Friday, May 11, 2018

It's Teacher Appreciation Week, the One Week We Try Not to Knock Educators In the United States... At Least Not Too Hard.


This was originally a very long post I wrote over on my personal Facebook page, spurred on by a video shared by a friend of mine, shared here.



When I was a classroom teacher, there were several years I spent well over $1,000 for supplies for my classroom. Some of it would get permanent use in the room from year to year, but many times it was replacement items- paper, pens, pencils, markers, construction paper, books, printer paper, staplers, scissors, glue...and this was all for a high school English classroom!

I honestly get very angry when people say, "Well, it's a calling to teach" or "You knew what you were getting into," because, you know what...most of us were not called to go into teaching. I wasn't and I fought it tooth and nail until I realized that it would be the job I could get with my degree after being laid off from publishing. Most of us had no clue exactly how much we'd have to spend on our own classrooms. Most of us had no clue that, with every 2-3% raise, our insurance would go up 3-4%. Most of us didn't know that our retirement--that we pay into from our paychecks--would slowly be dwindled down and then we would be gouged with insurance premiums that were 5X what they were when we were in the classroom, with only 2/3 the income coming to us from our retirement (if that!).

The fact that right now, working in my district, our situation isn't "as bad" as a teacher in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, or West Virginia, doesn't mean that we can't be angry when someone belittles our occupation. We are constantly spending our own money to improve our classrooms, either in supplies or earning more degrees or certifications. I spend many a summer attending workshops and reading up on the best practices for teaching my subject and my students. You can be envious of "all that time off" if you want to, but I will challenge you to spend 10 months with 240 17 year-olds, most of whom do not care whether they pass your class or not, but it is your job to make them care because whether you keep your job is determined by how well they do on a state-mandated test-- and by some miracle at the end of the year most of them do pass those tests and "prove" that you are doing your job (how many of you have your entire career hanging on how well a kid does on a test?).

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if anyone who thinks teachers are whining, or thinks they should just quit if they are so unhappy (most aren't, they just would like a real, living wage for the job that they do that requires degrees and certifications and such. We feel the same for social workers or anyone else who is a professional, but still has to work at Starbucks after hours to make ends meet), or believes that vouchers are the answer to all our education ills (they aren't, especially for those who are poor because they still wouldn't have the funds to make up the difference in price for that charter or private school that may or may not exist in their area), or want to blame all our educational problems on immigrants (who, by the way pay taxes which fund schools, either directly or in-directly through rent or mortgages), have any clue about more than what it was like in their day in the classroom. School is very different, so much so I had to change my own beliefs about it from the time I graduated, way back in 1994, to my first year teaching in 2002-- less than 10 years. Of course, thanks to the internet and social media, everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks it's the best one, even if it is completely uninformed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Inspiration In All the Right Places...

A Bit of Inspiration from My Garden...
As of this last Sunday, I’ve done two Facebook Live events on the Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp page. I know that my last post was about Facebook Live, so it may seem a bit excessive to post yet another time on this, but I have to day, this one is a bit different from the last.

I’m finding, after doing these two events, that my own creativity has been sparked. I’ve been more excited to work on my personal writing. Ideas have been popping up in my mind as to how to improve the online class that seems to be taking me forever to compete-- and developing ideas for other classes. I feel more assured that this is the right path in creating these courses, in doing the Facebook Live events, in taking my business to a completely online format and interacting directly with the public. This path is the one that will lead to the most success.

I don’t know if that means that I’ll be able to finally settle in and get down to my own writing, but until I finish my walk along this path, I can’t move forward on anything else. This is where my creative energy will be spent. I just have to hope that all the stories in my brain, as well as held within my ideas book, will still be there when the time comes to write them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Project: Facebook Live for Fort Worth Writer's Boot Camp

Click the image to go to the Facebook page!
Sunday, April 22nd, I did a Facebook Live test on the Fort Worth Writer’sBoot Camp page. Even though I was incredibly nervous, it went well. This brief introduction to future Facebook Live events was mostly a test to see if anyone would tune in to listen to me talk. I had three people comment live, and about ten viewers while it was live. Since posting it on the page, however, I’ve had over 700 views and a reach of over 1,800. I’m guessing reach means that people have “seen” it, but haven’t watched it. I’m good with that!

Using Facebook Live is definitely a great marketing strategy for any business or author to get word out about their brand. I've noticed many of the pages that I follow, whether they are writers, tour guides, podcasters, or life coaches, getting views through Facebook Live, and in turn, a dedicated YouTube channel, is a great way to find viewers, gain followers, and increase sales. I will definitely be continuing my live videos, at least twice a month, over on the Fort Worth Writer's Boot Camp page. There are definite improvements to come with lighting (I overlighted because I didn't want it to be dark!), and sound, but with more practice, I'll be a pro in no time!

I’ve already planned the next event, set for Sunday, May 6, 2018 at 6pm CST. The topic for discussion will be “I Want to Write, but Where Do I Start?” I have this discussion with many new writers, but also will be offering tips for seasoned writers on things you can do to stimulate your writing. I hope you join me over on the Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp Facebookpage, or if you don’t Facebook, watch the replay on the YouTube channel. Feel free to post comments or questions on either site!

Here is the first episode, up on YouTube:


Monday, April 9, 2018

Recap of TLA Dallas: AKA Librarianpalooza, Texas Style

Me, at the T&P Station, 6:20am, April 4, 2018
This last week I was off campus, hanging out with librarians for the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Dallas. I love attending TLA every year. This is the first year in the last 8 that I haven’t been on a committee, or in charge of a committee. It’s so strange to walk in and not have to check how much time I have until my first meeting, or what sessions I really have to give up because I have to be at the ceremony. I get to just enjoy the conference. The most difficult part of the entire conference was getting on the TRE train at the T&P Station every day at 6:20am to make sure I arrived at Dallas Union Station by 7:30am. I don’t think I caffeinated enough before I got on the train!

Being around literary folk—big name literary folk— always has an affect on me. Going to sessions where professional writers talk about their craft and influences just does something. I get the tingling of creativity pulsing through the air. I’m not sure if this is just a writer thing, or if everyone gets it, but it’s a great burst of energy. I spent most of my lunches doing research on a young adult historical (maybe paranormal) mystery series that I had thought up several years ago, but filed it away. I just have to keep the mojo going after the conference. The fact that I don’t have other distractions at the moment will make this an experience that I hope to carry over for the rest of the year.

Oh, and I learned some great library things, as well. I don’t want to discount that at all, but my library has been in a transition this year since we quit doing AR cold turkey and I’m still trying to find my groove to make programming mine. The best takeaway so far has been Adulting 101, where several high school librarians created groups at their schools to teach students skills that they need to know either for college or adulthood, but just haven’t been taught at home. I’m definitely taking that back to my campus!

If anything, attending TLA inspires dreaming in me. I dream of a better library. I dream of my own books I will write. I dream of someday being one of those authors up on the stage or in the signing line, having an audience who loves my stories as much as I do.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March for Our Lives is NOT Just a Liberal Issue...

All people should want kids to feel safe, right?
This past Saturday I participated in the Fort Worth March for Our Lives rally. I was greatly impressed by the eloquence and maturity of the young people who organized the event (and I’ve known one of them since she was three years old, so this was a pretty proud moment). I Instagramed and Facebooked several photos in real time and was pleasantly surprised at how civil my friends were, even those I knew had vastly different political beliefs. The thing is, March for Our Lives is not a liberal issue. It is an issue everyone should stand up for: to protect our children from violence in our schools, as well as in our streets and homes. You can be pro-life and support children who are already born from dying in their classrooms. You can be a gun owner and still think that regulations should be in place to keep people with mental illness or multiple police visits from getting fire arms. You can stand by more than one political issue. In fact, that’s what makes our country a truly independent nation- the ability to have more than just a straight-ticket opinion about issues. Have we really become so polarized to believe that if liberals or conservatives support something, then whichever side we identify with, we should oppose the other?

What has become of our society? Have we really gotten to the point that, when children are afraid and speak out about their fears, adults think it is appropriate to mock them? A great nation (supposedly a Christian one) should not act this way towards its citizens. This emotionally immature behavior has to stop. Our leaders need to stick to the issues. Our leaders need to spend less time making fun of other people and get to work. There is no room in our future for people who cannot be decent to one another. It is a greatly held belief that “to get respect, you must first give it”— but who decides which person does this first? You do. I challenge everyone reading to approach your fellow human with respect, and more than likely, you will get it. If you don’t get respect back, well…that’s on the other person. You be the better human, even though it’s easier (and sometimes more satisfying) to have a great comeback.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What I’m Reading: Become a Fearless Writer: How to Stop Procrastinating, Break Free of Self-Doubt, and Build a Profitable Career

Considering I get so much done, I feel like I am the world’s busiest procrastinator. I try to not live that “busy” life—the one where, when someone asks how you’re doing, you say “Oh, I’ve been so busy…” It seems like the key to this type of conversation is just semantics. Don’t say you’re busy, even if you are really, really busy. I do feel that I am constantly on the go, though, with a multiple page to-do list for my library, business, writing, and home. Just writing down those four parts of my life gives me the anxiety that would send most people to their beds, pulling the sheets over their head. Hmm…that actually sounds nice. When can I do that?

Let’s face it—Life is busy. We all have things we absolutely have to do. What is important is that we take the time to get something done for ourselves. For me, that is writing. For too long, my writing has been an afterthought. It’s been one of those things that I put off for a day when I have several hours to just sit, relax and think. Now, I do love sitting, relaxing, and thinking, but with a full time job, a business that wants to be full time, and a house to take care of, those “nothing to do” hours are few and far between.

So, I decided I was going to stop my writing procrastination and get to it. I have a class called Write Fearlessly that I am currently transitioning into an online class, so when the book Become a Fearless Writer: How to StopProcrastinating, Break Free of Self-Doubt, and Build a Profitable Career by Nina Harrington, I had to check it out. After all, I’ve been procrastinating and I want to encourage others to become fearless, so… makes sense, right? It’s an eBook, so I’m about 18% into it. Everything is jiving with what I’ve been thinking or doing right now, and I hope that I do gain some new insight, not just for me, but something I can share with others. The sad thing is, as I read the book, I feel like I am procrastinating from getting other projects done. When did I become the librarian and writer who thought it was procrastination to sit down and read a book? That mindset has to go!

As of right now, I’ve actually written in some time on my to-do list to get writing done. I’ve written this post, so it looks as if it is working already. I’ll update my thoughts on this when I finish the book. No procrastinating on that!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Blame it on the Equinox

You know it's Spring when the coleus come out!
Today is the first day of spring. Since this is Texas, that means that it is 30 degrees cooler than it was yesterday—when it was still winter.

I was on Spring Break last week, and instead of going on some fabulous trip—like my Thanksgiving jaunt to Paris— I stayed home to get stuff done around the house. There’s the regular spring cleaning inside, but what really draws me in this time of year is getting the yard presentable. It seems to be the thing to do just as soon as the little green tips begin sticking their heads out of the ground. So far I have raked up 30 bags of leaves around the homestead (1/4 an acre in the city counts as a homestead, right?), and I have at least 40 more before I’m done for the season thanks to my 8 ancient trees. Boy do I like the shade they provide in the summer, though!

Last week also led to the planting of salad, herb and lavender troughs—goat trough gardens instead of raised beds. I’ve had these around for about 10 years. They’ve made appearances in earlier posts to this blog. This year they’ve already provided us with two salads and herbal accompaniment to another meal or two.

I have lots of pots of flowers and even a few pots of tomatoes. I love this time of year. It does seem to take over my life, though. Not much gets done anywhere else—house cleaning, writing, reading—when there is a garden to tend. It feels good to get it done. Bring in the beautiful so that when I do have time to stop to read or write, I’m able to do it outside in the garden!

The house cleaning, well…I unintentionally live by the late, great Governor Ann Richards’ theory of housework- “I did not want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a really clean house.'” I mean, I did change my sheets, but that was about it.