Shades of Black in Libraries

Libraries: What we are, How we surprise, What we could be

shades-of-black-pptx

I had so much fun putting together my recent contribution in Weve!  It was one of the most colossal, creative and confronting pieces I’ve ever worked on.  I felt a huge sense of responsibility to put something meaningful together and a huge sense of accomplishment at the end.  However, I had stepped completely outside of my comfort zone and I was nervous.  Had I nailed the brief?  Did it make sense?  Had I communicated my message, or just ended up being too obscure?  I hope it says something to you and that it’s worth hearing.  Then check out the other amazing contributions to the latest edition of Weve on Heroes Mingle. 

New issue of Weve available!

Weve is one of the publications I mentioned in my recent post about professional reading, so I’m thrilled to have been invited to contribute to the latest edition!
This challenged, stretched, excited and frightened me, all at the same time! I’m so proud of stepping outside of my comfort zone and creating something new. I’ve always been a words girl, so parsing my words right back and selecting just the right ones with the right images to express my thoughts was definitely moving beyond comfort. I enjoyed the brainstorming that went along with this immensely! Thank you, Sally and Megan for inviting me to do this, and then actually using my little movie!

Heroes Mingle

Read more Click on the image to open Weve

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Recipe for making library magic

Here is another one of Cambridge High’s library manager Glenys Bichan’s fantastic initiatives. This time it’s combining a splash of food and a pinch of libraries with a bushell of people in a special concoction to become their inaugural Librarian Master Chef competition.

ch-masterchef-1

Five teams had to cook two courses based on the themes of books they chose. The teams were:

  1. Harry Potter-concocted “Mrs Weasleys Corn Beef” sandwiches.
  2. Percy Jackson, “Greek Burgers” complete with feta and olives.
  3. Alice in Wonderland had food coloured pasta in a dish called “The Chesire Cat”.
  4. Lord of the Rings made “Dragon Eyes” out of eggs
  5. And the winning team Winnie The Pooh made amazing “Poohs Honey Ginger Bread”.

Food preparation took place in the Food Tech Room and the judging panel consisted of the Deputy Principal, a maths teacher who happens to be an ex chef and the school’s head students. The Principal made a point of checking it out. (I imagine to get in on a bit of the taste test action!)

As if this inventive, creative competition isn’t enough in itself, Glenys as usual, is all about the business of people, as we discovered in her inspirational posting about the two Jaimees in her library. She sees events like this as her way of having input into the lives of her students, making memories for them of their time as part of her library team.

And it brings disparate groups together who might not otherwise associate. She witnessed potential head students working alongside autistic kids; beside students with significant illness; beside kids who have gained recognition nationally for their areas of giftedness.  

ch-mc-jaimeeIn her own words: “We have the opportunity to really, positively impact the lives of these students in powerful ways! They loved it, and being the family they are laughed a lot – it was just a bit tricky stopping the year 10 boys tea towel flicking!

The food was stunning and the planning amazing – two weeks they plotted. They did so well.  Jaime the Giraffe, of course came as well, only his team, which included me was disqualified!!”

Thank you from us all, Glenys!

Libraries Are About People

This is my space.  It’s where I can talk, rant, vent, discuss and share things that inspire me, that will hopefully, in turn, inspire you.

My most recent inspiration has come from Glenys Bichan, Library Manager at Cambridge High School.  However, I couldn’t possibly do her story justice so I asked her if she would be prepared to share it with everyone here.  I’m thrilled to say she agreed, so here is the story of a fluffy giraffe called Jaimee eLula.

Jaimee is the culmination of my six years as a librarian at a co-ed secondary school.  How can this be? I have learnt some stuff……Jaimee Giraffe

Being a librarian is not about books, it’s not about information provision, it’s not about collection collation, it’s not about cataloguing, it is not about my blog or Facebook page, it is about people.

Our people here are predominantly 13-18 year olds. The seekers and finders of life.  Those in the midst of discovery about who they are, what the world is, where they fit in it, and this means they need Jaimees.

Jaimee the Giraffe is named after a young man who worked in our library, He suffered a brain tumour at a young age, attended our school as a differently abled student and then we had the honour of employing him in our library. Very sadly while I was attending a SLANZA conference Jaimee Moore passed away.  He left us his determination, his gentle heart and his courage. Our giraffe continues his story and his qualities. Jaimee touched people, and now he still will.

Jaimee readingA month ago I organised our Waikato/BOP SLANZA training day. I wanted to impart the concept that the power of a library is based on relationships, on people. All we do is based around this. We invited a school counselor and other panelists to talk about the needs of our students, what they face as Generation Z, the issues that they grapple with and how we as librarian practitioners can support them best. The counselor suggested all libraries need a big cuddly toy. I thought Yeah, but Nah, a great kiwi colloquialism meaning maybe a good idea for others, but not for us.

Two days later I had a student bowl into the office- 14 years old, top graded student, witty, sporty, a different thinker, and I like her a lot. She sat down, burst into tears and said “Miss I feel so empty”.

Jaimee TypingI listened, I empathised and then I got into my car raced down to The Warehouse and bought Jaimee. Yesterday she came into my office, hugged him and smiled “Thanks Miss for getting Jaimee. It is so good to just snuggle up to him.” Since then I have had students who have never before engaged with us ask for him.  They sit him on their knee, they get on a computer and they type like fury. Their teachers are blown away. They have never concentrated like that before.

Jaimee seems to have super powers.

Attending professional development, listening to the experts and doing what they say works. It’s no surprise, but maybe we should not be in such a rush to say Yeah-Nah. We participate in professional opportunities to learn, to be challenged, to glean. It’s not about the lunch, it’s about changing our mind-sets. Why? For our people! The challenge of professional development is to activate the gleanings and knowledge we acquire, otherwise our expert speakers become void, a hollow voice, a waste. What makes us tick? What is the driver behind our school library? It is to impact people.

Jaimee and friendsThe usage of libraries continues to evolve. It is no longer a place of quiet study and silent reading. Instead it is a thriving community, a place of learning by discussion, of people not being informed only by notes and pages, but by social engagement, online learning, open discussion – and fluffy giraffes called Jaimee.

In our library here at Cambridge we call it a HUB – Holistic, Ubiquitous and Bold. We deal with the whole person. Not only their learning but as members of our community. We challenge old preconceived ideas about librarianship and are moving into a new area where a “library’s mission is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in communities” as stated by David Lankes, author of The Atlas of New Librarianship. He goes onto say that one of the most vital parts of that knowledge creation is through conversation!  And, “By establishing a climate of participation, risk-taking, acceptance of “messy” learning and inquiry, we can create conversations that in turn create school libraries that are responsive and organic. A participatory approach to librarianship can ultimately lead to learning experiences that in the words of Steve Jobs “make a dent in someone’s universe”

Jaimee reading at deskAt Cambridge High School this looks like a lounge, a place you retreat to as a safe place. It is warm; it is filled with people you connect with; it is a place where meaningful discussion occurs; it is comfortable; it is a place where you read, a place you watch TV, a place you discuss what you read, what you watch and how you react to those ideas. It is place of debate; it is a place of security. It is a place where you eat; a place where you are most relaxed.

This is our library.  It is all of those things; secure, open, real, and it has a fluffy giraffe. It is not the family room of chaos, it is a lounge of being and learning. If our lounge is the umbrella, the spokes are the HUB.

Holistic – deals with the whole person. We provide information, knowledge and support to all our stakeholders in a way that adds to them as people and as members of our community. People leave our space feeling valued and respected.

Ubiquitous – impacts on and is accessible to our users 24/7. Not just with information and knowledge but because we have had conversations that have challenged and affirmed our users. We build confidence, value, character and resilience.

Bold – our library has an open vision which is imaginative and we think outside the box – what box? We embrace the big picture of a 21st century information provider. We scan the landscape and shift accordingly. The outcomes of being bold is that our students will flourish, not just academically but socially within our community.

Jaimee MooreSo Jaimee eLula Giraffe is now a staff member. He is being told secrets, read picture books to, held while his friends type like fury. He is carted around the school on grand tours; he is there, and he can be whatever our people need him to be in their often confused, shaken, broken and scary worlds. Jaimee is an identity when they struggle to have one, and he is soft and gentle when their world can be hard and harsh.

Jaimee, according to my people, will soon have his own blog. He will tell their stories, and this will be amazing to read. Maybe the story of Jaimee will become its own story within the stories of our people!

They will be determined, gentle and courageous – just like Jaimee Moore.

What students need from me – a teacher reflection

Brick wall & ladder
CC Flickr – Assault Techniques

Author and English teacher Tania Roxborogh has today shared her reflections on being a teacher with her English teaching colleagues on their listserve.

This really resonated with me both as an educator and a mum and thought it might be the same for many of you, so I made contact with Tania and she has kindly given me permission to post it here for you all to read.

It reminds me that part of learning is repeatedly wrestling with information and often feeling like you’re beating your head against a brick wall.  Maybe teachers are the ladder over that brick wall. This is reinforced for me as I embark on this year’s Tertiary Prep Programme.

What My Students Need From Me – a Self-Reflection

Confession from a returning soldier teacher:
Yesterday, I got close to losing my temper at a class. For the millionth time, I had to explain again an instruction that was:

a) contained in their handout

b) up on the board

c) in a message home to the parents

I was really frustrated. Couldn’t they just pay attention? Couldn’t they just read/check it for themselves? Couldn’t they be grateful at how awesome I was as their teacher to be providing them with this awesome task using all the correct pedagogical tools that make the work relevant, help with different learning styles and needs…?
Yeah, nah!

 

I talked the day over with my pōtiki, the one who had us up at nights, who slammed doors and screamed at us for being horrible parents. And who is now back living with us, happily having these kind of conversations because (apparently) we’ve learned from her and are the best parents ever.
‘Mum, just be like you were with me.’ For a moment, a Vietnam flashback of those teenage years threatened to send me to bed with a headache but my daughter continued. ‘I knew that you would never ever give way with me. You never gave up. No matter how bad or sad or sick I was. Be like that for them. Be their wall to knock against. You once told me that the world of school is a hard place and I could come home and let it all out cos I was safe. Maybe they are asking and complaining because you make them feel safe.’

 

Once I got over the surprise at my 20 year old’s wisdom, I sat back and thought: yeah, they are fourteen. Who’d want to be fourteen. Keep being kind. Keep being patient even to the smart-alec kid who likes to take pot shots at me.

 

What they really need is for me to LET THEM ask (again), tell me they don’t understand, complain that it’s too hard.
Yes, really.

 

As much as it nuts me out, my time in the trenches of student-ville (see what I’m doing here) have taught me that if I couldn’t get it the first time, or the next, and what I needed then was my lecturer to have the patience of Gandhi (am I pushing the metaphor too wide?), and, because I knew my lecturer would always answer my questions (again and again), I sought help more and I learned, even if those around me caught on quicker.

Telling them I already know the stuff and that they need to is unfair and a bit unkind. Telling them I know the stuff and why it’s good to know it is more helpful.

You Do What? Re-working a Librarian “Career Day” Presentation

I have found Mr. Library Dude, Joe Hardenbrook to be an inspiration and at times a digital kindred spirit over the past few years, reading about ideas such as therapy dogs and postcards from the library. In this offering he shares a fantastic idea to put a different spin when communicating to people (in this case 15 year old students – one of the toughest crowds!) how good it is to be a librarian and what qualities you need to become a great one.

I love this approach and will keep this in mind the next time I get an opportunity to talk to people about what I do. It has the potential to turn that opportunity into something positive for the the deliverer as well as the recipient. Thanks for sharing Joe!

Mr. Library Dude

A group of 15-year old high school students from a nearby city have been visiting my college campus periodically since the 4th grade. They’re part of a pre-college program that prepares students to be the first in the their family to attend a four-year university.

This year, students have been focusing on careers. I was asked to give a 50-minute presentation on: My Life as a Librarian.

What???? I immediately panicked. How would I make a presentation about librarianship interesting to high schoolers? Was it even worth it to participate?

Making Connections

The quick answer: Yes, it was worth participating! I knew I wasn’t going to make mini-librarians out of anyone…nor should I even try. Plus, I’m dubious of pigeon-holing anyone into a specific career so young (says me who changed his college major three times!). What I thought was more important was:

  • Seeing how high school students perceive libraries/librarians
  • Getting that…

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Inquiry Learning Pt 3: The Process

Here is part three of our guided inquiry journey.  Leon expands on what direction their inquiry took and sets out the process he trialled with his class.  If you want to catch up on the first two instalments you can do that here for part 1 and here for part 2.

In term 1 this year we had completed a unit on healthy eating. This prompted a lot of discussion about food, what was healthy and what was not. There had also been lots published in the media about sugar and its ill effects on our health. The class decided they wanted to investigate this further.

An in-depth discussion ensued about some of the choices of food and drink that was available in our canteen and from that it was decided to see if we could affect what was offered for sale.  We decided to look at other healthy alternatives and whether or not it would be cost effective to serve meals that had no highly processed foods. Our next step was to backwards map how we might make all this happen.

In groups we brainstormed ideas about all the things we would need to do to make this happen and put together a timeline so everyone knew what and when different tasks had to happen.

Brainstorming process

Sugar

Note: (I believe this step is crucial to any inquiry. You need to have a timeline and establish some parameters, including a goal otherwise, as we discovered, it is very easy to get off task or have ideas spiral into something massive that will go on forever and ever!)

The first thing we had to do was gain the permission of our rector to investigate foods our canteen was selling.  A team of students put together a simple power point presentation and invited him to come and listen to their proposal. Students had to back up their suggestions themselves with relevant information as we knew Mr Baldwin would be asking some tough questions. This meant that every student had to do their own research to learn about the effects of highly processed food and sugar on the body both physically and mentally. Our researching skills really paid off at this time (thanks again Senga).

Students also made appointments with other teachers in the Science and Health departments to gather further information to strengthen their argument.

During this process it became clear that the students were all doing different things at different times. This was where I had to let go of my inner control freak! As a class we talked constantly about self-management and being able to work to a deadline. I had to trust that students would complete set tasks without me constantly looking over their shoulder.

I deliberately gave the boys a lot of freedom to come and go from the classroom and work how they needed to work. For some this meant taking regular breaks, listening to devices, working in groups or individually as well as having regular catch ups with each other. It was amazing to see them becoming “experts” in particular fields and all feeding off each other for information.
Chicken Tacos with Tomato Salsa cook book

As a class we designed a cookbook made from healthy recipes we had researched and students had to show their learning in some way, shape or form. This could be anything from a mock news interview to a power point presentation to a poster or simply submitting their inquiry journal.  Documenting our journey in this way would prove invaluable.

Students designed the criteria for our final assessment and came up with a list of ways that we could measure each other’s learning. Having them co-construct the criteria for assessment meant they had real ownership of the task.

So it sounds like all is coming up roses and I am now an expert on inquiry and my class is perfect aye! WRONG! Not all my students responded well to the less structured approach we took with our learning. Two students in particular really struggled with this concept, choosing to be completely off task and “abusing” the system. In the next posting I will continue to outline both the successes and the stumbling blocks along the way to successful guided inquiry ………