Turning the pages of civility…

Changing the power dynamic in any spotlighted profession is one of extreme adversity.  In our present time we have seen explosions of revelations in Hollywood with the Me Too Movement,  fair pay for women in all fields of acting, and lately, the grounds of a media specialist librarian has become a little more cautious ground to walk on.

Monthly displays and annual celebrations are a small part of what can draw patrons into a library – from March Madness, to National Novel Writing Month, to National Library Week, to a host of SO MANY MORE.

As a graduate student at Slippery Rock University – I received an amazing education, some professors there literally propelled me into levels of success I never knew awaited me, that follows me around forever.  What had been a lesson in retrospection also has been to expect the unexpected. As a graduate student, my thesis Opening the Windows of Time involved a passage from a Native American author, Sherman Alexie. which involved this quote – 

There are things you should learn. Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you. Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your skeletons do, and they always know what time it is. Now, these skeletons are made of memories, dreams, and voices. And they can trap you in the in-between, between touching and becoming. But they’re not necessarily evil, unless you let them be.

What you have to do is keep moving, keep walking, in step with your skeletons. They ain’t ever going to leave you, so you don’t have to worry about that. Your past isn’t going to fall behind, and your future won’t get too far ahead. Sometimes, though, your skeletons will talk to you, tell you to sit down and take a rest, breathe a little. Maybe they’ll make you promises, tell you all the things you want to hear.

Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as beautiful Indian women and ask you to slow dance. Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as your best friend and offer you a drink, one more for the road. Sometimes your skeletons will look exactly like your parents and offer you gifts.
But, no matter what they do, keep walking, keep moving. And don’t wear a watch. Hell, Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the present, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are trapped in the now.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Think what it meant to have Mr Alexie sit beside me at dinner during a visit to SRU and be able to discuss the origins of this quote, as well as discuss elements of my thesis, and meeting Alexie in the flesh.  It was priceless.

As a librarian always promoting his writing, as well as he Native American voice as a modern representation, it is pretty accurate to say Alexie has represented the Native American wandering in the modern age, and if you have ever delved into his older and most recent writings, mesmerizing is an understatement.

When news broke of several instances of improper conduct on his part, as a promoter and archivist of all things literary, it was a shock and quite devastating. It sometimes felt as waiting for someone to leap out and yell, “I told you so!” yet no one had until that very moment. How do you as an individual or promoting the best possible treatment if individuals retrace the steps of what you have been promoting?

I realized as difficult as a pill it is to swallow, as a media librarian specialist your modeling lies with the best possible path to dealing with obstacles.  The obstacles of the last year have involved name calling, slander, negative portrayals of individuals that others do not align or connect with, racial stereotypes, proper conduct when in public for individuals of all races, on and on – and this is just simply obstacles that deal with those in public offices.  While the cloud hangs heavy over individuals that you might have lauded due to their amazing work, the real work lies in showing individuals that are growing up in the ranks of schools into young adults of voting age, you deal with these setbacks, redial the controls of how you handle misconduct, and learn through the proper channels. no matter how difficult it is, to reset your temperance to treat those around you the best you possibly can, and use the negative, and obviously the positive examples as a guide through these murky waters.

Add to this personal experience with letdown an author that had acclaimed as much if not more attention – the author Junot Diaz. Again, over the last few years, Diaz would have been one name that no one would deny not knowing, even if nothing had been read by any individuals the name would still create discussion based on the writing that would cause you to sit up and pay attention.  When news broke of a similar situation concerning Diaz,

this occurring before the news about Sherman Alexie, I immediately thought of the controversy surrounding James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces , although the issue surrounding Diaz has made the impact much more disheartening as it affects so many individuals personally.  I had only picked up one Diaz, This is How You Lose Her, and as a avid book reader and Library Media Specialist, when it comes down to the end of the day, the main audience you look out for, despite your reading selections, are your patrons.  These in the form of adults, colleagues, parents, and students usually dictate the actions of what happens in and out of the library. 

I can only speak for myself but, the only way I have found to bounce back after formally lauding the writing of an author that has not been the author you thought has been this:

  1. The writing is the writing but as a Library Media Specialist I am unwilling to simply sweep deeds under the carpet and act as if the author is more important than the message.  Yes I had promoted an author that has shocked me with revelations of characteristics unbecoming of someone I want to put on a pedestal.  It is vital to point out, unbiased, how we deal with this so those we model literature and suggestions for have a path to follow when this occurs.
  2. There are authors that are also deserving of leading patrons to the more optimistic path.  Recently we had the pleasure of having author, Tabitha Lord, one of the few female science fiction writers that would take the time, hour upon hours, to talk with students and light excitement from within about their writing, provide avenues of where life can lead them with positive influences surrounding them, and believing in their own talents.  
  3. DO SOMETHING instead of silently wallow in someone that turned out to be a shocking disappointment in some fashion.  Their writing still has something to say, maybe even abut the situation they found themself in.  Also, what is stopping you as a Media Specialist from creatng a mini course on how to guide these precarious waters of interepretation? I have been fortunate enough to have been allowed to create a course that allows individuals to find resources that are reputable, to address questions that individuals have the tenendency today to fued on, but never come to the table to discuss.  Learning to disagree peaacefully, find unbias resources to back up issues and opinions (without slandering), shying from fake news (which has been around always), and finding information without putting down, without negativity is a challenge when so many individuals in the spotlight do today.  Yet, this is a chance to market the traits of a Media Specialist Librarian and show how these murky, negative waters can be navigated into more positive oasis areas.  

Certainly I wish I could see the future and know if a wrong turn or a cataclysmic event is about to occur, dont we wall.  However, in the light of shocking, suprising, and often what can be negative discourse, individuals have the opportunity to take advantage of positons that are often taken for granted (I point to School Media Specialists), and show what power such a position does have to benefit socoiety as a whole.  Turning the page is a way to show that you can deal with shocking and embarassing actions of those you were unaware they were involved with – but using that knowledge to better society turns out to be the best read book of them all.

I would like to hear from other instructors and Media Specialists to see how they feel about dealing with authors that were lauded, but now have redemtion to the public due to past actions.  Do you still study their past writing the same?  Different?  At all? I would like to hear your views on this – thanks for being amazing in a field that is often considered a lesser known and appreciated asset to education, but in reality is one of the most powerful depending on what you decide to do with it.  Next post will discuss the amazing effects we had of Tabitha Lord, Science fiction writer, coming to our School and inspiring so many.  There are many different pages to turn, and leading others to turn the most inspiring is a day to day lesson, every day.



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THE Difference.

“Due to inclement weather, the 2018 WHS Graduation will be inside.”  Ms. Short, the guru and master of planning what would be a HUGE successful gradation greeted us in the AM on June 3rd.

Surreal.  The voice starting the day just reminded me of what the day would hold.  I had seen the stage and chairs all arranged in the middle of the WHS stadium and it still didn’t register that I was not in Mexico at this year’s graduation class, but going to be going to the Baccalaureate and graduation ceremony of Woodbridge High School – the 49th graduating class.  Yet, get THIS connection.  Aisli Alondra Torres-AisliLanderos  – coming up to me in the library in our Independent Study “Mr. Brake – I want you to introduce me at graduation. if this occurs that I am salutatorian”  Seriously, I was about 10 seconds from a dropped heartbeat and just froze.  “What? Um, what?”  I remember the first time I was asked to capped Camila, Alice and a host of still AMAZING students in Mexico City and every single time – even when I am not capping and simply watching the ceremony, it is an honor to see students that have become a part of you walk across that stage and we all know, is bittersweet to see them go. 

A country away ANOTHER MAJORLY AMAZING student, Lisa Yu was ASF’s Salutatorian, and still a student I was lucky enough to have some amazing moments and can never forget.  Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 12.12.18 AM  Yes there are weeks and days that you are like “HOW MUCH LONGER” but things change so crazy fast – every single time I was privileged to be asked to cap in Mexico.  A country away, an amazing graduation was occurring with MANY AMAZING students in Mexico City – and missed completely as well    (This is powerful).

I simply said “Yes Aisli, of course!” having no idea what I was going to do but get this impressive fact – Aisli was the FIRST to graduate from her family and she taught herself everything in English from the start and thankfully for the amazing educators that pushed and encouraged her, she has turned out to be one of the most successful young ladies I have had the privilege of being in school with, (and as you know, the young ladies and gentlemen from ASF in Mexico City and Seaford have turned out to be total rock stars).  I remember when Aisli took the photo wishing Mexico good luck during the initial earthquakes, as well as helping push out a card of thanks and hope to Mexico – and saw the same determination, intelligence, and work ethic I was lucky enough to be surrounded by every single day in Mexico – and I can’t put into words how much her request meant to me seeing her in just one year achieve what most could not in 12 years – words will not, cannot do her justice.

I also realized how amazing it is that the graduating class of 2018 was mentally tough in so many cases I witnessed, and devoted to pushing and helping each other succeed – sometimes with lives that defied the imagination to rise above and graduate.  Countless students I was so lucky to have come into contact with, within one single year, and it felt like six years of appreciating the talents, determination, bravery and courage they brought to the finish line.  Add onto that the fact that you have so many educators I remembered pulling late nights, early days, extenuating attempts to make sure they pulled their graduates towards the ultimate goal SO MANY COUNTLESS TIMES – this whole mixed one year but feeling like six and seeing this all happening and being able to be among these amazing graduates? I was not worthy, very simply put.

Getting it together and dressed up and  out the door – I made it to the Union United Methodist Church for the Baccalaureate Service –

the rain was pouring – the cold was everywhere – and what an experience of warmth inside.

As I was sitting in the pew, taking in the views of the soon to be graduates in the front, younger WHS students in the side ready to put on a special performance, two ladies from behind me tapped me on the shoulder and complimented that I had such nice looking grey hair.  It was such a nice compliment but you know me, GREY HAIR?  AGH!  I always freak out when people notice that my once dark head is not well, less than that for sure – it was hysterical.  We sat and between those ladies and the man beside me, we discussed the genes in our families and having hair opposed to not having hair, HYSTERICAL.

The total service was pretty unable-to-be-captured in words. It was AWESOME to see admin Heath Chasanov, Kent Chase, board member Walter P. Gilefski,  and even former colleague Math Teacher Sean Knowles in the church celebrating the service among WHS graduates, it was truly surreal.

Amazing songs were sung – and pretty awesome favorites, “How Great Thou Art” and certainly one of my all time favorites – “I’ll Fly Away.”  but there was so so much more.  Watching the WHS ensemble sing “For Good” – supported by WHS’s own Ms Workman and Ms. Jones – seeing the emotions open from the students during this – there simply cannot be no words that could capture this, there were NONE.

Sitting beside me about halfway through the service, a young man sat beside me that just seemed to remind me of someone and only later, as I made my out to say hello and see you soon to graduates as they ate in the annex of the church, I say a really great student Garret beside this same man sitting beside me and turned out, it was his BROTHER!!!!! GET OUT!!!!! – I mean the frequency of the coincidences that occurred and that did occur already – at some point my head just shut down and let them roll over me.

During this Baccalaureate Service, the amazing poise, spirit, and energy of Myra, Morgan, Tatum, Tanner, Brooke, Hunter, Morgan (#2) and alumni Shawn – just take a look at this star cast in the bulletin) – I was reminded in seeing and hearing each of them how lucky I was to be there celebrating them.

Despite the crazy, wicked weather that had descended on the WHS 49th Graduating Class of 2018, for all the above reasons (and the ceremony had not even started) – I felt I was with the colleagues and students I had been privileged enough already to share their amazing days with, as I saw so much of their qualities in these amazing students among me for today’s ceremony.

Fast Forward to Woodbridge High School, and heading to the library, everything just simply began and it as a blur.  I remember how I felt, kind of in a coma state when I was walking through the graduation ceremony, and so much happened to me that unexpected day and here I was, stomach in knots and just wondering, how will this all unfold? and I was pretty worked up but I tried to push that down to a place of ignoring it (and folks, I was not graduating).

Robes began to be put on, sashes, colors, students poured in and the reality that this was our last true gig together seeped in all along the way. I did not expect the number of attendees.  The auditorium held 750 – but 300 seats had been set up in the cafeteria and HAD to be close to 100 standing among the the chairs and then it hit me, over 1000 people and – OVER 1000 PEOPLE – HARRY!  WHAT THE HECK!  I worried – will I be able to truly represent my portion of what Aisli and this class has been able to tackle and get through – is that even possible?  I was so lucky to have Mr Weiler as the introduction to the Valedictorian, Kathlin Dinh (amazing young lady)  and I knew I could crash and burn and his eloquence would easily bring a rhythm of success to the event. I remember so many snippets –

including the infamous WHS lip dub: 

Mr. Weiler capitalizing on the fact that Salutatorian was my complete NEMESIS for the evening – seeing the board members donning robes, seeing so many State Troopers, faculty, admin, students, friends supporting this event and making this occur – you want to talk about overwhelming – and I thought I saw HUGE events in Mexico at ASF’s graduations, yes I did and this just felt like we were in the middle of it ALL. The one thing never doubted was the amazing journey so many of these students had made and I was truly humbled by being able to see their last year and make it a complete success thanks to the support of so many, that same support we discussed that Mr. Weiler gave his students the day after this graduation with the “This I Believe” speeches.  I love how things become full circle and how easily they can be missed.

My Speech – with some critiquing from another amazing student in Mexico City – Bessy Hernandez adding some extra’s that would make it resonate – and I felt I was walking two worlds at one graduation.  So hard to explain.  The speech morphing, changing every minute came and went like a blur, with so much on your mind that you can’t push down, I stumbled on the word Salutatorian of course, and did not follow exactly my speech

(as nervousness tends to do) — I did plant the Hand Mud that all the students had played with every single day in the library (look at that silver thing in the pictures) –

Mr Weiler was great, Kathlin as Valedictorian and Aisli as Salutatorian were 100% inspirational but as I looked at the WHS graduating class of 2018 and saw so many AMAZING students that inspired me in one short year, that seemed a lifetime, I also saw something so powerful.  I saw every student I had been lucky enough to come into contact with in my educational career, I saw every colleague that worked, supported and guided me from the very beginning and made me who I am today, EVERYONE, and realized that these students were seeing those people in their lives too.  Add onto that when you see the very people that are part of your school, there that day you are seeing it come to fruition, there again are no words and just emotion remain.  It is a spiritual experience of the highest degree if there ever was one, and we are all lucky to feel that thanks to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of family, friends, students, colleagues, and more that let you marl this moment in time, this very moment thanks to all the moments they gave of themselves for this very moment right now.  

Aisli’s Speech spoke to the determination, emotion, and utter strength that defines the true American Dream and power that so many people deserve and show as  their success, that are often not credited, but tonight their due credit was due for sure.  Mr. Weiler’s amazing allusion to art and symbolism of the art Kathlin made as a student and inspirational individual, to Mr. Chasanov’s moving reminder that these are songs, daughters, and family we also remembered making this amazing journey that would lead to so many others.

I want to say there are few days as great as this one I can recall, but I can say that is not exactly true.  EVERY SINGLE play production, graduation, Open Mic, and event that occurred in Mexico, Woodbridge, Seaford, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, that occurred with the amazing names of students and colleagues I have referred to here – all made this day and future days always feel that personal.  In a time in our world where there are so many individuals that disparage differences, as well as disparage each other, it is heartfelt that so many young individuals will be able to change that negativity and narrow view that is so rampant – and create many more days like this for so many more people.

Aside from these amazing students THIS Graduating class that made this year a personal one, these amazing individuals showed the WHS graduating class they were there for them this whole time:

The WHS Board Members for making sure students knew they were seen on their special day:  Mr. Breeding, Mr Rudy, Mr. Gilefski, Mr McCarron, 

The WHS admin and faculty that made this event occur: Mr. Chasanov, Mr. Prillaman, Dr. Long, Dr. Hall, Mr Chase, Ms. Thompson, Ms. Short, Ms. Margaret Workman, Ms. Little, Ms. Feeley, Ms. Lynch, Ms. Martin, Mr. Weiler, Ms. Gephardt (with amazing new baby), Mr. Emert, Mr. Faulkner, Ms. Reardon, Ms. Jones, Ms. Jolene Workman, Ms. Sharp, Mr. Bell, Ms Webb, Dr. Cole, Ms. Stiles, Ms. Zanowic, Mr. John Davis and every single one of his amazing Custodial SUPER TEAM

You might have missed it but – the AMAZING stature the WHS ROTC gave in the form of standing at attention for the graduates on behalf of SGT Stafford and Davis – as well as the ROTC members were a major touch of class for the night- and beyond.

Add to this Ms Lynn Schofer and Mr. Todd Dudek in capturing these moments, the amazing State Troopers that managed a crowd I think hardly anyone could imagine, 

can you see how such an immediate list of individuals supported such an event that has lasted over 12 years to make this goal, and this is just ONE NIGHT.  I kept being reminded those years Aisli had labelled herself “dumb” because she felt left behind and yet how determined she was to change her future – (and certainly not even CLOSE, not in the same ballpark, let alone COUNTRY to being DUMB) and how so many supported her to do so.  How Kathlin fought for the very right to insure she would succeed on behalf of her family from Vietnam, and what an incredible treasure she became to so many.   Multiply that by the individuals that did the same in this class, so many names, from Tatum, Morgan, Myra, Jayden, Darshil, Kristen, Alexis, Alyssa, Heather, Cassidy, Sofia, David, Jeremy, Yasmine, and I am not even close to so many that made such a n impact in such a short time-  and you have an evening that is in its own category.  Is life good?  Better than I could ever imagine, even on my bad days, thanks to the highest caliber of these individuals around me.  These individuals are ALL the DIFFERENCE. 

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I Believe…in the Difference Made.

In receiving an invite to hear Mr. Weiler’s class present their This I Believe mimics of their experiences, I was like 100% absolutely.  I LOVED the This I Believe series that had aired on NPR and always wanted to do this, we did this one year in AP English and it ROCKED.  My favorite podcast was this particular one –

Thirty Things I Believe

I figured the same experiences of inspiration would today.  What I heard and experienced, it will be pretty hard to put into words.  Over the next hour – I witnessed autobiographical accounts of students that had lived through periods of abuse, self-mutilation, thinking suicide was an option at one point in their lives because people hated them, individuals raising their younger sister or brother, living in hotels, and stories that had me frozen in my seat.  THESE WERE STUDENTS I SAW EVERYDAY AND HAD NO IDEA THEY HAD SUFFERED THROUGH THESE FEELINGS or EXPERIENCES – and most of these occurred in elementary school all the way up to the current year. 

The bravery and therapeutic nature I witnessed as they were as nervous as the graduates that stood on this very stage the night before, in front of that very podium, and yet, they breathed in that anxiety, and after realizing people in the audience were taking in their stories, applauding their bravery and willingness to share such too old experiences for students this young and you realize this –

– the moments you think a student does NOT need an acknowledgement of hello, or getting to know them as a member of the school community, whether they initiate that first encounter or not, I saw so many needs to just simply feel they belong and often knowing someone is looking out for them and wanting them to be safe, all starts with just a hello and showing they have a place to feel safe.  This hit me like a tractor-trailer as I witnessed student after student sharing accounts of watching their parents shoot up on heroin with their sister in the car, and having to act as a father, to the absolute ridiculous situation of children living on their own in a hotel and trying to not let others know so they would not be separated and more and more stories that I COULD NOT BELIEVE happened to these students.  Full of potential and needing the support to grow from these experiences.

This is how strong these students were too while finding the strength to share this – at one point the intercom came on and it was like God calling from above and the current speaker looked up and yelled – “Oh Yeah?! Is that all?  Are you done?” Granted some stories were simply about believing in dogs, Their belief in Nick Foles, soccer and more – every student had an amazing impact.


Is that God or the intercom?!


Amid this such high tension storytelling, these students found moments to reassure the “It is okay” by laughing over mistakes, over odd moments like this, as well as letting these instances lead to ways these students have found a way to find themselves again.

I realized how much more the students in all schools rely on someone – whether they know them or not – to simply say hi and ask how they are doing – so much rides on it and I realized how much “un-normalness occurs among the students who we see as “normal.”

When one speaker relayed how his six year old sister called him Dad – her brother and he now in his “This I Believe account”  explained how that shattered his heart – I just couldn’t believe how much these students rolled through to even graduate and that is what took me to last night’s ceremony.

I found myself so pushed to provide a haven for students at times in the midst of realizing their hardest days are 20 times harder than my hardest  – as we all should try to not forget – not knowing how grown up these students have had to be already – to make it where they are right now.  I realized that was part of the gratitude I saw last night at WHS’s graduation, but before I go deeper, I will devote the very next blog to this amazing night, WHS’s graduation day.  The connection between these accounts and the graduation day-  I saw from this brave student’s chances to show that these students are stronger than they know sometimes and also our chance to celebrate  their stories on their terms – there simply are no words.  I realized there should not have to be, when there should be 100% action to show how many supporting individuals there are for others that need to find their way.



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Precipes to Conquer.

There are so many precipes that present themselves.  What are yours?

I am continually surprised by what life offers for the taking.  Or maybe what I feel needs to be taken as if an offer might be taken away.  This stemmed from my own personal motivations – each of us have many.  years ago I lost a dear friend, a close friend who wrestled with depression and ultimately ended his life – despite many long nights of reassurance – and it you can imagine – and that pushed me to feel as if I was responsible for leading a life not just for me, but for Dave.  I wore the shorts he had in my runs and I improved every single 5k, every single 5k, and it seemed to be a message and a reminder.

I have a tradition I pass onto seniors ever since my Dad left my family unwillingly – and he left such a legacy among us, that I leave this message with every single individual that touches another in some way.  My Dad touched so many,  in so many secret and public ways, another obligation internal grew inside me, and I felt if I was to carelessly ignore any moment that something could be turned into something else, I was not to be the one to miss that opportunity.  The lives I felt I needed to lead for Dave and my Dad just became a natural part of my being, again thanks to the legacy left behind from these two important individuals occur.  My brother Randy fought a fought so bravely and when I was grateful enough to move back to the states and see my dear brother before he left, I felt even more responsibility added to not take anything that so many individuals might take for granted in life.

When I came to Seaford High School in Seaford, Delaware, I fell into a rhythm that I did not exist – and Coach Vince Morris was there as he was there for so many of us.  Internally, externally, everywhere.  I remember the one single memory of Jackie and Vince, the story I always tell, perhaps the hottest day I can remember and Coach Morris and Morris (both) were out repairing a batting cage in the middle of the athletic fields of Seaford High.  It as so humid and hot that there was haze that made it almost appear as a mirage.  it reminded me Vince was there through the hot and cold, his life and Jackie’s life have always been a testament to weather through anything that occurs.  I STILL remember being in Mexico City, daily encountering what I would call the “Moctezuma Stairs” above the Observatorio metro, over 180 stairs that, at the top, no matter how many times you encounter, make you winded and breathing HARD – with a view on the clearest day of the volcanos and mountains that is breath taking. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 2.55.10 PMI remember in the middle of when I would feel I had nothing to give, I heard Coach Morris in my ear, saying “if I could I would” and it pushed me up and forward without hesitation every single time.

When we had the Vince Morris and Dr. Betts 5k on May 13th – there were some amazing standouts that make this not a normal or ordinary 5k.  One – having the Nanticoke River Watershed Conservancy as a co producer of this event says alot about what the NRWC stands for and tries to do in a community that has so much potential.  But it made me look outside of our community by having entrants from Texas, Johns Hopkins and more – it shows that countrywide, it is vital and important to create events that bring individuals in from outside our own familiar communities so we can open our minds and bodies to the possibilities that are communities – within and outside. I am shocked at how many people are unaware of what the NRWC, The Vince Morris Trail at Chapel Branch, or the other aspects of Seaford, lower Delaware, or Delaware itself are.  We have alot to do.  Then add the interested parties that believe in events that bring a tight, local community to those in the community and without.  These businesses and community members walk the walk and go the extra mile (so to speak) to make sure Coach Morris, Dr. Morris, and Relay for Life do not go beyond the scope of memory- ever:

ASAP Printing for the tough Bluejay Design that iconically represented all there was to know about Coach Morris and Dr Betts

Betts & Biddle for spreading the word and representing an event that brings out the best of everyone just as Coach Morris and Dr Betts have done.

Cory Darden – He always stops by and always supports – he had a gig this day and STILL stopped by and checked to see what was needed – priceless.

Covey’s Car Care for providing new, innovative metal signage for such events as this

Hungry Howie’s and Rita’s under the care of Craig Dimes who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS goes the length for community events that tie individuals together

Crown Trophy who always sweeps in and provides the exact details needed

Delaware Correctional Industries who helped insure budgeting would not be a factor to allow this event to occur

Invista that provides the clear path of mowing and maintenance to alow such events at Chapel Branch

Nanticoke Hospital that came to the defense of such an event and to get the word out to so many

Michael Betts LPMH who always was on hand to bring the trail up to par with repairs and additions

Ms. Betts who ALWAYS generously donates to this event to allow its continuance

NRWC for representing all that is good and possible in a community, create new trails, clear obstructions off the trail, and work tirelessly to educate the community about the treasures in the Seaford community’s own backyard

Pizza King in Seaford who again always stands behinds events that help tie a community together

The Seaford Florist to NEVER fails to provide flowers to the mothers and daughters of this event and symbolize what a community means to everyone involved.

The Seaford Star who always take space and time to commit to getting such community events out that bring the possibilities to the front pages.

Sherman for always providing portable restrooms that top off the requirements for such an event

As you can see, events like these so not just happen by themselves, and believe it or not, there are STILL loose ends happening with this event that are still happening.  Individuals have requested

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 3.00.09 PM.png

 shirts that go towards the funding of this event, (harry.brake@gmail.com) –

but a final report will still be coming on this after we receive the final shirts (we keep adding logos to all the supporting individuals responsible, so hang in there more is coming about times, participants, the amazing trophies, and more!

Finally, traveling to Lums Pond on Thursday,

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 3.01.32 PMand being a part of a new group of graduating 2018 seniors was simply amazing. Amazing because this park is the epitome of organization, nature, collaboration, as well as community.  In less than a year, a group of seniors learned to come together to support each other and also accepting me and I had to stop and ask – How did I not know these amazing individuals a year ago?  That is the most amazing thing about being able to push yourself to experience other communities, other countries, other neighborhoods, and change your perspective continually, it opens your mind, your world, your life.  I was the lucky one to be among so many gifted individuals.  From encourage each other when our knees were knocking and trembling on the zipline, the climb up over 50 feet in the air, you realize how much the outdoors, our community, our neighborhoods, give the chance to for each of us to learn how to live for ourselves, for each other, and for others. I was in my glory as long as I surrounded myself with individuals and organizations as these.

I still carry lives of others with me for personal reasons and it becomes easier to reveal these personal inspirations when you are surrounded by individuals that need inspiration and give it at the same time.  Yet, this all depends on the willingness to be inspired, to put in a hard day’s work or even that might not be the most popular – but the realization –

the most meaningful moments are not about popularity or numbers, they are based on the deeper inspirations that remain in our heart and keep us going.

I love I still learn so much every day from this life, but this comes from the lives I propel myself forward for in my past and the lives that are our present and future.  There is so much to improve and represent, and we can pass that onto others by our involvement and activity.   

I stood on precipes ziplining in Mexico and my heart beat like CRAZY – standing among some of the best students I never knew existed in Mexico, students everyone in the world should know.

I found myself among paths that Coach Morris had nurtured, cared for, and nurtured and felt at peace like nowhere else – even in another country.

I stood on precipes ziplining in Delaware and my heart beat like CRAZY – standing among some of the best students I never existed in Delaware, students everyone in the world should know.

What is your precipice?  Who will help you over them?  I am excited to see as well – and am grateful for the bridges so many lives have provided.  Lives motivate me,  What motivates you?

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“Mr. Brake, Have You Ever Been in Love?”

Okay, seriously, this question.  I NEVER, EVER thought I’d be asked this question by anyone.  EVER.

Times Change.  There I am, in school, sidled by a student that was in the worst times of his life due to being told his girlfriend needed to break up with him to focus on issues in her family, and he is desperate from some words of advice to ease the pain.  

Asking me.

Me, the bad luck charm of anything, remotely related to relationships.  Being asked this question.

“Of course I have, and as you can see – it just doesn’t work out…”  as the phone rings, students approach behind, in front, sometimes ON my desk  – there are two things I know for sure  1) My devotion to turning a space into a safe space, an interesting place, a place where everyone wants to be instead of a vacant wasteland (formerly known as the library) have worked, the phone rings, the emails, the masses, the masses of tid-bits needing to be shared with me – all evidence.  2) The opportunity to play into the hands of modeling caring.

I explained in the best possible student/teacher way – “Yes, this is something that is probably the most difficult and most trying aspect of life, LOVE, it is something that can not be brushed off lightly, cannot be under, or over estimated, and it is ALOT of work.  Me, I have decided I would devote the work I would and could put into a relationship into the students that surround me, hence, I go home at the end of the day, I have nothing left because I have voluntarily decided to give it to each one of you.  You see this, right?” I laugh hysterically and go to the phone that rings yet for the fifth time in one 90 minute period.

Over the next few days, I would find this student coming automatically to the library, and also referring him to the counselor, where he would spill out the pain he was feeling – and if I paused a bit to get past the sense of dread of what I was going to say I haven’t said already, I would realize I felt the same so many times working my way through high school, and it is easy to be irritated and forget what it felt to be like.  But I am glad that I did give him this piece of advice: “No matter what you do, if you do not carve out something of your own, something you can claim for yourself, be it a hobby, a skill, or an interest, without that, it will be next to impossible to be able to share a healthy portion of yourself with someone else and to be able to be healthy and supportive for them.”

When I transitioned back to the states, I forget momentarily the issues that students in a rural (and yes urban, but in this case rural) area struggle with, on such a high daily level, when they have sometimes parents that are gone more than home, no parents at all and possibly foster parents, or grandparents as parents, having one parent working nonstop to bring minimal funds in, parents that might be addicted to substances that push the students to be on their own in many different forms, coming to school hungry almost every day, coming to school hiding the fact that students are homeless, students that struggle with a form of abuse recently or n their past.  I am not indicating the fact these were or were not the issue with this student, however, these already have been reasons why many students have claimed the library a safe place that helps relieve the pain in these situations, even if but for a day.

Let me make this clear, the fact they find refuge in the library fighting these demons of their life, honestly, is about allowing a place to be that refuge and not about me as a person.  It certainly drains me from head to two every single day, and yet, I am merely the door keeper to allow students to find a place they can express, relax, hide, or vent, as well as being a product of years of amazing students and colleagues, parents and family, friends and peers that have helped me become a better person to allow this to happen.  This is why this is able to happen and how I am lucky enough to be able to provide this little reprieve to students in the form of a Media Center Library.  The same can be said of the purpose of a Media Center Library to the school as a whole as well, but…

..the fact that students need a slight bit of encouragement – from someone they see every day is a REALITY of the stress and work that teachers, and sometimes those teachers that become EDUCATORS (what is the difference?  I have wrote a blog post or two about that LOL) is a reality) –  In a fiery storm of shootings in our country, a lack of politeness and caring in voices of those that represent our country / other countries on different stages verbally, in an era where money talks and education is deemed something to deal with, students say all the time “You should get paid more” or “You do not get paid to be a counselor, wow”, and yet, educators can choose to watch their watches and leave at the drop of that bell and close the door everything erases. but then there is the other side of being an educator that consumes you because you know things consume students.

This (minimal skills in education) honestly is the way to burn out and not last in a field where it takes all your energy to be qualified and to earn a living, paying off the debt that it took to get that living, and no one said anything about having to lend an ear after taking four hours of papers home every night aside from checking standards to curriculum, watching that students are contained in the day AND learning something they can answer to pass the state test and…

You have summers off right, easy gig, right?

Anyone that knows an educator knows the summer is a small way to clear minds and retain some sanity while planning the next year all summer long.

IEP’s, parents expectations, students expectations, followup emails, calls and this is JUST to be a mediocre teacher.  To be an involved and dedicated teacher you find yourself doing what others do not do first, all of the above and going beyond the measure of taking care of yourself as a 9 to 5 employee and bringing the troubles, fears, and excitement home with you to sort out and let your students know that it can be sorted out with someone willing to lend their time to make them see there is a better day on the horizon.

To be an educator today, and not merely a teacher, you need to model that there is more than enough time to be there for each other, and maybe, MAYBE if you are lucky, individuals will learn that there are others pulling for them, supporting them, cheering them on, amid the chaos and crazy pace of assignments, hurdles, and expectations to get to the next grade.

Students will see and understand sacrifices when they understand that visible sacrifices are also made for them, because as an educator you will take lengths to see them to the end, despite the times you lose.  

This is something that teachers, cannot learn, but educators do by cheering on students at their games after school, calling parents when something amazing happens, and making mark son papers that point out amazing ideas that could lead to others.  This takes an amazing amount of person time.

” You see XXXX (name withheld), I SUCK a relationships of the heart, but when it comes to seeing my students feel and see way through the madness of rhetoric, politics, hurt, shame, racism, and exploitation, and have a chance at succeeding, well, I am getting better thanks to students like you, and yes, you matter”

A pause, a silence.

Comments come out like “You are the best librarian I ever met – This is the best library I have ever been in! – You would be my pick of the best teacher I ever met” _ I have received cookies (fried oreos no less, placed on my desk with A note “You ARE WELCOME – ALI” .  (as I think which one is Ali and not Alison or Allison? – I get cookies, brownies, chips, not at first this took months to happen and yet –

I am a total FRAUD because – I get these compliments because of:

-the amazing way I was treated by students faculty, and friends living in a country called Mexico that took me in without a moments hesitation and taught me what love is, even when I sucked at Spanish and do not understand how to do something, they recognized my attempt to try; they embraced me as a person for wanting to, they taught me what indviduals living out of one country can do for others and letting me see inside their own lives and be a part of their lives and respecting me for so many things I was not worthy of being respected for

-the amazing colleagues that were by my side from my first days of student teaching, to the students who were patient with me in those early years, the colleagues and peers that studies alongside me in college, friends that supported me in Phi Kappa Psi and every college I attended

-amazing friends that stuck by me – from high school, college, and beyond that supported and instructed me in being a better person from the time they met me

-the amazing educators at Slippery Rock University, Butler Community College, Mansfield University, Colorado University, even Butler High School

-family that still accept me when I left so many years ago and have not had the pleasure of being with them for so long, and losing family and yet – their support all the time when we talk

-amazing new faculty that took me in and have guided me back to a population of students that latch on to models in and out of school that help them feel as if they might be able to make that next major trail in their life while succeed in obtaining an education

“Have you ever been in Love Mr Brake?”

“Yes, I have been loved by some of the best people in the WORLD that have shown me that love is possible, but love takes many different forms.  IF we are lucky, we will recycle that love and be able to change things around us, including ourselves and not forget that what me feeling is annoying form others, at times, can actually be a cry for help. We all have that strength to find something for ourselves first to share with others.  When we do, all else falls into place.”

He walked away with a smile on his face.

So did I.

I have not quite recovered from the amazing love I left in Mexico – and yet, the students back here in the states have pulled me in so fast to their lives, and yes, not most times let me explore what life might be life without them (trust me, some daaaaayyyyyys) – their suffocating ways have made a difference as graduates of 2018 become survivors in so many ways.  As educators, the world can change when we do not forget a glance, a compliment, a 3 minute chat, despite the most frustrating rapid days we have, will indeed make a change in situations around us. As with anything in education, this only happens in a realization package, years from now.  It has happened for over 15+ years I have been in education, and THAT is something, NO ONE will experience unless putting their all, into ALL that surround you in a given day.

Being an educator is a village that some disconnect from and those that do not, control the pace of love in so many forms.  For all the thank you’s and gratitude I am sent, I know each one is a result of every single individual that took me in and showed me the way.  

Thank you.

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Chills that Reveal…

SO MUCH has happened in the span of three weeks, but for me in blogging, I often have to let an event soak in for days, maybe even a week after, to allow the true aspects of covering it all soak in completely.    Hence, sometimes, it is just easier to work your way backwards, which is exactly what I will do in these next few posts – there just is simply too much to let go, too much to try and cover in one burst.  Such is life…

The more common wish of Break a leg!” is what you think of when wishing so many “Good luck!” before a production.  I did some researching and found these alternatives, Merde!, Ganbatte Ne (in Japanese), Toi Toi, ToiIn bocca al lupo! (or a variation of this being  “So in bocca al lupo” –  ,  Melange O’ Tois – 

but move past the formalities of how to wish someone a great job, and if you think about it, I think all of us has been in a moment, watching someone we vaguely knew, wished to know, have grown up with, taught, or simply admired and supported and felt this level of emotion in seeing them succeed and have grown, and seeing it arrive in their personality in one major moment.  Sometimes this occurs onstage, in a small coffeeshop, a library or auditorium for a Talent Show, Open Mic, competition, etc but if you dig deep, I am pretty sure we all have been there, had that creeping emotional leap inside seeing another achieve something spectacular, that often is too much even for words.

With that intro information, I was generously asked to be a judge for the 2018 Woodbridge High School Talent Show and I approached this with genuine appreciation for being thought of to be asked to be a part – after seeing and participating with so many talented students in Mexico City’s Repentino. Open Mic, seeing a countless Blue Moon Talent Show in Mexico City, participating in Battle of the Bands in Seaford, seeing House Concerts in Mexico, initiating Open Mic in Woodbridge and having a chance to meet students through their talents, and just loving the scene of bringing together an activity that brings talents, interests, and a little bit of media together, it is always a good time that occurs in so many different fashions.

Being asked by the Woodbridge Yearbook staff to do so, was an honor to see how this would run in a totally new geographic area – same type of event I have been always involved in as a spectator, but , gulp, judging – imagine my nervousness in always trying to lean AWAY from judging and always encouraging rather that competing – and then there was more…

Guess who would be judging alongside me? 

IMG_7582.jpg(I mean like real – well known individuals – get this lineup of judging:

Chris Havrilla, Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science recipient Altia Anderson – Woodbridge alumni and now awesome Marquette Golden Eagles basketball player, Tykena Hagans – Exuberant DJ at 97.5, Grace Oltey, Miss Delaware’s Outstanding Teen from 2014, and me, lol . – I was surrounded in major talent.  During the whole evening – I felt the same feeling I alluded to seeing some amazingness  –

this is often the feeling you get when you hit the “right” college campus for you, the “right” job when you settle in, and this was it, the students GLOWED – and it was beyond amazing to see some of these students that performed at Open Mic and they simply glowed on stage and grew so much – it was amazing to see.  When you think student talent show you go in with expectations of like “Hey they are going to try and it is going to be cool…”  

From the first act I knew this was just more than your regular talent show.  It was amazing to see each of the performers pull out many stops and confidence – it was exciting to see these amazing acts :

Written dramatic monologue performed to music

Original designed choreographed country music 

An original created guitar piece with sentimental merit

An awesome rendition of country music as a solo singer (Top place!)

A rap number full of excitement and motivation

An original choreographed musical keyboard number full of talent

A great rendition of a Weird Al number pulling on the audience’s enthusiasm

and much more.  it was exciting to see students from Woodbridge come up and chat with the judges and overall, this was SUCH a GREAT pulled off event – Ms Workman as the sound and lights, the Yearbook Staff on the whole event, the students/staff/parents  attending and supporting their peers, the student capturing these moments, the judges capitalizing on these accomplishments, IMG_7491when you get this feeling of seeing students receiving an opportunity to grow and capitalizing on it – it shines brighter than brightest spotlight on any individual act.



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What Does National Library Week and School Library Month look, sound and feel like in the “Ideal” Setting?

Let’s just jump on in, now remember, this is today, ONE DAY, only from 7:45 AM to 12:45 Pm, after that more great things occurred that are hard to retain because, well, I can only hold onto so much without lunch.

Here we go:

School Library Month and National Library Week Observations that make being a Media Specialist Librarian the best job, and one of the most important jobs for those that are serious about the success of their schooL;
1) Walked into school and 8:00 and 6 seniors ask if they can use the project area/ Smart Board to practice their speeches for their Senior Project (hint – that is like every librarian’s dream to be asked to use a project area for exactly what you hope it would be used for ) fast forward to 45 minutes later, and all seniors, a few freshmen, sophomores, are in the audience providing feedback, laughing, giving each other a hard time, but also constantly giving feedback like “Do something with your hands, and not in your pockets!, don’t rock back and forth!, look at us – you are talking to us, remember? Do NOT say Um, uh, or like AGAIN!, PLEASE do not read to us word for word from the slides!) You have to love the fact that students were laughing, LOVING this process even though they had been stressing out about this for 7+ months, and students from varying levels were willing to sit and critique, and rotate and evaluate their peers, 9th – 12th grade. Impressive to say the least to see how far they have come and where senior project has led them.
2) Students overhearing me asking the students to please double side and add 4 notecards per page when printing out their notes because we can’t keep wasting paper like it grows on trees (they laughed) and student brings back a ream of paper for me before lunch and said, ” I overheard you needed paper so I brought you back some to replenish the paper used earlier…”
3) Meeting with UDLib and an amazing Career Counseling setting aside time – despite makeup testing today he was conducting – to listen to the new FREE Delaware links to test prep, science and Math curriculum aids, Ebooks, and amazing singular databases all academic teachers can use to save their lesson and curriculum planning time – an amazing experience.
4) An amazing freshmen giving a tour to the guest representative for EduLib through the wings where students run a farm, a chicken house, a florist shop, and a Structures area and helping connect this EduLib representative with other teachers…
5) Seeing vocational structures students put together their senior projects and to take time to brag on a new project they have taken on their own – (in this case a student chatted me up for 20 minutes about a 1967 moped he rescued from the garbage, and the owner’s manual he found on line and put in a binder – and the excitement he had on attempting to restore this as his now current project)
6) Having over 25 students throughout the course of the day bombard the library on opinions of their product summary, the length and content of their project synopsis, as well as the “Do you have a binder?”, “Do you have page dividers?”, but realize the need the library is filling for them to be successful.
7) Having students stop at the desk and excited to share their idea for a Student Government poster for elections and their decision to run together and running possible ideas past the Media Specialist Librarian…
8) Being invited to a student’s family birthday party
9) Having one of the most talented artists stop by and share their illustrations and idea to create a “passport” that all students could have and use at the May 5th Comicon at Greenwood Library as they go from station to station
10) Students coming asking, if the Red Apple Grant field trip to Delaware was going to happen, asking me to call RIGHT NOW PLEASE to see if we could nail down the YES to the bus on that day, the YES to from the museum, and after doing so finding out the students were more at ease knowing they had a chance to to the Delaware Art Museum…
11) Producing new faculty id badge holders for an upcoming celebration for staff, creating custom made trophies in the 3D Printer for one of many upcoming 5k run and walks and students rushing the printer asking, when can we begin our projects using the 3d Printer, (yes, even the students who usually have no interest at all in school).
12) Student seeing the phone ring every 5 minutes to the Library Media Center and planting herself by the phone, answering, relaying messages to me, answers relayed back for her to relay to the caller…after 35 minutes of this, she walking away saying, “I could so do this job, I am going to take your job one day Mr B as librarian…” with a smile on her face and a huge smile on mine… 

13) Hearing a story of visiting teacher/tutor – “Schools and libraries are so different.  I went to Y#@Y@))@, and the librarian was absent, and the students simply pulled out a television and watched SpongeBob SquarePants the whole time.  Another administrator came into the library with a checklist and clipboard, I was sure that this would fo down differently.  Nope.  Happy the students were “busy”, stated “At least they are not tearing the place apart” and left.  This is so much different than walking into a library where students are playing chess, practicing presentations, on the computers asking you questions about Google Slides, piecing puzzles together, and brainstorming ideas across the country with you, the phone ringing off the hook in the background.”  You realize as a person there was a reason you put so much time into being different than the typical library = satisfaction with the craziness that occurs within the confines of your space.

14) A spunky, crazy but talented young student, who had a run in with you as a librarian earlier in the year and had a referral, working on her senior project, spying you, – and spitting out “Sir!  Does this look too short for the summary of my product?” Paper right in front of my eyes as if I am taking a eye test, her watching me read every single word out loud, me giving a few lines that can add to the length and detail of her summary, her grabbing, running to her station, making adjustments, running in the next lab and grabbing her finished product, smiling, laughing, speeding past you with a “Thank you SIR!” and what just happened?

Is it lunch time yet?


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Anthology of Pop Culture and Life – Ready Player One

Ready Player One – 3D and packed to the hilt with film’s version of Easter Eggs – yep, Steven Spielberg certainly went over the top for the film Ready Player One.

Aside from the countless icons of pop culture crammed into one film, which must have been a scavenger hunt, aka treat and dream for Spielberg to create – much else comes out along the way.  Yes there is a direct feel to Tron for one in this film (get this, I have NEVER seen TRON yet in my life, so need to add that to the To Do list) but there are more indirect, not see “feels” that come out of the film.

Most would think it a real bummer, that you go to a 3D movie, and forget the grab the 3D glasses, right?  Never happened to me except to this film.  I was sitting there, pretty sure I saw 3D on my ticket when I purchased it from Fandango, and sure enough, no glasses bucket or offer and now the movie was starting.  Not the best ideal way to see a 3D movie, but I lived, and I realized something. it is good in life to also keep things real sometimes, so if I could feel and get something outside of just seeing it for 3D, that might be one heck of a film.

It was.

When the initial screen started rolling, i noticed the word DUNE productions on the screen, and from what I knew of the film, I felt that maybe that seemed to fit.  Yep, that’s right, I have never saw Dune either (stop shaking your head, I know, lots to add but that is part of the fun of not seeing EVERYTHING!) . In this case, I am super excited to NOT have read the book first – allowing me to now dive in and see what the content has to offer after seeing the movie.  It seems there is alot more waiting me – which is exciting based on the barrage of allusions in Ready Player One.

When I look at these trailers from say Dune, Tron, and The Last Starfighter, wow – we are spoiled today from the effects on screen for sure. The Last Starfighter memories  brought it home for me.  The whole theme of this film, when I first read it in a paperback, then saw on the screen.  That stuck with me.  Remembering many of the references in Ready Player One were even more impactful to connecting them to the movie theatre where I witnessed the first showing of these in a theatre, and that brought a reality to these Easter Eggs Spielberg planted even more realistic throughout the film, no 3D required.

The inclusion of the riddles, and the use of Back to the Future transportation, LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED. The realistic similarity to Waterworld and  “The Stacks” was very close and similar, the soundtracks that provided sweeping heroic overtures, as well as retro back to the 80’s themes that even remind you and connect you between heroics like Pirates of the Caribbean to the nostalgic tunes found in Guardians of the Galaxy – and of course the memories of all the above-mentioned films.

It was disconcerting to see so many people into the game while life around them just seemed to disintegrate, become bland and void of all the beauty of traveling and seeing amazing animals, wonders of the earth and more.  Seeing so many entranced by the Virtual Reality viewers reminded me of the first time I saw those viewers in coordination with ipads, thanks to Google at the American School Foundation, it was amazing to watch others travel through their eyes using technology.  Amazing.

Real world realizations – the exhilaration of technology is undeniable.  Yet, I am lucky enough to realize, the mix is more important than anything else.  it is so easy to “check out” of the world with so many conflicts, disasters, and back tracking events occur, which reinforces the fact that now more than any other time, individuals need to “check in” to making the world a better place and stand up for the things we love that are in the real word.  For example, education works when you mix the real world to the what can be using technology, when one more than the other wins, it seems there is no true balance or winner.  The virtual Easter Eggs that Spielberg hid throughout Ready Player One seem to also remind us that the literal scavenger hunt for easter eggs, in real life is also worth the experience.  I feel deep within the vaults of Steven Spielberg’s life,  Spielberg made sure to capitalize on the fact that technology is amazing, but so are the real aspects of life you can’t pull out of technology and should be preserved as well. There are many reactions to Ready Player One.

Sure, I can’t forget the feeling I had when I unearthed my Atari 2600 in Mexico (after having it repaired in Mexico) and seeing it back to use after all that time for the Lock in at the American School Foundation.  It was indescribable to see games I had not played since I was ten or so right there on the big screen – I mean – INCREDIBLE! When I reverse my memory back to the time I played those with so many individuals – even better – the technology today – of course no comparison but I would never want to trade the experiences I had when i obtained my first computer – the TRS- 80 from Radio Shack and of course the experiences I had with Atari. 

I am grateful for April 1st being a combination of April Fools, Easter, my father’s birthday, and family memories had that will never disappear.  This keeps me rooted and I had no idea this would do so when I was 10, 12, or even 16.  I believe Ready Player One does the same thing, takes every viewer on a voyage and allows them to visit the inner halls of life and memory and emerge with great surprises, realizations and gift, just in time for Easter.

As per tradition, I always place the memoir my Dad in fact left for our family – the physical and what it represents on April 1 to me.  We each have some dynamic memories that keep us in a reality check no matter how fantastical the world becomes around us.

The Rings Around Us-


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Leading with the “I” – Inactively – Doesn’t Work.

March 2, 2018 at Woodbridge High School brought the Professional Development Day “Everyone Leads” to our School District, and I have to admit, I am still getting used to seeing everyone in the School District so many times when we had not as much chance to do so in such a large institution at the American School Foundation in Mexico City.  Yet, when we did in Mexico, I realized how amazing, dynamic, and stocked with potential the district itself was – and I realized that today again.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 4.07.02 AM

One of the best parts was seeing our inner lobby packed with booths representing each school, ECC, Elementary, Middle, and High, and with the tokens, and contests waiting for each school’s faculty, it added some lightness to being in school during a Professional Development Day.

As always you saw the overall leadership plan from Donna Hall implemented by Kylie Cross one of the first individuals there – getting tables, packages all ready with the maintenance along with our own Kent Chase and Kelley Thompson, and you started to get the first taste of the sentiment “rolling up your sleeves and jumping in.”  I will come back to this but realized, it is one thing to present an idea, but another to walk the walk, talk the talk, and actually jump in and be a leader by example.  That takes guts, determination, and just “ooompf” this is often lost on the delegation part, but the follow through is what makes a leader, at least what I have experienced through the 46 years in this world.

Often some of the most important activity is what you don’t see as well.  The tech setup for so many presentations, connectivity, lab use, Chrome Books and more, amazing.  Out IT was on it and above it – they ROCKED the day as well.  Add to that the well the maintenance prepared, maintained, and restored the school to remaining to look like an absolute mansion, and you have another case of how these amazing groups keeps an event running seamlessly without what seems effort, with a WHOLE lot of effort into everything.

Opening with keynote Dr. Jackie Wilson, while it is always difficult to start in the AM, Dr. Wilson took us through a geographical journey of her own life to where she has come to in Delaware today.  I distinctly remember creating Life Maps in English as a prep to the biographical essay, and making sure the students remembered that they played a role in their writing.  They had voice.  They had a history that often is forgotten in the scheme of so many thins to do, to get done, hurdles to jump over, and when you look back on your life even 10 years later, you wish you would have taken more time to stop and remember what got you to this point.  You realize this later.  I was lucky enough to reflect on all the crazy moments that have brought me here today, and am grateful for all of those moments, good and bad, and the chance to reflect on that in lieu of Ms. Wilson’s experiences and how these personal and life-long experiences brought her to present a testimony to the power of leading, following, and education.

Moving into my first session, I was lucky enough to attend Ms. Jennifer Fisher’s session Writing Across the Curriculum.  Now when you first see this you might think “Oh my gosh, seriously? First thing a typical PD workshop on something PD’ish? 

Anything but.  There is a reason she was nominated for Teacher of the Year this year, and this is a HUGE clue.

Her walk through PBL Learning – it is, was, and has always been the gospel.  I have ALWAYS believed, said, and preached, the difference between and educator and teacher is what you do with that title.  DO.  Absolutely Do.  Putting an idea of what the students need to learn in their hands and have them ACTIVELY involved with every single concept within a unit.  Have students be first hand creators of lessons you bring to the classroom and 1000 other aspects I have admired in educators that have influenced me became real again – from Mr. Neutrelle in Butler Junior High, to Penny Austin-Richardson at Seaford High, to amazing leaders that jump in like Teruhi Yohioka, Hugo Cabrera Basurto, Paloma Fuentes, Kristin Dixie, Melinda Duryea, Dr. Joseph McCarren, Natalie Dorfeld, Kimberly Miller, and countless more educators that simply jump in and show the human side to teaching, by DOING – Ms Fisher easily became a representative of this with her co presenters.  I thought – Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a Betsy Devos that represented education by showing weekly pulling up your sleeves and DOING rather than random appearing behind a podium?  Even a president?  Some of our Leaders could be MUCH more effective and have a voice from taking a lesson from educators and parents that surround us.  take a look at Lisa Blunt Rochester.  Phone casts where people can join, newsletters, updates, calling you PERSONALLY on the phone when you contact her, and that is just in a week!  LOL – that is my type of transparent legislator that represents all that education should be day in and day out.

In ending this workshop, we had over 10 amazing ideas in front of us that could be implemented and involve students and faculty, and parents, and community, and (you get the idea) – and that is what education is about, everyone leading in their own way and producing an understanding from DOING.  Doing. Doing.  Delegating AND DOING.  Not a hard concept, but harder to DO for some.  The site www.bie.org is a definite resource for starting this approach to education and making a difference.

I was privileged to be asked to present alongside Ryan Curl and Shannon Cathcart about Google and the human side of it as well.  Yes there is a human side my friends. Despite Ryan being an Eagles fan and me a Pittsburgh native, (that turned out well bringing PA Championship back to the Superbowl era, thanks Eagles, you rocked!) and Shannon nervous and thinking she was not a presenter (turns out she was!) – I realized that we can present the amazing levels of collaboration that Google enables, but unless there is follow through individually with those concepts, and a way to connect the possibility of collaboration with those IDEAS, that is all they are, ideas and they go nowhere without a willingness to offer more beyond the ideas.

With the session Everybody Loves Everybody, just simply classic.  I didn’t think first at how much this matters being in the gym but oh. Wow.  I should have never stuffed myself with lunch the way I did. (HOLY COW – the lunch was AMAZING by the way, pulled pork sandwiches, dessert that was AMAZING, iced tea that hit the spot, and – a hundred other reasons why this caterer should be always used! – (I will find out more on who this was and let ya know) – Thanks to Pam Gordy of “My turn to cook, catering”  302-875-7907 myturntocook@yahoo.com  – but I digress –

The physical activity that was exerted bringing individuals we did not know together for one common aim was – enlightening, and Super fun.  Often the simple ice breakers are okay but result in groans when mentally you have to think about that happening . Physically jumping into an activity, and having to as others depend on you, helps bypass the preconceptions you have of what the term icebreaker means then changes that to overall collaborative FUN.  I realized a few key things :

1) HAVE FUN and that should be the basis of every single unit of instruction (that usually does NOT include worksheets). 

2) I was OUT OF SHAPE and needed to do something about that PRONTO. 

3) Being a part of a group, laughing, and DOING made the difference in how you see everything, each other, and the future.  

If this workshop did not seal the deal on making sure every lesson, every single lesson within a unit will be effective if it takes in the whole person (physically, collaboratively, letting each person lead at least once, and so much more) – then nothing would.  Kudos to Ian Daws and the workshop leaders of Everybody loves Everybody  that made this workshop happen.  We need a yearly faculty competition, be it kickball, soccer, or SOMETHING, lol.

Of course, meeting back in the auditorium at the end of the day on the note from Superintendent Heath Chasanov and addressing the upcoming school violence protest, walkout, and upcoming events around this issue, the reminder that the world crashes in and forces you to act was real.  Yet, there was a silver lining.  Receiving a WHS golf umbrella was AMAZING as a gift (perfect timing that day –  – I love large umbrellas and yeah, the one I purchased at U of D and could not get back to Mexico (cough, Tammy Pham – are we gong to see that umbrella this week?  But speaking of a lady that worked her opportunities to the bones and became successful after leaving Seaford – she ROCKED the opportunity as a DOER!)  reminded me, we definitely can be protected from the criticisms of standing up and DOING things by buying into making a change by DOING – and banding together to do so.  

Change is definitely in the wind on so many fronts my people that are ruled, governed, and criticized by individuals who criticize but do nothing.  Inactivity and criticism from individuals that criticize, govern, and rule and DO nothing?  They produce nothing.  The movers and shakers that are not afraid to confront the mundane, the norm, the consensus, that cause much of noise and back up that noice with action, they might not at first, but they will change everything in time.  Thank goodness.  I am blessed to see an amazing colleague and former WHS alumni, Kelli Duncan wade through a sea of students every day that clamor for success.  Despite being faced with a power tower of papers, she walks out, addresses students one on one, and in return receives a sea of students that ask her advice, tips, and keys for passing in areas of (my hardest subject – Math) and gives them hope.  Heck, she has enough to do without giving the time she needs to get items done and yet, that motion of being visible and offering a chance of hope to get through the struggle at hand motivates students to push on. I see this every day and reminds me, a Media Specialist Librarian uses their desk to contain the things that can be done every minute of the day – possibilities, and so that means so far from neat you cannot imagine.  My students remind me of this every day, but the desk is a symbol of where you are as an educator, and willing to be, for the students that surround that desk.  if you stay behind that desk and decide that is the best part of education, you are missing the WHOLE POINT and experience of what education needs to bring to those affected by it.

I look back and remember the jump into WHS this year in the middle of – get ready for it – Senior Project. HUGE LEARNING CURVE, but it helped me find out what the needs of students are in a hurry, HUGE asset. Okay let out the groans and let me fast forward to 4 months later.  All that scrambling, struggling, frustration etc, I watched every single student GROW within 5 months and figuring out how to work things out from that senior project, POWERFUL and connected once you figure out a topic students internalize, work out frustrations through, and truly mimic real life as close as you can possibly get, I realized as an educator and Media Specialist Librarian how valuable a senior project is and can tie so many learning strides together for students.  Heck, I have seen it happen through the IB Program, through the amazing paths Penny-Austin Richardson led to discovery for so many students, and this is yet one more example of how a project, becoming real, can actually educator rather than lecture.  HUGE DIFFERENCE.  After 16 years of being in education you tend to see things and learn things – most people can’t handle 5 years or even one in a classroom, I think educators should be involved more in decisions than those that do not spend more than 5 hours, days, or minutes in a classroom, don’t you?

That one letter of “I” means everything, when it comes to Doing and Leading.  From local 5k’s that will happen and have happened, to events that spread out from your local public library and connect with schools, to collaborating with educators and students in another country and embracing the differences that together make a country great and do not cause division, to simply devoting an hour a day to changing someone else’s world and making a little better, 1:00 AM, 5:00 PM, Lunch time at school, those moments when the buzzer goes off in the morning, each of us have a chance to change everything, and you put us together, we realize that “Everyone Leads” if motivated to do so.



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Dazzle with DASL

I had mentioned it once before, bit it is amazing to see what your own state has to offer when you allow yourself time to re-examine surroundings you have been around for so long, but – it really makes a difference when you slow yourself down to allow a new perspective.

Take DASL – Delaware Association of School Librarians – you would automatically ASSUME I would be aware of this being a Media Specialist Librarian AND in Delaware, you know what they say about assuming right?  

This particular night, March 26th, the meeting for DASL was held in Middletown’s Appoquinimink Library –  and had many bits of helpful info.

Let’s dig in:

The PrepareDE presentation was VERY informative.

I had no idea this organization existed, let alone searched for licensed, qualified individuals to help in times of disaster AND could provide training for those involved.  It was refreshing to see that librarians were also requested and yet, made sense due to the contacts, organizational networking, and other skills that librarians could in fact bring to a shelter table!  The use of distraction kits for children they discussed, to be created, is amazing, awesome in thinking ahead for preparedness, and after seeing the tragedy occur in Mexico City, this hit home directly.

Volunteering makes sense and is comforting to know such forward thinking is in the works.

When the second presentation regarding UDLIB occurred, I learned ALOT. Even though I relied on UDLIB as a mainstay when I arrived on the job in Delaware, knowing alot of unknowns about this state-funded service:

UDLIB Search can be a link placed on your schoology pages to allow teachers to use the videos, databases, as well as citation, lesson plans, and levels of reading difficulty for EVERY article you find (levels 1-3 at anytime) to be accessed quickly and more efficiently.  I KNOW as a former English teacher for over 13 years, there are unexplored tools there, I could have easily saved HOURS on – even knowing the Common Core Standards that go with specific lesson direction that would have helped focus my lessons TEN FOLD!

The fact that these resources can be made at school AND at home, be presented for student use at elementary to senior project levels, to also allowing UDLIB staff to come and do PD’s on how to manipulate these resources is PRICELESS to help make a year less stressful (as well as creative for the students).

Also being able to create index card graphic organizers for specific papers is crucial, as well as being able to show students how to highlight and send those very notes to their email, Google drive, and even send the article too – this reintroduces a higher level of research for preparing students for a college-style regimen of research.

I presented last and hoped to show individuals the access to a book database we created and be able to swap texts that other schools need for texts we could use in our library as well.  Additionally, giving students a sample of our Raider’s Den


also helped see if we can collaborate with other schools for events that we would like to bring other partners in with.

A take away from this meeting was realizing that the numbers attending are not as powerful as a handful on individuals that are willing to roll up there sleeves and move and shake hypotheticals into action.  I feel libraries and librarians are way overdue to do, just that!




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