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!

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 ………

Inquiry Learning Part 2: The Approach

Here is instalment two of our inquiry journey where Leon describes the approaches taken. If you want to know why we began this journey, you can read about it here.

Before throwing myself into the unknown, I had to learn about the process of inquiry. I had previously had many conversations with our librarian, Senga about Inquiry Learning but had always made excuses that I was too busy to make this happen in my room.  Looking back, I now realise I was scared to give away power and too proud to acknowledge that I didn’t have all the answers. (Told you I was a control freak!)

I knew that if this was to work I would have to acquire help from others. This would also mean opening up my classroom and putting my practise under scrutiny.

Two books I read which were to become my bibles were:
Creating Learner Centred Primary Classroom Guided Inquiry DesignCreating a Learner-centred Primary Classroom by Kath Murdoch & Jeni Wilson and Guided Inquiry Design: a Framework for Inquiry in Your School by Carol Kahlyhau, Leslie Maniotes & Ann Caspari. 

These gave me some foundation and ideas to move forward.

 I realised that I really did not understand what good research looked like, nor did I have the skills to teach them to my students. This is where our school Research & Learning Coordinator Senga became the first big piece of putting this puzzle together. My students and I met with her for several sessions where we learned how to research in books and online, how to synthesise important information and take notes, and reference our sources of information.

Dot Jot LDN ExampleLDN 9Home NotetakingMy students had never gone through the Inquiry process before so we decided to all explore the same topic. We had  already worked on a unit around healthy eating and so decided to look at sugar in foods and whether all the hype in the media had any substance.

Our literacy sessions involved in-depth analysis of research we had found and we also watched movies such as Supersize Me, The 200kg Kid, That Sugar Film, and Fed Up. Inquiry 2 Fed Up

I quickly realised this was becoming massive! There were millions of questions that we were losing track of and we would need help from experts to find answers.  

We decided we would brainstorm a list of people we may need to call on for help and the “Wonderwall” was born!

Wonderwall

The Wonderwall is our dumping ground for questions that that arise during research.  We had sticky notes available at all times to write questions. Everyone answered each other’s questions as they came across relevant information.

9Home working

We approached staff members as experts to work with us and a great group of people got on board, prepared to help at any time. We already had access to a great research person from our library, who was also very good giving us ideas and resources for documenting our journey.  She was joined by a scientist, a P.E. specialist, a leader of learning, an English major with exceptional skill in photography and video, an Alternative Pathways teacher who the students have great respect for and a Mathematician & Physics teacher with a passion for teaching. This would become a great starting group to get things rolling.

Inquiry Learning: One Teacher’s Journey – Part 1

Inquiry

I had some comments at the SLANZA Conference last month that my blog has been a bit quiet.  This is true. But it hasn’t been due to lack of material.  It has more to do with timing and the size of the undertakings. Good things take time!

For example, it has taken me the better part of 10 months to be in a position to share about the new and improved Tertiary Prep Programme.

Another significant piece of work I’ve been involved in this year has been supporting and working alongside of one of my teachers as he embarked on a huge mind shift towards guided inquiry learning in his classroom.

It has been a roller-coaster year for both of us so I’ve asked Leon to share, in his own words, how this journey has been.

This will be the first in a series of blogs over the next few weeks outlining:

  • why undertake this journey
  • what approaches were taken
  • the outcomes for the students
  • reflection of the process from the teacher’s perspective
  • the benefits of collaboration

LDN 9Home 15

I am absolutely thrilled to be introducing you to Mr Leon Dunn. Not only is he a pleasure to work with, he has shown himself to be brave in launching into a new direction in his classroom practice, generous in sharing and discussing ideas with myself and others, and genuine in his caring connection with every student who enters his sphere.  Here, Leon shares about why he began this journey:

This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and look at teaching through inquiry in my class. This was a relatively new concept to me and I had only touched on inquiry in a school I had previously worked at.

WHY?

For the past three years I felt I have been just going through the motions in terms of my classroom teaching. There are some great systems put in place in our school for curriculum delivery, but I felt like neither I nor my class had any control over what happened in our room.

An example of this is our school reading programme. A folder was given to me on arrival at the school and we were instructed to only use the resources that were in it! The same applied to writing, where the unit and resources would be given to us and we taught from that. No collaboration with other staff or students about what and how curriculum would be delivered in the classroom. I felt restricted in terms of planning and resourcing and after gathering student voice data I knew it was time for things to change. I was tired of filling my students heads with “just in case” knowledge with a didactic teaching approach that was boring for all of us.

I teach a Year 9 Homeroom / Alternative Pathways class in an all boys school. There is a roll of 15 students in my class, with numbers this low because our homerooms are made up of very low academic and high pastoral needs students. For some of my students it is a win just getting to school on time!

Teaching through inquiry was a scary thought because I would be “flying blind” having no idea how it would work or how the boys would respond. This is my first year trialling this so am by no means an expert on the subject. I am also a self-confessed control freak so letting go and stepping into the unknown is very stressful. But over the course of the next few weeks I would like to share my journey warts and all! 

Leon is a primary, bilingual trained teacher in his ninth year of teaching.  After completing his degree he spent almost five years in London teaching all ages groups from Nursery to Year 6.  Upon returning to New Zealand he worked for a year in Alternative Education before  teaching a Year 6-8 class in a small primary school.  He has been teaching at Southland Boys’ High School for the past three years with Year 7 and Year 9 classes.

Who Else is Going To Do It??!

I have had my head down, slaving away on many different work fronts in recent weeks/months.  Today I made time for a little bit of Professional Learning and I’m SO glad I did!  I was reading a posting on website Resource Link  about attribution of images with Creative Commons License through Flickr and decided to explore their site for other gems.  Boy, did I find a nugget of gold!

You need to watch this TedX Talk by Pam Sandlian-Smith on What to Expect From Libraries in the 21st Century

This short 11 minute talk is completely inspiring and almost brought me to tears.

If you have been wondering “why on earth do I bother?” ….. watch this.

If you have been wondering “do I make a difference?” ….. watch this.

If you have been thinking “what can I do to make a difference?” ….. watch this.

If you are sick of fending questions along the lines of “why do we need libraries?” ….. watch this.

If you have been wondering how to inspire your staff ….. watch this.

Do you want to remember what it is you love about the possibilities of being in our profession? ….. watch this.

I challenge you to remain unmoved, unchallenged or uninspired!

Now, if you have read to the end of this posting and haven’t yet watched this clip ….. Watch it Now!

Visual Pathway to Analysing Texts

I am becoming increasingly aware of myself as a visual learner. This blog post from the wonderful Sally Pewhairangi is a great reminder of this for me.
This had a dual effect on me.
Firstly, I immediately saw the potential for English teachers to use this as an analysis tool for their class novel studies. The students could create their own key as to how to analyse the text, maybe as a plot summary or maybe as a way of charting use of language, or possibly even plotting a character’s movement or development during the novel. I’m sure there are other ways to use it too.
Secondly, it reminded me of why it’s so important to share your ideas with others, and how exciting it is to have new ideas sparked by others sharing their experiences.

FINDING HEROES

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE LOVEMATCH

Contender for the World: Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts.
My Verdict: I was expecting to be swept off my feet by the ‘Queen of Romance’ but was terribly disappointed. A bit too homely for my liking.

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The Power of Quotes for Inspiration

At the end of last term we settled on a very simple idea to fill space above our fiction shelves and the ceiling so it didn’t look so bare.

Christine, one of our part-time staff had been processing the new Bear Grylls’ book  A Survival Guide for Life:  how to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character. She made an off-hand comment about how striking some of Bear’s sayings are that are scattered throughout the book.  The ensuing conversation led to a brainstorming session which resulted in us deciding to create a series of posters with great sayings to inspire our boys.

Quotes posters

I sent an email out to staff asking them to send me some of their favourite quotes they either use in the classroom or would like to use with students and was pleased with the response.  I also trawled through ones I’d saved and others on some good websites and came up with 50.

After typing up the quotes we printed them on buff coloured A3 paper, laminated them and then stuck them up on the wall.

I was a happy librarian.  But what has made me an ecstatic librarian was observing a Year 7 teacher using these with her class during the last five minutes of her library visits both last week and this week.  She asked the boys to have a look and choose one that they liked or that they wanted to share with the rest of the class. She then gave them the opportunity to read out their chosen quote and invited them to share what it meant to them or what deeper meaning it might have.

Here are three they chose today:

No. 26

No. 13

No. 35

My own personal favourite is:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford

I want to make it a round 60 so I need another few yet.  Have you got a special inspirational quote?  I’d love you to share it here so I can find my final 10.

Action and Reflection: Aligning and Mapping the Work of a Library to Its Community of Learning

As part of my workshop at the SLANZA 2013 conference on engaging with your school community I talked about the importance of articulating your school vision. Here is a concept from Buffy Hamilton which will enable you to take that vision for your school library and puts meat on the bones of it so that everyone can see. I love not only the visual aspect to this idea of mapping the work you are doing in your library but also the connection to the work being done in collaboration with the rest of the school. It makes those links very clear and understandable for anyone who is involved or has an interest. I also think the idea of having this both physically in the library as well as online is important for the sharing of these ideas and projects as well as the promotion of further discussion and brainstorming. Mapping this work will also provide intersections for further collaboration and allows you to identify and follow through on areas for potential evidence based practice. Thanks so much to Buffy for sharing this. Great idea, and I look forward to seeing how this progresses.