Sunday, 12 March 2017


It's a long story, but the short version is that, in BC, we are looking at lots of new teacher hires as a result of a Supreme Court decision. With new positions opening up at each school, there is the potential for a lot of movement within the district which is something we haven't seen in over a decade. As a result, teachers are starting to talking about moving. 

Change is exciting and frightening at the same time. Because of the lack of movement over the years, there is a core group of teachers at CNB that have been working together for 10 years. Working together for that long means that you're comfortable in your surroundings and know how the building works. You know who you can lean on when needed and who you can rely on to push you forward. Moving means figuring out the invisible lines and divisions on a new staff and finding your own place and voice within the group. Yet it it also a refresh. Moving means you can leave behind expectations and forge ahead with new curriculum in a new space. The potential is there to reinvigorate your teaching and charge along a new path.

The next 8 weeks will be very interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing what our new timetable will look like and thus what class sizes will be across subjects. As always, I'm interested to see what library time will look like and what our M block (homeroom) will morph into.  I'm also looking forward to working with the new additions to the CNB staff and hope for me, that those changes will be enough to spur me on to try new things and recharge my own teaching.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

April #yabookchat picks!

For April, I picked 4 books from ALA's 2017 Youth Media Award winners. Book blurbs and pics from Goodreads

1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father's extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill's only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.

2. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her

3. Tell me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Three sisters struggle with the bonds that hold their family together as they face a darkness settling over their lives in this masterfully written debut novel.

There are three beautiful blond Babcock sisters: gorgeous and foul-mouthed Adrienne, observant and shy Vanessa, and the youngest and best-loved, Marie. Their mother is ill with leukemia and the girls spend a lot of time with her at a Mexican clinic across the border from their San Diego home so she can receive alternative treatments. Their world is about to shatter under the weight of an incomprehensible betrayal…

4. Arena by Holly Jennings
The RAGE tournaments the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death. Every kill is broadcast to millions. Every player leads a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses. 

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world until one of her teammates overdoses. Now she s stuck trying to work with a hostile new teammate who s far more distracting than he should be. 

Questions for A List of Cages

Q1 Initial reactions to the book?
Q2 Which character saw the most growth?
Q3 Is Adam realistic?
Q4 Was Adam's anger at Emerald justified?
Q5 On page 83, Julian talks about loss. How much truth is in his thinking?
Q6 What about those lists?
Q7 Favourite quote/scene
Q8 If you liked A List of Cages, you'll also like...

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Professional development

Yesterday was a Professional Development day in our district. I love PD. I love learning and I truly appreciate the time I have to explore whatever PD interests me.

This Pro D day, I opted to do self directed because I have been absolutely overwhelmed this year and just the mere thought of presenting at or attending a big district event made me shudder. What I truly wanted was a quiet day to read, learn, watch, and reflect. I know that the district doesn't want professional development to happen in isolation, but that's exactly what I needed. In my job as a teacher librarian, every day is a series of intense conversations with teachers. I'm constantly collaborating. I'm not complaining, not at all; I recognize that that is the nature of my job (and truly how I've crafted my job) and I wouldn't want it any other way. But for my PD day this February, I needed an opportunity to quietly move my learning forward on my own.

And learn I did. I caught up on all the posts in the FB group Future Ready Librarians. From the posts, I explored TL blogs, display ideas, and questions about teacher librarianship in general. What an incredible wonderful group to be a part of! I also checked out the #futurereadylibs tweets in Twitter to make sure I wasn't missing anything and watched a couple of webinars. I tackled some of my professional reading (my School Library Journals were starting to pile up). I spoke with colleagues about the new curriculum and resources we have to support it. It was fabulous to have time to invest in myself.

But my PD didn't end with the school day. Just like any other day, I spent the evening reading and trying to improve my 'craft' because learning never truly ends.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

BC's new curriculum

CNB is a grade 7 to 9 middle school and this year we have delved into the new curriculum. What I've noticed so far, from a teacher librarian perspective, is that teachers are approaching the curriculum differently. Teachers have really embraced the concept of big ideas and it has translated into very different resource requests.

Historically, teachers would move through the curriculum topic by topic and request very simple resource pulls from me. For example, I would pull all the War of 1812 books, or the shelf of ancient Egypt books. With the implementation of PBL some years back, I had noticed a move away from traditional research topics to more layered inquiry approach. This year, with the new curriculum, I've noticed a spike in more complicated resource requests which makes my job much more interesting while testing my knowledge of the collection.

Some examples of recent trickier requests:
- books on middle ages history for each continent (except Antarctica, phew)
- religion books. Not usually a difficult one but I had a list of 23 religions to find resources for.
- field guides but not just science field guides. I was delighted when I stumbled upon field guides for fairies and trolls.

Even when I do pull all the Renaissance books, it's still not quite like it use to be. This past week, students were studying the Renaissance and sure, some of them were just researching da Vinci but some were posing questions that they wanted to research. What was medicine like during the Renaissance, what was the change in architecture, and how were women treated were just a few questions students were using to guide their research. Suddenly, the resources pulled were not enough and students were back in the collection looking for more resources.

I must admit, I do like the new approach to curriculum. But the more inquiry based projects I see, the more I realize that it is imperative that teacher librarians be a part of the inquiry process and teach students the research skills they need to be successful in their exploration.

Sunday, 5 February 2017


This blog post is tackling a difficult topic for teacher librarians: coverage. I know that I'm asked every single week to cover someone's class, whether it be a whole class, or just a part of a class. And I get it. I certainly don't mind covering if there's an emergency of some type but I get my back up when I feel that I'm being taken advantage of. For the most part, I don't agree with pulling a non enrolling to cover someone else's classes because:

1. It suggest that I'm not busy in the library when clearly I am. For example, I currently have every single block booked in the library and reams of marking to tackle. When I cover a class, everything I should be doing is put on hold and I end up taking more of my personal time to get caught up.

2. I never get that time back. If an enrolling teacher gives up prep time to cover, often the classroom teacher will give up his/her own prep to cover a class in return. There would seem to be some give and take, give and take that doesn't extend to the teacher librarian.

3. I think it's disrespectful. I know that sounds harsh but I find that teachers will often come in the morning that they need coverage to talk to me and inform me that they need coverage. And most often it's just assumed that I'm okay covering their class. It's even more bothersome when I know it's the only time that teacher is going to approach me all year.

What it boils down to is the fact that I need to learn how to say no. I realize that the one teacher coming in to ask doesn't know that another teacher asked me the previous week, and a different teacher the week before.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Book picks for March

Book blurbs and photos from Goodreads

1.  A List of Cages by Robin Roe

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

2. We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen
Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it's the 80's after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they've graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams.

During their first year apart, Scott and Cath's letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that's clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond.

3. Teach Me To Forget by Erica M. Chapman

This is the story of Ellery, a girl who learns how to live while waiting for the sate she chose to die.

Ellery's bought the gun, made arrangements for her funeral, and even picked the day. A Wednesday. Everything has fallen into place. Now all she has to do is die.

When her plans go awry and the gun she was going to kill herself with breaks, she does the one thing she has control over -- return it and get a new one. After tormenting the crusty customer service associate by trying to return the gun with the wrong receipt, Ellery gets caught by the security guard who also happens to be someone she knows--the annoyingly perfect Colter Sawyer from her English class.

4. The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane

According to sixteen-year-old Zander Osborne, nowhere is an actual place--and she's just fine there. But her parents insist that she get out of her head--and her home state--and attend Camp Padua, a summer camp for at risk teens.

Zander does not fit in--or so she thinks. She has only one word for her fellow campers: crazy. In fact, the whole camp population exists somewhere between disaster and diagnosis. There's her cabinmate Cassie, a self-described manic-depressive-bipolar-anorexic. Grover Cleveland (yes, like the president), a cute but confrontational boy who expects to be schizophrenic someday, odds being what they are. And Bek, a charmingly confounding pathological liar.

But amid group "share-apy" sessions and forbidden late night outings, unlikely friendships form, and as the Michigan summer heats up, the four teens begin to reveal their tragic secrets