Being as this week is a “catch up” week, I thought I would take some time to blog about NTTBF17! What. An. Event! I have been excited about this event and promoting it with my students and teachers for months. I teamed up with the middle school to bring as many students as possible. We had a bus full! It was great! But I’m getting ahead of myself…I have to work chronologically.
Friday, February 3 – Educator Day…a full day!
This year, the NTTBF committee decided the Educator Day should be an all day event. And how right they were! Having up close and personal discussions and hearing from incredible authors speaking about their craft and impacting students could go on forever as far as I’m concerned. I blew up my Twitter feed both days with quotes and thoughts and memorable moments from these incredible writers. I heard from Jack Gantos, Jason Reynolds, Jon Scieszka, Sonya Sones, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jeff Zentner, Nicola Yoon, Hena Khan, Ally Condie, Renee Watson, George O’Connor, Donalyn Miller, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. How often in your life do you get to learn from such an incredible group of people!? I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Much of the discussion of the day centered around book diversity, the power of audiobooks, and how best to take students through the writing process.
Saturday, February 4 – NTTBF Student DAY!
It was an early morning, but our bus full of Argyle students traveled together to the Irving Convention Center where the lines were already out the door well before the doors opened! Students got in line to have an opportunity to meet Veronica Roth and R.L. Stine (eeeeeee!) as well as taking advantage of the event called Speed Dating where they were guaranteed to leave with a free book! Inside the convention center, we had the luxury of buying signed copies of books and I sure did help myself to those! From there, participants (over 10,000 of them…for real!) chose what panels they wanted to attend. Over 80 middle grade and YA authors were there to talk to them! What an experience. It was crowded and at times a little crazy, but wow! The energy in the building, the excitement, and knowing that lives were being changed really left you feeling so motivated and energized. Reading is far from dead! Kids are reading…voraciously! And they will forever remember how they felt meeting some of their favorite authors. I attended some incredible sessions from some of the authors I saw the day before, and some new ones too. The following week, AHS students who attended NTTBF all came back together and we talked about our day. It was wonderful to hear the stories from the students about what they liked best, who they met, what books they were excited to read. The time it took to plan for the event was so worth it hearing their excitement!
The date for next year has been announced…April 20-21, 2018. I’ll for sure be there and hopefully I’ll have even more kids and teachers with me!
Pop culture is all around our students…so why not use it in the classroom!? I have found that when I can use pop culture in my teaching, I can more easily get students’ attention and find common ground on which to discuss big concepts. I’ve always enjoyed using song lyrics to study poetry concepts, current events written about celebrities for analysis, images of actors and actresses in my lessons to illustrate a point or use movies to discuss themes and literary devices. And it’s just fun! It’s fun to find movie clips to show kids that they have seen before, but can look at in a new way. And of course literature. So much AMAZING YA and middle grade novels are being written and finding ways to use them in the classroom is such a powerful message to students.
Being willing to learn alongside students is significant…and not only for them. This is powerful for us as educators too. If we are trying to help nurture lifelong learners, we need to demonstrate what that looks like and be learners ourselves. We can’t just dismiss pop culture because it is weaved into the fabric of the students we teach. We must use it to our advantage.
Student privacy may not be the most thrilling topic in education, but it’s one of the most important.
It is vital that educators know and understand the laws governing student privacy. It’s hard to understand that we live in a world where student privacy goes hand in hand with student safety, but we do. I admit that I need to know more about the legislation protecting students. FERPA CIPA COPPA So many acronyms to keep track of in education! I found the blog post by Barbara Ruth Paciotti, Ms. P, to be so enlightening and informative. She really spells out what we should know about this topic and helped me remember some of those terms I have forgotten over time. You can find her post here and I recommend you take a look. Ms. P is a great researcher and blogger and I have enjoyed many of her posts! Thanks Ms. P!
I love to share pictures and videos of what my students do! I’m proud of them when they try new things and have positive experiences in the library and in their classes. And I’m thrilled to show off all we do at AHS! I am also aware of privacy. Sometimes when I’ve taken pictures or videos, I’ve had to be creative with angles to avoid showing faces of students who do not have permission to be online. And of course, I never use names! When students are using an online resource, we also remind them to never use their full names or private information online. First names only, no phone number or addresses, etc. This education does need to begin at a very young age. Students must grow up learning how to conduct themselves online and how to avoid putting themselves into dangerous situations.
As educators continue to navigate the growing world of online presence, we are learning right alongside our students. Keeping ourselves educated is so important.
A Listicle…I really like that word. I didn’t realize all those blog posts and articles I’ve enjoyed had a specific name! And it’s such a coincidence that I had just recently created a listicle-ish after returning from TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) in Austin, TX. I was inspired by a librarian I follow on Twitter (@richellereads) who created a Top 5 Smore and I wanted to do the same. Sadly, the title of my Smore was cut off because of it’s size and what my blog page allows…please overlook that. If you’d prefer to look at it in its original format, check it out here.
I do wonder why we are somehow wired to enjoy listicles. Maybe it’s because we know what we’re getting into. If you tell me you have compiled a list of the ten best Ryan Gosling ‘Hey Girl’ memes, I know what I’m going to be reading about and I also know what my time commitment will be. Also, I would read that! Maybe that’s comforting somehow.
I chose to share my TCEA Takeaways with my staff and upper administration because I went to the conference intent on bringing things back to share. One of the greatest parts of education is sharing with others and having them share with you! I have been lucky enough in my career to have learned from some incredible educators thanks to their willingness to share. I could have created a Top 20+ list for sure..it was a fantastic conference. But for the sake of time and attention, I chose to keep it to five items to make the most of the time I have to share with busy teachers. And I have the rest of the year to share more.
A challenging situation. Such a great prompt. And a great exercise too! I think when we are challenged, that’s when we show what we’re made of. If life was to move along perfectly, how would we test ourselves?
Choosing the challenge I wanted to write about was easy. I am living it and learning from it every day! After spending 10 years in one school district, I made the decision last year to leave for the benefit of my family. I left what was comfortable..and I left what I was beginning to take for granted. I am beyond happy in my new position, doing what I love and working with amazing educators and students, but sometimes it is difficult. It’s the little things you know? It’s knowing who to ask for things, which office to go to, how to request a PO (that’s it own unique challenge!), how to find the copy paper. And don’t even get me started on the number of athletic gyms we have here! #igetlostsometimes
I went from knowing the majority of the upper administration and who to go to when I needed to ask a question to floundering a bit. But this has given me the chance to think about it and understand, “It’s okay…as long as…” It’s okay to be the new girl on the block as long as I’m open to meeting new people and reach out. It’s okay to not be 100% sure as long as I ask questions and learn what I need to know. And it’s okay to make mistakes…as long as I learn from them. (Oh man, it’s been a learning year!)
Having to be new has made me more aware of new students who arrive mid year and are forced to start over in a new place. My choice to change districts and jobs was my decision. The students who are in these situations are typically not the ones making the decision to move. We all need a little grace from time to time. It’s nice to be reminded of that.
Free Web Tools…one of my favorite things! I love finding and trying out new tools and learning how they can be beneficial to students and teachers…at NO COST!
After struggling to make creative, pretty signage in Word and taking a very long time to download fonts and try to format everything and nothing ever looking quite the way I wanted, and they all came out looking the same, I was introduced to Canva and will never go back to Word! It’s amazing. It is format friendly (you click & move something where you want it and it goes there), you can upload your own images or use the pre-loaded ones, pre-made layouts make you look like a pro, and it’s fun! I was introduced to Canva a while back and played with it, but didn’t learn to love it until I stopped trying to only use the pre-made layouts. While they are really awesome, I found myself removing nearly all the elements to make my own, so I finally tried starting with a blank canvas and building on my own. I have used it this year more than ever and you can be sure that every sign and display I’ve made has been made with Canva. I created a library logo using it too. See?
This tool is a new find as well. I heard about it in my librarian PLN this year and went back to work and used it the next day. It is very intuitive, drag and drop, easy! This is a video creator that allows you to create slides, add text and images, music, and voice recording. Below is an example Spark I created for a class here at AHS. They were going to use it for an upcoming project. The only criticism I have about Spark is that it doesn’t allow for much creativity with the images you can add to the slides. But that’s where Canva comes in! I was able to get more creative with Canva, save the file as an image and use it on my Spark project. Win!
This is not a new tool, but it’s a good one. The idea is simple…a grid of tiles you can organize however you like, that will take you out to sites you want to have collected. I use this on this website for tools I’d like to be available to students in a very visual way. You can make multiple boards and easily update them. Embedding them onto your website is super easy, or sharing a link works just as well. I like the visuals so I always embed mine. Here’s an example:
Finally….Smore. This is a free tool, but I have paid for the upgrade because I was using it so much and wanted to keep my past designs. Smore is an digital newsletter. It’s great for sharing announcements, new tools, upcoming dates, etc. It would even be great for teachers to use to highlight a new topic or resources to try. I create a S’more for my staff each month with things I find that I would like to show them. A S’more can hold links, pictures, text, embedded videos, and it’s all drag and drop. I think with the free version, you may only be able to create and save 3 before you reach the limit? The paid version is $59 a year I believe. For me, and with how much I use it, it was worth the investment. Once you create a S’more you can share a link or embed it. On this website, I save all the links of old S’mores for my teachers, and embed the most current.
Feel free to check out my S’more page.
There are certainly many more tools that I’ve enjoyed using, but these four that I’ve shared here are the ones I use regularly and rely on for much of what I do.
Write a post that includes an image…
I’ve been pondering this prompt all week and purposely waited until Friday to post. I love to share images and am active on Twitter and Instagram, sharing images of my students and all the wonderful things that happen on our campus. In today’s fast-paced visually-overwhelming age, a good image is necessary to grab the attention of those reading/looking at your post. Knowing this, I’ve been waiting to post until I had an image I really wanted to run with.
I found my image last night.
If you are in the librarian or education field, you need to read the blog The Adventures of Library Girl. This blog is managed by Jennifer LaGarde @jenniferlagarde and she is an amazing librarian in North Carolina! I have enjoyed her blog for a long time and encourage anyone interested to take a look.
She tweeted out an image yesterday and it really struck me. It is timely, informative, and something I want all my students to see and absorb….”Tips for Spotting Fake News.” It’s pretty awesome right?!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is maybe worth a million. If everyone would follow these tips, think of the change that would occur in social media and research. It would be astounding and librarians around the world would rejoice. And look at that pretty Creative Commons license too…something else I want my students to recognize and understand how to use.
So, thank you Ms. Lagarde for taking the time to create a fantastic image that has widespread implication and can be so useful for those of us who work with young people. And thank you also for helping me create my Edublog post this week. 🙂
How did last week get away from me? Well, however that happened, I certainly don’t want to miss out on sharing my thoughts on this week’s blog topic – Leadership.
As of this year, my 14th year in education, I have worked in three different districts, on four different campuses, in three different levels, and for six different principals. I have had a wide variety of experiences during those years that I treasure and hold close to my heart, as well as some experiences I choose not to dwell on. I have worked for amazing leaders and those I would not choose to work with in the future if I had the choice. What I have learned during that time is that as a classroom teacher, I can make the classroom, and a strong principal, a leader, can make the building.
I first saw the above image when I had the pleasure of attending the Plano ISD Library Expo in October 2016. The keynote speaker that day was Heather Lister (@LibrarianLister). She used this image in her presentation and it resonated with me thinking about the bosses and leaders I have worked with in the past. One person stands out to me the most: Laura Springer. Springer (we all call her Springer) is the principal of Coppell Middle School East in Coppell ISD where I was a 6th grade classroom teacher for six years. The five years I worked with her building were absolutely amazing. She was the epitome of a leader. She arrived on our campus following a principal who had been ill and wasn’t able to fulfill her duties for health reasons. Springer brought a wave of new energy, positivity, and love (yes, love), into the building. The staff soon became a close knit family and when I left there and moved into my first librarian position on another campus, I balled like a baby in front of them all. True story.
This picture I saw in Heather’s presentation hit me hard because I have worked with bosses who take on the qualities of the figure in the top half of the image; those who stand away from us and hand out directives. They were disconnected and far from us in “the trenches” and I didn’t feel inspired and invigorated to do more than I was doing. Springer was the leader in the front in the bottom half of the picture. She was right there with us, in the halls with students, taking up for us in meetings (even when she received the backlash), putting herself out front to go alongside us, not above or behind us, caring about us and our families on a personal level. I found myself working harder than I had ever worked, but being happier than I ever had been in my professional life before. I looked forward to going to work, and not only because of my students (although they were always a huge part of that), but because I felt like I was going to work to see my other family and who doesn’t want that feeling?!
Working for a principal like Laura Springer has jaded me a bit! I do expect my leaders to have those qualities now that I have seen what a true leader can do for a building. And I also can expect that same standard for myself too. When I have leadership roles on my campus, I want to display that same leadership quality – someone who is willing to get out in front and emulate what I would want from my teammates. We are all better together!
I do have to say, I really love my work space. I have an office, but I don’t spend much time in it. I prefer to be out in the library where I can interact with students and teachers who are using the library. When I need to do work that requires my complete attention or a quiet space, then I’ll use my office. I have recorded quite a few screencasts in there already this year!
Here’s my circulation desk workspace. I’ve got everything I need right here! And I have a great view of the library too. As you can see, my main method of organization is sticky notes. I love the feeling of finishing a task and throwing my sticky note away. And having that visual reminder staring at me to finish a job is just what I need to keep me focused.
And a pano view of the whole space! It’s a wonderful space and I have plenty of ideas to make it even better for students! Exciting things are coming!
Here’s the view of my other desk in my office. (And yes, I still have Christmas wrapping paper there in the corner! No judgement.) Other important things to note about my office…my graduation robe that doubles as Harry Potter dress robes (Yes, I’ve worn these this year), my Griffyndor scarf, and my beloved Life is Good plaque. Also note the boxes of ARCs in the corner. I love to use those as giveaways and incentives for students. And they love it too!
I have a great workspace, but the best part of my space is of course the students who use it. When I have a buzzing library with students choosing books, using the Makerspace resources, enjoying their time, that’s when I am most excited.