  Yes the beanie babies we have everywhere in the library ARE picked up and rested on desks of students as they find themselves in the library.  Love the fact that one of the mostly looked at books in the library has been the yearbooks from the past 10-15 years on display throughout the library.  I love the fact that the graphic novels set up everywhere bring topics students never knew existed AND they are checking them out.  It is inspiring to see the scholarship and collegiate section, a section of its own, frequented much more than ever before as seniors and juniors get a jump on the things that will boost their future.  Add to this the mix of items you’d see in a TGIF’s restaurant and you have a place that is safe, fun to visit, a place to hide, a place to relax, a community center.  Welcome to the Media Center library, a community castle if you will.

 

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The “Deal” With a Media Center Librarian

“Do you realize how much you mean to us?”

“You have a great deal as a librarian, I mean, the papers I have to check, wow!”

“I think I might like to become a librarian…”

Maybe it is a given but every time you place yourself, or find yourself in a new situation, you are surprised when you least expect it.  Even though I have made the switch from the emphasis of my time being in a Media Center Library, from the classroom, the overlap continues to reveal itself every single day.  

I remember being in graduate courses for Library Studies and being told, “You are way to nonserious and joking to truly be a librarian.”  – Heck, I even received that comment countless times on evaluations and evaluations from colleagues here and there.  However, deep inside, I LOVED that comment, it was a challenge as well as a message to me that yes, I was on the right track. Wanting to be completely different, wanting to create a whole new stereotype of what a Media Specialist Librarian IS and DOES, and CAN DO was not going to be lined with conformity, anything but.

I truly am grateful for the hardships, trials, and difficult situations I found myself in as an educator, because even of course with the amazing and fun times as an educator, little did I know that would become the firmest, most solid foundation for being an effective and flexible Media Specialist Librarian, opposed to the typical one.  Typically being – quiet, seen between the shelves, always with a book in hand and little else, and confined to a library.  Bleh.  Really?

Thanks to the opportunity to extend myself beyond that stereotype, and colleagues that believed that being a Librarian Media Specialist was being the hub of a school, we lived that day in and day out, and THAT is a true Media Specialist.  Finding out how to bring the community into the library, finding out how to see a wider circle of how reading, impacts bringing the community into the school, how students can actually TALK to authors, how public librarians can interact with students in a school setting and vice versa, how authors can come together and present positive roles on the world around us amid so many crumbling events, false news, coverage, a mix of views and prejudice, and so much more, the fact remains that being a guide to some of the most objective methods to dissect this information coming at people at the speed of light, – a Media Specialist Librarian can make or break the success of a school.I say this because simply sitting at a desk waiting for the world, and student, and teachers to come to you? – I see this as a single main reason why some librarians and libraries cease to exist in some schools and communities.  Laying down and letting events come to you, and hoping they will, is a warrant for one’s death in that career.  In no way, shape, or form, do I feel a Media Specialist Librarian deserves such a job unless they actually ARE living that job.  Case in point, even when you are out on the weekends, I feel a flexible and synthesis-modeled Media Specialist Librarian sees connections in every single event, no matter where you go.  Hmmm, a used book sale, I bet I can find that text on Carpentry that someone was needing while I also remember that version of Harry Potter is outdated, and….okay so you see how that channel of thinking can go with books, it simply does not just remain on the shelf if you are eclectic and synthesis-educationally driven (those are the BEST librarians that always live in AND out of the library itself).

Librarians, and librarians that impact others, take the role of educations, and mix it all up and even they are not sure what they will come up since participants are also so much a part of that creation.  Programs are created from the opportunity that Media Specialists Librarians see around them, book talks with authors in the flesh, putting together Open Mics and turning the library space into a community center, empowering students to be deeply involved in books, authors, interviews, podcasts, mentoring, making, creating, designing, art, communicating, bridging, and sharing.  If you are a Media Specialist Librarian, and NOT reinventing the job every month, then you truly are merely serving lip-service a job that was never meant to be sitting in a chair, behind a desk, or shelving books as a major component of the job, let alone serving the needs of a diverse and ever-changing world. 

Finding unique ways to go to the audiences that are receptors for such a fast-paced world is one huge responsibility, and yet, I have seen so many individuals underestimate the role a Media Specialist Librarian has on the overall tone, feeling, and motivation within a staff of a whole institution.  So much so that I have seen a huge gap between the value placed on a Media Specialist Librarian in an international setting versus the value placed on such a position in the United States.  Hands-down, to date as an educator AND a Media Specialist Librarian, I have never seen test scores, overall academics, morale, and self esteems of educators, students, parents, and alumni soar as much as when a multitude of internal rewards are felt among those individuals, and then, and ONLY then, will an institution be able to grow successfully as a unit.  When the students feel they come to school every day with a personal challenge they look forward to, as well as the staff in all levels, and themselves seeing the opportunity for something to grow within themselves and to be shared among others?- change occurs in a positive directions. 

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 9.25.04 PM

I have never seen hands-on projects that involve STEM and STEAM fall by the wayside.  Being a hands-on advocate for diversity is a day in and day out occupation, I hear podcasts on NPR, and I think of ten different people to connect with and to have conversations with that particular themes tie to into something they do.  I read a great author and my brain thinks of all the possibilities of bringing an author to our living room and seeing what they can do to motivate the individuals around me from all walks of life, educators, students, alumni, local bookstores, and more.

I would like to say since I made a difficult decision to relocate back to the United States from Mexico it has been so easy.  There are a hundred ways that has not been easy.  Yet, within one month, as a Library, we have connected with the Greenwood Public Library to offer Library cards to high school students and finding them ways to access texts in the state through the interstate library loan program, increasing the number of pubic library card holders, connected with local bookstores for authors in residence and setting the path for an Author Among US to occur in the states, (occurring in Mexico),  connecting, with local bookstores to enhance the school collection, finding interviews that can be skyped with in other countries as well as in your “backyard”, deciding Open Mics are the abilities to connect with local businesses and bring talent into your library, finding ways to utilize all kinds of research and developing lists of databases that students can use as a means for discovering new research, redefining the library to mirror a bookstore and have students, teachers, and alumni feel there is something for them while rediscovering texts that have been there all along, allowing the “feel” of a library to be one compared to your favorite cafe, bookstore, and community center wrapped up into one, having FREE activities, be it a YA scavenger hunt, the opportunity to write your own novel, the chance to use technology in coordination with your public library and school library, becoming a part of self-directed podcasts that get to know authors and introduce authors more to the world around us, and SO MUCH MORE.

Yes, being a librarian can be an easy gig, should it be?  Not really.  It should be a position that wears you out as much as teaching all day in a classroom with 100 different learning styles, and finding ways to met every one of them, which is the task at hand – while leading countless numbers of individuals to discover what a library, and Media Specialist Librarian, can really do, to bring the world outside, right to your very doorstep.

Yes, when students stopped me and told me, “Mr. Brake, do you realize how much we appreciate you?” – I almost fell over.  It was perhaps one of the nicest things students could say in a brand new environment, and I did have to pinch myself to make sure they were talking to me.  Yet, we all need to be advocates for a profession that often is underwritten, disregarded, and stereotyped to DEATH. I felt comments as these validate the fact that a librarian is one of the most active members in a school – and of not, comments such as these are not worthy of being received.  

When teachers have the opinion that you have an easy job compared to them, (and I have been there with the 10+ hours a day to barely stay EVEN for a day as a teacher let alone the social expectations today of a teacher) – then the Media Specialist Librarian needs to do MORE to reach educator with the resources they need, ay in and day out.  Without having that opinion, Media Specialist Librarians can reinforce how long, hard, and complicated their jobs can be if you think of the countless ways to reached educators, without being asked, with resources that will ease the burden they face day in and day out.  Unless you have been a teacher regularly, truly passing down to do’s is easy without realizing how much time in a day to do these effectively, and REACH THE STUDENT, is really a reality.

Finally, when students actually see the diversity a Media Specialist librarian can have, never having the same day and the ability to change environments around them, that is equivalent to the letter you receive as a teacher years later, telling you they are successful because of you.  The notion that this can’t happen as a Media Specialist Librarian, and also come from educators is crazy.  Of course it can.  It just depends on what happens, and what doesn’t happen, behind that Media Specialist Librarian Desk.

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Literarily Devoted…

Educator’s Night at Bethany Beach Books – when I first saw this I was like YES!  If you have ever been to Bethany Beach Books, at least for me I imagine the ideal location as well as ideal venue for a bookstore. Nestled in proximity to Bethany Beach, and just amazing to visit (moreso in low tourist season), this alway has been one of my favorite locations.  When I found out author Adi Alsaid had visited there for an author talk as well as signing, I was pretty stoked as well remembering how much I liked this location.  I was excited to return here for an event devoted to educators and a chance to visit a Delawarean author, John Micklos Jr.. 

Distance is always tricky and deceiving.  I did not realize an hour exists between Felton and Bethany but I will tell you what it is.  Racing home from school to give the dogs a break, then jumping back in a vehicle to go south on Route 1 to Bethany just seems to extend the distance it takes, but finally, with four minutes to spare, I was here.  Walking in it is amazing to see the whole book store turned into a open audience for an author, the same I have seen in New York Barnes and Nobles as well as in PA and so many other places.  The quaintness, coziness, and just general being comfortable in a space, with my favorite thing, books, comes to life at this location.  IMG_6021Spying Adi’s newest book, North of Happy, I immediately knew I was finally having that in my hands!  With awesome bags on every chair for educators, this was a safe and welcome evening, with the long day in the classroom, this became rewarding!  

With starting the overview of 10+ pages of books to review, it was amazing to see, feel, and laugh with Manager Amanda Zirn.  The contagiousness of her enthusiasm and recognition of how a book can come to life is amazing -with every – single – book she picked up, it took a life of its own but was more than just a review, it was personal and that makes all the difference in the world when seeing any book.  The same should be, could be, done in a library, public library, school library, no matter the age.  The adults were caught so I can imagine how students would react when given this opportunity to see a personal approach to books, simply not just for younger children at all.  Hearing how Bethany Books gives back to the community – wow – even more amazing what businesses can do.

Add to the fact that children and high school writer, John Micklos Jr. was there to present his new book – One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count With Me –    IMG_6036but an unexpected and interesting topic of diversity from an author came out which was awesome.  It was so so so interesting to hear both Amanda Zirn and John Micklos Jr.  scan through the selections available that represent diversity, on huge chunks.  It was inherently a pleasure to delve into this topic and see how to positively impact reaching out to all individuals from all backgrounds positively amid so much ugliness occurring in the world regarding this very topic. Finding out Mr. Micklos also served on the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was AWESOME– and being able to talk with him and he ability to sign a book for sending to ASF was again, more topping on the cake. Spying Zoraida Cordova’s book Labryinth Lost I also had to add that to the MUST have’s, wanting that since the Author’s Among US when she came in April 2016 – and that is the thing…

HOW LUCKY is it that we have had the chance to rub elbows and add personality to the very books that delve into such core topics and areas?  Adi Alsaid is to be ravingly credited as he believed and help make happen, alongside a creative and ambitious Repentino. Staff, the chance to bring authors to inspire others around us more (I am seeing a blog needing to come up soon on this occurring in April 2018!)

Add to this the fact that we have ideas to create a Delaware blog of podcasts that consist of authors just from Delaware, as well as bringing Authors Among US to Delaware, to SO MUCH MORE – (so little time and needing more posts!) – the sky is limitless and yet – 

Events like this, from Bethany Beach Books lets you realize how much work CAN be done, COULD be done, and WILL change your community if you keep drawing investors to what can be a better place for those of all backgrounds, beliefs, and interests.  Thank you so much Amanda Zirn and John Micklos Jr. for an evening that despite a day in the IMG_6020classroom, provided a night away to gear up for the rest for the week – priceless!

Did I mention the event we have tomorrow with the Greenwood Public Librarian coming in or Barnes & Noble visiting today?  Tons more to come, stay tuned!

 

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Echoes of Reflection…

I truly remember the disbelief as a student informed me of the crazy scene unfolding before us, I was an educator at Penn Hills High School, a student told me something unbelievable and there we all were, a class new to each other and silent together processing the disbelief of 911 on the screen.  The rest of the day, and to be honest, that year, was almost a state of delirium even to this day.

A year later, working as a transcriber at U.S. Investigations, I remember observing September 11th and also realizing inside how real and instant the feelings felt even several years after this event.

Even later, having the privilege to travel to New York every year and implementing a self-made project on the streets with students, we interviewed fire fighters, average citizens, even photographers that captured that moment and managed to preserve those interviews digitally.  I still have those interviews and to listen to them still haunts me today with awe of the pain, the courage, and the sheer emotion that so many reciprocating events could have.  I remember the smell of the concrete dust a mere two years after this event and as strong as this just happening the day before.  We had the privilege of meeting and talking with Michael Arad, Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 8.38.26 PMthe explanation of this memorial instilled in our very hearts. (page 32-33 of this issue of Focus).

Here I am today, in a surreal and inspiring location I did not think I wold be in, and yet, the stories that occurred over 16 years ago touching our very hearts to the core. Students that were barely born, affected by the very story presented today and stories that are passed down from this so distant event, in relation to their young lives.  America has many amazing stories that affect so many individuals, not just individuals that were born and raised in the United States, but from every corner of the earth that come together in both tragedy and achievement.  There are so many lessons to be learned from tragedy and overcoming tragedy, washed in so many ethnic and cultural influences, that these lessons were never meant to be forgotten for countless reasons.  

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It Comes Out To Shaking Things Up…

As my usual weird routine, return from school – exhausted, and hit the bed and I am OUT. O U T.  Wake up at weird times at night, usually right around 11:20 PM, and stay up for the time I wished I would have spent after school, but needing the mental break (yeah me, needing the mental break).

Perspective is everything.  In talking with my Former Repentino. Editor in Chief Sam Kim this evening in making arrangements to get a letter of recommendation to her in South Korea, an earthquake of maximum magnitude hit and rumbled even stronger than the 7.8 to Mexico City, stronger even than the 1985 earthquake.  

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 1.04.37 AMand my heart plummeted.  In light of when the worst occurs and realized how STRONG and how much conviction so many close friends I have all over the world, and living in Mexico I was able to value so much of what I thought I did, but now to an even higher degree.  I touch based tonight with dear students and friends now in Chicago, Canada, North and South Carolina, South Korea, Japan, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland, and ten other locations, and within ten minutes, the friends I made in Mexico, and from other countries before me, is a testament to what a group of amazing individuals can do to change things for the better.  The aftermath of Harvey, the devastating results of Irma, are eye openers and chances to show how a country made up of individuals from outside the U.S as well as within, make a country a true country.  This lesson needs to be taught to so many individuals that represent the United States, and I think living abroad for even one year, let alone six years changes the perspective for anyone in that respect.

Many people ask me how the new job is.  It is uniquely strange in this fact, within the first day, I was getting questions I received after a year in Mexico, and the students and I have become close in conversation in record breaking time.  The odd thing is, this is not because of me, but the way I have been influenced from so many personable students, colleagues and friends I was lucky enough to be surrounded by for so long.  In fact, during a Focus, (like Advocacy) group session today, while walking about the long shelf-life of videos that are posted and to be wary of what is posted today in video form, I used this little gem as an example to show how long videos last:

 

Not one of my most stylish methods of videomaking (we made this in less than an hour including planning to make a video contest on healthy food) – but guess what?  I realized the students, colleagues, and friends around make continue to make me resistent to so much negativity and able to do anything I need to do, and oddly enough when bad things occur, we are SO so SO equipped to handle it based on the fortitude and quality of people we let surround us.

There is so much ugliness presented amid so much tragedy, and yet, each of us, as we spread out to so many diverse areas, have a chance to counter the far corners of the world and battle for the common good, and still be united.  That is an amazing thing to see how things can actually come together, ‘and I think it is yet to be realized how powerful that can be and change things until we actually out our voices, actions, and abilities to counter  so much that is bad, to change it for the better.  As we learn this, we grow slowly stronger and united thanks to the experiences we have grown together through.

Woodbridge High School is an amazing place for so much opportunity, and there is so much talent not being capitalized on yet I see in the young people around me.  Plans to host authors in collaboration with ASF, lans to hold an Open Mic on collaboration with Open Mics in Mexico, Battle of the Bands

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 2.37.47 AMpossibly resurrected for the common community good, is there any doubt what good people, libraries, educators, students, and whole countries can do when they work TOGETHER instead of acting individually?  Get ready to be shown.  Exciting things in the works thanks to exciting individuals that are waiting for the chance to shine, all right in the middle of times deemed to be depressing, difficult, and challenging.  

 

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No Lonely Roads Really Exist…

“This will always be your home.” A very very dear friend, who I definitely did NOT spend enough time with while in Mexico, Violeta Elena, was one of the first, and not the last to say this as I prepared to leave for the states after six years.  I specifically remember one stretch of road as I JUST cleared the border of Mexico, into the states, and for the ride, it WAS just me, and the 3 dogs, 3 cats, relying on me me relying on…

so many many memories and relationships that became the glue that held me together when there were so many times I felt alone, and realized, I never, ever have been alone thanks to the amazing moments I have been lucky enough to build with so many.  When I hear Tracy Chapman’s song, Fast Car, I think so much of those alone nights on the road, driving to and from Mexico, and without a doubt, all these memories of so many unforgettable moments with unforgettable individuals of both sides of the border make me realize, no border exists between any of us, only if we allow it. 

I remember so many times when I first met shy, unsure of themselves individuals, and within a few years they became these amazing young men and women able to lead HUGE projects and lead HUGE amounts of others, and being able to be a witness to that, seeing that happen in individuals is one of the most amazing things you could EVER wish for, EVER.  I remember Alice, and one say she had to navigate the metro for a stretch by herself and I – me, myself, and I was petrified, and we were in New York.  I will NEVER, EVER forget the look on hr face as she figured out one of the most complicated routes to get to me, and she did and beyond, and little did I realize then, this would be one slight indicator of what an accomplished young women she would become.  I can say this of every single young woman and man that has passed through the challenges what we thought was a simple magazine, was actually a training ground for what we all wanted from life itself, a metaphor even if you will. I thought of this amazing young man and how many of us feel like this until someone sides along beside us to let us know what power we each hold to bring small to large groups together amid so much conflict.  When people tell you you can’t or go through motions that express that, the BEST thing in the world is to see dear friends defy the odds and grow into something even greater than you can know they can be.  

Then I realized, when I started my career in education, I never was and still, am not prepared to full be able to take in the sense of wonder how every single student I ever met, from then Kate Baltz, to Alison Schwinn, to every single person that devoted themselves to Cross Country, to attempting something new like PAVE and Christina Stevenson, willing participants in my English classes to take an idea and transpose it to something outside of the classroom, the colleagues that believed the same was possible, so so many people that worked alongside me at Glade Run Stables and St. Steven’s Academy with Julie and Jen, to Slippery Rock University colleagues like Kim and Natalie to amazing and inspiring/talented individuals I met at the Baltimore aquarium like Andrea and Carrie, to SO MANY, and never realizing how dear to my heart a country like Mexico and the American School Foundation would become to everything I felt from my toes to my head in what I wanted to be as a person – It caught up with me as I sat in this amazing new library at Woodbridge High School.  Names like Camila, Alice, Alia and anyone willing and daring enough to turn a library into a social venture like Gaby, Mocte, and Javier and run with it, along with countless more that would defy so much of what may thought was the minimum possible – it defined and redefined the idea of being alone was – which was a myth.  With individuals like these, there was no way, no matter where you would be, you would ever be alone, ever.

The first two days of students I had never met before, this feeling of how students would just come up to me and we had this spark of – “Some great things will happen this year” just begin to pour out and you KNOW, you know this is going to be an exciting year due to the potential some individuals held inside of them.  The talents, creativity, and abilities of all these years of working through the amazing aspects of education, as well as the disappointments, flaws, and missing links that education desperately needs, you realize how much the world needs individuals as these to keep so many others moving towards amazing feats they are not even aware of currently. 

Those nights of on the road for miles of dark road ahead and not much else would disappear thanks to all the shining moments that these dear dear individuals were willing to share with me?  There was nothing but lighted road from Mexico to the states if you just are willing to let in appear to you.   Some people want to win the lottery, some want to win as much money as they can have for their life, but I have always had this one dream. I would want everyone I have ever met in Mexico, and in the states, to be in one huge gathering together, and I think we would be in AWE of how much energy and creativity we all have always had and getting to share and swap stories with each other.  Strange maybe, but I think it would be the most beautiful moment I had ever experienced and we would continue to learn so much about who we have become.  Who knows, stranger things have happened.

 

 

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Not a Mirage…

I will remember that day – locked into my memory forever.  Yet it was only a start.

Walking alongside the back athletic fields of Seaford High, you could see the heat waves in the air and no kidding, there he and she was, in the middle of this heat, in the middle of this day where not many, if anyone should be outside, there he was.  Vince Morris and Jackie were in the middle of maybe the hottest part of this day, putting back together a bat cage structure for the field.  Vince was legendary BEFORE his amazing fight with cancer and all of you who were honored to grow up with him and know him during his fight, knew how legendary he always was moreso during his fight against anything and anyone that said great things can’t be done in the face of trials and obstacles.

I was reminded of this today.  As I was watching the trailer for “I’ll Push You” and privileged to be given the book to this inspiring story – it hit me like . wave, those that have inspired me and at this moment, Vince came into my psyche immediately.  And here I was.  Delaware, when only a few weeks ago I was in MEXICO and to be honest, my head was still trying to catch up to speed from events that occurred in the last month and a half.  I turned my head as my eyes filled slightly with the feeling Vince has always filled my mind, and took in what I saw.  I saw this huge expanse of clouds, the bluest sky you could ever imagine, fields and fields of corn, slowly swaying in the wind, and the beauty of the journey.  Not having escaped the whispers of Vince, among many, I realized the beauty of obstacles and mind stoppers seeming so overwhelming, but meeting people to let you realize, anything is possible . Vince was always there for me.

Called the Moctezuma stairs, alot of mornings I would climb the steep stairs at least 200 stairs, (more I think) at the Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 10.15.24 PMObservatorio metro exit, and the funny thing, at the same spot almost every day – there was a whisper almost every day – it was Vince.  He would say, “Seriously?  You are tired?  I was tired and yet, you saw me and the things I did?”  Not being asked, Vince was pushing me even in Mexico.  All the way.

The first time I walked through The Vince Morris Trail at Chapel Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 10.16.41 PMBranch last week – the first time in more than six years – so much came rushing back to me.  The smells of pine led me to the numerous events that echoed calls back and forth across Chapel Branch, the warmups, the laughter, the tears, the heartbreaks, the picnics, the sandwiches, the pushing of each other, the pushing Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 10.26.42 PMof yourself, hearing your breath from out of control to paced breathing after much practice, the moments alone, the moments together, I could still the legends of “Do” of Coaches Vince, Rob, Smith, Doakes, Arnetta and a HUGE list of those that learned so much from mistakes, successes and just each other.  The Vince Morris Trail at Chapel Branch truly IS a Chapel, a place of hallowed introspection that if you let it, much is learned and recaptured.

My supreme luck to for a needed hiatus, leave a Delaware behind that I never truly expected to, and little unknown to me then, leaving a Mexico I never expected to, returning to a state that had affected me more than I realized, leaving a country that changed me forever — when you say life becomes full circle, you need to realize there are so many aspects that you do not know are on the horizon.  Yet the people that have inspired you, and can inspire you, and will inspire you, will always be there, even when you cannot see them in the present.  I am so so lucky to have carried an ARMY of inspiration from so many – countless individuals that were students, teachers, mentors, colleagues, that led me to Mexico. A country I never expected to be and as you know from past blogs, leaving Mexico was a heart stopper because I never knew how much beauty, love, and open mindedness was in a country that the news never got right, let alone everyone that is affected by the news they hear and I thought constantly leaving an army of priceless students, colleagues, and dear dear friends in Mexico this month, how amazingly lucky I was to carry the love, the changes to my whole mind, with me back to Delaware where I started from, with the power I left with from so so many, and did not realize fully – you realize much about yourself through the journey, and many not planned.

The power of motivation is powerful, you truly see that in the stories from “I’ll Push You” and the trauma that exists in the world so many face every day, as we learned today in the film “Resilience”, and yet, knowing the amazing people that take you in, support you, champion your causes, and will have your back unconditionally as they have known you for YEARS, knowing that and being able to put into perspective that those moments can carry you through anything life tosses your way?  Realizing you can give that gift to others, so they may find their way?  This is absolutely priceless.  PRICELESS.  There is so much that can seem like a mirage, and yet, with the right people the mirage is for a moment, and the reality of what is behind what you are seeing – even thinking at the moment – can disappear and reappear for the better, you just have to allow it.  

The reality of individuals to support each other, to remain with each other over countries, miles, and between colonias and neighborhoods can defy any negativity happening in attitudes, politics, locations, beliefs, ethnicities, and opinions. It sometimes take a mirage, and walking through it, to realize the power of one, that actually comes from so many.  This is dedicated to the students, the powerful colleagues and friends, and family that believe making a difference is sometimes more important than self, and thanks to those individuals, your self also comes through the difficulties you are realizing at the time.  Vince, among so many, you continue to inspire thanks to the determination that you always managed to find, and the place you have settled inside all of us.  No mirage. Thank you.

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Looking at Yourself, With The World Looking In…

In the last few days, I have had moments of tranquility following many many non moments of tranquility – from moving across continents to seemingly split decisions, fast-paced moments that honestly do not seem to give you time to recognize the world around us.  Yet, the world around us keeps moving, and will not, does not stop amid much controversy.

I love, LOVE the honesty of this article – simply asking how to talk race and the expectations of when astoundingly sharp and repulsive actions that occur regarding race, in lieu of the massive uprisings and conflicts involving race.  However, I see many individuals simply drop to the decisions of popular thought and opinion when many do not know how to deal with when inside they disagree.  Simply put, the months and even years leading up to my departure from the United States let me witness many slanders and awful comments made regarding the issue of those not born in the United States, or even born in the United States, and parentage from another country and despite being an American, comments made as flippant to be considered normal; yet the issue of immigration being used as a rug of disgust instead of common sense and mature discussion.  It affected me and bother me on many levels, especially as an English educator.

From living six years in Mexico and seeing and realizing how unimaginative the news and press can be in not representing the real story, while also realizing the true nature of a beautiful people, culture, and country as Mexico, I return to the United States, amid so much that has occurred in six years and realize this.  The United States is and has always been my country.  I am thankful for the opportunity and freedoms that had enabled me to attend college and get multiple degrees, yet, I will not, and cannot ever endorse racial and ethnic stereotypes that many Americans continue to push as truth, vocally, in action, and in thought.  That has never been my definition of American, and being thankful  for experiences as an American to reinforce that being an American means standing up for diversity, standing up for ethnicity, that variety of fibers in the American flag makes American the great country it is, not simply the years of taking advantage of minorities such as Native Americans, Japanese-Americans, Muslim-Americans and more.  Yes, there are many negative aspects of being an American, and so many positive ones.  I am empowered with the blessings I received in Mexico to realize the dream of being an American is one that can still shown by actions, supporting local and international communities. There is power in going against common stereotypes, and that power is in disproving the fallacies and showing by action the truth.  

Many ask me how I am doing with the move back to the United States, amid living abroad for so long.  There is no doubt, living abroad changes the open-mindedness of people, the scope of thought when it comes to how the United States looks like from afar, a completely different perspective only benefits anyone that has ever been born in the United States, and simply living abroad for a year or more, anyone will realize this, VERY difficult to do unless that occurs.  An article given to me by my Mom, when I came home, titled “Stop the Week!”, by Wayne Muller, was VERY inspiring.  Muller relates to how individuals and the need to observe Sabbath is vital for renewal.  This article exemplifies how it is so so easy to simply, in this country or another, keep a constant running list of things to do and to achieve, without ever having a moment in between to reflect on that list.  This excerpt from his article is ideal in helping put what many find themselves lost in the mix in today’s society:

 In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between action and rest. As the founder of a public charity, I visit the offices of wealthy donors, crowded social-service agencies and the small homes of the poorest families. Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain: “I am so busy.” I speak with people in business and education, doctors and day-care workers, shopkeepers and social workers, parents and teachers, nurses and lawyers, students and therapists, community activists and cooks. The more our life speeds up, the more we feel weary, overwhelmed and lost. Despite our good hearts and equally good intentions, our life and work rarely feel light, pleasant or healing. Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation. It becomes the standard greeting everywhere: “I am so busy.” We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath — this has become the model of a successful life.”

I am able to find the memories that truly make me miss so much about leaving Mexico, that is an absolute truth, intertwined with individuals that still do not know, to this day, how much their very existence in my life helped paint a picture of life I never knew existed in Mexico.  There is the return to a state like Delaware, where you lift your nose, (my dogs do this every day) and smell in the wind the smell of freshness, the Bay, the water, sea life, the freshness of mornings and crispness of evening, warm days, warm friendships, BBQ’s that define the summer and winters that exemplify the coastal influence – and I am the better for having been able to be part of the two worlds.

New students, new schools, new lives, and yet, if we allow it, we never have to change, but can be allowed to be a better person based on the geographic, social, ethnic, and personal schedules we create, we follow, and we designate.  Much to think about, and so important to allow the time to let these thoughts roll over us day after day instead of pushing them through a conveyer belt of busyness.

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