Friday, April 18, 2008

Can I have one of the Faster Computers?

This question is heard often at Mille Lacs Lake Community Library. We have three computers and one of them seems to me to work fine, but I guess if you want to play a game or do Facebook or You Tube, it just isn't good enough. As at many libraries the after school crowd starts pouring in around 3:15. The retirees who are checking their e-mail or vacation property in Florida get pushed off by the faster elementary kids. Webkinz doesn't work on the slow computer, so Tamara is pleased and tears off to feed her pet. Dalen calls on his cell phone. At this point he doesn't even identify himself--"3:20 Computer--one of the faster ones." Shortly after he arrives, flipping his cell phone up and down or talking on it to his mom. The teenage girls, Fonda, the blonde and Amanda, the brunette, come in next, indignant because they can't get "one of the faster computers." They sit down at the slow one with reluctance. Robert comes in next. He's the true regular. "What time can I get a computer? Can I get Dalen's computer? Give me a set of headphones--no not that set!! Have my books come in? Do you have anymore Dragonball Z books? Do you have any books on puberty? What time will Dalen be done with that computer?"
So next month, I'm going to ask the Friends of the Library, Can we get a faster computer?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Article about my husband

In Mille Lacs Messenger April 2, 2008

Ready for a grand adventure
Jim Johnson retires after 33 years of teaching

by Diane Gibas
Staff Writer

For 29 years, Jim Johnson has been going into room 116 from September through May.
It seems appropriate that Jim Johnson would quote a novelist. After all, he's been an English teacher for 33 years - 29 of them at Onamia High School.

"Aldous Huxley said in the 'Brave New World,' 'The secret of happiness is to like what you have to do,'" Johnson said.

From the looks of him, he's lived out that statement. He still has a big smile on his face and an easy laugh when he talks about his decades of teaching kids how to appreciate literature, construct a proper sentence and speak correct English.

After 29 years in room 116, teaching English to seventh graders and senior high students, Johnson is going to move on to a new phase in his life and retire at the end of the school year.

People ask him why he continues to teach seventh graders after all this time. "I like them," he said. "They've come up (from the elementary) with all their innocence."

Johnson's focus in teaching has been reading and writing. He likes composition and knows it can make or break a student in college. The ability to construct complete sentences and paragraphs is paramount in writing a paper.

"The beauty of my job is there's no established curriculum," he said. He has the freedom to choose the books his students will read and compositions are always a unique project.

Johnson told of his first teaching job where his boss told him his class could read one of several books. "The Outsiders" had a study guide with it so he chose that book. The study guide was also a teaching guide for him. During his first year of teaching it helped him become a better teacher. "That book saved my career," he said. On May 5, he will begin to lead his class through that book for the last time.

Johnson has heard plenty of improper language coming from his students over the years. "Me and my brother seen ..." is a popular one. He sometimes corrects his students and says, "My brother and I saw ..." but sometimes it's a losing battle, and it doesn't work to constantly correct everything. The students just start tuning him out.

"I tell my students, 'All good writing is correct, but not all correct writing is good,'" Johnson said. "Maybe we should say it's a living language."

He has seen many changes in education throughout the years. In the last few years, Onamia hasn't been able to hire replacement teachers for some who have left. "Education is in the crosshairs now," Johnson said. People say what's wrong, but they don't come up with a solution to the problems.

Enrollment is going down, but the number of staff is also going down. He misses the high school's full-time librarian, and now that the voters passed the referendum last November, he hopes the school board will be able to bring back a librarian and replace teachers who retire this year.

His career has been a good one, although he admits there are some down sides to teaching. "There's a lot of positives, but there's negatives too," Johnson said. "You have to look at the right side of the coin."

As a true educator at heart, he wants all of his students to be successful. But he said some kids require more than what he can give them - they are difficult to reach. And some don't value education as he would like them to. "But it's wonderful to be in a room with really bright kids," Johnson said.

He considers his years in room 116 a positive experience. "If I have any regrets, it would be I wish I wouldn't have lost my temper," he said.

Some of his students say to him, "Mr. Johnson, you can't retire until I graduate." But he said he knows not everyone will miss him. He recalled talking to one of his classes about his forthcoming retirement and a girl muttered, "He should have gone last year."

"Life is about making relationships. I've made so many friends - teachers and students." And he will have those relationships with him whether he is in room 119 or at home, having another cup of coffee in the morning.

Johnson said he won't have any trouble keeping busy after retirement. He and his wife, Kathy, are planning a train trip. He also plans on reading a lot of books, skiing, gardening and traveling. "I think it will be a grand adventure," Johnson said with his big smile and a hearty laugh.

Photo by Diane Gibas

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Online Evaluation Thing 23

In looking back over my blog, I realize that my favorite things are the pictures and graphics that I was able to put on my blog. It was fun to make up a slide show and find a you tube video.
I didn't end up connecting much with my fellow librarians. I read things that they wrote, but there wasn't much interaction. I did connect up with my daughter and her friend on Facebook.
I would say that the unexpected outcome for me was finding a way of incorporating images on a site that people might use to get information about the library. I could see doing pictures of storytime and putting them up or even, if I get more advanced, doing a reading of a book online--things like that.
I would say that a phrase that I have been using is "catch up with the Facebook generation". I have really felt left in the dust by new technology and this program helped me understand that all of these things are not so hard to figure out.
I do know that I need a faster internet connection at home if I am going to use them personally.

Staying Current Thing 22

My favorite part of this 23 Things on a Stick program has been writing a blog. I have not gotten that much response, but I do like to write and it could be a good way to get the word out about library programs and issues. The editor of the local paper put a link on the library blog from his website. I don't think it has been quite as expected (not as much library news), but in the future, when I'm done with "assignments", I'll be able to write about the library. So anyway, my goal is to write a weekly blog trying to include pictures and ideas of what is going on in the library. I might be able to use some of the articles for my newsletter.
I'm not sure if I have any recommendations for keeping current. What I seem to gravitate toward are local newssites, such as The Messenger, The Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio. I would say, keep up a relationship with local websites.