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.