Monday, 29 December 2014

5 Goals for 2015

I really enjoy having goals because it helps me reflect on what I've already accomplished while moving me forward.  My work related goals are:

1. Applications
There are very few grants and awards that are open to Canadian educators.  I do plan though on writing three applications this year.  Now to find three Canadian opportunities...

2. Time
I have found that this school year has been a very exhausting one. My time goal is really two goals in one.  First, I would like to make sure that I make time for teachers I don't usually see during the school year. I want to make time to sit down and plan with these individuals. I realize that it is going to take more time than I usually spend collaborating with my colleagues who frequent the library.  The second part of the time goal is that I need to carve out time for myself during the school day.  In 2015, I'm taking back my lunch and putting myself first for 25 minutes of the day .  

3. Leadership
My leadership goal is about being true to myself and continuing to fight for what I believe in. This goal is also about continuing to learn more about leadership and pushing myself. I was just accepted into the district's Leadership Academy which starts in January.  As you can imagine, I'm terribly nervous about the whole thing, yet at the same time, hopeful that I'll learn a thing or two.

4. Redesigning
My library has really undergone a magnificent transformation over the last 18 months, thanks to my amazing library assistant. I want to continue to re-envision the library by staying on top of trends in libraries and trying to incorporate them into my library.

5. Balance
I don't know about you but this is going to be the hardest goal of 2015 - finding balance. I work a lot. Indeed, I don't think I ever really turn my work brain off. I'm constantly reading and thinking about how my reading connects to school. I am really going to make an effort though to spend some time focusing on life outside of work.
What are your goals for 2015?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Best December reads

Another month has flown by but not without some excellent reading being had.  This past month, I read the following incredible reads:

1. Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Not your typical Fitzpatrick read.  This book was filled with murder, mystery, suspense and romance. Britt has planned to show her ex-boyfriend how strong she really is by hiking the Teton Range.  Things go wrong very quickly as the weather changes and Britt finds shelter only to learn that she's run into two fugitives.  Suddenly Britt is trying to stay calm and stay alive.

2. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Jam has experienced loss and can't come to terms with it.  As a result, she's been sent away to a treatment school. While there, she's one of 5 chosen to be in the Special Topics in English class that everyone else is clamouring to get into.  The class spends the entire semester examining the works of one author.  This semester it's Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar resonates with all 5 students.  Loved this book.

3. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Raina desperately wants to be a big sister but when she becomes one, it isn't what she expected.  A honest look at the often tumultuous relationship between sisters.  I can see why I can't keep Telgemeier's books on the shelf.

4. The Opposite of Love by Sarah Lynn Scheerger
A very raw and realistic novel.  Rose is struggling with her past and has chosen to stay true to the memory of her real mother and not love her adopted parents.  She's worked hard to make sure she never loves.  Then Chase enters her life and she's struggling to regain control.  Chase has his own demons but is attracted to Rose and is determined not to be pushed away.

5. Under the Bridge by Michael Harmon
I really enjoyed this book because it felt very realistic.  Tate's trying to keep the family together as his brother, Indy, spirals out of control.  Tate's parents are trying to parent as best they can but what they are managing to do is push Indy further away and Indy falls deeper into a world of drugs.

6. Rain Reign by Ann Martin
What a beautiful book. Rose is a high functioning autistic girl who loves her dog, prime numbers and homonyms.  She lives with her single dad who is trying to do the best he can.  When a superstorm hits Rose's hometown, everything starts falling apart.  Trust Rose to collect all the pieces and make the best out of a terrible situation.

7. A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Felicity Pickle sees and collects words but struggles to find the right words for herself.  Her mother is a restless soul and when they move to Midnight Gulch, a town that once held magic, Felicity realizes that there is still a snicker of magic out there.  All she has to do is find the right words.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Respecting Time: Meetings

In this very busy world of teaching, it's important to respect each other's time.  As a teacher librarian, I attend meetings and I run meetings.  I have impromptu planning sessions and I plan organized collaboration sessions.  One thing that I am cognizant of is people's time.

1. Arrival. I make sure that I arrive at least 15 minutes before the meeting.  This depends on what kind of meeting it is.  If I need to make sure that tech is running smoothly, then I'm there a lot earlier.

2. Agenda. I strongly believe in having an agenda that is clear and is followed.  There is nothing worse than having a meeting for the sake of having one. Also, if  you could send a simple email instead of holding a meeting, then do so.

3. Starting. I'm a stickler for starting meetings on time.  I think this has a lot to do with having British parents who are somewhat uptight about time.  That said, I think that meetings should start on the dot as it is a courtesy to all those who showed up for the meeting's start. It certainly sets the tone for the rest of the meeting.

4. Conversations. It is very easy to lose focus of an agenda, especially if you have some talkers amongst the group. It's important to allow people to have a voice but also to keep to the agenda. This is the trickiest part of any meeting.

5. Length. If you know me, then you already know my thoughts on this. I like short meetings.  That doesn't mean I don't do lengthy meetings.  The length of a meeting doesn't really matter, as long as things get accomplished and people leave feeling like it was time well spent.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Professional Capital Ch3/4 (Hargreaves and Fullan)

Another week, another couple of chapters of Professional Capital read.  This week's challenge was to find two quotes to discuss.  My two quotes are:

1. "If you want to change teaching, you have to understand it, and very often appreciate it.  You have to understand the teachers who are responsible for the teaching - what motivates them and makes them tick" (page 42).

It's so important to understand each teacher individually and his/her approach to teaching.  When collaborating with my colleagues, I recognize that I have to differentiate the co-planning.  Some teachers need every single little detail hammered out while others are more organic and want students to have a say in the direction of the work.  It's also important to remember that each teacher is at different stages in his/her career.  For example, with student teachers I stress that they not do a PBL project in their practicum because they don't really know the curriculum yet.  Indeed, I don't think PBL should be taken on until a teacher has taught the course for a few years and really understands the big questions that frame the curriculum.  Hargreaves and Fullan talk about this again throughout chapter four, especially when they talk about the phases of a teacher's career.

2. "the disenchanted - people who have invested themselves heavily in two or three major change efforts only to see the rug pulled from under their feet every time because the focus shifted, the resources were withdrawn, or the leaders and champions of change moved on" (page 66).

This is not necessarily the most important quote from chapter four but it is the one that speaks to me the most.  In our school district we have had an incredible number of district initiatives come down the pipe (each with its own acronym) as well as an unbelievable amount of administrative shuffles.  We just heard the announcement that our VP of 14 months is moving into a principal-ship.  We've gone through this enough in the last few years that we know that once an administrator has found out about the new job, his/her attention is at that new school.  Delaying the move doesn't help anyone involved.  Another factor that the authors mentioned, the loss of resources, is also something we have seen a lot of recently.  Last year we had funding for collaborative release time and this year we don't.  But this year have 8 support blocks which we've been told probably won't happen next year.  Funding was also found this year to run Homework Club before and after school once term one ended.  I agree, it is easy to become disenchanted when all the other parts of the school and system are changing around the stable teacher force that doesn't have a say in the change.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

5 easy displays that rock

My library assistant and I find it challenging to create library displays that are a perfect fit for middle school students.  We don't want anything too young nor do we want anything too corny.  A lot of the examples we see on Pinterest are just not us.  And so I thought I'd put together a post of the window displays that we have done. And by we, I mean the library assistant who incredibly creative.

 "These books BLUE us away" display

A quick and easy display of great reads with blue covers. If you decide to throw this display together, you will be shocked by how many blue book covers there are in your collection

"Banned Books" display

One of my favourite displays.  My library assistant took a discarded book and burnt it and added flames.  Then the displayed books all had accompanying banned notes attached to them, explaining why they were banned.  The students loved this display and many conversation started as a result of this display.

"Become a Serial Reader"

The "Become a Serial Reader" display is another quick but effective display.  What I like about this is that is updates students on books that have come in.  Some students are surprised to discover that a book two has been published since they read book one.  Indeed it is often difficult to stay on top of new releases in a series.

"Remembrance Day" and "Movember"

For November we had "Remembrance Day".  This display was comprised of only World War I books to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the 1914 start of the Great War.  A simple display bordered with poppies.  Our "Movember" display was the usual - mustaches on books.  Some of these great mustaches are from Scholastic's printables.  I highly recommend Scholastic's Instructor magazine which is full of wonderful ideas that you can incorporate in the library.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Professional Capital (Hargreaves and Fullan)

I've been asked by my principal to read and discuss Professional Capital by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan.  Our first book discussion meeting was this morning and we talked about the first two chapters.

So far, I agree with a couple of sentiments that Hargreaves and Fullan has shared, such as:
  • "To teach like a a personal commitment to rigorous training, continuous learning, collegial feedback, respect for evidence, responsiveness to parents, striving for excellence and going far beyond the requirements of any written contract." (page xiv)
  • "Thus, fear, force, and financial short-sightedness won't get you a high-quality teaching profession brimming with human, social, and decisional capital! So what will?" (page 7)
  • "Joe Blase and Jo Blase...are the most virulent critics of principals who exercise power their teachers and who silence them by playing off teachers against each other, handing out undesirable rooms and assignments to their critics, reneging on promotions they promised in exchange for their teachers' compliance" (page 8)
But for the most part, I disagree with Hargreaves and Fullan. Especially statements like:
  • "But teaching like a pro, day in, day out, cannot be sustained unless all your colleagues teach like pros too." (xiv)
  • "So let's concentrate our efforts not on bigger budgets, smaller classes, changing the curriculum, or altering the size of schools - but on procuring and producing the best teachers we can get It's as simple as that -isn't it?" (page 13)
So far, Professional Capital reads like a manual for administrators.  Don't worry about cutbacks.  It's okay for class sizes to be large because at the end of the day, teachers need to take on the challenge and be the pros.  As you can imagine, I disagree with this.  There is no easy cookie cutter approach.  In my mind, teachers need to be treated as individuals just like we treat our students as individuals.

Next week, chapters 3 and 4. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

5 Favourite November reads

November was a great reading month!  I got caught up on some books I've been meaning to read for awhile and I read many incredible books.

1. I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson.
Noah and Jude are twins who once finished each others sentences but now can't really stand each others company.  If they were just honest with each other they would discover they were both battling similar demons and have each other to lean on. I loved this book.  The characters were strong individuals whom I cheered for and smiled with.  A fabulous grade 9 and up book.

2. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
The latest book by Stephanie Perkins follows Isla and Josh as they fall in love.  But no Perkins novel would be that straight forward.  Isla needs to figure out what is important to her and love herself before she can recognize the love that Josh has for her.

3. How it went down by Kekla Magoon
This story follows the shooting of Tariq and how his death ripples through the community and then the country.  What's riveting about this book is all the truths and lies that never get sorted out before the story hits mainstream media.  We are looking at adding this novel as a literature circle book.

4. The Selection by Kiera Cass (followed by books 2 and 3: The Elite and The One)
I know I should have read this book earlier but it is rarely in the library and I can see why!  America is one of thirty five girls selected for the prince, Maxon, to date.  From this pool of thirty five, Prince Maxon must select one to marry.  America is not like the other girls and is determined to just be herself which is difficult amongst the politics of the palace.

5. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
I don't know how I missed this book when it came out, but somehow I did.  Another solid Perkins read with Lola as a strong female protagonist who is trying to comfortable with being herself especially after the boy next door broke her heart before leaving town.  Trouble is, that boy next door has returned.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

What is good leadership?

I have been reflecting on the question, what is good leadership?  As a teacher librarian, I believe we need to take on leadership roles within the school, especially around instructional leadership.  However, this isn't something that is taught or really even talked about in the teacher librarian world.  Indeed, I don't think leadership happens until a teacher librarian fully knows and understands both the collection and the curriculum first.

To be a successful leader, I think an individual ideally has the following:

1. Vision
I have come to realize that a good leader not only does the day to day events well but also sees how those daily events fit into the larger picture.  A leader has a clear vision or goal of what needs to be accomplished and how going about that is best done.

2. Communication
Communication is key to success but is often a major stumbling block. It's important to realize that communication is all about when, where and how.  When: communicate often.  Where: communicate through various means ranging from email to meetings.  Don't rely on one means of communication. How: communicate clearly and consistently.

3. Confidence
A confident leader is not an arrogant leader.  Confidence means that the leader is more than comfortable in giving leadership roles to others.  Indeed, handing over power to others usually means that more leaders are created and when others are given leadership opportunities they tend to go above and beyond.

4. Trust
And all this is built on trust.  Trust is a nuance that has been built through all the little actions and thus it is a hard one to repair if it's broken.  Those in leadership roles need to trust those around them.  In addition to trusting others, it is imperative that leaders have much more than their own best interests in mind.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Photos of a changing library (Part Two)

The second post about the changes we have made in the library over the past year. These photos try to highlight the space as a whole.

 Our school's PAC just granted our funding request and we are purchasing green and black beanbag chairs to go with the plastic form chairs that we already have.  We also received funds to buy espresso tables to finish our computer stations off.  The new tables will be a little higher to allow more leg room for the students.

 I love our space from the decorated walls to the decorated bulletin boards.  My 'What Ms. Hart has read this year' bulletin board is, surprisingly, closely monitored by the students.  I have a few grade 7s who ask each week what I am currently reading and many students make recommendations as to what I should read next. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Photos of a changing library (Part One)

When I posted my blog entry, Weeding the entire library: 6 major changes, I had a couple of people ask me for photos.  The photos above are (left) my new stools for the computer charging stations and (right) the letter i of the word imagine. Each letter of imagine has clouds and a sky themed image such as a kite or a bird.

The two images on the first line (left) my hanging book display and (right) my reference section wall with pebble wallpaper. The second line images are (left) inspiration quote on canvas and (right) vinyl sticker quote. The last image is another canvas quote with wooden bird decals.

We also had the entrance doors of the library painted (left) and put up student work and book quotes (right).

Monday, 10 November 2014

Weeding the entire library: 6 major changes

We are entering year two of transforming the library into a more modern space that students enjoy and can call their own.  As a result, we are weeding the library from books to furnishings!

1. The books
We've gone through the books carefully to make sure there's nothing grungy or out of date. I've had to part with some books that I've loved but that weren't read by the students. I don't want students hunting for good books, all the books should be fabulous.

2. The security system
We tore up the security system figuring that really students don't steal books and it's not very inviting to walk through a security system. I decided that if students are stealing books that we sign out for free...

3. The artwork
We asked the art 9 students to take our bulletin boards and paint them with birch trees and they look stunning. Two art 9 students painted the northern lights on our doors. We have the words: create, imagine and inspire also painted by students. It's important for students to see their own work in the library and I'm amazed at how talented the students are.

4. The seating
We have started to carve out a reading nook in the library and started with three circular chairs. Our goal for this year is to expand that space and incorporate some beanbag chairs there.  We also tore apart my office and transformed that into a collaborative space for students and teachers.

5. The workspace
We are in the process of redesigning our computer space. We have a work order in to remove the old computer pods and are trying to create computer islands.  The hope is to add charging stations to the islands.

6. The walls
We have decorated almost every available wall space with wallpaper, vinyl quotes, and canvas posters. It always amazes us how quickly the students notice when we add something new!

We still have a long way to go but I love walking into the library each and every morning and looking at the space.  It is a more comfortable space and I believe the space greatly impacts the mood of both students and teachers.  I know the library makes me smile but that might just be the teacher librarian in me.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Best reads of October

1. we were liars by e. lockhart
What a fabulous read. Cadence is from a respectable family, a very wealthy and respectable family.  However, the summer she was 15 something happened and she can't remember what it was.  Two years later, she returns to her family's island and struggles to put the pieces of that fateful night back together.

2. El Deafo by Cece Bell
I admit it, I find graphic novels hard to read.  I think I find them challenging because there is so much to read outside of the words. Yet, I had heard only wonderful things about El Deafo and it didn't fail to deliver a magnificent read. Both of my boys asked to read this book and I had a hard time getting it back from them.

3. Sway by Kat Spears
Jesse Alderman runs the black market of information at high school. You want something or someone, you talk to Jesse. When football jock Ken asks for help getting Bridget to go outwith him, Jesse is up for the challenge that is until he gets to know Bridget himself.  A humorous read.

4. Cold Calls by Charles Benoit
I'm not usually drawn to reading suspense novels but I liked the cover of this book. Suspense novels are also very popular with students right now, but that might just be because of the time of the year.  In Cold Calls, the 3 main characters have secrets and someone knows their secrets and is blackmailing them. At what lengths will they go to ensure that their secrets remain so.  A fast paced and realistic novel that middle school students will enjoy.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The TL and instructional leadership

I believe that part of my role as a teacher librarian is to be a leader.  Not necessarily a leader on staff, but more of a leader when it comes to instruction.  As a teacher's workload increases and the pace of change ramps up, my role is to try to navigate the stormy waters and ease a teacher's stress.  This is done in a few ways:

1. Reading.  Now really, that sounds like the ultimate teacher librarian line, but it is true.  I am familiar with all the learning outcomes for the subjects at my school and I read up on them as much as possible.  If I come across magazine articles or online sources that might have a curriculum tie in, I read them and pass them on to the appropriate teachers. 

2. Technology.  I try to keep up to date on web tools that are available to teachers.  I test them out, suggest them to teachers and co-teach the introductory web tool lesson.

3. Teaching.  I believe it is essential for me to keep teaching. I teach daily within my own classroom, the library, but it's also necessary to continually step back into the traditional classroom and teach.  I want to remain connected to the teacher part of my teacher librarian title. 

4. Professional development. I am constantly trying to grow as a teacher librarian. I subscribe to and read SLJ and LMC. I read professional literature. Via my Twitter PLN and numerous chats, I read about what cutting edge teacher librarians are undertaking in their libraries around the world.

A wonderful colleague of mine told me recently that one approach to management is the Management By Walking Around approach.  Initially, I scoffed but once I gave it more thought, I realized that that is my leadership approach.  I walk around the building a fair bit during the course of the day.  Walking allows me to see what it going on in the building and connect with colleagues that don't often make it up to the library.  I get to see what units teachers are currently tackling.  It is during this time that I have the most honest conversations.  All of this informs my teacher librarianship as to how I can best help teachers.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Evolution of professional development

Friday's province wide professional development day for teachers made me reflect on what exactly pro d is and how my approach to professional development has changed during my teaching career.

1. Early career professional development
I have always loved professional development and I think it is an integral part of being an educator.  Teachers, for the most part, were very successful students and that love of learning doesn't disappear after graduation.  For me, those early years of teaching meant that I tried to get to as many big conferences as possible and learn as much as possible about improving my craft.  I attended both provincial English teachers' and Social Studies teachers' conferences.  I went to workshops about behaviour strategies and assessment strategies. I learned about drama activities and art activities.  I learned about health and wellness and so on.  My Renaissance approach to professional development meant that I wanted to try anything and everything to make my teaching better.

2. Current professional development practice
I still love professional development but now it has morphed into something different.  I no longer look at all the big conferences to go to for a variety of little reasons ranging from cost to time away from family.  But the biggest reason is that I don't think I have to go to them. My professional development is always happening; it is fluid and constant.  I am on Twitter every single evening. I read something educational every single night. Now that I have more teaching and life experience, I am more aware of my strengths and weaknesses as an educator and I focus my pro d to work on stregthening those weaknesses.  I have a clearer vision of how I want to impprove as a teacher librarian and where I what direction I want my library program to go in. 

In my early years as a teacher, I was focused on learning my craft and how to deliver the curriculum in innovative ways. Now I really know the curriculum and see the big ideas interwoven throughout the course.  I also understand assessment much better and manage behavior issues with much more ease.  Professional development is now more about fine tuning my teaching and tailoring professional development to meet my individual needs.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The 5 best September reads

This summer I tackled over 40 YA books and I'm hoping not to slow down too much during the school year. Here are the highlights from this past month's reading:

Everyday Kitchen for Kids by Jennifer Low
I really do like this cookbook and think it is a wonderful addition to a collection. There is no need to use sharp knives, do any stove top cooking or use any motorized appliances with any of the recipes. I love the big photos that accompany each recipe. My 6 year old gravitated to the cookbook and quickly flipped through every recipe and told me what he wanted to try and make.  Our first recipe was the Seven Seas Salmon and it was a hit. My son liked making everything himself and liked the recipe as well.  I currently have Jennifer Low's other cookbook for kids on hold at the public library. My only negative thought about this book is that it is too full of recipes for sweets: cookies, cakes and pies. I have found that my picky eater tends to eat more of the food if he has prepared it himself.

Gasp by Lisa McMann
I have been waiting for this book for ages! Gasp is the third and last book in McMann's Visions series and she finishes the series nicely.  Once again a vision is central to the story and figuring out the when and what of the vision is imperative.  The main character, Jules, has quite of crew of people helping her unravel the vision's meaning but things aren't going quite as planned.  I am a big fan of all of McMann's works: the Unwanted series, the Gone series and Dead to You.  All of her books are delicious reads and great reads for middle school students.

Take Me On by Katie McGarry
If you want some romance reading that you are going to devour, you need not look any further than any of McGarry's work. In Take Me On, McGarry picks up the story of the youngest of the Young siblings, West. Bad boy West defends Haley and promptly lands himself in an organized fight. both West and Haley need to work through their issues in order to find the love that is right in front of them.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I actually read two Rainbow Rowell books this month, The Attachments and Landline, both of which are written for an adult audience.  I enjoyed both but I think upon reflection, I preferred Landline.  I like the main character's questioning of how her marriage got to this point and how much she takes her marriage for granted.  Such a realistic character as all of Rowell's characters are.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
I adore this series and was ecstatic to get my hands on the third book of the Throne of Glass series.  Maas did not disappoint.  Celaena is battling with her inner demons and travels to Wendlyn where she hopes to find answers.  I'm looking forward to the next book where I hope Celaena will find her inner strength and become the great queen she is destined to be.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Goals for the new year

I don't think I'm alone on this one.  I always feel like September is the new year and the time to make resolutions and set goals.  I find the countdown to the beginning of the school year exciting because the year has the potential of being the best one yet.  This year, the start of the school year has been delayed by 3 weeks because of our province's labour dispute with the teachers. The strike now over, this weekend has become the last weekend before school starts.  As I have done in previous school years, I've set some goals.

1. Blogging. I plan to blog all year. I know this sounds like an easy one, but I really see this as being a personal goal and we all know that personal goals seem to drop off before any others.

2. Twitter. I love Twitter. I love learning via Twitter and the power of my PLN.  I would really like to participate in more chats and be more active in those chats.

3. PBL project. I am a huge fan of PBL. This year I would like to collaborate with a colleague to create a stunning project that challenges me immensely and makes me grin at the end product.

4. Library space. Last year the library had many major updates and I am so pleased with the results. This year I would love to continue changing the library space and incorporate more games (I have lego and chess and checkers) and more comfortable, teen-friendly furniture.

Along with these 4 major goals I have many little goals, ranging from updating the sports section in the non fiction collection to book talking in more classes. I know that I am full of hope for the year.  Here's hoping I am not overwhelmed by Wednesday of next week.

What's your number one goal for the school year?

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The shortened shelf life

Weeding.  I find weeding to be quite difficult although I think I can say I am quite good at it.  My mentor, Carol, told me that students shouldn't have to search for the good books amongst all the books that should have been weeded long ago.  I live by that advice but I still find it hard to pick a book off a shelf and deem it no longer worthy for my library.

I especially find it difficult to weed books that I have a personal connection to. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a prime example.  I enjoyed that book but it is old (wait, is it so old that it is now a classic?) and it really takes a certain special reader who will enjoy it.  I've weeded it twice only to discover a quirky student who would have really appreciated Douglas Adams' humor.  Currently, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (copy #3) is still on the shelf. (Side note here: our Harry Potter book club just picked The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for our next read.  Our book club kids rock.)  The same debate goes on in my head over the Robert Jordan books, Sue Townsend's book, and Guy Gavriel Kay's books as I weigh my personal connection against the student use.

I am noticing though, and maybe it is just my library, that books have a shorter shelf life than they did when I was starting out.  Divergent series and Hunger Games series aside, what was popular last year is not popular this year.  Indeed, I would go a step further and say that they are not circulating at all.  Why is this?  Are students simply moving away from the dystopian genre? Is YA literature just so good that what's the point of reading something that's is so last year when there is a new book with an uncracked spine waiting to be read?

No matter what the reason, I know that the fiction is due for another weed this week.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The TL who doesn't share

I'll readily admit it, I don't share.  I'd better clarify, I don't share PBL projects.

I'm a big fan of Project Based Learning.  I love the transformation I have seen in the teachers' approach to and the students' engagement with the curriculum.  One of my favourite parts of my job is co creating a PBL project.  I thoroughly enjoy the intial creation stage where the classroom teacher and I are trying to come up with the driving question and the end task.  It's this stage that I find to be the most challenging because the wording of the driving question is key and it must line up with the big idea of the learning outcomes.  But it is this stage that is merely the tip of the iceberg because ahead lies hours of work.

In the 3 years that our school has been using PBL, I have worked on over 50 projects of varying sizes.  No matter how big or small, each and every PBL projcet is a detailed endeavor.  The key to a project's success is that the teacher has created a question that intrigues the students and has them willingly take ownership of their learning.  I think it is imperative that if the teacher expects the students to take ownership, the teacher must as well.  I believe that this ownership is hard to muster if the teacher didn't create the project.

I know that my stance is quite unpopular.  I've had disagreements about this with colleagues from different schools and I have had heated arguments about this with administrators.  I have also seen firsthand, teachers adopting PBL projects that weren't theirs and the result have been dismal.  Why?  One reason is that a good PBL project isn't just a half page document but rather a lengthy, multiple page document.  It is difficult for any teacher to understand all the intricacies of the project by simply reading the document.  The main reason though is if a teacher pours a bit of themselves into the project, the students recognize that enthusiasm.  No personal attachment to the project from the teacher?  No buy-in from the students.

And that's why I don't share.

I explained this to a colleague from a different school last month and he laughed at me and said he would send me an email reminding me to send him a Social Studies 9 PBL project.  I was adament in my no.  Instead I briefed him on the driving question and end task we used and then suggested he work with the teacher librarian at his own school and come up with a project.

I hope he talks to his teacher librarian.  It could be the start of an incredible journey.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Who's afraid of grade 9s?

Last blog post I was reflecting on Susan Cain's book, as well as the jarring nature of being an introvert who must constantly advocate for my program and in turn, my job.  Now as we are nearing the end of January (how did that even happen), I'm reflecting on the month that was and where to go for the rest of the school year.

At the beginning of January, I was invited to present with Glenrosa Middle School's principal, Jamie Robinson, at the "Innovation in the Thompson-Okanagan" conference.  Jamie was to speak for the bulk of the presentation about the movement towards Instructional Rounds and the impact that has had on his school, GMS.  I was to speak, briefly, about Project Based Learning (PBL) and the role of the teacher librarian in co planning, co teaching, and co assessing PBLs.  Certainly talking about PBL should be easy, because it is something about which I am passionate and know a fair deal.  I was also somewhat more at ease knowing Jamie was my co presenter because Jamie is not an introvert, far from it.  Indeed, if I faltered terribly, I knew Jamie could quiet easily step into my place.

In the end I got through it and really, that is all that matters.  I felt awful leading up to the presentation.  I was nervous, I hadn't been able to eat all day and I think I turned from ghostly pale to an unattractive ruddy red in 3 seconds flat.  Do I remember much about the presentation itself?  Not at all.  And after it was all said and done, I was proud of myself for doing it but I really didn't want to talk about it.

A week later, I was to teach a Social Studies 9 class about Napoleon.  The teacher asked that I just cover Napoleon's life and take no more than 60 minutes to do so.  I was expected in his class at 9:10.  At 9 I was in my library getting ready and I managed to mistakenly close my powerpoint rather than minimizing it.  And then I couldn't find the darn file anywhere.  I walked into the class at 9:10 with my draft powerpoint and some notes and started storytelling for the next 60.  When I walked out of that classroom I felt that teacher high that I'd nailed it and would just love to teach that lesson over again.

I know and love PBL but was scared stiff to present briefly to a handful of adults.  I'm no Napoleon expert but teaching 30 grade 9s about Napoleon was much, much more enjoyable.  My takeaway?  Over the past 18 months, I've really felt the pressure to move and I keep resisting.  Why would I move?  I would miss my students, my colleagues and my library.  Some people talk about being stuck in the middle but I know that middle school, especially this middle school, is the right place for me.

Where do I go from here?  Well, once again I've been reminded that I need to go back into the classroom more often and do more storytelling.  I also have a Call for Proposals sitting on my desk and I am debating putting myself through the torment of presenting at another conference.  Unfortunately, it's not a conference for grade 9 students otherwise I would have the paperwork already filled out.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The 'Quiet' Teacher Librarian

Two years ago I read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and smiled.  Finally I had discovered someone who articulated all that I struggled with.  Even as an adult, the notion that I had to present at a staff meeting was worrisome.  Worrisome, now that's an understatement.  I certainly couldn't eat before a presentation, there wouldn't be much restful sleep the night before and every waking moment the thought of the presentation would be lurking there in the shadows.

When I became a teacher librarian, I loved my new job instantly.  I love books and I was enamoured with the collaboration, the co-teaching and the conversations.  But after my first year in the library, I realized that there was a part of my job that I wasn't doing well - advocacy.  Suddenly, I realized that each year I would have to justify my budget and my job.  I knew that great things were happening in my library but that simply wasn't enough.  Others needed to know.  More importantly, decision makers needed to know.

I've worked hard on role as advocate for libraries and over the past years, my role has changed.  This school year I have tried to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and do more public speaking.  I've presented, twice, to our feeder schools about PBL.  I donned a Britney Spears headset and spoke about our PBL project at the AASL vendor's venue. And last week I assisted in a presentation at the Innovation in the Thompson Okanagan conference.

At the conference, I had 8 CNB student leaders who were spending the morning opener talking to teachers and administrators about their learning.  All 8 were nervously excited but I knew that they would do an amazing job and represent the school well and they did.  My students knew that I was presenting and were stunned when they found out I was nervous.  They flooded me with advice but one stuck out: "Just imagine you're talking to us.  You're never nervous teaching us, are you?"  I tried to explain that teaching adolescents is what I love and was quite different than talking to adults.  And then I remembered my grade 4 teacher, an amazingly talented teacher whom I adored.  After the first parent teacher interviews, my Mum asked me if my teacher's stuttering was distracting.  My response?  "My teacher doesn't stutter."

And now I know why.

It's okay that I'm comfortable teaching middle school students.  It's also okay that even the idea of talking to a room full of adults fills me with dread.  I'm slowly starting to make it something I am more comfortable with.

The next challenge?  Running a workshop for the February Professional Development Day.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Back to Basics

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions.  Really for me (and probably for most teacher librarians) September is the beginning of the year.  Over the Christmas break, I decided I needed to make some changes to the library program and I really couldn't wait until September to start.  I needed to get back to the basics.  With the amount of administrative work I am tied up doing, the 'basics' - the stuff I love - gets pushed to the side.  The three basics I've decided to focus on are:

1) Books
2) Teaching
3) Resources

Well, I can't really get much more basic than that!

1) Books

I want to read more books (what TL doesn't?). More importantly, I want to get the right book into the right hands.  This past Monday, I did something I really have never done as a middle school teacher librarian; I ran a book talk.  Truth be told, I ran 4 book talks and I really enjoyed it.  I've organized speed dating with books and I've had many informal conversations with students about books to read but I've never tried a book talk.  The entire idea of a book talk seemed very elementary to me.  But after the first block, I was hooked.  I presented the class with 10 very different books and all 10 were signed out.  Students were excited about the books and disappointed if they didn't get one of the 10.  And they were grade 8s.  Clearly I need to do this more often.

2) Teaching

I am a teacher librarian but I will always consider myself a teacher first.  I do a lot of co-teaching with my colleagues when they bring their classes in to the library but I miss the classroom.  Actually, I really miss the classroom.  Next week I am heading back into the Social Studies 9 classroom and teaching a lesson on Napoleon and I'm looking forward to it.  No co-teaching, no multiple interruptions, and no time limits.  This classroom teaching is something I need to do more often. 

3) Resources

Part of my job as a teacher librarian is dealing with resources.  I am pretty good about buying paper resources and making sure the right teachers see the right resources.  What I am not good about doing is getting the right web resources to the right teachers.  This week I am starting my Thursday Tech Tip which I will email out to all teachers and hopefully the tech tip will find the right teacher. 

Here's hoping I stick to my new plan.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

11 answers and questions

One of my TL mentors, Al Smith passed on this challenge to me.  I had to come up with 11 things about me, answer his 11 questions and pose 11 questions myself.  So here goes.

11 things about me.
1. I taught myself how to swim 13 years ago.
2. Now I swim 5 times a week
3. I love CBC radio
4. Seriously, I love CBC radio and have been listening since my early teens.
5. I don't own a TV
6. Which is a good thing because I would otherwise be watching sports all the time.
7. Growing up I wanted to be a sports broadcaster
8. After my hopes of being a NHL player were dashed.
9. I don't know how to skate.
10. And I really don't like the cold.
11. I was born in Winnipeg.

My responses to the posed questions:
 1. How do you balance time spent on professional and personal life?
Balance?  There are TLs that know how to balance the two? 
 2. Where do you want to go in the world that you haven’t been yet?
It's a long list but Rome is number one.
 3. If you were Mr. Harper, what would your priority legislation be next week?
Money into science research and development
 4. What was the last book you read? Did it have a movie adaptation?
I'm currently reading Cleopatra Confesses. No movie adaptation
 5. In what school/position was/is memorable to you? Why?
TL at CNB. Because I love it.
 6. What is a health issue or advocacy you hold sincere?
Public health care 
 7. What is the source you rely on most for news about what’s going on in the world?
CBC all the way
 8. Can you name the 5 CanadaReads titles and/or authors? Have you read any? Check > ( )
Not off the top of my head and I doubt it because I only read YA these days.
 9. Why is liberalism a dying political philosophy or is it?
I'm not answering an essay question here but today's world is all about the extremes. No one is interested in the middle.
 10. If you could advise and/or act on a solution for a more environmental and economically sustainable Canada what would you contribute?
It would have to be something to do with public transit.
 11. If answering these 11 with me, What wine would you select?
Whatever wine you would drink.

11 questions for no one in particular and are really questions I need to answer, thanks to Library Girl:

1. What PD goals do you have for the coming year?
2. What is your favourite web tool?
3. How is success to be measured in your library?
4. How can you communicate with all stakeholders why the library is important?
5. What leadership role will you take on this year?
6. How will you increase communication and thus collaboration with your colleagues?
7. What one new initiative are you going to take on and see through until the end?
8. How will you increase your PLN?
9. Review the library space. What one thing needs to be updated/revamped?
10. What professional resource are you going to read this year?
11. Who are your mentors?