Saturday, 17 February 2018

LLCN - Library Learning Commons Network

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to present to the Library Learning Commons Network about my work this year around one of the strands from the Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons document. I have been focusing on the strand: Fostering literacies to empower life long learners, for two reasons:
  1. The noticeable decrease in reading levels over the last 4 years
  2. An increase in ELL students
These two reasons meant that my library collection was simply not meeting the needs of all students. As a result, I set out to do the following this year:
  1. Change in language. I don't refer to students as emerging, reluctant, or struggling readers. I refer to all students as readers, because they are. I have made a conscious effort to make sure I frame my conversations in the positive, always. I have also moved away from the tern hi/lo and instead refer to books as Quick Reads. Quick Reads are books for everyone and I make sure to book talk these books as well, because everyone enjoys a Quick Read.
  2. Change in mindset. Seeing all students as readers meant that I had to change my approach to the collection and the students. I strive to have a more inclusive collection and have tried to integrate the different levels of books within the collection.
  3. Examining my bias. On my bulletin board behind my circulation desk, I have printed the covers of the books that I have read over the course of the school year. I looked at the books that I had read and realized that I wasn't reading the collection - I was avoiding the graphic novels and the middle grade reads. Clearly that was unacceptable as I need to be passionate about all types of books in order to talk to students about them.
  4. Acquisition. For this, my library assistant and I took a morning and went to the bookstore to check out the non fiction books in the toddler/children's section. We spent hours scouring books to see what books at a grade 1-4 reading level would be a good fit for our school. It was time well spent as we purchased a variety of non fiction books that we knew would be of use to teachers and be good fit books for our students.

It's a start, but I still have a lot of work to do to make sure my library is a safe place where all students are comfortable and confident that they will find their own perfect reads.



to empower



Monday, 29 January 2018

5 things I'm currently excited about

If you read my previous post, you know that I'm looking for inspiration. There are 5 things that I'm currently very excited about.

1. The Librarian is In. This is a podcast from the New York Public Library and it is fabulous. Librarians Frank and Gwen talk books and culture and so much more. I love how their rich conversations make me think. If you haven't listened to this podcast, you really should. Check it out here.

2. #mwlibchat. I am a big fan of Twitter, have my own Twitter chat and participate in many other chats as well. My hands down favourite though is #mwlibchat because the chat always makes me stop and reflect on my practice and how I can push myself forward. They are such a fun group.

3. @russeltarr I've recently discovered Russel Tarr on Twitter and his tweets are inspiring. I always struggle to find Social Studies end tasks that are innovative and encourage high level thinking. I've ordered his book, A History Teaching Toolbox, and can't wait to delve into it.

4. Jeff Zentner. I just recently devoured Zentner's books, Goodbye Days and The Serpent King, and both books made me think and have stayed with me. I can't recommend these books enough and I think when people roll their eyes about YA lit, I should give them one of Zentner's books.

5. Audiobooks. My eldest son and I listen to audiobooks on our commute to and from school each day. Over the course of the year, we have journeyed through quite a few and have just finished the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld which was fabulous. I love sharing a book with my son and being able to chat about the story we've found ourselves in.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

What I want as a TL

All the teachers on staff just finished individual meetings with our administrative team. And although the meetings were around 3 specific questions, the idea of the meetings got me thinking about what I want from my administrators.

With 18 years of teaching experience behind me, I feel pretty confident in my teaching. My classroom management is quite solid. I'm constantly working on my professional development whether it be around new curriculum, assessment or teacher librarianship. I have a strong PLN through Twitter that helps push me forward and prompts me to reflect on my practice. So, at the end of the day, what do I want from my administration? I want to be inspired.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams

I would love to be reinvigorated about my work. I want to be inspired. Don't get me wrong, I love my job but I often feel like I do everything in isolation and struggle against the barriers in the system. It would be great to have more opportunities to collaborate, to see other schools, and to explore technology meaningfully. That all boils down to more time. It would also be delightful to be understood and heard as a teacher.

With 14 more years left of teaching, I fear that I won't have an administrator who inspires. Principals and vice principals are no longer leaders but managers. They have to spend too much time dealing with paperwork and email and rarely get out of their offices to see classes in action. The combination of not seeing their current school's classrooms in action along with not having taught in years means that they quickly forget the daily issues facing classroom teachers and focus on the overwhelming task of managing the school. The divide seems to be getting wider no matter how hard we try to work together.
And so, inspiration must come from other sources. And it does.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Qs for The Magic Misfits

Qs for The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris for January 7th's #yabookchat

Q1 What were your initial thoughts about this book?

Q2 Did you like the clues/riddles throughout the book?

Q3 What were the book's strengths?

Q4 Who was your favourite character?

Q5 If a student liked The Magic Misfits, you would recommend reading what?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Non enrolling teachers

I have had some very enlightening conversations over the last few months around non enrolling teachers. Non enrolling teachers are an interesting breed. They tend to be a one-off in the school: the sole counselor, behavior specialist, learning assistance teacher, or teacher librarian. Those that I have talked to this year have had a rough year so far. Themes that I've noticed:

1. Philosophy. Every teacher has his/her own philosophy and the same goes for non enrolling teachers. The problem is that while classroom teachers can implement their philosophy at will, non enrolling teachers don't really have the same autonomy. Often managers, whether they be board office or school based administrators, see the realms of non enrolling as spaces where they can make an impact and push their own philosophy forward.

2. Support. This really is about the lack of support. When classroom teachers feel unsupported, they can retreat to their classroom, put their head down and concentrate on why they got into teaching in the first place: the students. For the most part, classroom teachers really do not have to interact with administration very much. The same is not true for non enrolling teachers as a lot of time is spent in meetings, informal and formal. When a non enrolling teacher is feeling unsupported, it's a little more personal as that teacher has to deal with administration on almost a daily basis.

3. Understanding. Non enrolling teachers have very interesting jobs and for the most part people do not understand exactly what the non enrolling teachers do during the course of the day. I try very hard to articulate to staff what it is that my job entails but still get barbed comments on almost a daily basis about how lovely it must be to work in a quiet library or how lucky I am that I get time to read during the day. To achieve understanding, non enrolling teachers must take time to explain their jobs.

If you're a non enrolling teacher, make sure you have a strong PLN, or at least one person you can talk to. Take the time to explain your job, all the time. Advocacy never stops.

If you're a classroom teacher or an administrator, take the time to actively listen to your non enrolling teachers and support them.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Sharing a school with my son

This summer was a stressful one in our household for a variety of reasons. My eldest son was clearly apprehensive about the big move from elementary school to middle school. This transition is quite a major worry for many kids but we managed to make it even worse for my son by pulling him out of his catchment middle school and placing him in a school where he knew no one.

My boys have always know that once they hit grade 7 they would leave their catchment school to come over to my school. I know that the middle school years are very difficult and that it's during these years that students make crucial friend choices. I also wanted to try and streamline our lives a little bit; my husband teaches at the high school, my youngest son is at an elementary school and having myself and my eldest son together would mean that we would only have to keep track of 3 school calendars instead of 4. Sometimes it's a bit much coordinating everyone's spirit days, assembly schedules, and shortened days.

I don't think I really realized how stressful the transition is for kids until my own son went through it. Towards the end of August, there was a constant barrage of questions. What is the block order? How will I know what class I have next? Where do I go for lunch? What about lockers? How do term electives work? I think it took my son two weeks to get into the groove of middle school. At the end of the first month, I asked him what he thought of middle school. The one comment that caught me off guard was that he mentioned that there is always something going on and sometimes it was difficult to keep track of everything. It's something to ponder, I think. Society comments on parents overscheduling their kids, but I wonder if the schools are also guilty of always having something on the go and trying to entertain.

The change was hard for me too. When I walk into school, I turn my 'home' brain off. It caught me off guard at the end of the day, to be called Mom. It was simply just out of context for me. And then the first few times I saw my son during school, I was surprised and found myself thinking, "Oh, right, you're here now". The most difficult part has been after school as my son is waiting to head home but that 30-45 minutes after school is when I get to chat with teachers about library time and projects.
We've figured out a balance and I must admit that I really do like having my son at my school and I think he enjoys being there. Though that all might go out the window once grade 8 hits.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Administrators and staff morale

When I was in the Leadership Academy some years ago, I learned that it is important for administrators to make sure that they had the ear of the individual on staff who is vocal, sometimes critically. I think it is important to make sure you don't surround yourself with people who think the same way you do. It's similar to the filter bubble that happens on-line; you hear only what you want to hear because you are only listening to like minded individuals or people who simply want to please by agreeing to whatever it is you say.

Although I have been teaching for 18 years, I have unfortunately come across only a couple of incredible administrators. Reflecting on my time at the school when those administrators were in power, I've been trying to pinpoint what they did to make me feel so determined to work harder to make the school a better place. I think it boils down to being valued.

An administrator that values his or her teachers understands:

1. That staff is working as hard as they possibly can
2. That he/she will always support the teacher in conversations with students and parents
3. That when a staff member ventures into the office to talk, that he/she should listen carefully
4. That time is precious to everyone
5. That it is important to communicate information with everyone

When I think of the best principal I've ever worked with, the best thing about him was that he didn't play favourites. There was no inner posse. There were no negative comments made. There was a sense that we were all working hard to make the school the most dynamic place we could. We all tried to improve our craft and make lessons more student centred, more engaging, and more innovative. And we dreaded that raised eyebrow from the principal which conveyed so much disappointment. We worked hard. At the end of the year, we could look back and see how much we had grown as professionals and how much the students had progressed. There was the sense that all that hard work had paid off.

But memory is a strange thing indeed and perhaps my memory of it all is a little shinier that it truly was. What I do know is that I absolutely loved going to work each morning because I knew I was making a difference. I'd love to find that feeling again.