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.