Thursday, 31 December 2015

Book blurbs for January's vote

Book blurbs and covers for the January #yabookchat vote. Please pick on that you would like to read for February's chat. Blurbs and covers are from Goodreads. Vote here

 We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless. Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. 

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Parker Grant doesn't need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there's only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that's right, her eyes don't work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened--both with Scott, and her dad--the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Questions for Orbiting Jupiter #yabookchat

1. Jack's parents haven't taken in a boy in 12 years. Why do you think they decided to take Joseph?

2. People are quick to judge. How and why has Joseph been misjudged?

3. Why does Jack follow Joseph off the bus the first day?

4. Why do you think Joseph walks out onto the Alliance when it isn't safe?

5. Could Joseph or Jack have done anything differently about the fight?

6. What did you like about this novel?

7. Who would you recommend this book to?

8. If a student loved Orbiting Jupiter, what book would you recommend next?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Evolving Advocacy

If you read my blog post, Admin and the TL, then you know my struggle with advocacy. My current administrators have commented on several occasions that they don't really understand what I do in the library. While I really do appreciate their honesty, I am quite frustrated that after three years at my school, they are still at a loss as to how to describe the role of the teacher librarian. What frustrates me most though, is that I know my administrators are not alone.

I had thought that advocacy was one area of my teacher librarianship that was strong. I do monthly reports that have evolved over the years to fit the administrators' focus. I meet with my principal to go over the monthly report and meet once a month to talk about everything from the future of the library to concerns. I invite administration into the library to see projects in action. I include them on emails to staff. I organize collaborative time for teachers and invite admin to join. I thought I was keeping them well informed of what I do but I was mistaken.

After our meeting about the November data, I came home and reflected on what had transpired. The meeting itself went very well as my principal took time out of his very busy schedule to go through, item by item, the entire report. Yet, he once again stated that he still didn't fully understand what I do as a teacher librarian. Clearly a monthly report of data and ancedotal evidence was not painting a vivid image of the daily life of this teacher librarian. We have joked in the past that the best way for him to understand what I do would be to job shadow me for a day but we both know he simply doesn't have time to do that. I mulled the problem over all evening and texted my library assistant late in the day with a proposed plan.

For the next two days, my library assistant followed me around and photographed everything I did. There were photos of me co-teaching, collaborating, talking about assessment, helping students find good fit books, helping students with school work, dealing with plagiarism, pulling resources, organizing resources, marking, and delivering resources to teachers.  I threw all the photos into a powerpoint with brief descriptions of what was happening in each photo and sent it off to my administrators and waited.

My administrators talk a lot about Making Learning Visible and Sketchnotes so I was hoping my more visual presentation would resound positively with them and it did. My principal emailed me about it, talked to me about it and came up to the library to talk to my library assistant about it. It's a start. Do I think my advocacy work is done? Hell no. Advocacy is never done. What I know is that I need to keep coming up with different ways to articulate what it is that I do so that my administrative team understands the importance of a fully funded teacher librarian and library program. Can't wait to see what I dream up for next month's meeting.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

My 11 favourite reads of the year

As many of you know, I read a lot of YA books. There were many fabulous books that I read this year and the following were the best of the best, in no particular order.

1.Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

It's a cruise highlighting the new artificial sweetener, Solu. Solu is working, but there are some side effects that weren't mentioned to the passengers before they partook in the Solu experiment.

2. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world and as a result, never leaves her house. A book about first love, independence, and taking chances.

3. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
The heart breaking story of Joseph, who at 14 is a father and a foster child. A quick, emotional read as we get glimpses as to what kind of person Joseph truly is. By the time it all comes together, the novel is pages away from being over.

4. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
Great cover art and a great little story. Steve's baby brother is not well and Steve is worrying. He's worried about his baby brother, his parents who are clearly stressed, and about the wasps that he is allergic to. Steve discovers that if he says yes, all will be fixed. Or will it? 

5. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Audrey suffers from anxiety but when she meets Linus, she challenges herself to tackle her anxiety. A very realistic read with a lot of humor.

6. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore thinks about killing himself. Violet can't deal with her sister's death. The two very unlikely pair lean on each other as they try to keep themselves alive.

7. George by Alex Gino
George is just trying to be true to herself. She knows she is a girl but everyone else sees her as a boy. A school play is a turning point for George.

8. Undertow by Michael Buckley
30,000 Alpha, a group of aquatic warriors, land on Coney Island. Clearly it's war but who exactly is the enemy? A science fiction dystopian novel full of drama and romance.

9. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Caden's mental illness is spiraling out of control. Challenger Deep takes you into Caden's world and his struggle to navigate his illness.

10. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Roza has left Bone Gap and no one is surprised by her disappearance. Finn knows better and realizes how important it is to find her and bring her back.

11. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Throughout history, Love and Death have chosen their players and Death always wins. Will Love's most recent player prove Death wrong?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Admin and the TL

Every month I meet with my principal and present him with my monthly report. This past week we sat down for a lengthy conversation about my November report. I realized after our meeting that my principal still does not know what I do during the course of the day and I don't know how I can change that. We meet every month to discuss what I have been up to. We talk about collaboration. We discuss PBL projects. We chat about technology and what direction to take. We skirt around Maker and how I don't have either the time or the space in the library for it. We talk a lot. But still, this month's conversation started with a version of, "I'm still trying to wrap my mind around what the role of the teacher librarian is." At least he is honest.

Aren't I doing the right things? I have an incredibly strong library program that is well supported by my colleagues and PAC. I meet with administration to talk about what is happening and what my vision for the library program's future is, and I present admin with detailed monthly reports. But clearly this isn't working. I am at a loss as to what to do next. My library assistant suggested that I ask my principal to job shadow me for the day. As lovely as that would be, we all know what would happen - he'd get pulled away for more pressing issues. But she's right. The problem is that the library is not a place that administrators venture into. Sure they will wander in, but usually with a different purpose: to find a student or find a teacher and thus they are not seeing what learning is going on in the library space or what I am doing to facilitate that learning.

And as much as I want to quickly remedy the situation, I have to stop and reflect. It can't just be my administrative team that doesn't really understand what teacher librarians do. Indeed, I would imagine that most principals and vice principals are a tad unclear as to what happens in a library. I think many would imagine it's about checking books in and out and re-shelving them which, interestingly, I don't do at all. And so we have a bigger problem. Teacher librarians need to do a better job of educating people about what it is that we do. No, I need to rephrase that. Teacher librarians need to educate people who don't use the library but make decisions about teacher librarians and library programs what teacher librarians do. If administrators truly understood what teacher librarians do, they would be our greatest advocates.

Clearly we have a lot of work still do.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Questions for The Masked Truth

Q1 The title, The Masked Truth, refers to what/whom?

Q2 Did you believe Max?

Q3 You had to suspend your disbelief every so often - was any one thing just too much?

Q4 What do you think of Riley?

Q5 Let's talk siblings: Brienne/River and Riley/Sloane.

Q6 Can you see Riley and Max lasting?

Q7 Are there other YA suspense/thriller books you can recommend?

Friday, 27 November 2015

December poll book blurbs

Book blurbs for the December poll. All blurbs are from  Poll at bottom of blog post

 Need - Joelle Charbonneau

“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”
  Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

 Killing Time in Crystal City - Chris Lynch

Crystal City called for him, and Kevin answered. And why wouldn’t he? His relationship with his father is broken—as is his arm. With barely anyone to miss him or care if he’s gone, it seemed like the perfect time for Kevin to run away to his estranged uncle and create an entirely new identity. New name. New attitude. New friends. Maybe even a new girl.

From the first moment of adventure, Kevin’s life takes a turn for the exciting. Making friends seems easy with his new persona, especially when a group of homeless beach bums instantly includes him in their crew. But do they like the real Kevin, or the guy he’s pretending to be? And will this new lifestyle help Kevin escape from the misery of his former life—or will it drag him right back into the reasons he left home?

 be-liev-a-rex-ic - J.J. Johnson

Jennifer can’t go on like this—binging, purging, starving, all while trying to appear like she’s got it all together. But when she finally confesses her secret to her parents and is hospitalized at the Samuel Tuke Center, her journey is only beginning.

As Jennifer progresses through her treatment, she learns to recognize her relationships with food, friends, and family—and how each relationship is healthy or unhealthy. She has to learn to trust herself and her own instincts, but that’s easier than it sounds. She has to believe—after many years of being a believarexic.

Using her trademark dark humor and powerful emotion, J. J. Johnson tells an inspiring story that is based on her own experience of being hospitalized for an eating disorder as a teenager. The innovative format—which tells Jennifer’s story through blank verse and prose, with changes in tense and voice, and uses forms, workbooks, and journal entries—mirrors the protagonist’s progress toward a healthy body and mind.

Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

The two-time Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt delivers the shattering story of Joseph, a father at thirteen, who has never seen his daughter, Jupiter. After spending time in a juvenile facility, he’s placed with a foster family on a farm in rural Maine. Here Joseph, damaged and withdrawn, meets twelve-year-old Jack, who narrates the account of the troubled, passionate teen who wants to find his baby at any cost. In this riveting novel, two boys discover the true meaning of family and the sacrifices it requires.

Vote here for your pick!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

No teacher left behind?

Over the course of the last week, I've seen two teachers break down and cry. No matter where I turn, teachers are working harder than their students. In the current system, no student is allowed to fail. Indeed a mark less than 50% reflects poorly upon the teacher no matter if the student in question doesn't attend, or attends and works very hard at doing nothing.

Seeing teachers so stressed has once again forced me to reflect on my practice. What it my role as the teacher librarian in the building? For me it has always been Teacher Support Services. As things get hectic (more hectic) in the library, I need to stop and assess what I am doing and what I should be doing.

 1. I need to check in with new teachers. I will be taking the time over the next 2 weeks to see where the new teachers are at and how I can make life a little easier.

2. I need to sit down with grey areas students when they are in the library working. All teachers need a little reprieve whether it be from a needy student, a struggling student or a behaviour student.

What's frustrating is that teachers are identifying students who desperately need supports but with all the cutbacks, there simply aren't any supports available to tap into. I'm noticing that teachers are looking to the library for assistance. I find it very hard to say no to my colleagues but I can only do so much. At some point the administrations, the school boards and the government have to realize that teachers are burning out and do something constructive about it.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Trying new things in a broken system

At the beginning of this week, I walked into the office with my October report in hand to talk to my administrators. We went over the report together, as we always do, and had a great conversation about the library program and the collaboration that is going on in the building. At the end of the conversation, I was asked if I was happy with the direction the library was going and if there was anything administration could do to help the library program and/or my own professional growth. Wow.

I thought about it then and I continue to think about it. I know that this year has been the busiest in my teaching career. I come home every day exhausted and most Fridays I'm battling a headache. Classes are packed with 30 students. The students have anxiety, or behaviour issues or things at home are falling apart. Whatever the case, there are more students who have very complex stories and it is hard to know them all. Our student population is up from 680 last year to 740 this year, so there are many students I don't know, and often the new students are either a handful or fall through the cracks of the system. Student apathy is rampant and parental support of the educational system barely exists. Teachers are stressed and no one has time - to breath, to mark, to plan, to talk, or to do anything other than struggle to stay afloat.

With all the stresses of the daily grind increasing, sometimes it is hard to look at my own professional growth without it being tainted but my frustrations with the system. But when admin asked me how I was doing, I realized that I am doing okay. I seem to have rediscovered my path and am pushing myself to try new things. The last few weeks have seen me present at the BCTLA conference, moderate my Twitter chat #yabookchat, draft up a lesson and collaboratively teach it with the IT teacher, book a virtual field trip, and book talk cookbooks to the Foods 9 classes. On Monday, I am trying an online quiz that I created in Jupiter Grades and am hoping works. I have plans this week to sit down and collaborate with the IT teacher again and I need to chat with the shop teachers and see if there's something collaborative we could come up with. I also have a list of potential project ideas from Friday's planning session for Science 7, Social Studies 8, Math 9, Science 9 and Social Studies 9 that I need to sit down and think about. 

Coming up on the halfway mark of my career, I'm frustrated with the broken system in BC that teachers are working too hard to keep together. I simply cannot fathom how I am going to make it through the second half of my career with the increases in workload and stress. But I am satisfied with my own growth and realize I still have so much more to learn in the years ahead.

Monday, 2 November 2015

BCTLA conference

I love professional development, especially PD that is teacher librarian focused. I had the pleasure of attending BCTLA's annual teacher librarian conference which was held in Surrey this year. Once again, I was blown away with how talented and articulate my colleagues are. I still have so much to learn.

The morning keynote, Lyn Hay from Australia, was fabulous. Hay outlined the role teacher librarians have in finding their niche within the new curriculum. It was delightful to hear someone speak so positively about teacher librarians and teacher librarianship and made me feel like I am on the right track with the new curriculum. I really am fortunate to be working with incredible teachers who are already analyzing the new curriculum and including me in their project discussions.

My first session, Creating Links by Darcy McNee, was very informative. McNee outlined how she assessed what students knew about internet searching and then tailored lessons to teach students more effective search skills. She also highlighted some great resources that I was eager to go and check out. I am excited about tapping some teachers at CNB and asking them to collaborate with me and help implement some internet searching skills in their classes.

I also attended a session by Moira Ekdahl called "Inquiry And The New Curriculum: On Becoming Essential". Ekdahl's session blended quite nicely with Hay's and reaffirmed what we are doing at CNB is good work. Inquiry is messy but that doesn't mean it lacks structure. I do need to immerse myself in the new curriculum and become as well acquainted with it as I am with the old curriculum so I can see the threads that lead to amazing projects.

By the time the third session and my own presentation came around, my head was buzzing with ideas and I was itching to start planning. A big thank you to the BCTLA and all the presenters who shared their knowledge. I'm already looking forward to the next conference.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Book blurbs for the Nov 1st poll

Book blurbs for the November 1st poll. All blurbs are from  Survey link at bottom of the post.

The Masked Truth - Kelley Armstrong

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for. Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn't dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with "issues." But that's exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.  The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree. Riley and Max know that if they can't get out, they'll be next--but they're about to discover that even escape doesn't equal freedom. 
The Scorpion Rules - Erin Bow
In the future, the UN has brought back an ancient way to keep the peace. The children of world leaders are held hostage—if a war begins, they pay with their lives.

Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, a superpower formed of modern-day Canada. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. The hostages are Talis’s strategy to keep the peace: if her country enters a war, Greta dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if  necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture.

The Nest - Kenneth Oppel
In this beautiful, menacing novel, perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, an anxious boy becomes convinced that angels will save his sick baby brother. But these are creatures of a very different kind, and their plan for the baby has a twist. Layer by layer, he unravels the truth about his new friends as the time remaining to save his brother ticks down.
With evocative and disquieting illustrations by Caldecott Medal– and Governor General’s Award–winning artist Jon Klassen, The Nest is an unforgettable journey into one boy’s deepest insecurities and darkest fears.

Carry On - Rainbow Rowell
Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen.
That's what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right.
Half the time, Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here--it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up.

To vote, go here

Questions for Everything, Everything

Q1 When did you begin to question Maddy's mother's behaviour?

Q2 What did you like and/or not like about the format/layout of the book?

Q3 Maddy's nurse Carla appears throughout the novel. What did you think of Carla?
Q4 Olly is an incredible character. What do you like most about him?

Q5 Maddy's relationship with Olly is the impetus for growth. Was Hawaii a reasonable next step?

Q6 What do you think is next for Maddy?

Q7 What questions do you have about Everything, Everything?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Working on goals: Presenting

One of my goals for this school year was to push the boundaries of my comfort zone and take more of a leadership role outside of the school. On Friday, October 23rd, I presented at the BC teacher librarian's conference, Charting New Paths, in Surrey.

To say that I was nervous would be an understatement. I managed to get very little sleep Thursday night, thanks in part to a loud group partying at 2 am but also because I was running through my entire presentation in my mind. My presentation was on "Fostering Collaboration" which is the part of my job I get most animated about and love to bits so I really shouldn't have been so nervous as I was talking about something I love. However, as we all know, logic just doesn't not quell the nervousness that an introvert feels about public speaking. When I was grabbing a bite to eat at breakfast, I noticed my colleagues all relaxed and chatting and I thought, "Wow, wouldn't that be nice? What on earth was I thinking?" During my presentation, I managed to go through 17 shades of red but after it was all done, I'm happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone. Indeed, I think presenting at a teacher librarian conference is the best scenario for a nervous presenter. As one person commented to me, "It's like speaking with family."

I'm already planning on attending next year's conference and am toying with the idea of presenting again. I have also been approached by the BCTEA provincial specialist association to present at their conference about how a teacher librarian can collaborate with a shop teacher. Either way, I think my nerves will have recovered by then. That being said, my LSA has already tapped me to do a condensed version of my presentation during one of our monthly meetings. I guess I do have a presentation already put together and red is a lovely colour.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Student Vote part two

After much planning and teaching, our 2015 Student Vote finally came to an exciting end on Monday October 19th, with our student body lining up in the library to vote. Running a parallel vote is always exhausting but incredibly exciting at the same time. As students came in to vote, I was amazed to hear the articulate, politically accurate conversations that were being had.

Our  library was transformed into a polling station on the Friday before the vote and students andstaff commented on how official it all looked. The day of the vote, we had our leadership students acting as clerks while I went down to classes and escorted them to the library to vote. As I picked up each class, I reminded them to bring their student card as they would need some form of
identification at the polling station. I also spoke about the process: producing i.d., receiving a ballot, marking the ballot with an X and folding it in thirds to place in the ballot box and explained that this was the exact same process that adults experience when they go to the polls. I stressed that adult voters vote behind cardboard voting blinds and place their ballots in a cardboard ballot box. I also explained that that's it, once you've voted nothing spectacular happens, no fireworks, but that participating in the democratic process is in itself pretty spectacular.

I had the leadership students count up the ballots and I must admit I was surprised by our election results.
     Karley Scott (Liberal)          329
     Dan Albas (Conservative)    173
     Robert Mellalieu (Green)       71
     Angelique Wood (NDP)         45 

We announced our Student Vote results on Tuesday, Oct 20th during our morning Mentorship block but before we made the announcement, I had teachers and students asking what the results were. I also had teachers comment that students who typically do not show interest in such activities, were asking for results. And that makes it all worthwhile.

Fall displays

We have been working really hard this year to change up our displays every two weeks. We are also trying not to duplicate any displays we have done in the past which is easier said than done.

All of the English teachers have agreed to let me put up displays in their classrooms. I pick non fiction books and picture books that stay in the classroom for two weeks. Some displays, like this one, have a theme while others do not. The teachers love having the books there for ELL students, and for students to read when they have some time. I love that my non fiction books and picture books are being used and read and that teachers are promoting these books

Banned book week is always a popular display and this year was no different.

We displayed books that have been banned in various places around the world and attached cards to them so that students could read why they were banned.

One of our first displays of the school year was the "Get in the game, read" display. I like this display because it allowed us to present both non fiction and fiction books. Sport books are often overlooked by our students and I think I need to book talk more sports related books in the future.

I love the addition of actual sports equipment - from basketball and baseball to chess and cards.

Canadian Thanksgiving is much earlier than its American counterpart. This year, Thanksgiving Monday was on October 12th and we put this display up for the beginning of October. We have a fabulous collection of cookbooks and thought this was the best way to highlight the books for our students. We even managed to find some decorative gourds to give the display a more festive feel.

We have launched a large Student Vote campaign this year, to coincide with the Canadian federal election. To go along with our school wide lessons, we made sure our library display also promoted Canadian government and politics. It will be very interesting to see how the students vote in our Student Vote.

We have just put up our Halloween display. Our window display features great non fiction and fiction reads. What I love about this window are all the little touches. There are cobwebs and spiders of course, but there is also purple fabric, potion bottles, and a crow interwoven into the display. We also stole the idea for pumpkin and Frankenstein book displays from the Red Deer Public Library, and have them throughout the Constable Neil Bruce Library's shelves.

We have also decided to try to add a little more flair to the library shelves but adding author quotes. Each author plate features a photo of the author, an interesting quote and their social media handles. We are hoping that those students who refuse to ask for assistance and  just peruse the shelves hoping that a great book will just jump out at them, will use the author quotes to help them find a fabulous read.

I am looking forward to what other displays we (and really I mean the library assistant) come up with over the next few months and the conversations that they generate.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Student Vote part one

My colleague, Ryan Holly, and I have wrapped a tiring but very rewarding week at school. Back in August the two of us sat down with our administrators and described what we wanted to do for the month of October: we wanted to spend one week with everyone in the school studying government and politics in preparation for our October 19th Student Vote. We also wanted to have an all candidates forum so that the students not only learned about the federal election but also experienced an actual political event.

Ryan and I knew that we were dreaming big but if you've met us, you know that we are political science geeks and very passionate about promoting civic education. We also knew that Student Vote and Civix would be providing a series of lessons for us to draw from. That being said, Ryan and I are both A type personalities and we were determined to create the best lessons to fit the students of CNB.

In the end we were pleased with the lessons we created and we received a lot of positive feedback from teachers. We were cognizant of the fact that not every teacher is comfortable teaching politics and made sure the lesson plans utilized Powerpoints and informative videos to alleviate any stress. What was causing a great deal of stress for Ryan and I was the all candidates forum we had planned for Thursday morning.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, it is always nerve wracking to have guests in the building. Questions starting swirling like: will the guests show up on time or will the students behave? We booked the gym Wednesday night in order to set up but things happen and it is hard to keep people out of the CNB gym. On Thursday morning, the day of the all candidates forum, I peered into the gym at 8:30 to see a volleyball practice in full swing and nothing set up. All I can say is that my colleagues are incredible as that gym was transformed in 20 minutes, complete with microphones for each of the speakers, a curtain backdrop behind the staging, and teacher chairs (complete with name tags) set up at the end of each row.

The candidates forum itself was fabulous. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the behaviour of the CNB student body as they listened intently and tried to restrain from clapping at the end of each and every response. I also greatly appreciated the candidates who took recognized their audience and spoke to the students about issues that matter to them. All four candidates (Dan Albas, Conservative; Robert Mellalieu, Green; Karley Scott, Liberal; Angelique Wood, NDP) from the Central Okanagan - Similkameen - Nicola riding attended. Each of the candidates spoke very eloquently and, most importantly, spoke highly of each other. After the forum, the candidates had some time to talk to students in the library which was an incredible opportunity - for both the candidates and the students.

We can't wait to see how the students vote on Oct 19th and compare our school vote to the outcome of the actual vote for the riding. I know Ryan and I are happy with how engaged the students have been in Student Vote but we both dream big and hope that these students will be engaged in politics and vote when they become adults.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Questions for Never, Always, Sometimes

If you would like to see what questions we are asking, here they are:

1. What impact did avoiding high school cliques and cliches have on Dave & Julia?

2. Which Never was the best? The worst? 

3. Dave and Julia's parents are constants throughout the novel. What impact do they have on Dave and Julia?

4. Dave sought Julia's help for his "promposal". And, how do they impact teens you know or in your school?

5. Let's talk about Dave and Gretchen's relationship. Thoughts?

6. What do you think will happen to Dave & Julia's relationship when they head off to college?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Book blurbs for #YAbookchat

Here are the proposed book titles for the Nov 8th #yabookchat with quick blurbs pulled from Goodreads. Four very different books:

Alive by Scott Sigler

A young woman awakes trapped in an enclosed space. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. With only her instincts to guide her, she escapes her own confinement—and finds she’s not alone. She frees the others in the room and leads them into a corridor filled with the remains of a war long past. The farther these survivors travel, the worse are the horrors they confront. And as they slowly come to understand what this prison is, they realize that the worst and strangest possibilities they could have imagined don’t even come close to the truth.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

George by Alex Gino

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

 Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.

It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Benefits of Blogging

I have read a couple of articles lately about how the time of the blog has come and gone and that one really should not waste time in blogging. I have been blogging for a few years and I must admit, I have come to enjoy it. My first blog post was a tentative step and I hesitated ever so long before hitting the publish button. I am so glad I finally did hit that publish button because I am very proud of my blog. My blogging is a way for me to reflect on my practice. It is through my blogging that I work through the problems and frustrations of my day. But it is also a place where I celebrate the joys and the highlights of my job.

I once was asked by another teacher why I would make my private reflections so public. I have found there are many benefits to blogging.

1. It keeps me in check. I am aware that anyone could read my blog and so I try to make sure that I am focusing on the issue that has me thinking. As a result, I really do work through what is bothering me or I really do celebrate what is working. This reflection is important because I take the time to articulate my emotions.

2. It provides movement/vision. As a result of reflecting, I can see where I have been and as a result, where I need to go. That sounded like a line from some hokey self help book. What I mean is that my blog forces me to examine my practice and then pushes me to grow.

3. Connectedness. A very unexpected benefit is that a couple of my colleagues read my blog (yes, you!) and, I think, it has given them a glimpse into the world of the teacher librarian or at least my version of it. As teachers we are so very often in our own classrooms and no one know exactly what struggles and triumphs we are individually enduring. A blog can act as a little window into an individual's classroom. My hands down favourite blog to read is by the Home Economics teacher at my school (you can check it out here). I love reading it because it gives me a bit more understanding about her program and what is going on in the Foods room.

Now, if only more of my colleagues would blog...

Monday, 7 September 2015

2015/6 School goals

With the start of the school year tomorrow, I have been thinking about my library goals for this year. I have realized that my goals can really be broken down into three areas:

1. Students. Like every other teacher librarian out there, I want my library program to be even stronger next year. Although I have a fabulous collection, I would like to diversify a bit more, especially in the areas of hi/lo books and the younger readers collection. I would like to increase library use by the grade 8s and 9s and am looking at doing more book talks with English classes this year.

2. Staff. I love working at CNB, and one of the reasons it is so enjoyable, is that I have incredible colleagues who are willing to not only collaborate but also to try new things. I am looking forward to a year of new collaborations and new ideas. This year I would like to focus on Math collaborations and Science projects. We also have new curriculum to look at this year and start planning for next year. Although the thought of updating my non-fiction to meet new curriculum for Social Studies and Science is a bit daunting, it is also rather exciting too.

3. Myself. Probably the hardest goal to achieve is the one I have set for myself. I have mentioned before that I would like to move my leadership outside of the school. I need new challenges and I have decided that I really enjoy CNB too much to leave and start a program at another school. I would like to become more involved in the local and provincial specialist associations for teacher librarians. I also want to spend more time with Twitter having just launched my own Twitter chat #yabookchat and do a much better job with Student Vote.

As always, I am excited about the new year!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Book blurbs for #yabookchat

Here are the proposed book titles for the Oct 4th #yabookchat with quick blurbs pulled from Amazon and Goodreads. Four very different books:

1. Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school. Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.
Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

2.Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter
 When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.

Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop

3.State of Grace by Hilary Badger
The trees are laden with fruit and the water in the lagoon is as clear as crystal. Wren's world is a utopia. If only she could stop the strange visions she's started having: flashes of another world, where there are people she doesn't know, couldn't possibly know, but who somehow feel familiar. What does Blaze, the most beautiful and mysterious of creations, know about what's going on in Wren's head? When she uncovers the lies that are propping up everything she has ever believed in, Wren must choose: remain in blissful ignorance or face the ugly truth? 

4. The Dogs by Allan Stratton
Cameron and his mom have been on the run for five years. His father is hunting them. At least, that’s what Cameron’s been told.
When they settle in an isolated farmhouse, Cameron starts to see and hear things that aren’t possible. Soon he’s questioning everything he thought he knew — including his own sanity.
What’s hiding in the night? Buried in the past? Cameron must uncover the dark secrets before they tear him apart.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Questions for the Sept 6th #yabookchat

Our first chat questions. We will also be running a poll to see what book we should read for the October book chat

Q1 What were the best reads from the summer?

Q2 What summer read (if there was one) didn't meet your expectations?

Q3 What are you currently reading and would you recommend it? 

Q4 What book on your "to be read pile" keeps getting shuffled down the pile?

Q5 What titles are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

ProD Day #2 Webcasts

I had a couple of School Library Journal webcasts that I hadn't watched and wanted to catch up on. SLJ has great webcasts throughout the year, which you can find here

The first was From Superheroes to Vampires: The Hottest Graphic Novels and Manga of 2015. I was looking forward to this because graphic novels and manga is not really my thing but are certainly popular at my school. I found most of the books presented were more appropriate from high school or larger schools. I will be picking up A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima and Sandman Overture Deluxe by Neil Gaiman.

The second webcast Creepy Thrillers and Seriously Wicked Titles for Spring. I know, for spring. I am that far behind but I am pleased that I caught up. What a strong webcast. I was happy to see that Michael Buckley's Undertow was first up and one that I have in the library and have read! If you haven't picked this one up, you certainly should. I will be picking up The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner, Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons.

The third webcast Diverse Voices: A Discussion on Crafting Fiction, Nonfiction, and Audiobooks that Reflect and Celebrate Diversity was fabulous. I really enjoyed listening to author Jason Reynolds, and was nodding along everything he said, especially that we need to expand the definition of diversity.

I also listened to New Nonfiction for Young Readers. I didn't expect to find much of interest for grade 7 and up but was pleasantly surprised. Very excited about Chocolate by Kay Frydenborg, Fifty Things You Should Know About World War One by Jim Eldridge and the new books in the Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series.

Another day of professional development well spent.

ProD Day #1 Tech tools

My goal for today was to play around with Canva. I wanted to learn how to use the program well enough to teach others. I also wanted to know what types of end tasks, benchmark activities and projects it could be used for. I have been using Canva all summer but only dabbling to figure out how to do Twitter posts for chat announcements and questions and I must admit I already really like the program. It is easy to use and creates really professional looking images in mere moments.

Twitter posts are lovely but I wanted to see what else I could create. I watched a great tutorial and went through the program step by step which was incredible because 99% of the time I simply do not have enough uninterrupted time to explore a tech tool. I think that we can certainly use this in a lot of projects. I can already see it being used in a poetry unit and think the potential for English classrooms is phenomenal. I am very tempted to make my own Youtube tutorial for my staff but I don't think I am ready to take that leap quite yet.

I also spent some time on Piktochart because Rachelle Poth on Twitter suggested I check it out. I can already see the value in this program as well. It's very easy to use with its drag and drop features and the free templates are perfect for school use. I am going to pester Rachelle for some of her examples as I would love to see how she uses this in a language classroom. I think I will use this for my monthly newsletter to teachers.

And I did a quick refresh of smore, and was reminded how much I like this web tool. I really like that there aren't endless choices for students because I don't want students to get sidetracked with countless fonts and forget to focus on content. I really to see if there had been any major changes to the site and I was pleased that there wasn't any drastic changes. Phew.

After spending most of the first day of pro d staring at the computer screen, I decided to turn off the monitor and catch up on some professional reading. It was nice to sit down and read the current School Library Journal. I usually am a couple of months behind. Today though, I decided to start with the August issue and work backwards which made me feel up-to-date for a nanosecond.

It was a long day of professional development but I accomplished a lot more than I anticipated. I love that I am allowed to tailor my professional development. Tomorrow - webcasts!