Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Moderating a Twitter chat

I'm a big fan of Twitter and by the looks of it, I'm not the only teacher librarian who is. I love the sense of community and the ability to talk about books and teacher librarianship with others. I have a fabulous PLN that helps me daily with my professional development.

When teacher librarian Diane Mankowski suggested a summer Twitter YA book club chat, Naomi Bates offered her chat #ReadYAlit for the summer book club. And that sums up the power of Twitter right there - teacher librarians from Chicago, Texas and British Columbia collaborating. One conference call, multiple emails and a double booking later, Diane and I were set to co-moderate our first chat.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement. Fifteen minutes before the chat, I was ready with questions at hand and two computers running just in case one of them mysteriously died. Diane and I quickly sent some last minute emails back and forth and waited, hoping we wouldn't be chatting to ourselves.

At the top of the hour we hit the ground running and I was amazed at how quickly the hour passed. I did struggle with keeping up with the feed and responding to everyone. I was also wondering about the timing of the questions, but I think that in the end, it was fine. Thankfully Diane was managing the technical side of things, having put the questions up on her blog beforehand and she was running the poll to see what our first book club title would be.

The only thing I would change for the next time, would be to create images for the questions so that they were easier for people to spot. Overall though, it was an incredible experience. My husband took my boys out for the hour and he came home to me furiously typing, brow furrowed and commented that the chat must have been stressful. I replied that it was stressful but it was AWESOME. It was delightful to see people from the Okanagan popping in to support me and chat. A big thank you to Naomi for allowing me to co-moderate the chat and to Diane for co-moderating and being so calm and organized through the entire experience.

If you are interested in participating in our summer YA book club, pick up a copy of Sarah Dessen's Saint Anything. We are meeting on July 5th at 6pm PST/8pm CST and talking about the book on #ReadYAlit. Seriously, join us!

If you don't already follow Naomi Bates and Diane Mankowski, you should!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Reflections on a school year

Apparently my last blog post was a little too sad. Today I'm reflecting on the positives of the past school year.

Things I'm proud of:
1. The strength of the library program.
     We have a vibrant library program that is heavily utilized by most classes. The library's collection is strong - both on the fiction and the non fiction side of things - and well used.

2. What incredibly strong readers we have.
     It always amazes me how strong our readers are and how up-to-date they are on what's new and what's coming out. I also love that CNB teachers are such voracious readers. Today was the first day that staff could sign out summer reading material and I had half a dozen teachers load up on books and I expect more staff to show up tomorrow.

3. Receiving the Devon Energy grant for 2015/16
     My goal for this year was to apply for three grants/awards. I received notification that one of the grant applications didn't make the cut and one I am still waiting to hear about. The successful grant application was for Devon Energy and I'm excited to see how the science teachers incorporate the grant purchased Arduino sets into the curriculum.

4. Participating in the school district's Leadership Academy
     I stepped outside my comfort zone and applied for Leadership Academy and got in. I met some fabulous people and learned a thing or two along the way.

Highlights:
1. Attending Civix Canada's Democracy Bootcamp
     Taylor Gunn and the crew put on an incredible Professional Development event. I've been following politics since my days in junior high and I was amazed at what I learned about government and politics from the Bootcamp. I am excited about the fall federal Student Vote and what we will accomplish.

2. Collaborating.
     Although I enjoy collaborating with everyone on staff, I've never laughed so hard as when I collaborated with Ryan Holly about graphic novels and using Bitstrips.

3. War Museum traveling artifact box
     This was new for us this year and it was an incredible success! I couldn't believe the artifacts the Canadian War Museum sent and how much the students enjoyed learning about the artifacts and how stoked they were to touch the artifacts.

4. Displays
     Kristie, the library assistant, is brilliant and her displays are phenomenal. My favourite display this year was the bookface display because it got both students and teachers talking about books and how awesome is that? 

Goals for next year:
1. Launch more library based science projects
2. Increase reading amongst the grade 8 and 9 students and thus book talk a lot more. I think I need to get into classes more and just read.
3. Bring back the Human Library. I'm looking at you McCabe.
4. Step away from the school and focus on my leadership outside of the district.

Friday, 19 June 2015

A little melancholy

I think I can safely say that I'm not an emotional teacher. I don't cry at the drop of a hat nor do I wear my heart on my sleeve. But I can honestly say that after this week, I'm feeling very melancholy.

After years of being a department head (and its many reincarnations), I've decided not to put my name forward for a lot of reasons. Mainly I am tired. Tired of working so hard and not being listened to. Tired of fighting for others. And so very tired of meetings. It's more than time for someone else to lead the charge and hopefully make the changes I simply wasn't able to.

It may seem trivial, but I received notification this week that a grant application that a colleague and I spent a lot of time on, didn't make the cut. I know it's not so very important in the grand scheme of things but that little note set me back a bit. I spend a fair bit of time writing grant and award applications and I don't think people realize how much goes into a single application. It's not just words and a picture or two, it's also a little piece of me and my library program in there too.

Those two things, along with a myriad of little things and a couple of comments made to me have left me questioning myself and what I am doing.

As I have reflected on the year that was, I have come to realize that I've accomplished a lot and the library program not only remains strong but also continues to grow. But with that reflection comes goal setting for the future and I know I need things to change for myself. I'm not a person to stay still for very long nor am I one to stay mired in melancholy. This next week is going to be a week of pondering, reading and researching as I figure out how I will reinvent and revitalize myself for the upcoming school year. I know in the end, I'll be excited about my future plans, it's just a case of solidifying those plans.

And as is so often the case, it's my students who unknowingly do something completely unexpected and make me smile. At the end of the day today, I found a beautifully written thank you card propped up against my computer. I may be burdened with disappointment and frustration, but that card was a little ray of sunshine in my otherwise grey week.


Monday, 8 June 2015

My favourite fiction reads of the school year

There have been many delicious fiction books that have crossed my desk this school year and I've read many but never enough of them. Yesterday's post was about my favourite non fiction reads, so it is only fair to post my favourite fiction reads. My summer reading pile is already starting to grow and I have 3 weeks left of the school year. If you haven't read these already, you should add them to your summer reading list:

1. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Image result for saint anything dessen
I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan. Her books are perfect for middle school students and are so very realistic. I must admit though that her last book, The Moon and More, didn't feel like it was up to Dessen standard so I was hesitant when I picked up Saint Anything. Dessen is back on track with this gem though.

2. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Image result for ill give you the sun
Image result for invisible sedgwickI loved this book with its dual narrators, twins Jude and Noah. The twins who were once so very close have grown distant. This book is all about relationships, trust, love and communication. Breathtakingly beautiful, this was my favourite read of the year. A great book for fans of John Green and/or Rainbow Rowell.

3. She is not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

I really enjoyed the philosophical nature of this book. Sedgwick weaves the theories of coincidence in a stunning book in which the main character, Laureth, happens to be blind.  I liked how this book made me think while entertaining me at the same time.
Image result for we are liars

4. we were liars by e. lockhart

Well, how do I start to describe this book? Ingenious is really the only word I can think of to describe such a novel. Lockhart manages to keep the reader in the dark for the majority of the book without the reader even realizing it. It is not often that a YA book catches me off guard but this one certainly did.

Image result for how it went down by novel5. How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

I enjoyed this book when I read it in the fall and it has stuck with me. What is so appealing about this book is that each of the characters tells a piece of the main story and only you, the reader, knows the entire story. Beautifully written, How it Went Down is very realistic and heartbreaking. Our school has just purchased 10 copies to read in Harry Potter Book Club and then move in to the grade 9 literature circle novel sets.

What I find interesting about my top 5 picks is that my favourite genre, fantasy, isn't here and I certainly read a lot of good fantasy novels this year. Also, all these books are stand alone books and not part of a series.