How to Prepare for “Real Life” – Keeping Track of Your History

**This was originally published on my school library site blog –

I wrote this to help my students prep for the “real world” with advice that they may not have been told…. **

“Keeping Track of Your History.”

Why do I call it this?  Well, it is because I have a big recommendation for students.  This actually came about after a discussion with one of my students.  She is prepping for college, and planning on becoming a teacher, and was asking some advice.  And so I told her what I have done.

Keep a list, file, document, etc.  Keep it in a place you will always have access to it: personal email storage like google drive (NOT your school one! I’ll explain why in a moment), or a document storage site such as dropbox.

There’s a reason I suggest this.  Number 1 – you will want to always have access to it, be able to expand it, add more, etc.  Number 2 – if you use your school storage, you might likely lose access to it when you leave/graduate.  It is better to keep it to a personal email drive/document storage space.

Now, this document should have all kinds of information.  Now, I’m not meaning things like social security number, but other important things.  This document, which should be considered a living document as it expands as time goes on, should come in handy any time you are applying for a job.  I have kept the document I use for many years now.  And it has been a lifesaver when it came to completing applications.  So you are aware – this list of information that I’m recommending is not all you can put.  It is just what I have found to have needed over the years.  I no longer had to wrack my brain at 25 or 30+ years old to recall something that I needed from high school.  And yes, there are places occasionally where they want your WHOLE history.  It’s crazy but I have completed those applications before.  So, without further ado, here is information I recommend you have on this document:

Current and former addresses: Yes, I would recommend even from childhood.  If you moved around a lot, like I did in my early 20’s, it can be hard to recall information about a place you lived at when you were 10.  Having a list of former addresses will help you greatly.  Now, will everyone require your addresses from childhood?  No.  But you never know and better safe than sorry.

Employment History:  Yes, this is huge.  Like addresses, who can recall what you did when you were 16?  I recommend the following information to keep in this document:

  • ​Company name, address, and phone number
  • dates worked (at least month and year)
  • starting and ending salary (if different)
  • supervisors name
  • job title
  • responsibilities

High School GPA/Activities/Honors:  Yes, this is more applicable when you complete high school, but the activities part you can start now.  Make sure you list any and all activities you were a part of, as well as any officer/leadership roles you held (and responsibilities of those roles if necessary).

College GPA/Activities/Honors/Credit Hours in Major and Minor: This is obviously for those who are college-bound, but even if you just take a few credits at the local community college, keep track of that!  You never know when you might need that info.  You can update it each semester, or when you complete your studies.  It is also helpful if you transfer schools to have this information for each school.

Activities/Memberships Outside School:  This is another one of those that you may not need right away, but you might.  Make sure you have the organization, dates of membership, any leadership positions you may have held and dates for that, and any other contributions you may have done or any awards or honors you may have been awarded.

If you were a Boy Scout, for example, and earned your Eagle, you would want to keep that info handy, such as when earned, project, date completed, etc.  I’ve been a member of a number of community bands during the last 20 years, and so I have a record of what band I was in, what instrument I played (I play several), and directors.

This also goes for any organizations that may pertain to your career, such as a union membership, a society that focuses on your career, etc.  Again, for example, I am a member of the American Association of School Librarians, and have received a scholarship from them.  I have all of that noted.

Anything Else YOU Feel Is Important:  Because I am not you, and I do not know what else you might need, add what you think you need to add!  As an educator, I have seen a number of the same questions on applications.  I have kept those responses I gave for them!  I fine tune them over time, of course, add and edit where I need, but I have that collection of questions handy.  Why reinvent the wheel for the EXACT SAME QUESTION?  You might want to add references including their contact info and how you know them, as well as how long, or special skills you may have (I have a lot of tech ones).  That part is really up to you.  The more info you save, the less you have to think about and try to recall later on!

I truly mean it, this has been a huge benefit for me when I was job hunting.  I’ve filled out probably hundred or so applications by this point in my life, and no two are ever quite the same.  But, having this information handy has made life a lot easier.  Start your document today, while things are fresh in your mind!


My first Breakout Creation

So, I’ve done BreakoutEDU’s before.  Both as a participant and facilitator. They’re awesome.  (Sidenote – if you haven’t tried one, you must!) Escape rooms meets education.

I want to do a breakoutEDU for my library.  But I don’t want one that’s already been made, because I want it to be tailored to my library.  So, I want to make my own.

Ok.  Full disclaimer.  It’s FREAKING hard to create one!  They make it look so easy.  It’s not. Just sayin’.

So this is something I have been working on for several weeks.  I have the direction one down, but the rest….? yeah, no.

But then.  I realized I had a presentation to do for my music fraternity.  It was a week out from the presentation.  What could I present? … and then I started thinking.  And thinking.  And it hit me.  I could make a breakout for it!

Ok, so you may be thinking – you just said it was freaking hard!  Yes, yes I did.  But somehow, and I don’t know how, I was able to create this breakout.  Within two days I came up with this breakout!  I started thinking, I started researching, I grabbed my SAI History book (not a thin book!), and went to work designing it.  And by the end of the week, I had a full breakout game.

And then I had to present it.

So, the hard part of this is that you have to have at least a little bit of knowledge of my music fraternity in order to figure out the locks.  So, I couldn’t have just a regular person test it.  So, my first test run was for my presentation.  I did give a disclaimer that my groups were my guinea pigs, and then let them to it.

They loved it!

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I did learn a few things.  My directional one was the hardest clue.  It wasn’t clear, and that make it difficult.  I had to give hints a lot there.  But, otherwise, the ones who tried it loved it!

I’m hoping that since I now have created one (which, of course, like any good thing, needs to be revisited and revised to make better), I am looking towards the library breakout with new eyes.  It’s still hard to create, but I now know I can.


Genrefying – Part 2 – Labels

So, in part one I talked about how I was writing the genre in every book cover.  This took forever!  Well, it felt like it.  It took more like 4 more days.

I noticed something during that time – there was no way that Sci Fi and Fantasy could stay together.  There are way too many in that category to stay together.  And, it was something I considered anyhow, since I could justify having them together, but kind of not.  So, like any sane librarian, I Googled to see what others did.  I found some who kept them together; others did not.  And I could see why – one belongs with magic and spells, witchcraft, etc.  The other belongs with dystopian, with futuristic, with robots.  So, I decided to separate them.  But this led to another problem – labels.

As I showed last post, I had my categories set.  I had actually already purchased my labels (this was an exciting adventure, but one for another post) so I was stuck.  Or so I thought.  I then realized my romance section wasn’t as large as some of the others, and so by not labeling the graphic novels, I had what I needed.  🙂  So, of course I had to switch around colors.  Now, romance/relationships are purple, Sci-Fi is blue, Action/Adventure is red.  It works.

So, back to genrefying books.  As I said it took me close to 4 days just to get every book labeled with its genre.  It definitely took time!  I recommend anyone who does this to be patient and have perseverance.  There were times I wanted to just stop.  But, I got through it.

By that point, my colored labels came in.  It was an exciting day when they came in.  And it was perfect, because at that point I was working on a collaborative project with one of the ELA teachers in my building.  She does speed book dating, which I’ll get to in another post.  So, getting books labeled with extremely important to do, and do quickly.  But, there was a slight hitch – the former librarian chose to relabel book series with the start of the series title instead of the authors name.  So, I have to go back and relabel the spine labels and then put the genre labels on.  So, more time.  With 4 days in, I”m about 75% done with the fiction labeling.  I mostly just have to print and relabel spine labels and then put the genre labels on.  But, it’s going!

Oh, my favorite thing.  My students have been watching me do this for now 2 weeks if they come in the library, which most do when they need something from the printer.  The look at me and one day, one asked, “Ms Becker, are you going to have to do this to all the books?!?” Yes, yes I am.  But the end result will be worth it.

My BreakoutEDU boxes


Image from

So I have done BreakoutEDU boxes a couple times.  At edcamps, as well as during a half-day PD where a colleague brought in her set.  I love them.  If you have no idea about BreakoutEDU boxes, check out this video to get you started.

Anyhow, I love the boxes as I said, but I could not figure out how to justify paying $125 per box.  Sorry BreakoutEDU people, that’s a toughy for me.  Apparently they used to have an open source list to build your own, but it has since gone away (see link at the end).  So, in true Jennifer Lagarde style (who unbeknownst to me literally just wrote a blog post about this exact thing!) and  #MacGyverLibrarianship, I searched online, sourced different blogs, and made my own.

My BreakoutEDU Box.png

So, I should mention some things.  First, I love Menards.  Obviously.  Second, I bought several things on sale or for different prices that what I have found as of today.  That will definitely change prices if you choose to go a similar way to me.  Third, my goal was to create 5 boxes.  I have almost 4 sets (reason is because of that one darn 4 digit lock that has failed.)  I have a few things I need to add to make the 5th set, which may or may not cost a bit more overall.  But, I think I did well in doing a little bit of #MacGyverLibrarianship! I’m really looking forward to using these with my students, as soon as I get them to school.

What have your experiences with these boxes been like?  How about when students open them?  Did you add a treat or something other than just the sign?  I’d love to hear what you did!

Other blogs sourced (link goes directly to the post):

Mirror Into Teaching

Hey Mr. Stern


Google Drawing

So I came upon a lesson from for Google drawing.  I really liked this lesson because it incorporated the winter theme without specifically stating that students must create something Christmas-y (I avoid that as much as I can).  I came across Computer Elementary Activities , which I really liked as they had a nice snowman, and directions on how to have students draw it.  For my students, because I know their listening levels (basically 0), I instead put the important directions on the board and allowed students a bit of creativity with it.  I was actually surprised by how many of my students enjoyed it!  I did this with 6th grade to start.  Several of my students, who are normally not the best in my class, did exceptionally well!  I asked that if they wouldn’t mind if I could have a link to them to keep them, as I was just that impressed.  Here are some examples.  I highly recommend this lesson, especially as it gets closer to winter break and kids get antsy!

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Symbaloo Screencast-O-Matic

I was cleaning off my desktop today and found this edtech gem.  I’m pretty proud of it: it is reminiscent of my Instructional Designer days, and I know I worked hard getting everything right in one take.  Not an easy thing!  What could I improve on?  What else should I add for the next one?  I think I’d like to do more of these for my school at some point, for both students and staff…

Plickers – My Obsession

plickersHello, my name is Jamie, and I’m addicted to Plickers.  I can’t help it.  They’re so easy to use, and great for a non-BYOD school!

I was first introduced to them in my library classes.  We used them for various quick assessments to find what we knew and so forth.

Since then, I’ve introduced them to my students.  Many of them like when I pass them out, because they get to “win” when they get an answer right.  Even though I never have them assigned to specific students, I tend to watch which numbers I give to certain students to see whether they are struggling to answer or not.  We all have those students we know either gets it or doesn’t, and gives us a pulse for the whole class.

I have used them for a variety of general assessments, such as seeing how well my students understand and can conceptualize the Dewey Decimal System, library terms, and now for media literacy.  To say I love using them is really an understatement.