Wednesday, 14 November 2018

2 1/2 months in

Well, it has been 2 1/2 months in to the school year in the reconfigured CNB with 22 of the 44 teachers new hires to the school and 2/3 of the student body new to the building. To say the year so far has been bumpy would be an understatement. With any major change there are bound to be hiccups, and for me, those hiccups have really caught me off guard.

1. Budget. My budget for the year is almost completely spent. I didn't actually anticipate this one. The grade six students need reading books at their level and I've spent a lot of money ensuring that the library has a solid and diverse collection for those students. I've also had to purchase non fiction books to align with the grade six curriculum and we all know how quickly non fiction eats up a budget. Our student population went up by about 100 students from last year and we added a new grade and no books came up from the elementary schools nor were any additional funds put aside for the library to stock the shelves.

2. Collaboration For the past handful of years, I've collaborated a great deal and I'd like to think that I have run a very vibrant library program. This year I'm struggling to get teachers into the library. I think it boils down to 3 things:
     a) Teacher librarian: For the first time in my teaching career I feel that my colleagues do not view me as an equal - as a teacher. Rather I'm seen as the manager of the library space
     b) What is it that you do? I feel like I'm talking to the walls in the building because teachers still don't know what it is that I do. I've sent numerous emails explaining that I am more than willing to collaborate with anyone on any project. I am not the scanner of books and the keeper of students that just need a place to: write a test, have some quiet time, print something off, be while the p.e. class is off doing something, or... (sadly, the list goes on and on).
     c) Technology. Teachers stay in their classrooms and let students research online. I've been told by teachers that all the material is online for students anyway, why would they use books. My worry is that no one is teaching the students research skills wither on line or off.

I know that things will get better because I'm very persistent. And I know that I need to establish trust with the new staff before really fabulous collaboration can occur. However, it's 2 1/2 months into the school year and I'm feeling like my time and talent is being wasted.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Barkerville - Place in Education

At the end of September, I attended the Place in Education Symposium up in Barkerville. The event itself was fabulous - spanning 3 days and providing much choice for participants. And you just can't beat Barkerville for a Social Studies conference.

What I'm excited about:

1. Soundscapes - We were tasked to walk through Barkerville and listen to the sounds around us. The one rule was that we weren't allowed to talk. It was an incredible experience as I found that not only was I listening to the scoundscape, I was was slowing down my walk to let me eyes take in as much as possible. This technique could be used in real time, with students walking a place, for example a school or with students imagining walking at a place with the aid of images, for example Barkerville.

2. Map work - I also attended a session with the archivist where we looked at maps of Barkerville. The discussion amongst the educators prompted me to think about lessons around mapping and perspectives in mapping.

3. Photographs - We also looked at photos from Barkerville. Photos can be so powerful and I was reminded of that with the Barkerville photos. Questions such as: Why was the photo taken? Was the photo posed? and Who is not in the photo? are great questions for students to use to dig deeper.

4. Project - My good friend and colleague, Jill, and I sat down over breakfast and hammered out a project. Project design is what I'm passionate about and it was refreshing to get down to work and create something that could be used in the classroom. I'm looking forward to polishing this project.

What I learned from the experience:

1.  Teacher librarianship - As a teacher librarian at a Social Studies conference, I had many different conversations and discovered many different thoughts about what it is that teacher librarians do. I walked away from the conversations with the realization that what I'm doing at CNB is good work but that I can always improve my craft.

2. Inclusive - As a Prince George run pro d event, it was obvious that we were outsiders though I did have great conversations with others from outside of Prince George. The event made me realize that I need to be more inclusive, even in my own school as I tend to have 'go to' people within the building.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Late reflections on the year that was

So, I haven't blogged in awhile, I know. Our school went through a sudden reconfiguration, with the announcement coming at the end of February that, for the 2018/9 school year, CNB would move to a grade 6-8 upper elementary model. I haven't blogged because it's taken me awhile to articulate my thoughts.

I'm not going to talk about what I think about the reconfiguration, I'm going to talk about the last 4 months of school.

For those of you that don't know me well, I am a huge sports fan. Really. I'll watch almost any sport from tennis to swimming to CFL but my favourite, hands down, is a good hockey game. Growing up, I was a die-hard Edmonton Oilers fan. In the summer after grade 8, I watched a news conference where the Gretzky trade was announced. I can remember the feelings I had so clearly. I was in shock. How could my beloved Oilers do such a thing? The Edmonton Oilers were a dream team, a dynasty team and they just traded the best hockey player in the world to LA? I was devastated. Those feelings I felt after the Gretzky trade were very similar to the feelings I felt during the last 4 months of the school year. I was so very angry. Angry at the individuals that made the decision without once seeing what amazing things were happening at CNB. So frustrated that it was suggested I check out other schools and provide feedback when clearly none of that really mattered. Mad that it was suggested we check out what amazing things others schools were doing implying that what we were doing simply wasn't good enough.

I know for a fact that wasn't true. CNB is a fabulous school. I ripped my own child out of his catchment school to place him at CNB and not because I wanted him to be with me - my son certainly doesn't need that. I pulled him away from all of his friends because I had the privilege of seeing the CNB teachers teach and I was in awe on a daily basis of the greatness that happened in the building. I was working with innovative and passionate teachers who cared way too much about kids. What more could a parent want?

And so I've thought about this reconfiguration a lot. And I think back to the Gretzky trade and how he wasn't traded because he needed to improve his game. The Greatest of All Time. We all know the real factors involved. But aside from that, the fact remains that a large portion of our teaching staff has moved on to other schools.

It's hard when a group of key teachers move on to different buildings. It's harder when you've worked with some of those individuals for almost a decade or more and they feel like they are family because, let's admit it, when you are in the teaching profession, your colleagues see the best of you and the worst of you and they have your back through it all. That being said, I can't wait to see how those former CNB teachers will positively impact their new schools as I know they will just as Gretzky did with his new teams.

I realize that it is important to look forward and I am excited to see what energy and ideas the new staff brings. But a month into the new school year and I'm so very much missing my old CNB staff. It's going to take awhile to get to the level of creative collaboration I've become so used to.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Questions for #yabookchat

1. What did you like about this book?
2. What dislike did you have?
3. What role did video games have in the novel?
4. What did you think of the family dynamics?
5. Why are comic book superheroes so important?
6. How did Saddam's trial impact the story?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Central Okanagan's Youth Mental Health Summit

Last Friday I had the opportunity to accompany some CNB students to the Youth Mental Health Summit, organized by School District #23. Although I was worried about how it would all come together as I only had 4 days to get everything organized at the school level, once we arrived at the Rotary Centre for the Arts I was smiling.

The day started with the keynote speaker, Orlando Bowen, who was incredibly passionate and motivating. Clearly Orlando knows teenagers and broke up his keynote with interactive components and moments for students to reflect and discuss what he was talking about. He invited students to be part of one big family, one team, and work to make the world a better place. We left knowing we all had the ability to make a difference.

We then broke off to attend workshops of our choice. I went wherever the students wanted me, so the first session I attended was Mental Well-being in the Urban Outdoors. It was fascinating that we could be in the middle of downtown Kelowna and still find the quiet of nature. Students commented about how good it felt to be outside and then we practiced being in the moment and centering ourselves. It reminded me very much of the green spaces in Japan that miraculously block out the dizzying pace of city life. The second workshop was Mindful Movement for Well-being. Here we learnt a series of moves that we could use in everyday situations to keep ourselves grounded.

After lunch, we all came back together and heard about programs that other schools have started. We also heard from a powerful 3 person student panel, who told their stories and shared strategies they use to help with their own mental well-being. Then we got into our school groups to talk about future plans.

I really enjoyed the summit and certainly had a number of takeaways.
1. I loved the Shakespeare quote that Orlando used, "for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
2. I also think we need to incorporate the outdoors more into our daily teaching.
3. And I also liked the breathing activities I learnt as those could easy be introduced into the classroom.

It was interesting that the group activities were aimed at leadership while the workshops were aimed at personal well being. And although everyone can benefit from the two activities, there was a sense that the summit was two conferences melded together. Nothing wrong with that, just different. Any time we can talk about mental health and how we can improve it, it's a positive thing.

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.