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?