Communications

Internet Tubes

(Image by Google)

After an incident in which a squirrel disabled his home internet connection,  Andrew Blum wrote Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet.

Tubes

All of us have heard terms like “cyberspace,” “hyperspace,” and “world wide web.” All of these terms (as well as others) suggest that the internet is just “out there” without form or body but as Andrew Blum points out in his book, this isn’t entirely true. After the squirrel incident, Blum was suddenly aware that the internet is “connected” and that “wireless” isn’t an entirely accurate term. Blum was so fascinated by this fact that after he located the wire the squirrel had chewed through he literally followed the wire–and then other wires which eventually led him to “tubes” which housed fiber optics. Some of these fiber optic containing tubes run along the bottom of the ocean so that cities like London and New York can connect to each other as well as connecting many other places. Some fiber optic cables are buried underground. The whole experience is fascinating to read about. The fact that Blum could literally follow wires to see where they led him meant that the internet actually exists in physical space. It doesn’t exist like radio frequencies in the air. For the most part the physicality of the internet is hidden from most of us but it does require physical space. Blum went out of his way to try to find a map of the internet and then followed many routes all over the world.

This was such a fascinating concept to me that I googled, “Where the Internet Lives” which actually took me to a Google data center. Some of the pictures of the internet are beautiful. I hope you will check them out. The internet is several networks connected to each other. Therefore, the internet literally has to exist in at least two physical spaces. Therefore the internet can’t just “live” in one place, such as the Google Data Center. It has many “homes.” This is what Blum is talking about in his book and what that means literally around the world.

The next book I came across as I proceeded with my read through of the 380’s section was about communications of a very different type – Hollywood behind the scenes drama.

Scandals of Classic Hollywood

Anne Helen Petersen not only dishes out plenty of Hollywood gossip, she does so while managing to include historical fact presented as part of our cultural history while discussing the issues in the context of film, political, and even gender history in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.  This true life drama is the stuff movies are made of: blundered cover ups, illegitimate children, sex, drugs, and love affairs. I don’t want to give away the stories in this book, but if you love to follow the careers of Hollywood celebrities, you would probably enjoy this book.

Have you ever thought about the internet in physical space? Do you read about your favorite celebrities?

 

Advertisements

Postal Communication

Mail Truck Driver

Reading through the 380’s (Commerce, Communications, & Transportation) has brought us to a section called Postal Communications. How much could there possibly be to say about this topic? It turns out there is quite a bit to say! However, that means that this is one of those posts which I wish I could include way more information than I will be able to include in a single post. The postal system goes way beyond just packages and letters. There is so much interesting American history associated with the United States Postal Service that I would never be able to include it all. For that reason, I will try to give a synopsis while encouraging Dewey Hop readers to explore this topic in depth.

The United States Postal Service surpasses all other mail delivery systems in the world and is even twice as efficient as Japan, Germany, and the UK. Postal workers are a vast army of postal workers. As of 2017, the United States Postal Service (USPS) employed 503,000 postal workers. Among those workers 24% of them are veterans and disabled veterans making the USPS one of the largest employers of veterans in the United States.

Though it’s not officially associated with the USPS, the majority of us have heard the phrase “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” This phrase comes from a translation of an ancient Greek work of Herodotus in which he was describing an ancient Persian courier service.  The phrase was made popular in the United States when architect William M. Kendall added it to one of his buildings while working with the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White.  Though this phrase is not the USPS motto, one could gain the impression that it is since it appears to be true.

The USPS is legally required to deliver mail 6 days a week to every household and business in the US. Handling 40% of the world’s mail volume, the USPS delivered 149.5 billion pieces of mail and 5.7 billion packages in 2017. In order to accomplish this massive job, the USPS sometimes has to get creative. There are many different methods in which mail is moved from place to place. The postal service employs various modes of mail transportation. Trucks are used:

mail delivery vehicles

express mail

Planes are used:

USPS Plane

Trains are used both as a means to transport mail and sometimes even as a post office:

Rail Post Office

Boats, ferries, and ships are used:

MailboatTryouts_2011 055-M

Mail Boat 2

The mail boats actually have to have tryouts (top picture) to hire their employees and the competition is fierce. Mailboats also offer tours  and venues for parties and weddings. So popular are these services that one must plan ahead because the calendar of events fills up quickly.

Believe it or not, even mules or donkeys are used:

Mule Mail  Mule Mail 3Mule Mail 2

One place the mules are used is at the Grand Canyon. The mules travel deep into the canyon to deliver mail to an Indian reservation which can’t be reached by other modes of transportation.

Of course some postal workers drive a mail truck to their general delivery area and complete most to their deliveries on foot:

Letter Carrier

I truly wish I had time to get into all of the fascinating aspects of the USPS, but since I don’t, I will highly recommend this book:

Neither Snow Nor Rain

Devin Leonard discuses USPS history, post office business, stamp collectors, and Amazon among many other fascinating topics in this book.

There are people who have made it a goal to visit every post office in the United States. Some of them blog about it. One such person is Evan Kalish who writes Postlandia. Kalish describes interesting details about the actual post office buildings and shares information about his trips. It is quite eye opening.

All of us receive mail 6 days a week whether at work or at home – and most of us take that amazing service for granted. Postal workers are very dedicated and must jump through several hoops to become a postal employee. USPS employees must pass the Postal Worker Exam. To help, Fulton County Public Library offers these study aids:

Postal Exams

Postal Worker Exam

Master the Postal Exams

I have always been an avid fan of the USPS and use it frequently. I still send cards, letters, and  packages. I love being able to brighten someone’s day with an unexpected surprise. Everyone deserves to get something in the mail once in awhile besides bills and junk mail. After reading more of the history of the USPS, I’m an even bigger fan.  The USPS website offers amazing services.  I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t done so lately.

Do you use the USPS service regularly? When was the last time you visited a post office?

 

Commerce (Trade)

Flea Market

Human beings have been trading and bartering things almost since the beginning of time. During the Stone Age valued trading stones were used to procure hunting equipment, tools, and raw materials to make tools. Obsidian was particularly important in the making of stone tools. Trading and bartering was generally confined to small groups of people in the community and with other communities short distances apart. As people began to domesticate animals and farm, there were more and more things to trade. Surplus of food meant that food could be traded for other needed items such as stone farming tools, clothing, and even decorative items. As the bartering system became more common, it gave rise to a group of people called merchants.

Merchants en route

Merchants began to travel thousands of miles on foot (later adding pack animals) trading, buying, and selling to communities along the way. Pottery was beginning to be used in parts of Asia and various other parts of the world and was a hot commodity. As human civilizations advanced there were more and more products to trade including livestock, surplus items, salt, copper, shells, pottery, animal skins, farming tools, seeds etc. Traveling merchants eventually developed trade routes and as trade expanded it eventually developed into the world wide trade we have today.

Paying for Groceries

Though most of our trade today involves exchanging money for goods and services, trade and bartering are still very much in vogue. Have you ever tried to buy a car from a dealership? Did you just pay the sticker price or did you try to get a better deal? Have you ever offered to “trade” services with someone? For instance I have in the past offered to tutor or babysit children in exchange for haircuts and other services. More recently I exchange cooking (food) for small house repairs. I know of a lawyer who provided legal services and the client “paid” by landscaping his yard.  There are thousands of scenarios and the value of such things changes based on what your needs are at any given time.

It is this bartering and trading and getting a “good deal” that make garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, flea markets and the like so popular. Many people have made businesses out of buying up cheap items at flea markets and yard sales, making improvements to their purchases and then reselling them. Others do this type of thing as a hobby or even just to express creativity.  Some good books about this sort of thing available at the Fulton County Public Library  are I Brake for Yard Sales: and Flea Markets, Thrift Shops, Auctions, and the Occasional Dumpster  by Lara Spencer

I Brake for Yard Sales

and From Flea Market to Fabulous by Kerry Trout.

From Flea Market to Fabulous

Though some of the crafts shown in this book may be dated, the techniques are still applicable and will definitely inspire the reader to other applications.

At this point in the blog, I have to confess that I am addicted to Flea Markets, second hand stores, craft shows, etc. and all books related to such things. I love to take furniture and various other items and rework them although I haven’t been able to do a lot of this in recent years. I also love to follow blogs related to crafting skills. A few of my favorites are kellysdiy and tierneycreates.

Have you ever gotten a great deal by trading or bartering? Do you like to “rework” or “repurpose” things?

eBay

eCommerce Market

Wikipedia defines e-commerce as:

 the activity of buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet.

There are various websites where buying and selling of products is done. One of the best known sites of this type is eBay.

Pez dispensers

Many people have heard the story about how eBay was started by a young man in love who wanted to help his fiance build her Pez dispenser collection. The young man had the idea to put the search online and voila! eBay was born. Although this is a nice story, it isn’t true. This story was a corporate lie generated to bring traffic to the site.

Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman

eBay was started by a 30 year old man named Pierre Omidyar on Labor Day 1995 and was originally named AuctionWeb.  AuctionWeb later changed its name to eBay. Echo Bay is the name the founder originally wanted for the name change but upon a check with the State of California, it was discovered the name Echo Bay was already in use by another business. Rather than give up the name Echo Bay entirely, it was shortened to eBay.

The first thing ever sold on eBay was not a Pez dispenser, but rather a broken laser pointer for $14. When first started AuctionWeb was free. As traffic to the site grew Mr. Omidyar’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) began to charge more money, so this charge was passed on to eBay users as a listing fee for sellers. The fees have continued to this day to pay the company overhead.

As I move along the library shelves I find myself reading more and more about eCommerce. I have to admit that I’m not the most tech savvy person ever, however I have come across many books that explain buying and selling online in language that even I can understand. Topics range from answering common questions, explaining how to register and get started in the often exciting world of eCommerce, explaining point systems, and using PayPal.

For this particular post I checked out several books about eBay. I highly recommend these books if you too would like to learn to navigate eBay or you would just like to learn more about it. These are a couple of the most recent books I’ve checked out:

9781118098066 cover.indd

How to Do Everything with eBay

There are many more of these types of books available at the Fulton County Public Library. I encourage all of you to read these types of books even if you are a long time eBay user (or other similar site). You will definitely learn something new!

Have you ever heard the Pez dispenser story and if so did you know it was a lie? Are you or have you ever been an eBay user?

 

 

 

 

Books Books Books and Reading

Books

The read through of the Fulton County Public Library continues and now the adventure is taking me to the 380’s section which focuses on Commerce, Communications, and Transportation. The first books I have encountered are books about books!

Books are so important and useful. They help us to communicate with each other. They are a source of sharing and receiving information. Books also go way beyond the basic function of communication. Books are most useful if we can read. Reading is akin to a car key. To get the full benefit of a car, one needs to have the key. To get the full benefit of books, one needs to read–and read a lot!

It's Called Reading

Most of us have learned to read through one (or some combination) of the following methods: self taught, learned to read by being read to, taught by a teacher, a librarian, or a literacy director. Some people seem to need a little bit more time to learn to read. For this reason, the Fulton County Public Library offers a Literacy Service under the leadership of Ezra Eagle.

eagle no hat

A few of the functions of the Literacy Department are to teach adults to read, to help patrons of any age to read better, and to help those whose second language is English learn to read and write in English. For other functions of the Literacy Department, follow the link above.

The following photos are of the Literacy Department at the Fulton County Public Library:

Lit Department

Literacy Office

Lit 2

Lit 1

The last two photos are tutoring rooms located in the Literacy Department. These rooms are used for Literacy Department services and also double as small space meeting rooms. One room holds 4 people, the other 10 people. When our regular Meeting Rooms (a topic for another post) are filled, small groups may be assigned to one of these two rooms. Additionally patrons are allowed to sign themselves up for either of these two rooms. Individual patron usage has included things like test taking (and being proctored), a quiet place just to study or read, family meetings, would be entrepreneurs strategy sessions, and home schooling activities just to mention a few. Some groups are repeating but may be very small so those groups have been assigned to these rooms by library staff (usually me).

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention therapy dogs used in connection with the Fulton County Public Library Literacy Department. In the last several years, we have had two therapy dogs working at all three locations of our library. Allow me to introduce to you Samantha and Oliver:

Samantha and Oliver

Samantha is a  black Newfoundland. Samantha loves working with her Dad, Ron, at the library as well as in schools and hospitals.

Samantha at work in School

Samanthat at work in Hospital Samanthat and Nurses Samantha at FCPLR

 

 

 

 

Samantha has her own Facebook page and would love to be your friend. In her free time, Samantha enjoys spending time with her family. Samantha lives in another city and recently has decided to start working closer to her home.

Oliver is a chocolate Australian Labradoodle. He is the MDIC (Main Dog In Charge) here at the library. Oliver lives locally and he also works with his dad, Ezra Eagle.

eagle no hatOliver is quite busy with his duties and responsibilities as the MDIC here at the library. Besides having such an important job, Oliver is also a library patron. Oliver agreed to be interviewed to answer some of the most common questions people may have about him either as a therapy dog or a patron. Oliver is a people dog and he regrets that he is unable to personally answer questions at this time. The interview was done last summer, but the information given by Oliver about himself is timeless. Follow the link if you would like to read Oliver’s Interview.

Oliver’s job seems to be something new everyday. Below is a recent picture of Oliver and some library folk. On this day, Oliver was instructing on the finer points of making and playing your own guitar. It was a difficult job, but these two people succeeded  in their efforts and Oliver is being treated to an appreciative serenade. Music is a form of therapy after all. Oliver also enjoys listening to music in his free time.

Oliver Music Instructor

In other free time activities, Oliver enjoys sports and loves to take long walks to get back to nature.

Oliver1

Oliver 2

Oliver 4

(Black and white photo(s) credit: Kendra Roe)

Follow this link to watch a short video if you would like to learn more about how libraries (and schools) partner with dogs.

Once we actually learn to read, books can open up whole new worlds to us. They teach us, entertain us, make us laugh, make us cry, give us new ideas and challenge old ideas. Books make it possible for us to learn from the dead, to go into entirely new worlds on other planets, to explore scary topics in safety and so very much more. Since there is no way I could possibly ever finish listing all of the benefits of books, I encourage you to read from a wide variety of genres to stretch and grow yourself.

Beyond the printed page, books also serve many other purposes.  Books can be used to build and display:

Books Christmas Tree

Books building

Books can inspire us to be creative:

Books Flowers

Les Compressions de Livres

(Les compressions de livres by Johnathon Callan)

Books can even be part of home decor:

books lamp

Books also provide many jobs for people who handle them regularly.   There are people who work in book stores:

Book Store

In libraries:

library worker

My own job here at the Fulton County Public Library involves  reading many books and writing a blog which often features books as I explore library materials, resources, and services.

froggy2

There are people who write books

writer

and others who edit books.

editing

Books can also help people be self employed. There are people who buy and sell books–which leads me to recommend two of the most recent books I checked out on my way through the nonfiction section:

Book Finds Selling Used Books Online

Both of these books contain excellent information for anyone wanting to buy and sell books full time, part time, or just as a hobby to earn extra money. The information on the covers of these books is self explanatory. If interested, I highly encourage Dewey Hop readers to read these books about books.

There’s still so much more to say about books. One blog post can’t do the world of books justice. Once you enter this world, you will find something amazing and relevant to your life and I hope you will find a world of happiness in their pages.

Were you surprised to learn that libraries partner with dogs? What is your favorite thing about books? Would you enjoy a career centered around books?

 

 

 

 

 

Paying for College

College Fund

For those students who choose to go on to college, the big question may be “How do I pay for this?” Sometimes students have had a college fund since birth established by their parents or grandparents and may have worked and added to this fund themselves as soon as they were old enough to do so. For most students, though, this is not their reality.  Parents may or may not be able to foot the entire bill or even half of it. Many students bear this responsibility themselves. These students don’t just have a fund set aside to pay for college and must search for another plan.

Fortunately there are many options to help out and many books to help guide students and steer them towards reasonable payment plans or even finding a way to go to college for free.

Free College

One of the best known ways to go to college for free is to get grants and/or scholarships. Anyone planning on going to college should be applying for any and all of these types of things as possible. The more applications, the greater chance of finding one that will work.

Grants are often based on a person’s identifiers–such as being a woman, a minority, a Native American, etc. I’ve seen some grants based upon where one lives; for instance Hawaii. If you are unsure of what grants are out there, come in to the Fulton County Public Library and use the Grant Station to look up what’s available.

Scholarships are often based on an ability one has such as academic ability, athleticism, or a talent such as musical ability.  The library has books and of course access to the internet to help potential students search for applicable scholarships.

In Indiana, the state has a program called 21st Century Scholars. Students sign up for this program in the 7th grade and must maintain a good GPA as well as stay drug free and out of trouble. In Indiana, this is a really big deal where potential 21st Century Scholars actually have to appear before a judge and take an oath to remain drug free. For those who complete the requirements of the program, they can go to any state college or university. These students usually graduate debt free.  Hopefully other states have similar programs, although I have no information about other states.

If for whatever reason a student can’t get scholarships or grants, another excellent option is to enlist in the military and let the government foot the bill for your college degree. This option comes with the added benefit of career options as well as lifelong benefits (for retirees of the armed services), free medical and dental care, and access to veteran organizations once leaving the military.  An excellent book about this is Military Education Benefits for College: A Comprehensive Guide for Military Members, Veterans, and Their Dependents by David J. Renza, M.A. and Edmund J. Lizotte (Lt. Col., Ret.).

Blank white book w/path

College students must complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid) which will help determine the amount of  free aid a student can qualify for. If you are on your way to college, follow the FAFSA link above to determine if you qualify for free money. If a student doesn’t qualify for free money, the FAFSA also helps determine the amount of student loans a student can qualify for and the linked site will walk you through the process of applying for grants and scholarships. It also provides some great advice on borrowing money if you have to.

Here are a few more books that are helpful in figuring out how to pay for college:

Paying for College without going broke

Paying for College

These books contain excellent information. The first one includes sample forms to help walk students through the FAFSA application process. The second book includes expert opinions and advice for finding the best financial packages available to students.

Although it’s much harder to do, there is always the pay as you go method. Some students do work and pay for school at the same time. If you happen to be an adult who’s already been full time in the work force, the pay as you go method is popular, but it’s not the only option. There may still be grants and scholarships you may qualify for. Among other options, your employer may be willing to foot the bill for your college classes especially if you are taking courses related to your current job. The following book will help walk an adult student through various ways to finance a college education.

501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College

If you are on your way to college, do you know how you will pay for it? If you’ve already been to college, how did you pay for it?

 

 

 

College Survival

college dorm

Reading my way through the education section of the Fulton County Public Library, I have shared books about many aspects of education. To this point all blog entries have been about mandatory educational requirements. For students going off to college after high school life is about to take a drastic change. These students are walking into unknown territory which can be exciting, thrilling, terrifying, and awkward all at the same time.

There are so many good books on this aspect of education that I couldn’t decide which few to review! Therefore, I’m going to share a couple of groups of books that I found helpful.

Just as incoming college freshman have done all of their lives, they must get prepared for “back to school.” Unlike they’ve done all of their lives, this time “back to school” not only means new clothes, shoes, and school supplies, it also means dorm or apartment supplies. This can be overwhelming for some students. Fortunately, those who have gone before them are full of advice. Some even write books like:

The Everything College Survival Book    Ready for College

The Everything College Checklist Book

These books all contain the types of information you might expect in a college preparedness book: how to study, how to manage time, how to strive for balance with a study schedule and a social life, finding friends, getting involved in campus life, etc. All of the above books have great information of this type and all would be helpful if you happen to be entering college for the first time.

Let’s face it though, there can be college situations that are well awkward to deal with. A student may be living with a total stranger or strangers who may be very different from anyone he or she has ever known. There are books to help both parents and students through this new environment. A parent wants to make sure their college student is as safe as possible while away at college and may have questions that could be awkward and embarrassing for the student. A college student may encounter very awkward situations in the dorm, with roommates in an apartment, or on campus. The following two books are recommended for such happenings:

Sex, Drugs and Flunking Out

The Naked Roommate

Both of these books will answer questions that you may not feel comfortable asking and/or help a student and parent to navigate sticky situations when one must speak up. They can at times be both funny and serious.

There can be a dark underside of college as evidenced by this book:

The Shadow Scholar

This is an interesting and eye opening book. While the majority of college students do their own work, we need to be asking some serious questions about our colleges and universities. The book is entertaining and funny, but brings up many valid points as well.

If you went to college, did you have some awkward moments? Did you have any surprising roommates?

 

 

College Entry / Graduate Tests

SAT-test-taking

In the United States certain tests and test scores are required for college admission. The most popular of these tests seem to be the Scholastic Aptitude Test (better known as the SAT) and the American College Testing (better known as the ACT). Interesting facts about both tests can be learned by following the above links to Wikipedia and reading about them. Students must pay to take these all important tests and the most common test takers are Juniors and Seniors in high school. As you might expect there can be tremendous pressure on students to perform well on these tests. Obviously the higher a student scores on the test(s) the better chance of getting into the college or university of his/her choice.

Because of the importance of these tests, it is becoming even more important for students to prepare for them. Obviously by paying attention in their high school courses and maintaining a high GPA, this increases the likelihood of doing well on the tests. However, if a student wants to get higher scores on the tests, he/she must find other ways to study for them. This is where Fulton County Public Library can help. The library has all sorts of study resources. Some of the ones I checked out to peruse are:

Barron's SAT

Inside the SAT

There are many more of these types of books. Some have actual practice tests that you would use a pencil and a piece of paper to practice with. Some have have CD Roms that are tutorial or that allow you to take the “online” version of the test for practice. You can even find kits to help you study. I found this one:

Picture These SAT WORDS in a Flash

This particular kit has 200 vocabulary flash cards. The kit makes a humorous pun using a vocabulary word and illustrates it with a funny picture. Here is an example:

Adulation

The flip side of the card has the definition of the vocabulary word and three examples of its use in a sentence.

There are resources for students with Learning Disabilities:

SAT Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities

There are very similar resources for the ACT as well. Below is just one example:

Cracking the ACT

As you can see (and possibly as you may have noted previously), this study resource is an older 2016 edition. Many libraries are beginning to move away from this sort of dated material due to many resources going digital, but Fulton County Public Library does order some things like this upon patron request. Even dated study guides can still help you to study. You would see similar types of questions if you try to stay within a couple years of the current year.

The library closest to you may have quiet zones or even rooms available for students to come and study, do the practice test, or in some cases allow students to come and take the actual test with a proctor provided by the library (all services offered by Fulton County Public Library). This is particularly an increasing event with graduate students. Thanks to technology some students are able to take their tests almost anywhere on computer (which the library can also provide if needed),  monitored by camera and an onsite proctor who views the test taker remotely. Libraries and technology are definitely merging.

Getting through college entrance exams is a huge accomplishment, but what comes next? Some students have an idea of what they would like to study in college, but many do not. For those students who don’t yet know what they want to be when they grow up, there are books like:

Book of Majors

Again, these may be somewhat dated sitting on library shelves, but similar (and more up to date) online resources are available. The ideas remain basically the same. There may be majors of interest the student hasn’t considered and what major a student wants to pursue may influence the college choice. Obviously a student has to go where the course of study is offered.

Having made it this far, a student has passed college entry exams and chosen a major (hopefully). Now it’s time to think about if a student wants to try to “Clep out” of a particular class. There are, of course, books to help students study for these tests as well. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program.

CLEP Study Guide

There are usually requirement classes in college. For instance, most colleges require some basic math or English courses. If a student is strong in a particular area, he or she may opt to take the CLEP exam. If passed, the student gets credit for the class without having to actually take it. This can save both time and money if the student successfully CLEPs out of classes.

After a student has jumped through all of the hoops and tests and has actually finished college, he or she will then decide whether or not to pursue graduate school. If the answer to that question is yes then, of course, there will be more studying and another test. Study materials can still be found at the library to help study for the Graduate Record Exam (better known as the GRE). A few examples of these types of books are below:

6 GRE Practice Tests

GRE

After completing the GRE, students will decide whether or not to pursue a Doctorate program. Testing, working on a thesis, and the actual coursework is generally quite unique to the area of study. However, the library can still help by providing a place to study, ordering specialized books or acquiring them through the consortium.

Learning is a lifelong process and we never stop learning. The next time that you need or want to study a particular topic/subject, the library will be there to help accommodate your needs, even if they are unique.

Did you have to take any of the tests mentioned? Did you know the library had these study resources? Have you used these types of resources from your library?

 

 

True (School) Stories!

US graduatesSchools across the US have primarily one purpose – to prepare students for what comes after high school. Not every student has the same plan after high school. Success doesn’t necessarily mean that every student goes on to college, although that may be a goal for many students. Some students may be ready to enter the workforce immediately after high school. There are many options.

What happens when students spend time in high school varies tremendously. Students are affected by such things as location of their high schools. Small rural high schools are vastly different from inner city high schools in a large metropolis. Other factors that may vary are socioeconomic status of the students, whether students attend a public or private school, extracurricular opportunities, and types of support staff offered at a given school just to name a few things.

One thing that is true for all students in high school across this great land is that they are all part of intricate stories playing out in our high schools.  Many teachers write books about their own teaching experiences such as Ed Boland did in The Battle for Room 314.: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School.

The Battle for Room 314

Boland was intricately involved in the world of fundraising. He had a passion to raise money for disadvantaged students and in part through his efforts many disadvantaged students were given opportunities of a lifetime. Many went on to Ivy League schools and successful careers. At some point, Boland wasn’t satisfied with just fundraising and decided he actually wanted to teach disadvantaged students. This book differs from others of it’s type in which a first year teacher takes over a classroom and wins educational victories. In Boland’s case, this is a story of an idealistic first year teacher meeting reality head on and trying to figure out how to navigate through a broken educational system that is seriously failing students. For anyone wishing to get a big dose of reality of what American high school is like in our large cities, this is the book for you.

The next story I came to was very different. In light of all of the recent school shootings, this is a heart wrenching book worth taking a look at. It is written by the mother of  Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters from Columbine High School. This mother agonizes over what went wrong.

A Mother's Reckoning

Dylan Klebold and Eric shot and killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School. They also wounded 24 other people before taking their own lives. Dylan’s mother was as horrified as everyone else but had the added stigma of being a shooter’s mother. For about 16 years, Sue Klebold poured over all of Dylan’s possessions looking for clues as to how (or if) she had missed warning signs. How could her child be involved in something so horrific? Could she have stopped it? Sue lived with grief and shame and shares how she began to come to grips with what happened.

I did not personally know anyone at Columbine, but I do personally know some of Rachel Scott’s family. Rachel was one of the first victims. She was shot for her faith, making her one of the first American Christian martyrs. There is a movie about the Columbine shootings and shows how Rachel became a victim. I highly recommend the movie I’m Not Ashamed.

I'm Not Ashamed

Years before Columbine ever happened, I was working as a Special Education teacher in a Middle School. One of my students was labeled Learning Disabled/Gifted. He was a very bright student who had some academic struggles. Rex (obviously not his real name) was also a very troubled young man. He was extremely bright-and had absolutely no conscience. I remember telling other teachers that Rex was either going to end up a multi-billionaire or in jail. He was the type of student who was bored easily and would try inappropriate things just to see if he could get away with them. His plots could be elaborate. Though I tried not to show it, I always had one eye on Rex. I was tipped off by another student  that Rex was planning something during a school dance–one that I happened to be chaperoning. I knew Rex…I informed the administration about his possible plot during the dance, and sure enough all adult eyes were on him that evening and an unloaded gun was confiscated from him at the dance. Thankfully no students were harmed during this incident and Rex was disarmed easily. I do not know if he brought ammo with him, but his offense was enough to get him expelled from the school. It was actually quite sad. I lost track of Rex but it would not surprise me at all if he ended up a career criminal. Rather than actually chaperoning the dance that night, I ended up doing all sorts of paperwork trying to get Rex placed in a different school where hopefully he could also get in depth emotional help.

Do you have a true school story you’d like to share? Do you have a favorite true school story?

 

 

 

 

Primary Education

Books and Apple

In the United States, there isn’t a national curriculum like in many other countries. Curriculums, in general, are left up to the discretion of each individual state. States set educational standards that are used to design curriculums, but that also allow school districts to have some input as to what the children are taught.  Click this link to find out about Educational Standards in Indiana.

Although there is no national curriculum in the United States, there is fairly consistent thought on what things should be taught at what grade level. Whether there should be a national curriculum is a serious debate for another day. Today, I’m just interested in discussing some of the books offered at the Fulton County Public Library that can be used to help design curriculums.  This is true if you homeschool, teach in a public or private school, or even just are looking to incorporate good materials into your grade level or subject matter. Some parents may just want to use these materials to supplement their children’s learning experiences.

When I was learning how to teach and also when my children were in school there was a lot of talk about the “Dumbing Down of America.” An internet search of this topic will turn up all sorts of interesting hits. For my purposes here, I will suffice it to say that what our children are currently learning in school isn’t necessarily what we (or the generations before us) were taught.  Sometimes this fact is understandable due to updated information that made previous information irrelevant. For example, we no longer teach children that the earth is a flat plane which ships could sail off of if they got too close to the edge. Due to advances in Science, we can now confidently teach that the Earth is a spherical object in space and that ships will not sail off the edges of the Earth, but can in fact safely sail around the world. However, in other instances there is concern that we are intentionally not teaching students information that hasn’t changed and that actually should still be taught. This type of information may include aspects of history, economics, mathematics, and many other topics. This has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories which I couldn’t even begin touch on in one post, but I will just say that I think there is some room for concern. I’m not promoting conspiracy theories, just the need to be aware of what is and isn’t being taught.

One way to know how much subject matter has changed is by frequently reviewing older textbooks or educational  type books. That is why I am a big fan of book series such as The Core Knowledge Series and similar type series. These books are titled things like What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.

What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know

These books go up at least through the 6th grade and it’s a fascinating thing to use one of these older books (c. 1990’s) to compare to your child’s current school books. Although in the US schooling is compulsory, it’s still a parent’s responsibility to ensure their child receives the best education possible and there may be times when you will fill the need to “fill in the gaps.”

Even a school cannot teach literally everything. I believe that the very best teachers teach students how to learn by giving them the skills to find information on their own. They need to know how to use resource materials and where to find those resource materials. Good teachers also instill in students a love of learning.

Libraries such as Fulton County Public Library and other similar libraries are great learning resources. Libraries perform a vital function by protecting books by preventing censorship. For instance where would you go to get an older textbook? Many are now out of print and though you may stumble on one in a used book store, your luck at finding one would be much better at a library.

There are times when community members might challenge a book from a school district–or even from a library. What would happen if all of those challenged books were suddenly banned and/or destroyed?

Libraries will protect books in their collection by defending their right to exist. I don’t have to agree with every single book in a library in order to respect it’s right to be there. I do not personally agree with censorship efforts even though there are books that I wish were not in the collection. If I object to say the Koran in my library and successfully get it removed, I wonder how long it would be until someone else objected to the Bible in my library? Censorship is not the answer, education is. Children need to be taught critical thinking skills and how to evaluate information objectively. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a Christian, but I invite people to objectively examine the Bible. I also think that there may be reasons I need to examine what’s in the Koran.

Libraries usually have a “Banned Book Week” to draw attention to books that have been challenged.  Below is a previous display of banned or challenged books at Fulton County Public Library.  Libraries have protected these and many other books over the years. Banned book week  is usually the end of September into October–thus the somewhat Halloweenish theme. During this time period, patrons are encouraged to read the “banned books.”

No automatic alt text available.

Though that might have seemed like a bit of a tangent, my point was that libraries will protect even old text books so that patrons like all of you Dewey Hop readers can go and compare them to current text books and make up your own minds as to whether or not schools (or other institutions) are censoring information to lead-or mislead- in a particular direction. Education and critical thinking skills are vital.

In addition to finding curriculum content information, there are also resource books available designed to help enhance the actual teaching of concepts. Here are just a few books of this nature available at the library:

A+ Activities For First Grade

Glues, Brews, and Goos

Phonics Patterns

Do you think the US has a problem with censorship? Do you have ideas to help prevent censorship?