Here, at the End of All Things

Warning:  this post is a particularly sentimental one, so if you are not a hopeless sap or dreamer, then you may bypass this entry!

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The end of the school year is the intersection of many bittersweet beginnings and endings.  One school year’s dreams, hopes, activities, and memories come to an end while those of the upcoming school year begin to incubate over the summer.   It is a time in which we let go and say goodbye to people and phases of our lives and prepare to usher in new eras and journeys; we turn the page from one school year to the next.

At no point in my eighteen year career have I ever felt so acutely the joy and sorrow of this intersection.   For me, this past school year has been an amazing metamorphosis in which so many dreams have come true and in which so many amazing people–colleagues, students, friends, family, mentors, inspiration agents—have graced my life with their wisdom and generous spirit.   The positive changes that have come with the last 12 months have been nothing short of astonishing and fill me with a sense of wonder and optimism even in the face of changes happening that are not so happy.

I am keenly cognizant of how blessed I am to do something I love so much daily and to be in a place, The Unquiet Library, that is so incredibly unique and special.  In the movie Field of Dreams,  Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham says, “This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child.”   As I reflect on this last year, those words ring truer than ever in my heart for me—the people I work with and the environment that allows me to grow and thrive cause me to be more appreciative than ever and to feel a tremendous sense of humility and awe that a girl from a small rural town in Georgia gets to live out her dreams and more on a daily basis.   What an honor it is for me to be part of an experience that is truly extraordinary.

On this  final day of academic year 2009-10, I want to share a few words of gratitude and reflection:

  • To Susan Lester and the students of Media 21:  how can I ever thank you for letting me learn side by side you with over 120 days of this school year?   You demonstrated faith in a vision of learning even when the way sometimes seemed challenging and uncertain.    From all of you—I learned so much and hope I can take what you have taught me and pay it forward to others in 2010-11.  Never will I forget the unique and transformative journey of learning we forged together.  Thank you for your unwavering confidence in me.
  • To This Year’s Senior Class: it seems you were just freshmen the other day and now you are just a day from graduating.   To learn and grow with you the last four years has been special and remarkable, and your presence in the library will be greatly missed.   Thank you for all you have contributed to the library and know you always have a place with us.   Carpe diem!
  • To Dr. Bob Eddy:  thank you for giving me the professional freedom the last 4.5 years to create the magic known as our library program.  I sincerely believe the best is yet to come.
  • Friends, Colleagues, Teachers, Mentors, Near and Far: so many of you touch my life on a regular basis even if we don’t see each other face to face regularly.  Whether in person, via chat, via email, via text, via Skype—your encouragement, wisdom, leadership, and generous spirit—I thank you with all my heart for imbuing your wisdom into my work and for giving flight to all I do.
  • To Vicki Watton: was it just the other day I was in your class when you student taught?  Or that you took me under your wing as I began my teaching career?   You are a class act inside and outside the classroom—your grace, dignity, and sage spirit will forever be a part of me.  As you leave your classroom for the last time today, know what a difference you have made in the lives of so many and given so much—go forth now and enjoy this newfound time for yourself and your loved ones.
  • My Creekview High Family: thank you for all you do to help me blaze trails and move mountains.
  • Tammy, Roxanne, Todd, Wayne, and Phil:  simply, you are the best and the unsung heroes in this story—nobody does it better.
  • To My Late Friend Tom Haney: four years ago,  you listened patiently as I finalized the details for opening the library.  You shared your office with me and listened to my dreams, ideas, worries, and sparks of inspiration as I undertook the birth of The Unquiet Library.  Then you listened to all the joys and angst of growing the program the last four years.  I can’t stand the thought of the first postplanning without our annual ride to lunch with the top down in your VW, but I know you are with us in spirit.  There isn’t a day I don’t miss your friendship, but I know you are at peace.
  • To My Family: you are my rock, my inspiration, my compass.  Simply, I love you.

If you are or have been an educator, you can appreciate the mixture of emotions the final day of school brings.  I firmly believe you can’t look forward unless you periodically pause to look back.  Next week, I will share an additional and special post of thanks as well as some exciting new posts that will hopefully generate more inspiration and excitement than the urge to grab the nearest Kleenex!

Until then, farewell 2009-10 and thank you for an amazing ride!  I look forward already to 2010-11 with excitement and optimism.



Guest Post: Susan Lester Reflects on Media 21

Susan Lester is my co-teacher in Media 21 and partner in the trenches!  In this post, she adds some additional reflections to the initial Media 21 Report posted earlier this week on this blog:

Buffy noted in the first round of conclusions that a small group of  students were overwhelmed by the learning environment we provided that gave students both more freedom and responsibility.  As a classroom teacher, I think it is important to note that ingrained poor work habits of these students were actually what prevented some of them from maximizing their use of cloud computing and web 2.0 tools. Furthermore, even though some students were more engaged in learning than ever before, they still could not handle the responsibility of managing their learning even with these tools because of their inability to finish projects they started.   The point is that even though engagement may increase with this model of learning,  it is not an  overnight “no cure” for a lifetime of deficient work habits for some students.

A major cornerstone of Media 21 is the collaboration between the school library media specialist and the classroom teacher.  The collaboration between media specialist and classroom teacher only works when the two share a commitment to similar teaching strategies. Our collaboration succeeded because we share a commitment to collaborative , inquiry-based teaching and learning that is supported by cloud computing and web 2.0 tools. During our collaboration, our sophomore students made progress as independent learners and critical thinkers; this progress has been very gratifying to see. It has been quite a stretch for them to move from “learned helplessness” where they are totally dependent on their teachers to “resourceful thinker” where they can access information and accept responsibility for their own learning. I look forward to another collaboration with Buffy next year with seniors.

As Susan has pointed out, one of our challenges for next year is to explore alternate strategies that might help those students who have difficulty following through with projects and managing their learning environment.    I have some ideas in mind that I will share with you next week here on the blog as well as some other directions and ideas I’m getting ready to kick around with my collaborating teachers for 2010-11!    For now, I have pressing and important  library administration and management tasks that must be completed before the school year ends; once I can finish devoting time to those, I can get back into teaching, collaborating, musing, and planning mode!


Media 21: Initial Comprehensive Report

Although I will devote some specific blog posts to the conclusions section as well as student learning artifacts  in the next two weeks, this report represents a detailed narrative of the Media 21 from its inception in March 2009 (idea wise) to the conclusion of the project in May 2010.    If you are already familiar with the project, you may want to focus on pages 8-11 of this report.  I hope this initial and preliminary report will be insightful to anyone who would like to know more about Media 21; I also encourage you to visit for additional resources, podcasts, and other materials to inform your understandings of Media 21.

More triangulation of the data will be needed this summer for me to come to conclusions that are more encompassing and that also address how this project has embodied transliteracy.   I will post here on this blog  additional insights and findings from closer and more critical passes through the data later this summer; I will also use this experience of data analysis to better inform the planning and conceptualization of the  upcoming 2010-11 edition of Media 21.