Wednesday, 26 October 2016

BCTLA conference

What an incredible day of professional development on October 21st down at Byrne Creek Secondary in Burnaby. The BCTLA planning committee outdid themselves by having The Daring Librarian, Gwyneth Jones, as the keynote presenter. Jones set the tone for the conference with her humour and stories from life in the trenches. She highlighted various tools from Vine to Kahoot to BrainPop that teacher librarians can use to become technology troopers. It was good to revisit digital resources that I had forgotten about and see new ways of incorporating them into projects. I was also inspired to try something new and have a list of tools to go and play around with. I also attended her second session, Mobile Media in the Library and Classroom, and left with yet another page of new ideas to try.

My third session was about Breakout Edu. I purchased a Breakout box last year and I've played around with it but I haven't seen it go out. It was interesting to see Breakout happen with a group of adults who didn't know each other. I think that Breakout looks very different with adults than it does with students. I decided that I really need to encourage teachers to take the risk and try Breakout Edu with their classes. As a result, I've made a note to schedule a Mesopotamia Breakout with the grade 7s when I get back.

After attending a teacher librarian conference, I am always amazed at the level of innovation and creativity that teacher librarians employ in developing an adaptive, cutting-edge library program. I always leave re-invigorated and eager to try new things and this BCTLA conference was no different.

For more information about Gwyneth Jones, aka The Daring Librarian, check out her website here

If you want more information about Breakout Edu, check out their website here

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Diana Poole Memorial Award - BC TL of the year

It's been a whirlwind since it was announced in June that I was the recipient of the Diana Poole Memorial Award - the BC teacher librarian of the year for 2016. Since that was revealed, I've been interviewed for the local paper, asked to write an article, and acknowledged at a school board meeting. It's been interesting because I really don't like being in the limelight but I am passionate about highlighting what teacher librarians do. Advocacy takes many different forms.

This past weekend at the BCTLA conference in Burnaby I was officially honored and presented with the award. As always, I am incredibly in awe of my fellow teacher librarians and their passion, intelligence, and ingenuity around teacher librarianship. I had the opportunity to talk with one of the Val Hamilton lifetime Achievement recipients and I was inspired by her enthusiasm, insight, and down to earth approach to library programs.

Receiving this award has been a tremendous honour.

My acceptance speech:
Thank you for this incredible honour.
Before I became a teacher librarian, I job shadowed the legendary Sharon Bede who at the time was at Mount Boucherie. I thought I was going to sit down and talk with her about teacher librarianship and maybe chat a bit about books. Imagine my shock when I walked into her library and saw her at the circulation desk, a desk in absolute disarray with seemingly random piles of books, open and dog eared magazines, and bits and pieces of paper. And here I thought teacher librarians were organized! There was no sitting and talking with Sharon as she was constantly moving – grabbing random books, checking in with students, and monitoring her computer. And talking! Well, I don't think she was able to string more than two sentences together before she was interrupted by a student, a teacher, or the library assistant. Don't even get me started about how she and the library assistant spoke, as I wondered if they had their own language as random sentence fragments were clearly understood. I left that job shadow and headed back to my school where I confided to my teacher librarian that I didn't think I could be a tl. She assured me that I'd be an excellent teacher librarian. But, I explained to her, I still didn't really understand what was teacher librarians do.
That was well over a decade ago and now the CNB library is my second home. It looks like a bomb went off on my circulation desk and my library assistant knows not to throw out a single piece of paper no matter what illegible scribble might be on it and she understands when to swoop in, distract, or pick up pieces. And as for stringing more than two sentences together? That never happens in my library either. But you know what has stayed with me the most from my job shadowing experience? That after being with Sharon for half a day, I had no idea what it was that she was doing.  It was this that has shaped my advocacy – I cannot advocate for a fulltime TL and a fully funded library program if teachers, administrators, students, and parents are unclear as to what it is that I, as a teacher librarian does.
With this school year ahead of us, I urge each one of you to be quietly aggressive and educate as many as possible as to what it is a teacher librarian does. Take photos of what goes on in a day, tweet out, tag your administrator –or trustee or superintendent, do monthly reports and meet and talk with admin about them, tell admin what your year goals are and what your vision of the library program is. Show them that the library is the hub of the building and the teacher librarian is the heart. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Get teachers into the library space and using resources – print, digital and you. And if they won't leave their classrooms then slide into theirs. Use the new curriculum as way to establish new connections.  Persevere and promote so that when someone asks your administration what it is that a teacher librarian does they'll actually know and their answer will start with: "Everything"

Sunday, 2 October 2016

3 faves from September

And the blur of September has passed. I didn't do as much reading as I usually do in a month, but startup tends to make life hectic.

My favourite reads from this month are:

Non fiction
Women in Science - 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world by Rachel Ignotofsky

A beautiful and much needed addition to the science collection at my school. 50 female scientists, recorded in chronological order. What I love about this book is the layout. Each scientist is given her own page with beautiful illustrations. This book is inviting and informative. In fact, I had a science teacher who wandered through the library, saw this book, flipped through it and commented on how good it was. Now I want Ignotofsky to write an equally stunning book on Men in Science to help update my scientist section.

Graphic novel
Snow White by Matt Phelan

Very rarely does a graphic novel catch me completely off guard. From the outset, with its beautifully designed cover, this book lured me in. I loved the modern retelling of Snow White and could see students loving this book. I did recommend it to a student and she came back gushing about how beautiful it was. A graphic novel that really relies on its art to tell the story. A great addition to any graphic novel collection.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

One of those reads that will stay with you. This story reminded me very much of To Kill a Mockingbird though I think it could be used with younger grades. A book about how prejudice people can be and how truth is often very elusive, this is a must read.

November's read #yabookchat

Here are the blurbs, courtesy of Goodreads, of the potential November reads. Vote here

1. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

2. Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

3. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything's about to change.

4. Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis’s little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it’s been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara—part drill sergeant, part friend—who’s hell-bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he’s never forgotten and the brother he’s never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind.

Wolf Hollow questions

Q1. What was your first reaction to Wolf Hollow?
Q2 Annabelle learned to lie at 12. Would the truth have made any difference?
Q3 Aunt Lily. Is she the only secondary character who really changes?
Q4 The camera. What does it reveal about characters?
Q5 Why do you think Toby carry the guns on his back?
Q6 What was your favourite quote/scene?
Q7 Can you see this being taught in schools? If so, what grade. If not, why not?

Monday, 5 September 2016

Evening before the first day

Well, it's that evening - the evening before the first day of school. As usual there's that odd concoction of emotions: nervousness, excitement, and hope. This summer I made a decision to really try and relax and turn my brain if not off, at least down. I did read and I did think about curriculum connections but just not in my usual overdrive.

As is always the case, I've set goals for myself and for my library program.

1. Slow down. We have new curriculum across the board and I'm excited about the new projects that we will be working on. That said, I need to slow things down and really focus on the key skills that we'll be incorporating into those projects.

2. Write. I need to spend more time writing. I find that writing helps me reflect on my librarianship as it's one of the few ways that I can slow down and analyse my practice. It's simply one of the many problems of being the lone teacher librarian in a school.

3. Learn. I know that learning is always the goal. I want to seek out different learning opportunities and step out of my comfort zone.

4. Balance. I realize that I certainly didn't achieve balance last year because I really felt burnout by the time summer started. Maybe this year I can achieve better balance. Wishful thinking, I know.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Breakout Box

I had been hearing about Breakout Education for some time and wondered how it would work in the middle school setting. I decided to just buy one and test it out with the students and some teachers and see their reactions.

As soon as it arrived, Kristie and I set up one of the games called "The Timekeeper: A Journey through Mesopotamia" and told the grade 7 Social Studies teachers about it. In B.C., the grade 7 Socials curriculum is all about ancient civilizations, starting with Mesopotamia so we felt it was a perfect pairing. The teachers were excited about testing out the Breakout Box and were planning to tackle it on their next prep however, they had to postpone. I left the Breakout Box all set up awaiting the teachers but the box proved to be too intriguing to students.

I have two grade 8 boys who have been with me for the third term for their p.e. block as they have both undergone surgery. They asked about the box and when I told them, they asked if they could try it. These boys came back and worked on the Breakout Box for almost 3 hours before they met with success and they were delighted when they finally broke in. They reset it and another set of students tried it, working through lunch to crack the codes.
What was fascinating for me was to listen to the conversations, hear the thinking that was going on, and the collaboration that happened.

These photos show the students at lunch working together. They kept going back and forth between sitting and standing which was interesting.

When the teachers had time to try the Breakout Box, it was interesting to hear and see the similarities differences between the teachers and the students. The first set of teachers broke in after 90 minutes and the second group met with success in 45 minutes. What became apparent from observing the different groups was how important it is to have different thinkers within the group.

I'm looking forward to incorporating the Breakout Box into classes next year and the possibilities are endless. I already have math and science teachers looking at how to use this. I'd love to try this in an English class doing literature circles with clues based on each of the novels read.

I would strongly suggest purchasing a Breakout Box. For more information, go here