Monday, July 30, 2012

The Process: Weeding, Beta-Reading & Writing

Today's post is all about the process it takes to complete a monumental task, or in this case, three tasks.

Although I know that much learning happens AS you work on a project, it can still be challenging. I think back to some other "products" I am proud of: my Masters of Education capping paper (2010) and my two children (2000 / 2002). I was very pleased with the end results, but getting there was NOT half the fun. I got through writing my M.Ed. paper with a great deal of cursing, crying, drinking and praying - not always in that particular order. My husband tells me that I was a very cute while pregnant (and I'll see if I can dig up a photo to prove it), but the nausea, food sensitivities, mood swings, and back aches weren't exactly thrilling. The end results were worth the agony and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, but sometimes I wonder how I got through it. (I have this thought mid-way through report card writing, every single term.)

In my school library, I try to choose a particular section per year and weed it. This summer, my husband and I are trying hard to do major clean-jobs on certain areas of the house. We did our kids' rooms and today we tackled our book cases in the basement. As I am always quick to point out, he has six book cases and I only have two, but mine were lined three books deep with items spilling off the shelves when you walked past. It's just as hard to weed from your personal collection as it is from a school library, except that I have more options to consider. Will I keep this book here on the shelf? In a bin at the back of the basement? In a container in the garage? On the kids' shelves (which have also been weeded) or at school? What if I don't use it but it's an autographed copy? What if I don't use it but it has sentimental value? What if my pet chinchillas have nibbled it? (For some reason, Chita and Chilli really love attacking my Charlaine Harris books.) I'm not a big fan of cleaning or straightening up, but I'm happy with the job I've done on my shelves. Take a look! (I should've taken a "before" shot.)

I forget that other people have to go through "the process" as well, which is why I'm both honored and excited to be invited to be a Beta-Reader for author Liam O'Donnell's new novel. I'm used to seeing books in their full, ready-for-public-viewing (George Lucas to the contrary). Liam has been great and given his reading team some guidelines to consider when reading.  I'll be intrigued to see what pieces of my feedback (if any) are incorporated into the final book. We tell students all the time that it takes several drafts and rewrites for a text to be the best it can.

Liam isn't the only one writing. Every year, I compile an annual report and for the past few years, I've been a bit dissatisfied with the format. Carol Koechlin and just recently, Christy Den Haan-Veltman, have been helping me try to reconfigure my annual report so that it reflects a more Learning Commons approach. It's not easy. Carol has recommended using the Big Think during my collaborative units to deepen understanding and gather evidence of learning as it happens instead of trying to recollect at the end of the year; Christy read a great article (the link I've lost on Twitter - darn it!) and she suggested using an infographic or visual made from or instead of statistics to demonstrate the impact of the school library program. Both are great pieces of advice - but part of what makes the process endurable is that the product will be appreciated. I know I should do it for me, because I cannot guarantee the response by my administration or senior board staff. I guess I need to tackle it when I'm in the mood to impress myself - because I like looking at my school year scrapbooks or things I've written and marveled at how I was able to do so much.

So, great insights on process? Nothing great but here's what I get after re-reading my own post:
  • Give it time (although time is what can make the process excruciating)
  • You aren't alone so try not to despair
  • Look at the before and the after so you can see progress as it happens
  • Consider your audience but do it for you
  • Reflect as you go along, but don't let it cripple your action

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