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Semester is Almost Over

As I've mentioned before, April is a crazy month for me. What I forgot about was the fact that registration and the end of the semester were also both approaching. Registration always brings challenges and stress along with it. This semester, I completely forgot my registration time. Twelve hours later, I remembered in a panic and hustled to our registration site. I managed to get into two classes easily, but one already had a waiting list of 8 people! I try to remind myself not to stress. I try to tell myself that even if I can't get into the class (which I think I will because the school tries to work with people) that it's alright. I can extend school by a semester and my life will still be alright. But I still spend a lot of time freaking out. I also have like 8 projects due in the next week and a half which I keep trying to prioritize in order of due date, but it's stressful.

I'm excited for summer and the chance to explore. I want to visit the aquarium. I want to go to the children's museum. I want to play mini golf. I want to find a library job. I'm not sure how life will work out, but I'll survive this semester. I will still enjoy the beautiful children's books and young adult books which pushed me to this profession. I'll still want to be where I'm at in life. So I'm dealing with the craziness of April with hope for May on the horizon. I hope you all will have wonderful summers and get to play and enjoy life.

All the Best -


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My Vote is Split

I am a student at SLIS.  I have two young children.  They take a lot of time and attention.  I am their primary caregiver. 

My first two semesters at SLIS, I intentionally scheduled classes and schoolwork in such a way that it barely impacted my kids.  Everything was done while they were at (their) school.  Even my library shifts are primarily during their school hours, and a grandparent typically picks them up when I work later.  Things are much easier for me when the girls' schedule isn't disrupted.

Not so much from now on.  I'm pretty much done with required courses, which are offered at a variety of days and times each semester.  From now on, I'll be taking classes that are only offered once a semester, or even once every other semester (or even once every two years, but I don't even want to think about that).  This means that I have very little choice as to when I go to school, and my kids' schedule will now depend on my schedule, instead of the other way around.

So when the Fall 2015 schedule came out, I had some choices to make.

Option #1: take back to back classes Monday afternoon and evening, and find someone to pick the girls up from school, bring one to and from gymnastics, feed them dinner, and put them to bed (Andrew often works Monday nights).

Option #2: take back to back classes on Thursday afternoon and evening, and find someone to pick the girls up from school and hang out with them/feed them dinner until Andrew gets home from work (around 7pm).

Option #3: take a Thursday afternoon class and one online class, which means I only have to find someone to pick them up and watch them until 4:30 (many more options when the time is only an hour and half -- a friend, a babysitter, a grandmother, aftercare at school).

Andrew voted for Option #3 (while saying he would support whatever I wanted to do -- but acknowledging that Option #3 would be better for the family), and the girls would certainly vote for #3 if they had a vote.  I am torn.  Option #1 is pretty much out, because there's just too much to do around here on Mondays to leave it to a babysitter. Option #2 sounds good, and #3 is good too, but I'd really rather take an in-person class than an online class.  So my vote is split between #2 and #3.

But whose vote is most important?  Shouldn't it be my choice to take the classes I want to take, the way I want to take them?  Actually, no.  Part of going back to school in my 40s, starting a second career, is knowing that my family actually does come first for me.  It's OK to have their concerns in mind when I'm figuring out my class schedule.  And I really, really wish that the classes I wanted to take were offered at 9am -- but they're not.   So we'll all deal with it.

Are there other parent/students out there struggling with scheduling and family?  I'd love to hear from you!

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The Insanity of April

As always, the final full month of a semester is filled with the insanity of every class wanting to fit in the rest of the assignments before class is officially over. I have papers upon papers (seriously, I have 24 papers due in one class this month--short papers, but still 24 of them) and a few rogue assignments as well as discussion board posts.

So what do I decide to do?

Camp NaNoWriMo. Camp is the equivalent of regular National Novel Writing Month, however, it occurs twice (April and July), and people are free to set their own word count goal. Writers can also work on a variety of works, a novel isn't the only option.

I've also been enjoying the presence of two friends who have moved in with me. Hence, my life has become unexpectedly busy.

I've been enjoying walking with the warm weather. I also started listening to podcasts! I had downloaded several podcasts to listen to during the 43 hour drive from Montana, but I didn't end up listening to very many. Now I've become obsessed with Stuff You Missed in History Class. It allows me to listen to something without totally blocking out the noise of traffic and people. I like to be able to hear if someone tries to get my attention or wants to run me over.

Do you listen to podcasts? Leave me a link to the best in the comments! 

Happy April!!

All the Best - Hayley

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Online Classes and Group Projects

Many bloggers on this site, myself included, have written about how group projects and teamwork are the bedrock of many SLIS courses. But what if you are taking a class online? Does that change? Not at all. Online students do just as much group work as face-to-face students, except sometimes they have to get more creative to accomplish their goals and finish projects.

This semester I am taking Metadata (LIS-445OL) online. A good friend of mine took it in person with the same professor in the fall. After the class got started, I showed him the syllabus and asked if he saw any major differences between the work for the face-to-face class and the work for the online one. He said the professor used different examples for some exercises, but that all the assignments and modules were the same, and I was happy to hear this.

At the beginning of the semester, I worked with my group to compare our individual work against each other's. This ensured we were all taking away the same lessons from class. Now that we're more than halfway through, we recently did a presentation together on a niche metadata standard called PBCore. Normally we would have met in person and divided up the work, but since we have group members who do not live locally in Boston, we used forums on Moodle (SLIS's online learning platform), Google Docs, Google Slides, and e-mail to communicate and share documents. This is my first online class, and I was surprised that presentation we handed in was just as good as any I've done in other groups for on-campus classes. This also says a lot of about my group though. I'm really grateful that the members dropped what they were doing when a new piece of communication about the project came through. It was a tough week of work, but well worth it.

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SLIS: The School of Group Projects

So far, every class I've taken at SLIS has had a major group project component.  The people, topics, work style and product in my group projects have varied widely -- from the fabulous, all-on-the-same-page group I'm part of in 404, to a frustrating experience in 401 with a classmate who missed every meeting and turned in subpar work.  Working on one group project this week, I realized that my partner and I had completely different comfort levels with when to turn in our assignment (I trend early, she's fine with right at the deadline), which made me think about the similarities (or lack thereof) between group projects and real life.

Why a Group Project is Not Like Real Life

  1. There is no boss.  In real life, someone is in charge.  Group projects run the risk of floating along until someone takes charge.  Or, someone tries to take charge and the rest of the group doesn't like it.
  2. You cannot get fired, but you're also not getting paid.  In real life, if you mess up, your job is at risk.  On the flip side, if you do a good job, you might be recognized for a promotion.  There are no real consequences to doing a lousy job in a group project, and also no benefits to putting in extra work.  (Of course, your grade can be both a benefit and a consequence, I suppose.  Still, you won't be getting a bonus or a pink slip based on your group project work.)
  3. You don't necessarily know the personalities or capabilities of your partner(s).  How was I supposed to know that one of my group members last semester was chronically late and ultimately wouldn't turn anything in?  Had we known that ahead of time, we would have started a lot more meetings without her, and assigned her a much smaller piece of the ultimate project.  In real life, you're much more likely to know the habits of your colleagues.

Why a Group Project is Like Real Life

  1. Real life requires interaction with other people.  It's crucial to know how to work -- and work well! -- with a variety of personalities.  Group projects are a great way to learn that skill.  Yes, some people will drive you crazy, but you still have to work with them.
  2. Different people have different strengths.  Successful group projects, just like successful workplaces, build on individual strengths.  Learning how to capitalize on group members' strengths (and work around weaknesses) is important, and it's great to learn that skill in a safe environment.
  3. Work often requires give and take.  During the first few weeks of a recently finished group project, my kids had six snow days AND a week off for February vacation. Suffice to say, it was hard for me to get much schoolwork done during that time.  My partner really carried the water for a few weeks, and when she had a major work and personal crisis toward the end of our project, I was able to pick up the slack.  Overall, we probably did the same amount of work, just at different times, and we had support when we each needed it.   I hope we would have supported each other the same way in the workplace.

What do you think of group work?  Love it and learn from it?  Hate it and put up with it?  While there are times I'd certainly appreciate doing schoolwork solo, I understand why group work is such a major component of the SLIS curriculum.

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Taking Care of Business

So, the first half of this semester was a little unusual.  I'm just thankful I didn't take any Monday classes, because between snow days and holidays, they have only met once.  How crazy is that?

By the end of last semester I figured out that things worked best for me if I had big blocks of time for each part of my life.  A day here for work, a day there for homework.  From 3:15 - bedtime, all my focus was on the kids.  Weekends were family time, unless there was a big assignment on the horizon, in which case I carved a few hours out of precious family time so I wasn't freaking out.  

It was a little hard to keep to that schedule at the beginning of this semester, as I got used to the slightly different rhythm of an online class.  Still, I was keeping a positive attitude and trying to figure out the best way to get things done. I mapped out the dates for all the group projects in each of my classes, and felt like I could handle my second semester at SLIS.

Then, it snowed.

And snowed.

And snowed.

My kids had snow day upon snow day.  I kept thinking I could "get things done" on the snow days, but that was crazy thinking.  I felt like I wasn't doing enough schoolwork.  The library where I work only closed one day per storm, while my kids had two days off each storm, so my kids came to work with me a few times (which sounds nice, but is actually kind of hard, even in a Children's Department). 

Then there was February Vacation, a completely misnamed week of no school (having your kids home for a full week in February is not a vacation.  Let's call it something else). 

Anyway.  All that passed, and we haven't had a snowstorm in a couple of weeks -- just a dusting every few days.

Now, with February Vacation behind us, a really good connection with my 404 group, and a fairly good idea of how to manage 488 online, I'm ready to tackle the second half of the semester.   Wish me luck.  And to other parents out there, balancing school and work and kids and shoveling and ice dams and dead car batteries (please let that not just be me), hang in there.  Spring will come.  It always does.

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Time Management

About ten years ago, I had a very high profile job.  I carried a Blackberry (when that was a new, cool thing), was on call all the time, and regularly handled work issues at night and on the weekend while doing something else.  It was not unusual for me to be working while I was at book club, or away for the weekend with my husband, or at the beach.  I totally thrived on the stress and excitement. 

Then I had kids, and realized that talking to a newspaper reporter while my children were in the bathtub was not something to be proud of, so I left that job.

I stopped multitasking and honed my scheduling and time management skills.  I ditched the Blackberry, and waited several years before I got an iPhone.   I realized I  not only loved doing just one thing at a time, but I performed better when I did things one at a time.  I was present, in the moment, with my kids.  I found interesting freelance work that fit my schedule.  I waited to answer emails and calls until I was ready to answer them.  My mind was happy.

Then I signed up for an online class.

Everyone says that online classes let you do the work on your own schedule, but that's not proving to be the case for me.  It's only the second week, and I already feel like I'm behind.  Because people can do the work whenever they want, I can see who has already signed up for a presentation topic or contributed to a discussion in Moodle, and I have a constant feeling that I'm missing something.  Sure, there were two snow days this week, and I worked twice the shifts I usually work at the library, since we're down a staff person, so I've had less (read: no) big blocks time for my schoolwork.  And it's been really hard to get any schoolwork done in the pockets of time that do appear.  Every time I say, "oh, the kids are playing quietly, I'll just log on to Moodle and do part of an assignment," I see how much everyone else has done and freak out.  Or I post something, and then get overwhelmed with all the emails telling me other people have posted replies, because I don't have time to read the replies because the kids are no longer playing quietly and in fact are screaming their heads off and I need to make them dinner and their school is closed again tomorrow and we need to shovel and the house is a disaster.

Deep breath.

I know it will get better and I'll find a groove with the online class.  I can schedule smaller chunks of time for schoolwork throughout the week, rather than fewer, larger blocks.  My time management skills are sharp, and I really enjoy school, work, and, most of all, my family.  Making all of those things fit into a week is totally doable (as long as we don't get another blizzard anytime soon... I refuse to look at Monday's forecast...).

Wish me luck.

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Welcome to 2015!

Fourth semester at SLIS.

Here we go!

Indeed, it seems that the month of January has just flown on by. But unlike some of you, I have spent about 95% of it here in Boston rather then home with my family. The reason? Well, it's because the offices at my job, as a student worker at the student services center (haha shameless plug), were open as we prepped for both the New Year and new students. With so much to do, I've lost track of the time. Instead of spending the days at home, lounging around, I was on my feet, running around and performing key tasks. Working from the perspective of being behind the scenes, I must vocalize my respect for all of those who are part of SLIS faculty and staff. These men and women are some of the most dedicated individuals I've ever seen. In the days leading up to the Spring 2015 Orientation, I watched as everyone in SLIS came together, both student workers and members of the faculty and staff, to ensure that we gave our newest students a warm welcome to both Boston and to SLIS. It is remarkable how many things must be organized and completed for an event that is less then twelve hours. And yet, everyone involved with the event was on campus each day, working as hard as possible to ensure that everything ran smoothly. From my office at the Student Services Center, myself and the other student worker spent the first three weeks of January prepping folders, checking names, organizing the day's events, and finalizing which snacks would be served. It was quite the effort but I can honestly say that the reward was worth it. Spring 2015 Orientation went off without any problems. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and it was fantastic to be here on campus to greet the new students. Oh, and in case you are one of the students who joined me and Lindsey McEwen for our tour of SLIS and the Simmons academic campus, thank you for being a great audience and putting up with us on our first ever Simmons tour. I hope all of the new students, along with everyone else, enjoyed their first week of classes. 

Although I've been on Simmons campus since the 6th of January, coming in last Tuesday for my first class of the week (I have another Thursday evening and am also taking an online course), it felt somewhat strange sitting down in a classroom and taking my first batch of notes of the year! Unlike times in the past, I wasn't hit with a wave of "First Day of School Jitters". This time around, I was ready and excited to be back in student mode. However, considering the snow storm about to hit us, one that I am affectionately calling "Snow-ocolpyse", my second week of school is starting to look like it will be a short one. Unlike most sane people, I am actually really excited for the snow; it is why winter is my number one favorite season! While I'm not a big fan of the harsh, bitter cold itself, news of snowfall will always bring a smile to my face. While I selected Simmons College for grad school due to its reputation for the library and information science program, I'll confess its location might have had something to do with my ultimate decision. But despite my joy about our impending blanket of snow, I will acknowledge that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Considering the Weather Channel's blizzard predictions, I do urge that people stay inside where it is warm for the next few days. While the city of Boston is fairly good about clearing the roads, it is often better to be safe than sorry. I know with certainty that my three roommates and I are preparing for a potential snow day, one filled with movies, video games, and hot chocolate. I'll probably take a ton of pictures from my apartment to capture the winter magic.

While as of Monday morning, school is still scheduled for tomorrow, I hope that everyone takes the precautions that they need in order to stay safe. Drive carefully and be mindful of black ice. Otherwise, I hope that everyone finds some enjoyment in tonight's and tomorrow's snowfall. I know that I will!

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So it Begins

There is not much to say this week. Classes started, and work and my internship continued. Reading through my course syllabi and writing all the due dates for each class's papers and presentations into my planner next to my work hours, suddenly the new semester became real. Seeing everything on paper like that made it click, so to speak, in my brain.

Apart from being overwhelming, there were also a lot of good moments in my week where I got to catch up with peers whom I hadn't seen since last semester. Now that I'm further along in my program, it's pleasant to be in courses with people I've gotten to know in previous semesters, either through classes or student groups. A lot of my projects involve group work, so it's nice to be able to eliminate the anxiety I felt in the past over not knowing who would make a good teammate.

In retrospect, I can say that previous anxiety was entirely unfounded. I think one of my favorite parts of SLIS and information science in general is the quality of people I've found in the program and in the field. Everyone seems so smart, passionate, and dedicated, as well as fun, unpretentious, and a bit nerdy (in the best way). It's one thing to love what you do, but it's even better to also love the people who do what you do.

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