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

Coverage

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



Qs for History is All You Left Me

Q1 What were your first reactions to the book?

Q2 Did you like the dual timeline approach to storytelling?

Q3 Thoughts about Griffin? His first love, his OCD, and his grieving.

Q4 Griffin's parents were true YA parents: absent. Comment

Q5 Let's talk about Theo. Thoughts about him? And his death?

Q6 And then there's Wade. What did you like about Wade?

Q7 Favourite scene/quote?




Saturday, 21 January 2017

What I look for in an administrator

Last month I attended the retirement party for one of my favourite administrators. The evening's events have been tumbling around in my head and have caused much reflection. In my 16 years of teaching, I have had 16 different administrators and very few have inspired me. But should they have inspired? Is that their role as the leader of a school? I think so.

What I've come to look for in an administrator:

1. transparency. This translates into several things. You know where you stand with these administrators because they don't play favourites and is very clear as to what is going on with everything from budget allocation to district initiatives. There just are no games.
2. leadership. An administrator should be a leader and thus inspire teachers to up their game. In our district there is this trendy phrase that administrators are instructional leaders. I agree that they should be, but sadly they rarely are. I find that often, administrators are looking forward to where they want their careers to go and do not concentrate fully on their current assignment.
3. understanding. This is a tricky one. I know that administrators are management but I also know that they were once teachers. It's great when an administrator remembers what it's like to be in the classroom. What's better is when administrators use that knowledge to guide practice; they always listen to their teachers.
4. hard working. I know most administrators are hard working. What I mean here though is that they spend a lot of time in their school. Most often, fabulous administrators are in the building early and stay late because they spend a lot of time during school hours not cloistered in their office but out taking the pulse of the school.
5. detail oriented. My colleague Pauline always says that it is all about the details and I truly think she is correct. Taking care of the little details is just simply a sign of respect.

And that retiring administrator of mine? He sent every single person who attended his retirement party a handwritten, personalized thank you card. Talk about a class act. Halfway through my career and I doubt I'll ever work for another administrator quite like him. Here's hoping though.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

February's picks

Books choices for February. Book covers and blurbs from Goodreads. Vote here

1. Poison's Kiss by Breanna Shields

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya a poison maiden is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

2. 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.
 

3. Air by Ryan Gattis

When 17-year-old Grey witnesses the tragic death of his mother in Colorado, he is shipped off to live with his aunt in inner-city Baltimore. Grey struggles to fit in to his new school and environment until his new friend, Akil, introduces him to the enigmatic Kurtis, the leader of a group that uses high-octane sports as a form of social activism. By challenging the police with death-defying stunts and then posting videos of them online, Kurtis, Grey, and their group become unlikely heroes in the fight against the prejudice that surrounds them. 
As Kurtis takes Grey under his wing, they come up with a name, an insignia and attract more and more followers to their extreme acts. The lines between social activism and criminal behavior blur and their escalating stunts become a rallying point for the underprivileged and disenfranchised around the country, spreading like wildfire across the Internet. How far will Grey and Kurtis go to push their message, and can their fragile alliance withstand their growing power?

4. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

5 things I most proud of from 2016

It's that time of year when I reflect on the last 12 months and recognize what I have accomplished and where I need to grow. I've had an awesome year and am very proud of the library program we are running at CNB. The five things I'm most proud of are:

1. Advocacy. This September I found myself with yet another new principal. I sighed as I knew that I had a long road ahead of me explaining to my prinicpal what it is that I do. I was especially concerned as his previous school didn't have a teacher librarian. My last principal told me to continue having monthly meetings with my new administrator to go over my monthly reports as it is a great opportunity to showcase my work. I have been doing that and I had felt like my principal was starting to understand my role in the building but this was confirmed when I asked him to write a letter of support for a grant application I was putting together. When I read the draft, I was blown away and when I handed it to him, my feedback was, "This letter is awesome. You do understand what I am doing!". Advocacy is very hard but I feel like I am finally getting the hang of it.

2. Embedding skills. I have also made the commitment to really embed skills within each project that comes through the library. I was apprehensive about my aggressive approach with teachers as I know that teachers are already feeling the pressure of time. The grade 7 Humanities teachers and I decided to take a day and teach the structure of PBL and it was extremely successful. We created a PBL road map to show students the structure and then used that road map in our first Social Studies PBL project and I felt it went much smoother. I then talked to the Math/Science 7 teachers and took two of their classes to teach the grade 7s note taking and then non-fiction text features. Both of those lessons were well received. The grade 9 Social Studies teachers and I created a one day lesson for the grade 9s on how not to plagiarize by teaching them how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote. Next challenge: scheduling the grade 8s in the library for some lessons.

3. Awards. This September, two colleagues and I received the Government of Canada's History teaching award for a PBL project we designed and implemented. I am very proud of this award because it highlights the wonderful teaching that is going on at CNB; teachers are cutting edge, looking at the curriculum to create innovative projects, and doing this all through collaboration. I also received the Diana Poole Memorial Award as the BC teacher librarian of the year. This award is an incredible honor and is something I will always cherish.

4. Speaking. I am an introvert and I am terrified of public speaking. I have been, over the last few years, challenging myself to speak more often. I've signed myself up to present at conferences and then berated myself every moment after signing up until the actual presentation was over with. I presented at the BCTLA conference in October and I also delivered my acceptance speech at that same conference and felt that both went better than expected. I feel like I am slowly getting better at conquering my nerves but I recognize that I still have a long road ahead of me.

5. Technology. I'm not one of those tech savvy tls that's on the cutting edge of everything. This year I have really tried to set up my game around technology - I have taken on running the virtual field trips, I've embraced GAFE and hope to implement it at my school, and I'm trying new web tools more frequently.