Education, Thoughts

Templates on Instagram – Innocent or something more?

I came across a great teachable moment last night on Instagram, but this moment I woke up and felt that I needed to share it a little more widely…  Templates on Instagram – are the innocent, or something more?

Firstly, here’s the post:

krystalgagen Can we talk about these templates for a minute? I’ve been noticing an increase in templates that you screen shot, fill in, and then post on your Instagram story. While most of them are harmless, there are some that ask for a LOT of personal information. For example, this one is asking for your age, your birth day and month – put those together and you’ve got your full birth date. Add in your height, birthplace, and descriptive features, like eye and hair colour, and all of a sudden that’s everything that you’d put on a driver’s licence/form of ID!

I’m not saying that everyone that creates one of these templates is out to collect your information, but in today’s world of selling information and identify theft, we need to be super careful! There are some of these templates that are harmless fun, and while the creator of this one probably didn’t mean any harm, the minute you put this amount of information into the world, you put yourself at risk.

Don’t let this stop you from engaging in the Instagram or general online community! Just be careful about what and how much you share. Be smart, stay safe 💪

#adventuresoftheliftinglibrarian

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When I first saw this template I thought, “aww, that’s a bit cute.” And then I read it through properly and my heart stopped. I’m not exaggerating. I actually felt that thrill of fear, and experienced a spike of adrenaline as I saw what this template was asking me for. As I said in my Instagram post, the creator of this template might have created this with innocent intentions – you know, maybe they hadn’t fully thought through the types of questions that they were asking? But the cynical side of me, the part of my brain that assesses risks, couldn’t help but think: “this is the type of information you’d put on a drivers licence, a form of ID, a missing person’s report!” Put together the birth date and birth place, and if your profile has your first (or even in my case, first and last) name in it, then BAM! They know enough about you to start stealing your identity. Call me paranoid, but in this day and age, with companies selling and buying your information daily, we need to be super careful.

You might be thinking: “but Facebook asks me where I lived and for my birth date, how is that any different?” Well, yeah, sometimes we do give out that information willingly, I myself have done this. The difference being, Facebook is a company that I know the terms and conditions of. I’ve read their fine print (I know, nerd!) and I’ve made an informed decision. I am prepared to take that risk. The difference between that and these templates floating around on Instagram, and probably other platforms that I don’t use, is that there are no safe guards in place for my information. I don’t know who is on the receiving end of it and what they plan to do with it. That scares me.

All I ask is that you think before you post! That you open discussions with people you might think are at risk of answering these types of questions without fully thinking through the consequences. (By the way, I don’t just mean teenagers… I know plenty of adults, of any age, that don’t think things through before posting!) The more we talk about this type of thing in our families, or communities, the less likely we will be at risk of something horrible happening online. As I signed off last night: Be smart, stay safe.

Education, Gym Life, Thoughts

Role Models: Part Two

In Role Models: Part One I wrote about the importance of Fictional Role Models. In Role Models: Part Two, I will discuss the importance of Real-Life Role Models and how everyone is a role model to someone in some way.

You may not realise it, but someone in your life might be looking to you for inspiration, advice, and direction. You might think that you are simply going through the motions to achieve your goals, but others might be marvelling at your ability to get the job done. I have recently become aware of how much power my actions have when it comes to interacting with people, and I wanted to share my experiences.

Education example:

As a teacher, I have always known that what I do directly impacts how my students see me, how they interact with me, and how they might expect other adults in their lives to treat them, both now and into the future. Therefore, I try to always be a positive role model, and it’s not always easy, but I also know that by sharing some of my frustrations and difficulties (within reason of course) can also be a powerful learning tool for them. By seeing how I cope with stress, hearing me talk about my struggles, and celebrating the wins that I have, my students can constantly adjust their perception of what being an adult and or a well rounded person is like. I don’t get it right all the time, after all, I am human, but we all know that students learn certain skills from watching and observing the adults in their lives.

Gym example:

I was having a conversation with one of the women I know through the gym the other day, and I realised how much power a Personal Trainer or “coach” has over a client. I often wonder if these professionals realise just how much trust their clients put in them, and how much their actions and words impact their clients. I have learned from my own brief experience as a gym owner, that the women I interact with look to me and observe how I interact with our members, how I go about my training, and how I compose myself both in person and online. It’s a lot of responsibility, and it scared me at first, until I realised that my position as a role model in the gym was simply an extension of my position as a role model in the classroom.

And so, if what I’ve claimed is true and everyone is a role model to someone, I wonder if everyone realises this? I hope that by the end of reading my thoughts on Role Models, that you’ve had some time to think about who you might be a role model to, and who your role models are. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

 

Bookish Things, Education, Thoughts

Role Models: Part One

Over the past two weeks I have spent some time at home recovering from an ankle reconstruction and I often found myself thinking about roles models. This came about because of the type of books I’ve been reading, the TV shows I’ve been watching, some of my interactions with our gym members, and what I wanted to say for International Women’s Day this year. In this blog post “Role Models: Part One” I want to talk about Fictional Role Models, and in “Role Models: Part Two” I’ll discuss Real-Life Role Models.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) this year I took my time thinking about the message that I wanted to share within my spheres of influence. I ended up sharing about the importance of role models for women. To that end, my Instagram post ended up being this:

krystalgagen: I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I wanted to post for International Women’s Day this year, and then it hit me: books by women, for women. I started going through my personal library for my favourite books and I realised just how many I had (this is not all of them…)

It’s so important to have great role models. Women NEED to see other women succeeding in a wide variety of positions so that they have the confidence to know they can do it too. Books are a great way to give girls confidence.

So, happy International Women’s Day. Celebrate the women in your life, recognise their achievements, and empower them to give anything they want a go.

Here’s to strong women.
May we know them. ❤️
May we raise them. ❤️
May we be them. ❤️

PS. Although Grant is not a female author, his characters were too good to leave out… Amazing role models regardless.

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As I pointed out, fictional role models can often take the place of real-life role models, and I think they are equally as important. Here’s why…

I never had a lot of female role models during my teens and early twenties. My mum was my main role model, and my grandmas, but other than that I was limited to teachers. Our family is close and I didn’t get to watch my parents interact with many adult women who weren’t related to me and I certainly never got the opportunity to find a female mentor during my years of development. My favourite teachers in high school were often males and although they were awesome (so knowledgeable and passionate about their subjects), they were still men. I’m in my late 20s now and I’d say that I still don’t have a definitive role model – some of my friends are fantastic influences on me, but I often find myself searching for guidance. When I was growing up, books taught me all I needed to become the person I am today, and I still find inspiration in characters for self growth. Without these books, I would not have had the opportunity to develop my sense of self, and discover who I am today.

There were two series in particular that I feel really shaped who I am today: Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce. Both written by women with strong female characters. Here’s what I learned from these two series:

Hermione in Harry Potter
Hermione taught me that it was ok to be smart. I didn’t need to pretend I wasn’t just to have friends in my corner. Her brains and her kindness are just two of the things I love about Hermione. I know that I personally, as 7 year old girl that was told she was “bossy,” needed Hermione to show me that I wasn’t bossy, but rather I was smart, had great leadership skills, and could still have friends.

Alanna in Song of the Lioness
Alana taught me that girls didn’t have to do “girly” things. Alana wanted to be a knight and she worked hard to get there. She taught me that if I truly wanted something, I would need resilience, courage, and to know that even though some people might disagree with me, if I wanted something badly enough I could make it happen.

I don’t remember there being an abundance of novels available to me that had strong female characters as I grew up. These two series are the only two that really stand out in my mind. And so, this got me thinking about how amazing it is that these days there are a number of books with strong female characters, and what that means for the current generation and future generations.

The books pictured in my Instagram post for IWD 2018 have female characters that:

  • Specialise in technology and are often even better at it than the boys
  • Fight wars for their countries because they love their country
  • Make decisions about their futures based on what they want to do, not on what they are told to do – in fact, often these two things are opposites.
  • Show compassion and kindness, and have it seen as a strength, not a weakness

By reading books with strong female characters that exhibit these characteristics and more, girls, teens, young women, and women are exposed to a range of characters that show them what women are capable of. By having these fictional role models, we can see what women can do if given the chance.

I will continue to read books that have strong female characters, and I will continue to recommend these books to my students, both male and female! However, I will also continue to find and read books with strong male characters as well, because it’s a two way street. Overall, the power of fictional role models is something that I truly believe in. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Bookish Things

Looking back at 2017’s reads

This year I have managed to read 61 books, surpassing my goal of 52. It was no where near as many as I read in 2016, I think I managed over 120, but I have certainly not spent anywhere near as much time reading this year. 2017, among other things, has been the year of Netflix for me! However, I am proud of the 61 books I have read and thought I would do a quick recap of my top 5 from 2017.

Before I get into it, I want to give some quick insight into my 2017 reads feelings overall. I didn’t actually love many books this year. Sure, I had a couple that I had been eagerly anticipating the release of, but there was only one book that really took my breath away. Everything else was just sort of “ok.” For example, I loved Gemina by Kauffman and Kristoff, but it had lost its shock value because it was the second in the series. Same with A Court of Wings and Ruin by Maas. In my humble opinion it was going to need to be something truly amazing to live up to its predecessor, A Court of Mist and Fury, which has to be one of my all time favourite books. Unearthed by Kauffman and Spooner was another highly anticipated release for 2017 and whilst I enjoyed it, I think these authors have been spoiled for me forever, simply because These Broken Stars of the Starbound Trilogy is simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. You can see that even though I enjoyed a lot of the books I read this year, it has been tricky to find the kinds of books that make me say wow. So, I went through my 61 reads for 2017 and picked out my top 5. I tried to avoid those that were continuations of series that I have been reading, and pick only standalone books or firsts in series.

#5  Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

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This graphic novel is very much along the same lines as Smile, and is all about learning to find friends that click with you, not you being forced to fit in with them. I really felt for main character, Shannon. I could recognised some of my own friendship experiences in hers, and some I have since witnessed. This is a great story about learning who you really are and how kindness above all else will help you thrive.

Recommended for all from ages 8 and up!

#4 Geekerella by Ashley Poston

34790383As a Cinderella story, the storyline of this is completely predictable, however… I loved it. The twist on each of the original Cinderella characters is very clever. I adored how in this version our main characters are geeks; fans that cosplay or write fan-fic, and are hopelessly in love with the fictional worlds that we in the real world also adore.

We also get more of a backstory for Prince Charming, or Darien Freeman in this case, that has never really been explored before. In my opinion, Cinderella stories are all about the girl. The fact that this novel is written in alternating chapters between Darien and Elle’s (Cinderella’s) point of view means that both sides of this story are told. I love how Darien’s geeky-ness is hidden behind his superstar facade, which makes him all the more loveable. Elle has the right amount of fiery courage as someone that has been treated as a doormat for her adolescent life for her break for freedom to be believable. In short, Geekerella is a great modern twist on a classic story.

There is just one little thing that bothers me about this book: Editing! There are so many little words missing that it is noticeable and a little annoying. Other than that, a very easy read. Recommended for readers 10 and older!

#3 Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

30233110It look a little while for me to really get into this one; the beginning was a little slow and there are so many words that I struggled to pronounce. It got to the point where my brain would acknowledge the cluster of letters and move on. Once I got into the swing of the story, both characters started to grow on me.

Cyra and Akos live on the same planet, but are from two different worlds. Their lives are divided by a wide expanse of no-man’s-land, and their cultures differ greatly. Cyra’s is a world of brutality and war. Akos’ is a world of peace and farming. Their world’s collide when Cyra’s tyrannical father kidnaps Akos’ brother, and Akos in the process. Cyra and Akos must work together to escape from Cyra’s family.

I really loved the character development of this story, particularly Cyra’s. I also loved how the chapters were split in alternating perspectives, and that when Akos’ story was being told it was written in 3rd person, and when Cyra was telling her story it was in 1st person. I have no idea as to the reasoning behind this decision, and although it was  a little jarring at first, I really enjoyed the change.

Recommended for 13 years and older.

#2 Firstlife by Gena Showalter

28412750I really enjoyed this one, the idea that you needed to choose which life you would live after your first death really intrigued me. There are two sides to choose from and they are quite different, but both are appealing. Both sides want main character Tenley, or Ten, Lockwood but she can’t decide. Soon she’s on the run from both sides, simply trying to make her decision without their influence. She knows she needs to make a decision though because if she doesn’t and she dies, she will end up nowhere, doomed for eternity.

Ten is such a strong, female lead character. She makes decisions based on her own thoughts and desires, and doesn’t let anyone decide anything for her. She uncovers some hidden truths about the two worlds and puts herself in danger in order to show both sides what she’s discovered. I really enjoyed the action packed nature of this story, but also the world building.

Recommended for 13 and up!

#1 Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

28103790I have not been able to stop raving about this book since I read it back in April. I love World War II history, and this book taught me about a naval tragedy that I knew nothing about. In fact, it’s about the worst naval tragedy in history, more lives lost than the Titanic, and I had never heard of it! That in itself was pretty special, but what I really loved were the characters.

These characters were not your typical WWII story characters, they were German citizens, fleeing before the call for evacuation had been made. Because of this, they feared for their lives as it was considered treason to be fleeing against direct orders from the Fuhrer. Each character had a different reason for running, each had a secret, each were scared for their lives. I loved the hints, I loved the intrigue, I loved the storytelling, and I loved characters. As you can probably tell, this book has definitely found a place among my favourite books and I think everyone should read it.

Recommended for readers 13 and up!

Bookish Things

Leigh Bardugo – Author Spotlight

Without even realising it, I have recently been on a bit of a Leigh Bardugo binge, so I thought I’d better blog about it!

Towards the end of least year I started reading her Grisha Trilogy: #1 Shadow and Bone, #2 Siege and Storm, #3 Ruin and Rising. I didn’t love these books, it took me over 6 months to read the series, but I did enjoy them. Her world building and complexity of story was expertly done, but in this series I sometimes felt that there was too much going on and I got a little lost or disinterested.

I was then told by a year 11 student that I “ABSOLUTELY HAD TO GET SIX OF CROWS AND CROOKED KINGDOM BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BEST BOOKS EVER!” (Yes, she really did yell enthusiastically at me; I love book worms.) It’s taken me a while to start this duology, but I am so glad I did. Six of Crows is the first and it tells the story of a band of young thieves pulling off the biggest heist of their careers. It helps to have read the Grisha Trilogy beforehand as there is a fair amount of name dropping and reference to the Civil War explained in those books, but it is not strictly necessary. The twists and turns, the character development, and the cleverness of their fearless leader make you want to keep turning the page. Once again, the complexity of the story, including flash backs, multiple points of view, and twists and turns that rival the best mysteries, are masterfully handled and not once did I get lost. Bardugo has done an excellent job balancing all these features while telling a fantastic story. I am really enjoying continuing the story of the young thieves in Crooked Kingdom, and hope that it lives up to its predecessor.

I realised that I had recently finished yet another of Bardugo’s books, Wonder Woman: Warbringer. I was so excited to get my hands on this one that I didn’t even pay attention to the author until I was half way through and thoroughly enjoying it. (I mean, it’s a Wonder Woman origin story in the form of a novel, how could I not be excited?!) The beautiful thing about the way that Bardugo has told Diana’s (Wonder Woman’s) story is that it is really refreshing. In this telling, Diana does not end up in the classic Wonder Woman outfit, and is not necessarily announced to the world, but is on a mission that isn’t sanctioned by her mother and Amazon sisters, and she must work in secret to right the wrong she has brought upon the island. I highly recommend this for fans of superheroes, and I’m super excited to see what Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker, Sarah J Maas’ Catwoman: Soulstealer, and Matt De La Pena’s Superman bring to the table in the DC Icon Series!

What I’ve realised about Bardugo’s writing over the past year is that, in my opinion, the more she writes, the better she gets, and the more I like it! I am looking forward to whatever’s next from Leigh Bardugo.

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