Mistakes, biutiful mistakes…

To the Beauty of Failure
To the beauty of failure

As perfectionist as I am, committing mistakes is part of my every day life. One of the reasons why I am not very good at writing blog posts is because I am scared of all the grammar mistakes I will commit. It takes time to write “the perfect post” in English. You don’t have an idea how many times I edit them, and how many mistakes I find every time I re-read them. I hate to commit misspelling mistakes. Even in Facebook, Instagram or Whatsapp. I wish I were like those young adults that write in social media, with awful misspellings, almost as a new language, and enjoying it.

Even though, I am aware I commit tons of grammar mistakes while writing in English, I am starting to shake myself up, and grow a “who cares” attitude. That’s the only way I can improve my writing, by writing and committing mistakes, catch them, and correct them if possible, or move on.

busy libraryfussyBut that’s a mistake that doesn’t do any harm (but to my ego), and I might not consider those as biutiful mistakes. A biutiful mistake is the one that makes you grow as a person, and hopefully become a better one. One of these mistakes happen to me one day while I was working after school at the library. They have been pressuring us to finish a cataloging project, and I had almost three hours ahead of me for catching up on the project. So, I was happy to be on the late shift. But, oh well, nothing is perfect. The usual group of middle school boys showed up. I called them the ¨soccer boys” since they dropped themselves in the library with an attitude, with their laptops in hands only to be used to play shooting video games, and with a loud voices to call people out from one side to the other of the room. They were noisy, bored to death and in the library just to kill time until their practice started.  They were also, quick, sharp, and funny. I think that to certain degree, part of their thrill was to make the librarian in charge mad. The library was the only place in the school after classes that offered them tables and outlets for their laptops, and air conditioning that they can request to be turned on or off at their leisure.

That particular day, they were tons of other tired younger students in the library struggling with homework, and older ones that were studying for tests. Usually, the presence of the soccer boys was for the rest of the kids, a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they got to laugh and get distracted; the younger ones looked up at them and admire their corky personalities. For the older ones, by being observant of a situation that they didn’t approve, gave them an opportunity to judge. The curse was that nobody got things done.

Shushing librarianAnd I lost it. Yes, I was so frustrated that I started shushing them first, and then getting out of my desk yelling. After like 10 minutes of back and forth arguments, I kicked them out of the library. It was not a planned or controlled madness, and that upset me the most. When I was done yelling, I returned all flustered to my desk and started scoping the space. I noticed that in a corner there were a couple of very quiet parents reading, They had witnessed my tantrum from the start to the end. I freaked out. These parents were going to sue me. I was going to be fired.

Eventually, I apologized to all parties involved. The soccer boys, the parents, and the rest of the students that wanted to do homework, read or study. I made sure that everybody understood that even though the boys’s behavior was not acceptable, my reaction was not either. That day, I stayed 2 more hours after the end of my shift since I didn’t get any cataloging done before. The cataloging was a soothing exercise.

Now, I breath before reacting, and I ask students what is making them distracted. I reach them, instead of sitting in front of my computer all frustrated, I move around, I greet them with a smile as soon as they enter in the library even if they want to ignore me. I don’t get as much cataloging done as if I were alone, but I get the students involved in my chores, or I get involved in their qualms. And I do it with or without parents present. Besides, why we need to catalog books for? A school library without noisy students wouldn’t be a school library. #CCCWrite

BookFace
Boys helping me taking down an old collection of book that I needed to catalog
DominoEffect1
After they helped me, I let them do a domino effect with the books. The conditions were two: they needed to count how many books were in the collection, and none of the books could fall on the floor. They were 91 books, and none of them were harmed in the making of this.

Once upon a typewriter: from analog to digital

My analog life…

I think my professional development started from the day I was born.

I grew up in a family of readers where all the discussions at the dinner table ended up with a dictionary or an encyclopedia. My first memories of 4 or 5 years old are from my dad’s made up oral stories, and the books he made  for us with cardboard, newspaper clips and cartoons. My parents also have “los palos de los domingos” which was basically a wicker basket filled with a bunch of wooden blocks that they gave us to play with only on Sundays. I remember looking at my mom getting to the highest part of her closet to get the basket and give it to my younger brother and I. What a treat! I thought it was a huge basket. Years later I saw it, and it was not more like the size of a paper basket we have now in our bedroom and use as a garbage bin.

Diary
An old photo of my best friend since 3rd grade that I glued in my diary of 1975

During school, —besides books—-, notebooks, pen and pencils played a big role in my development. I really liked to write. I started a diary at age 10, and didn’t stop writing periodically on it until I was around 32 when I got my first, very own, desktop computer.

Snail mail served me immensely to expand my horizons. At age 10, I got on the quest of reading the entire collection of Enyd Blyton’s books, and with the help of my dad, I started to import them from Spain. I don’t remember the details of how we got the books to our house, but still checking a list from an editor from Spain, and striking out from it any new book I was receiving. At age 12, I started to have pen pals from all over the Americas. I remember especially one from Argentina who was very cute, and another one who wrote me from the US. His name was Modesto Mamani. He wrote me with a typewriter filled with Spanish grammar and spelling errors, and ink stains all over. He was quite old for me also. Nonetheless, I received letter, paper clips, photos and a lively interchange that was also the delight of my brothers who enjoy reading and laughing at me and my “love letters”.

c58932e831d42c8be2c0cad35a35ffb6In high school, almost all our work was done handwritten. In special occasions, our dad brought his typewriter home, and we could type on it, part of our work. When he upgraded his typewriter, we, children inherited, and shared during our last years of high school and first years of undergraduate school, a black Underwood typewriter which letter “h” always got stuck. Being a History major, I hated when I messed up with a footnote, since I needed to start almost all over again. After losing a couple of stories because of giving away the originals, I kept a folder with carbon copies. It was always a challenge aligning the three papers together, and changing the ribbon was always a mess.

The Xerox machine was also one of our allies. Around Campus, it was a mafia of photocopy machines businesses that profited of book-hungry students. We photocopied articles, books, classmates notes… Copyright laws were not enforced and when a book needed to be shared with 100 students, we forgot about them.

Around 1984, a big change in how delivering papers happen. The electric typewriter arrived in our household. And also wite-out correctors. Nonetheless, I was not an expert typewriter, and have to give my undergraduate thesis to a secretary to write it nice and neatly. It ended up with a bunch of typos anyway.

Not too far on the road we got our first household computer and printer. It was one of those continuous-feed punched hole paper printers with just one font. Our computer had floppy disk drives. During finals, and paper deadlines approaching, I remember chilling out or procrastinating by playing Digger which was addicting. Floppy disks was the start of a career collecting mountains of them and explore other ways of storing the massive amount of information that we were accumulating.

slide-projector-341407_640
Source: Sandra Schoen at Pixabay

Presentations were made with posters, and manual prompts. In my family we were really fans of slides, and preferred them over printed photos. It was also an excused to get together with family and friends, and show our latest adventure through a slide projector in the living room of our home. We even went into audio-media presentations by putting texts on hand made slides, and finding music that we recorded in the newly discovered technology: tape recorders.

In 1990, I went with a Fulbright scholarship to the US. Writing papers became easier and easier thanks to word processors. We still relied heavily on paper, and the World Wide Web was just starting. Faxes were the thing of the time to communicate with my family since phone calls were expensive, and regular mail too slow.

The 1990s was the starting of the information explosion but still it was only one way. We started to find more information on the internet, and by the mid 1990s,  Eudora email was in full blast for interchanging information. I remember working with a project in the Southern part of Chile to train 41 rural high school teachers to work with their students collaboratively via emails. Now,  that I think about it, we were quite the pioneers.

In 1993,  when I wrote my first book, I still did a lot of the research with pen and paper, and photocopying many XIX century sources from the National Library in Chile. When came the time to write the actual chapters, I remember being so excited since I could cut and paste, and put footnotes and citation at my leisure. At the end, the editor asked me to removed them all since the book was aimed to the layman and woman. Another thing was the storage of the chapters. The famous floppy disks started to be too small for the entire book. Backing the information up became a nightmare, and you never wanted to be in the situation of inserting the disk, and hear a sound like a non greasy wheel.

eudoramail
Eudora Mail Interface

And then “puff!” we became digital…

By the early 21st century, things started to change rapidly. In year 2000 I moved with my family to the US. I have my own laptop, and did all the search for work on the internet at my remote mother-in-law ranch house in Montana. Eventually we ended up in the East coast, where I worked as education coordinator for a Hispanic NGO and parent liaison and translator for an elementary school. We were still pretty analog. Cell phones were pretty basics and still analog for us (we couldn’t afford a digital one until  the next decade). In 2004, when I started my Master in Library Science, I had two small children and was working full time. By the time, I got my first Ipod. I had so much reading to do, that if it wasn’t for the time spent listening to books on my ipod while commuting to work or class, I wouldn’t have been able to finish all the assignments. I remember driving after classes late at night through Constitution Ave. in Washington DC, listening to a conference where they talked about Ipod_1Gthe democratization of knowledge, and Thomas F. Friedman’s book The world is flat.

Since I was working full time, I was exposed for the first time to online classes which I found fascinating and daunting, depending on your professor’s experience on understanding this new way of delivering. I remember while visiting my family during Christmas break, I listen to the entire book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, while driving on a remote gravel road in Chile trying to find internet access to fulfill one of the requirements of one of my online classes.

When I finished my MLIS in 2006, the digital world was already on. I started to work as a brand new school librarian in Oregon. Being an information specialist, this new world did matter very much to me. One of my major concerns while doing my master though, was the digital divide. I thought that libraries where the answer despite the fact that my professor of CLSC 557 Libraries and Societies told me, when he handed me back my book analysis paper: “The report you chose has nothing to do with libraries, but you managed to make the connection.”  My “book” was a 2003 [brick] report from Cepal,  Building an Information Society: A Latin American and Caribbean Perspective. It still bugs me that he thought that it didn’t have a clear and straight connection with libraries and societies. I think it’s more and more relevant.

analogvsdigital
Source: Stux at Pixabay

Anyway, that point I started to go to conferences where the integration of technology was “the thing” ( see my post 🙂 I felt a little bit left behind since making the leap was through fancy cell phones, and I couldn’t even think of having one digital. I just wanted to have one to practice. Nonetheless, I tackled things in an unorthodox way, and joined the e-coach community at the district level  where a bunch of nerd teachers shared their wisdom about technology and form cohorts to help other teachers to integrate it in their own practice. As a librarian, I gave my thoughts about digital citizenship, academic honesty and responsible use of information, so both, teachers and students understood the cycle of information and the importance of having a respectable digital footprint. It was the time of edublogs, wikis, and all things 2.0. that pretty soon became 3.0 and beyond.

Now, as a proud owner of a decent digital phone (thanks to my techie brother, who, last year, gave me one since he couldn’t believe that I was surviving in the world with a Samsung Galaxy Core Prime), I can do over the phone all the things that I did one by one  in my life-span: read books,  schedule and have online professional and personal meetings, communicate with people via email, whatsapp, instagram, facebook, twitter, skype, make decent videos in less that an hour, track the sales of our online store GringoCool, watch movies on Netflix, track my bike rides, prepare online workshops, grade online projects, find interesting professionals to follow, attend conferences, take amazing photos, check my blog posts, track the weather or find the cheapest time to run the dishwasher or dryer…to name just a few…

phone world
Source: Geralt at Pixabay

With my laptop, I can do those things and more. I can develop content online, prepare audio visual presentations, participate in writing clubs like #CCCWrite, obtain my virtual digital certification from UC, Irvine without moving from my desk in Spain, participate in a wider learning community that makes me connect in real time with people all over the world. I have so much agency (another fad word) of my own learning. How can we teach our students in this world that we are still learning how to navigate ourselves? Still, the concepts are the same: life long learning, critical thinking, collaboration, reading, writing, analyzing… Is it just a new format? Is it just new wine into old wineskins or old wine in new bottles?

With all these, my concerns are different: I think I am losing focus, and not finding the time to do all the things I would like to do, in both, the analog and digital world.

Time to rewire my brain again…

Multitasking
Source: Geralt at Pixabay

Conferences: fairy tales, thrillers or crime novels?

I am a slow thinker, and when everybody else is moving to the next page, I am still mulling on the first, and usually when I arrive home, is when I have the best comments of something that already happen. If I go for a run, or a bike ride, then, everything is clear and crisp. Being in Spain is giving me the advantage that I am 9 hours ahead of California, so I can feel that I am posting my second blog entry for the Reflective Writing Club on time #CCCWrite

I haven’t attended too many conferences because my position as a school librarian is difficult to fund by schools. Conferences are expensive, you don’t only have to pay the fees but also room and board during the days that the conference last, and ask for leave days which are a nightmare for administrators.

In the early 1990s,

I remember when I was a graduate history student at SUNY, Stony Brook. I attended a history conference in New York city. Paying the fee was very affordable as a Fulbright student. I was very excited. There were so many lecture options to attend, and they were so many books and papers given away, that at the end of each day, I could barely walk with all the weight I was carrying. I got overwhelm by the amount of information and possibilities. I couldn’t stand the fact that two sessions I was interested in, where given at the same time.  Soon enough I realized that almost all the presentations were very boring. Professor just sat in front of an audience, and read their papers out loud in a monotone voice. I couldn’t stand it. I figured out that the best way spending my time at the conference was by going to the rooms of the lectures I was interested in, and collect a print copy of the papers that they were giving away, and read them at home. I still have great memories of them. I learned that I can be more exciting that an old professor, and thankful that now papers and conferences can be posted and found online.

In the  mid 2000s,

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a  certified teacher-librarian in Oregon, I had a very supportive principal and attended three very exciting and engaging conferences in which I met authors such as Susan Patron (The higher power of lucky) (Making Waves, OASL 2007 Conference Seaside, OR),  or Frank McCourt (Angela’s ashes), John Green, Pete Hautman, and Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, at the joint OASL/WLMA 2008 Conference in Portland, Oregon, exactly 5 days after I ran the full Portland marathon with my sister-in-law;

MarcoTorresatworkor at the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference (ITSC) sponsored by OETC in February 2009, in Portland, Oregon where I heard keynote speaker Ken Robinson, and attended a workshop with high school history-film teacher, storyteller, and guru Marco Torres . Funny thing was that when this last conference was over, I was laid off by my school district due to the economic crisis, where school librarians and newbies like me were the first one in letting go.

All these experiences, I tried to transmit them in my daily routine, by joining committees in my school district, collaborating with other organizations in the community, helping teachers integrating technology in their classrooms, and exposing my students with new readings, authors and ideas.

In the 2010s,

Here in Spain I have to rely on my own capacity for attending conferences. The last two I attended where in October and November of last year. In both cases, I was able to attend just because I am taking a year of leave, so I have the time to go without fighting with the system for going, and also because they were affordable for my pocket. Actually, one was free and in the same area I live in (II Jornadas de formación para la promoción de la lectura y escritura, Sevilla), and the other one, only two hours away (XIX Jornadas Bibliotecarias de Andalucia in Huelva).

In the latter, I found the cheapest room in Airbnb that I could find, and talked to the public librarian from my town (who I knew was going), to catch a ride with her. Fortunately, I am not very picky with food, and my stomach gets full very rapidly. I just need to get a coffee in the morning, and then I  can survive anything.  I can mostly fill myself with the snacks they give you at conferences and keep going.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In both conferences I got really enthusiastic, and fired up. I have to confess though, that I am not very picky.  I appreciate any opportunity outside of the work routine, even if they are boring. I think they are a chance to get out, to think, to meet people, to establish contacts, and relationships. To hear other perspectives and ideas, and to learn to be more flexible.

The only thing I have found in every event I have attended as a long ranger is that I am an outsider. I would love to contribute and collaborate with people, but I am not sponsored by anybody or come with any group. The social part is also tough. It seems that everybody knows each other, and it’s difficult to break through. I try to find my own way by exploring other aspects of the whole experience.

I love to see other cities by discovering the daily life and atmosphere of the place. The best way for my budget (and also because I enjoy doing it that way)  is by walking, entering in little stores or local markets, buying food in supermarkets, talking to locals, trying to get out of the touristic section) or going to the touristic section undercover), and by taking public transportation (taxis are not allowed if it’s possible). I also enjoy taking photos, so any opportunity I have to travel due to a workshop or a conference, I take photos and post them in Instagram and Facebook, and also keep them in my files to help me illustrate later my own presentations. I also love to go for a run either early morning or in the evenings. It’s a great way to see a city when you don’t have too much free time outside of the conference, and also helps to get rid of all the stiffness caused by the amount of sitting time spent during them.

I remember one time I went for a three day IB training in Geneva, Switzerland. The hotel and site for the training was very far from downtown (at least 5 miles), with not very good transportation. The training was so intense, that we didn’t have time in the evenings. The only way I had to see the city was by running at 5:30 in the morning. It was dark, but still I got to see a little bit of a somber and quiet downtown. At least, I saw it. Part of going to conferences away from your home is learning from people and places.

I have thought that maybe I can attend a conference by giving a paper or a workshop but never have very clear what should I talk about, since I see so many wonderful professionals so knowledgeable and prepared. Last week,  I saw one call for papers at an international school librarian conference, and I decided to apply. I started thinking what are my skills and strengths as school librarian, and came up with a very fun workshop (I won’t give details, because it’s on review). Probably I won’t get picked, since I am not sponsored by any institution but by myself, and who will believe that I am good? Nobody but me. But I am not giving up. If I get to present, I will be so excited! It will be like being called to be cast as an extra for a Netflix series.

Conferences are mostly like a fairy tale, dreaming on attending one, sometimes being successful, sometimes not. If you are in, there are like a thriller, you get so pumped up! When your district sent you to this nice or expensive conference, and then doesn’t have time for you to share your experience, or doesn’t care less, is just like being in a dark crime novel.  I am hoping for more thrillers in the late 2010s and early 2020s.

Querida mujer…Dear Woman…

It´s funny but I enrolled in an online Reflective Writing Club at the same time as a face to face personal growth, women empowerment workshop in my town here in Spain. Last Friday, in both, they ask me to reflect on my past and my present. Sort of what do I know now that I wish I knew earlier in my life. At the reflective writing club, I could pick any time, any mode, of my personal or professional  life that has a before and a now.

14 plus
Photo: Matias Alliende

At the women workshop, we needed to write a letter to the girl we were when we got our first period, giving her advise of the things we knew now, and we wish we knew at that age. It was a task we needed to do in the workshop, with pen and pencil, almost as a stream of consciousness exercise. The letter needed to start with Querida mujer (Dear woman)

I remember writing my letter without punctuation or pausing. Just what my heart told me to say at that point. I filled the two sides of a paper in 5 minutes. It was very personal.

dear womanThe letters we wrote went to a group of women in another town who was doing the exact same workshop. Last Monday, we received their letters and we read them out loud. It was a beautiful and powerful exercise. All of the letters have a common theme of being beautiful and valuable the way we were, that we were the owner of our bodies and that we need to feel free to pursue what we wanted since we were going to be ok. I also like one girl who was 18 years old, and told herself not to cry too much because she would dry up.

Now as a hybrid combination of both assignments. here is my public letter to myself

Dear woman,

Here I am, at fifty six years old, giving advise to me-you of almost 14.

First of all, you don´t need to hurry, or worry. You don´t need to drag your mom to the doctor, to see how much you are going to grow before you get your period. Being tall is the best. You can be in marches, demonstrations, concerts, and won´t get suffocated by people´s odors. You will still be dealing with your period in 2018, and its a pain in the butt. So why even think about it?  Enjoy your freedom.

I know, it´s hard not to fit in.

Also, get comfortable, and confident about yourself since the feeling of being an odd duck will be always with you. Yeap, the feeling doesn´t disappear with age.

I remember hearing one of my oldest cousin telling me that she taught her kids to be comfortable with the fact that they will be always against the current, advise that I passed on to my own children. I wish my parents have told me that when I was your age. Instead, they were trying to prove me that I was normal, that everything was normal, that I was an average teen, with average teen concerns and anxieties. Oh, how much I hated the thought that I was so predictable. But don´t worry, later in life you won´t , hahaha.

Pay attention to your projects, and the things that moves you, without thinking too much on what other people think of them or you. People will love you the way you are. Don´t be scared. Be like your own daughter, a strong, confident and fun woman. Be proud of yourself and shine.

I love you with all my heart, and even though sometimes you will feel blue and down, own the moment and give yourself permission to feel not so good. I remember when I was twenty something I was in search for happiness and its meaning, and came up with the definition that happiness was not being in a marvelous bubble in paradise, but being in charge of yourself, and feel your ups and downs to the max. Understanding their rhythm,  and their power. Learning to know your body will help you to realize that maybe your periods are not a pain, but actually a wonderful instrument that can give you more strength, energy and creativity.

When you choose what you want to study, remember that you can always change. In your mid twenties, when you have to apply to your scholarship to go to study to the US, you will wish the internet was a widespread tool, and discover that there are so many possibilities, and choices. You don´t need to fit the mold. Remember that´s never too late to learn something new, and it won´t matter how old are you to continue pursuing your dreams, your desires, and what your heart is truly telling you. Be honest to yourself, be happy the way you defined it later, and be kind and caring with others. Happiness is not a state at the expense of others. It´s a state with you and others.

I love you my dear woman, walk through life with your head up, and your body straight. You will make me proud.

IMG_20180202_103014359.jpg