Tuesday, September 30, 2008

With great power comes great responsibility

Everything is neutral. It's what you do with it that matters. I was going to dedicate this post to financial scandals past and present, but I figure enough's been said (and will be said) about this topic. Instead, I'm going to talk about charisma, for it seems that all these CEO's and politicians have the charisma to get their dreams off the ground. Charisma is an incredible thing, but like everything, it is neutral. Your course is determined how you use your charisma; for good, for ill, or for good-intention-that-becomes-ill. Some people, like JFK and Hugh Hefner, had and have enormous amounts of charisma. Some people, like yours truly, have barely enough to be noticed. Most people have it in the amounts that are just right for them, and they do well enough with what they have.
Charisma can and usually does bring dreams into being. Whether it's political, financial, or even spiritual, if you have someone charismatic at the head of it, it usually comes to pass. How many uncharismatic men have become President? Paul in the New Testament had tons of charisma, and look what he did to get Christianity off the ground. And don't forget the men like John Law, Paracelsus, Leonardo da Vinci, and countless folk who made history while they were still alive. How many of them were lacking in charisma? Can one put a number to all the dreams that would have died at birth had it not been for charismatic minds? I can assure you that it would be a very high number indeed.
However, with such power comes great responsibility, and not everyone has been ready for such responsibility. How many personality cults have crashed and burned because a charismatic leader, whether through his own deep-set flaws or through criminal behaviour, created a frightful chain of events? Jamestown, the Branch Davidians, and Heaven's Gate, for starters. Jim Jones was one of the most charismatic of men before he became isolated and let his demons out to play. David Koresh was very similar to Jones, in a way. And then there's Charles Manson, but enough has been said about him to fill a hundred volumes (be they paper volumes or computer volumes).
Finally, the sinister dealings of Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, and Robert Maxwell are other examples of charisma gone horribly wrong. I was inspired to write about charisma after reading a book about the crashes of the late 1990's, and the company the author chose to use as an example this crash reminded me of how charisma can go wrong. If not used wisely, crashes and deaths can occur. Luckily, I don't have that kind of charisma that would lead me to start a company or a cult. One less thing for folks to worry about. Have a good evening.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the Job Sites

My job sites are school libraries of the K-5 variety, and I've been learning a lot about K-5 students. Things that I never would have thought about when I was going to school a lifetime ago (well, it sure feels like a lifetime ago to someone over the quarter-century mark). I still get self-conscious when someone makes a comment of my lack of height thereof - even if that someone is in second or third grade, and they really don't mean anything by it. There were dozens of books, written during and before my time, that I totally missed because I was already reading adult works by the time I was twelve or thirteen. (That's just my own sense of weirdness, I guess)
As the Authority at these libraries, I want very much to get the kids reading quality material, but that's hard to do when some of the kids' comprehension is lower than mine was at that age. I keep forgetting that Captain Underpants is a much bigger hit than Harry Potter for these kids. The teachers of fourth and fifth grade at these schools are forever bringing me down to earth (me and my hopes) when they politely insist I skip chapter books and just stick to reading picture books to the kids. I can't help but believe that reading a picture book insults these older kids. I've been able to get a chapter book started at one of the schools, but only because each chapter is like a short story and each of these chapters is funny.
Humour works - whatever works, of course, and while I champion guys like Dav Pilkey for coming out with really funny stuff, I would love to see the older grades taking up Lemony Snicket more often. Meanwhile, I have started introducing a Canadian writer or illustrator every month to the staff and students at one of the schools I work at. October is Barbara Reid (I just chose her because I love her artwork - I didn't choose her because some chart or expert suggested her). If you ever get a chance to read 'Fox walked alone', 'Peg and the Yeti', or 'Gifts', I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Well, I guess I should climb off my soapbox for another day. Tomorrow is Terry Fox Day! In pace, good runner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good vibes and peeves

Middle of the fourth week at work, and the good vibes continue. Figuring a lot out and everyone has been helpful. I got flustered a couple of times over the past couple of days, but I figure once I get everything set up to my satisfaction, things should move quite smoothly. There are some things I am going to have to change at one of the schools I work at. Guinness Books are enormously popular, but they end up in the Reference section, and I have kids saying they're allowed to take such books out, while I have other kids saying they cannot be taken out because they are Reference books. This is one of those things I am going to need to address before the kids get too comfortable taking them out.
Technically, it's the first week the kids have been able to take out books from the library, so I've gone a little easy on them. They're K-5, so going easy on them is almost standard, right? Well, I shouldn't be a complete and total pushover, either. I am THE authority, and as such, MY word is as close to law as one can get in the library. Consistency is the key (why does that sound familiar to me?) to keeping everything going smoothly. I think I am going to have to change what goes under REF and what doesn't to suit MY point of view. That does not mean that I'm going to go overboard on this - the most recent Guinness will stay REF while the older ones will go in the main stacks, for instance.
The next thing I am going to have to deal with is the fact that K-5 kids have a tendency to speak very softly. I don't fault them for this, for I was that age once upon a time, and even now, I sometimes need to speak up (usually when in a crowd). I want to properly interact with these kids, but am not quite sure how to go about it. I did implement reading a chapter book to the 4/5 classes at Brooklands this week. 3 classes like that, and I hope they like the change. I just think that reading picture books very possibly insults a class of 4th and 5th Graders. And if it doesn't, it should! I would probably be insulted if someone dragged out a picture book to read to me at 10 and 11. But, I wasn't normal for that age.
Met with the Brooklands principal to discuss the budget. It sounds like my predecessor spent every last penny or so, but at least the kids will get a ton of books, so it all works out. I'll have to do a ton of weeding this year. Keep 'em crossed that I survive to make it through the 3 month evalutation, because I like this job!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muhammad: Man and Prophet

Warning! This entry is not meant to belittle the memory of 9/11 or lessen the soldiers who are fighting in Afghanistan. I intend only to discuss a wonderfully-written book I finished reading yesterday and wanted others to know about it. The fact that this blog post falls on 9/11/08 has not escaped my attention, but I never meant for anyone to make any malicious connections. Thank you and have a good day.
Anyway, I finished reading an awesome book called 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet', and I have to salute the author for bringing the Prophet, his world, his followers, friends, family, and foes to such intense, honest life. He made me understand how devout Muhammad and his followers were in those dawning years of Islam. It was this unshakeable passion and faith in Allah that kept Islam from faltering when it looked like its foes were going to snuff it in its cradle. I had no idea of the number of peoples out there who wanted very much to see the Prophet die, taking Islam along with it.
I liked how the author used more realistic spellings for Mecca and Medina in the book, and his retelling of anecdotes added much needed colour to what seemed to me like a most colourless religion. I think, though, the best and most important thing about this book was the fact that the author continually linked events in the book to chapters in the Qur'an, which added a whole new dimension to a book I have considered to be very dry, repetitive, and lacking. For anyone interested in seeing Islam's beginnings in a new light, do have a look at 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet'.
Just a word of warning, though. Not for the faint of heart, topping the chart at 741 pages. Better be serious about wanting to learn about the Prophet and his world before you dedicate yourself to reading this behemoth from cover to cover. The writing is good and there are both heroes and villains on this long and winding road. Definitely a book to visit and enjoy.
This concludes my review. Again, I hope nobody assumes I mean anything malicious by posting this on 9/11. It's just the way things worked. Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

They're Baaaaaack!

Classes started at the schools I work at today, and the halls at Stevenson were alive with chatter. I heard at least one heart-rending screamed plea a Kindergartener made for her mother and I sighed. Ah, Kindergarten. I don't recall if I threw any fits like that. I took the bus to school from day one, as far as I can recall, so I hope I didn't throw any fits like that. It makes me want to hug my mom and thank her for putting up with me. It was quiet in the library for the most part, with occasional visits from teachers and EA's. Some of them brought their classes in for a visit but did not stay long. I did have a sit down with a Grade One class today. I read them a Munsch book and things went quite pleasantly. The teacher was there all the time, and he kept them in line far better than I could.
I also met with a Grade One/Two class and observed them reading in the library - again with the teacher close by. While I want nothing to do with having children of my own, there were more than a couple of these kids who were just so CUUUUUUTE! Almost elfin at times, you might say. They are all shorter than I am - another reason I enjoy working in an Elementary setting. There was a morning assembly and all the staff were introduced to the children, including myself. I rejoiced in being a Ms., although it will take some getting used to being called by my last name by all these kids.
I work with a library system called LibraryWorld, and it, like all computer programs, has some kinks that need working out. I finally nailed down the secret art of printing out barcodes (not hard once you know what you're doing) today but I had some trouble with printing out patron barcodes for the dozen or so classes at Stevenson. Hopefully I'll get it all ironed out at Brooklands tomorrow and then on Monday I can do the same thing for Stevenson. Apart from that little kink, things were pretty good today. I met with the woman who volunteers in the library for the two schools. I hope we'll get along all right.
I've already started checking books for the teachers as well and keeping a running tally for when I have to work on the stats and monthly report for the principals. I also have parking spaces there now. No plugs but I don't mind running out during my lunch break this winter. That's the scuttlebutt so far.