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Tag: May 2021

Book Review: Do What Matters Most

Do What Matters Most: Lead with a Vision, Manage with a Plan, Prioritize Your Time – Rob Shallenberger, Steve Shallenberger – Berrett-Koehler Publishers – Published 18 May 2021

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Synopsis

In researching more than 1,260 managers and executives from more than 108 different organizations, Steve and Rob Shallenberger discovered that 68 percent of them feel like their number one challenge is time management, yet 80 percent don’t have a clear process for how to prioritize their time.

Drawing on their forty years of leadership research, this book offers three powerful habits that the top 10 percent of leaders use to Do What Matters Most. These three high performance habits are developing a written personal vision, identifying and setting Roles and Goals, and consistently doing Pre-week Planning. And Steve and Rob make an audacious promise: these three habits can increase anyone’s productivity by at least 30 to 50 percent. For organizations, this means higher profits, happier employees, and increased innovation. For individuals, it means you’ll find hours in your week that you didn’t know were there–imagine what you could do!

You will learn how acquiring this skillset turned an average employee into her company’s top producer, enabled a senior vice president to reignite his team and achieve record results, transformed a stressed-out manager’s work and home life, helped a CEO who felt like he’d lost his edge regain his fire and passion, and much more. By implementing these simple and easy-to-understand habits, supported by tools like the Personal Productivity Assessment, you will learn how to lead a life by design, not by default. You’ll feel the power that comes with a sense of control, direction, and purpose.

My thoughts

Do What Matters Most has got to be the most helpful leadership, time management and professional improvement book I have read in a long time. Maybe ever. It is full of practical advice that is easy to use and adapt to your professional and personal. Often I finish a professional book and I have a list of all the things I’m going to do to improve my working practice and then I never actually enact anything. After reading Do What Matters Most I am left feeling in control, with a definite plan. I am completely aware of how I will use the tips and skills in this book but even more than that I am also far more aligned with what I need to do in my daily work practice to reach my professional and personal goals. This book has given me the power to enact change. I love it and highly recommend this book.

So many times I have thought that I needed to write down my goals. I had a vague idea in my head of where I was going, but I’d never put it into words. Similarly, there have been many times in my day that I felt I could have achieved more or I haven’t done the important things, instead just getting through a million small emergency fires. Do What Matters Most is all about changing that reactive behaviour into a proactive attitude.

I’d say half of the content in this book is providing evidence that their approach works. For someone who was already on board, I did feel like I could have skipped some of these sections. They are consistently spread throughout the book. For example, you have a chapter on why writing down a vision works before you move into a chapter about actually writing a vision statement. For me, the gold was in the doing chapters. While the evidence is great and the quotes from professionals from all walks of life shows that these practices work, it was more than I needed.

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Professional Learning: May 2021

Professional Learning Opportunities May 2021

Here is my list of professional learning opportunities for May 2021. Some of them are time sensitive, others are just what has come to my attention this month. It’s a way to help me keep track of things that I find or that are recommended to me. They mostly are for school librarians or the school library setting, but many are transferable to any library or education setting.

Looking for more resources? Check out my Professional Learning Series.  

Last month’s Professional Learning list.

Most of the opportunities below are free and easily accessibly by following the links, others are require a fee.  If you have any suggestions or links, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or contact me here. 

Publications and Websites

I’ve just recently discovered Rachael Yates’ website. She is the Primary eLearning Facilitator at St Peter’s Lutheran College. She has some great articles and tips about tech use for children and teens and tech tips for teachers. Check out her website EducationalTechAndInnovation

Reading in the Age of Distrust by Alison J Head. Are educators equipping students with the analytical and deep reading skills they need for the future?

State of America’s Libraries Report 2021 – featuring the ways that libraries across sectors in the USA responded to the COVID-19 crisis.

April 2021 edition of the School Library Journal. The SLJ is currently enabling free digital access to their journal library. Once you enter your details in the link here, you’ll get access to the current and previous editions. The April 2021 edition features the School Librarians of the Year in the US.

Library and Information Week via ALIA. 17-23 May 2021. Access lots of free resources and tips for promoting your library programs on social media.

ACCESS from ASLA, Vol 35, Issue 1, March 2021 is available for members or via subscription on the ASLA website.

 

Conferences, Courses, Webinars, Podcasts and Meet Ups

National Education Summit. This one is for June, but it’s time to put it on your radar now. The Building Capacity School Libraries conference is spread over two days (5 and 6 June 2021) and has a great list of presenters (I might be biased, as I am one of them). There is a fee involved and this event is face-to-face in Brisbane. Find out more here. 

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Book Review: Hooked On You

Hooked On You – Kathleen Fuller – Maple Falls #1 – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 May 2021

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Synopsis

Riley McAllister left the small Arkansas town of Maple Falls after graduating high school, hoping to make it big in New York as a mixed media artist. She’s still pursuing her dream when her grandmother begs her to come home and help her manage the store while she recovers from a broken leg she got after sliding into third base during a church softball game (she was safe, by the way). Riley agrees, planning to convince her grandmother to sell the old shop and retire so Riley can get back to the big city. New York is where she belongs, not some hick town that doesn’t even have a decent coffee shop.

Hayden Price’s life hasn’t turned out as he expected either. He still works in the hardware store his family has owned for several generations after his chance to make it out of Maple Falls ended when he blew out his pitching arm during a minor league game. Stuck with debt from college and a broken engagement, he decides to make the best of things when he comes back to Maple Falls and puts together the town’s first church softball team–with him as coach, of course.

Riley and Hayden went to high school together but ran in totally different circles. In fact, it’s safe to say they hated each other. Will that change when the softball team unexpectedly brings them together? Or will the pain and disappointment of their past failures keep them from discovering love in Maple Falls?

My thoughts

Hooked on You has all the makings of a great romance novel – returning to one’s hometown to help rejuvenate a family business, a burnt out sports star finding a new direction for his life, a small town setting and a quirky group of old friends who like to meddle. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect with the main characters in the way that I wanted and the writing and dialogue was a bit stilted, leaving me unsatisfied with the plot. A light and easy read, but not one of my favourites of the genre.

Hayden has returned home to Maple Falls to help run his father’s hardware business. After finally making it to the Majors in baseball, he blew out his shoulder on his first pitch. Riley has returned to Maple Falls after her grandmother is injured during a softball game. Riley is just counting down the days until she can return to New York and finding her place as a mixed media artist, but being ‘home’ and getting to know Hayden again makes her reassess her life goals.

A sweet book, it was the lack of depth to the characters and their background stories that made this an okay book for me, rather than one I adored. Not a lot happens in the story and I found it hard to believe in Riley and Hayden’s connection. The prose and dialogue is a little stilted, and I’m not sure how realistic Hayden’s voice was at times. The drama introduced at the end was overly dramatic and just added to my overall disinterest in the story.

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Book Review: Blade of Secrets

Blade of Secrets – Tricia Levenseller – Bladesmith #1 – Feiwel & Friends – Published 4 May 2021

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims’ secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

My thoughts

Blade of Secrets is the first book in a new duology by Tricia Levenseller. It is a great fantasy novel, with an authentic main character, intrigue, and romance.

Ziva is a blacksmith. She feels most comfortable when she is in her forge, tucked safe away from other people. She also has the ability to infuse magic within the weapons she creates and she is building a name for herself with these abilities. When a warlord commissions Ziva to create a powerful weapon, Ziva discovers that the weapon she creates – far more powerful than she ever could have imagined – is not destined to help keep the peace in their newly divided kingdom, but to wreak destruction. Ziva, her sister, a scholar interested in magic and a mercenary for hire, unexpectedly band together to outrun the warlord.

This is a bit of a quest novel, except they are trying to outrun someone rather than find something. A lot of the book is spend as the four main characters are on the road, trying to find someplace safe to stay, as well as discover some way that Ziva might be able to destroy or hide her powerful weapon.

Ziva has social anxiety and this presented very authentically throughout the book. It’s not a feature of the story, and yet it does effect every part of the book, as it is Ziva’s story and she narrates. It’s a very powerful part of the book and the way Ziva thinks, reacts and guards herself is a genuine reflection of her anxiety.

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Book Review: Let It Be Me

Let It Be Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 4 May 2021

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Synopsis

Having graduated college at 18, Sebastian Grant has continued to leverage his intelligence and determination to become a pediatric heart surgeon. The more accolades he receives, the more he’s driven to pursue. Then he meets high school math teacher Leah Montgomery, and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop.

Solving advanced math equations by the age of five, Leah has always wanted to pursue a PhD in mathematics. She willingly put that dream on hold to raise her brother. Now that he is of age, she’s set on avoiding any obstacles to her goal–including romance.

When Leah receives surprising news in the process of taking a test for tracking her ancestry, she asks Sebastian to help her comb through aged hospital records to learn more. Soon his presence isn’t so easily ignored. But when Sebastian learns his best friend also has feelings for Leah, he begins to question his resolve to win her. Attaining their deepest desires may require more sacrifices than they ever imagined.

My thoughts

Let It Be Me is another heartwarming contemporary, Christian romance from Becky Wade. Like her previous book, Let It Be Me features one of the Miracle Five, five teens who had been miraculously saved after a building collapsed on them during an earthquake. Now adults, we follow them as they sort through their past hurts and journey on the road to love. This time it’s Sebastian’s turn.

Sebastian is a gifted surgeon. After the events of the earthquake, he turned his life around. Drawn into the Coleman family, he didn’t let being a foster kid define him. They saved him and offered what he most wanted – to belong. That’s way he would do anything for his best friend and closest person he has to family, Ben Coleman. When Sebastian meets and is instantly drawn to Leah Montgomery, he knows he has to get to know her better. The one problem is that it’s the same Leah Ben has been crushing on for two years. Sebastian does the right thing and withdraws but when Leah asks for his help to untangle a mystery involving DNA and hospital logistics, they spend more time together and Sebastian finds it increasingly difficult to stay honourable to his best friend.

I think this book has one of the few love triangles I’ve truly enjoyed. Maybe that’s because all along Leah has no feelings but those of friendship for Ben and it’s so clear that she and Sebastian are perfect for each other. Everyone is respectful of the other and mindful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. There is an intense connection between Sebastian and Leah but there are many obstacle in the path, firstly Ben and Sebastian’s duty of friendship but also Leah’s desire to remain single and Sebastian’s own habit of not getting to close to people.

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Book Review: How To Become A Planet

How to Become A Planet – Nicole Melleby – Algonquin Young Readers –  Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

For Pluto, summer has always started with a trip to the planetarium. It’s the launch to her favorite season, which also includes visits to the boardwalk arcade, working in her mom’s pizzeria, and her best friend Meredith’s birthday party. But this summer, none of that feels possible.

A month before the end of the school year, Pluto’s frightened mom broke down Pluto’s bedroom door. What came next were doctor’s appointments, a diagnosis of depression, and a big black hole that still sits on Pluto’s chest, making it too hard to do anything.

Pluto can’t explain to her mom why she can’t do the things she used to love. And it isn’t until Pluto’s dad threatens to make her move with him to the city—where he believes his money, in particular, could help—that Pluto becomes desperate enough to do whatever it takes to be the old Pluto again.

She develops a plan and a checklist: If she takes her medication, if she goes to the planetarium with her mom for her birthday, if she successfully finishes her summer school work with her tutor, if she goes to Meredith’s birthday party . . . if she does all the things that “normal” Pluto would do, she can stay with her mom in Jersey. But it takes a new therapist, a new tutor, and a new (and cute) friend with a checklist and plan of her own for Pluto to learn that there is no old and new Pluto. There’s just her.

My thoughts

How To Become A Planet is a novel about anxiety and depression, friendship and gender identity exploration for upper middle graders. Perfect for students just transitioning into high school and confronted with new levels of expectations, new hormones and feelings, and dealing with mental health and complicated feelings from family breakdown and changes in friendship groups.

Pluto has depression and anxiety and at the moment that’s all she really knows about herself. She struggles to get out of bed, and certainly doesn’t want to spend her summer break at her mother’s pizzeria and with a tutor so she can go to eighth grade next year. When Pluto unexpectedly makes a new friend, they each make a list of things they want to do this summer. Pluto’s list is all about returning to the girl she was before her diagnosis. For Fallon, her list is about telling her mother how she feels about having long hair and wearing dresses.

Pluto starts to develop romantic feelings for Fallon – funny feelings in her tummy and wanting to touch Fallon’s face. No labels are applied, but Pluto is supported by and identifies with her tutor who is in a homosexual relationship. Again, no labels are applied to Fallon’s desire to cut her hair short, and wear her brothers’ clothes, but these discussions and feelings are a major part of the book, giving readers something to identify with and relate to without applying labels.

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Book Review: The Hollow Inside

The Hollow Inside – Brooke Lauren Davis – Bloomsbury YA – Published 25 May 2021

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Synopsis

Phoenix and mom Nina have spent years on the road, using their charm and wits to swindle and steal to get by. Now they’ve made it to their ultimate destination, Mom’s hometown of Jasper Hollow. The plan: bring down Ellis Bowman, the man who ruined Nina’s life.

After Phoenix gets caught spying, she spins a convincing story that inadvertently gives her full access to the Bowman family. As she digs deeper into their secrets, she finds herself entrenched in the tale of a death and a disappearance that doesn’t entirely line up with what Mom has told her. Who, if anyone, is telling the whole truth?

My thoughts

The Hollow Inside is completely addictive but I also kind of wanted to read it between my fingers while covering my eyes as there is a near constant feeling of impending dread. Revenges, lies, betrayal, longing – a mystery thriller with so much heart.

I was so caught up in the world and so torn between waning to rescue Phoenix from the woman she calls mother and rescue Nina, both from herself and from the pain of her past. On one hand I was totally, one hundred percent behind the notion of revenge – make that man hurt, ladies. And on the other it’s so easy to see the hurt and destruction Phoenix has to endure while her mother seeks this revenge. There really isn’t a right answer, yet Phoenix has to chose every single day what her right will be. She longs for her mother to acknowledge her and the sacrifices she is making, yet her mother is constantly upset with her, angry and takes it out on Phoenix.

As Phoenix and Nina arrive in Jasper Hollow the truth of what happened there is slowly revealed. Some of this Phoenix discovers as she goes undercover as a sad, homeless girl and finds herself invited to live with the Bowmans. Other, clearer details are revealed through flashbacks to Nina’s childhood. This is what really caught me between wanting a different life for Phoenix and wanting revenge for Nina, as we see the hurt through Nina’s eyes. Does it justify Nina’s actions now or explain them? The reader will have to decide, as does Phoenix.

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