The Magic of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

I was so blessed to be able to enjoy the 2017 solar eclipse with my family.  We spent the weekend camping at Santee State Park and watched Monday’s eclipse from our pontoon boat on Lake Marion.  The weather cooperated beautifully with us, and we couldn’t have asked for a better view.  It honestly was an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was over much too quickly.

In spite of being warned that it was more important to remain in the moment rather than trying to get pictures — which wouldn’t turn out well anyway — we did take a few photos.  This one doesn’t come close to doing the eclipse justice, but it’s special to me because it’s my unique personal memento of an event I’ll never forget.

Being a librarian whose thoughts are never far from books, I couldn’t help but compare my eclipse experience with the one described in Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass.  This book has been a favorite of mine since it was nominated for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award in 2011, and I’ve both read it and listened to the audio version which is performed by three different narrators representing the book’s three main characters, and is extremely well-done.

To quote the book’s summary: “At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. Three lives are about to be changed forever:..Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s place in the universe.”

From the professional reviews:

“The astronomical details are fascinating and lyrically incorporated into the narrative. Readers who like quietly self-reflective novels like Lynne Rae Perkin’s Criss Cross or Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl” books will also enjoy this compelling and thought-provoking story.”
School Library Journal  *starred review*

“Ally, Bree and Jack, three very different souls, converge at the Moon Shadow Campground to witness a solar eclipse. Mass has crafted a beautiful tale of preteen angst and growth under a glorious sky. The planetary research into our universe and the world of eclipse chasers is not only impressive but woven together in a way that makes this book hard to put down.”
Modesto Bee

“Mass succeeds in making the eclipse a truly moving experience for her protagonists and her readers.”
Horn Book

Wendy Mass

 

I’ve blogged about Wendy Mass before, as she’s quite a favorite at my house and you really can’t go wrong with any of her books.  But as of this week I truly owe her my gratitude for preparing me six years ahead of time for one of the most amazing events of my life!  THANK YOU WENDY!

 

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What’s Your Library Slogan?

“Branding” is one of the buzzwords that librarians are hearing a lot about lately, but because we are often locked into using our school name, mascot, colors, etc on everything we create, having a unique brand can present difficulties for a school library.  But what if we tied a slogan to our name, and used it on everything?

Think about some of the marketing slogans that have resonated with the public.  I bet you can easily name the companies that use these taglines:

Have it your way.

Where shopping is a pleasure.

Expect more.  Pay less.

These slogans indicate that customer satisfaction is a priority, and that the needs of the consumer are being carefully considered.

So what’s your library slogan?

No one is allowed in the library without a pass.

You can only check out two books at a time, and if you return them late you have to pay a fine.

No food or drinks allowed.

There will be no emailing, games, or talking in the library.

You’re not really welcome here.

“Oh no,” you say, “no one would choose any of those sayings as a tagline!”  Then why do I see these exact sentences (well, okay, maybe I’ve never actually seen that last one, but it’s been implied) in some form or another on nearly every library web page I’ve visited lately?  I won’t link to any of them here, but in my search for inspiring library sites I’ve looked at quite a few that feature a stern list of do’s and don’ts.  (Mostly don’ts.)  And most of them aren’t discreetly tucked away in a “Library Policies” corner; they are right there on the home page!

Yes, we need guidelines, and yes, we need to communicate them to our users, so a “No rules, just right” approach won’t work in the library.  But we have to “think outside the bun” and make an effort to show the many resources and services we have to offer our students, their parents, and the community.  And we need to do it in a positive way so that we emphasize what visitors can do rather than what they’re not allowed to do.

So I hope these are the kinds of slogans that describe your library:

We never stop working for you.

You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers.

That was easy.

And perhaps most importantly:

The choice of a new generation.

 

 

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Reflecting on 2014-2015

I often use this blog as a place to “think on paper” and reflect on different aspects of my job.  As the 2014-2015 school year draws to a close, I’m scratching my head and wondering where the year went!  Robert Browning tells us that our reach should exceed our grasp, so I suppose it’s okay that I had more plans than I was able to implement this year.  But in looking back over the ideas that did come to fruition, here are some of my favorites:

  • Our annual Comic Book Read-In is always a hit with students, and this year I was able to help teachers connect it to the curriculum with my companion workshop Comics in the Classroom.  I went on to share those resources at the S.C. Association of School Librarians conference in March of this year.
    Boys on Beanbags
  • This year I celebrated International Dot Day: Make Your Mark with all of our 5th graders.  I shared the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds on the Promethean board via Tumblebooks, and we discussed the importance of trying new things and giving yourself permission to experiment with new things.  We then used Microsoft Paint to create digital dot art, which I displayed in the library and online.
    Dot Art
  • Our 2nd graders practiced their research skills and their technology skills with our African American Biography Timelines.  They learned how to use Encyclopedia Britannica Elementary (part of the SC DISCUS suite of databases) to gather facts and photos, then synthesized their information into an online timeline using the ReadWriteThink timeline tool.
    Timeline
  • We discovered some budding poets through our Found Poetry project with 4th grade.  We examined various nonfiction print sources to create word banks of important facts, then used the elements of poetry to communicate the information in more lyrical ways.
    Down Deep in the Ocean
  • The Quest teacher asked me to lead an Hour of Code with the gifted and talented students at my school and the other elementary school she serves.  We used a Scratch project, and the kids astounded themselves with their results!  “Wow, I’m really good at this!”  (Those types of comments are music to my ears!)
    scratch animate your name
  • My LOOK! NEW BOOKS! new book preview for teachers this year included a QR Code twist!  Many of the new books on display in the library contained bookmarks with QR codes that teachers could scan to access additional teaching resources for using the books in the classroom.  I created the codes with QR Code Monkey, which I really like because it allows you to upload a logo or photo as part of your code.
    How to Write an Ad QR Code
  • I created several technology tutorials for teachers using the free screencasting tool ScreencastOMatic.  When I can’t provide assistance in person, a screencast video is the next best thing!
    Promethean Timer

What did you try this year that was a hit with students or teachers?  Tell us about it in the comments!

 

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Keeping Busy

Reflect

 

Whew, it’s been awhile since I took time to reflect on what’s going on in my library!

My principal put my library on a flexible schedule last year, after five years on a fixed schedule, and I’m thrilled with her commitment to keeping it that way.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that nine weeks into year two, I’m still figuring out how to squeeze in everything I want to do!  In the past, I planned six projects per week (one for each grade level at my K-5 school) and out of necessity ran the library on autopilot while I taught six Library classes daily.  Now, I’m usually working on six projects PER DAY as I collaborate with teachers, plan special library events, manage our school website, provide technology training, and continue to see classes for story time and research projects as needed!

Having the freedom to try new things with teachers and students is both exhilarating (so many ideas!) and frustrating (still not enough time!) in equal measures.  My primary concern right now is making sure that the activities I’m scheduling are not just cute and fun, but are providing real interactive learning opportunities for the students.  Working with teachers is crucial in supporting the classroom curriculum and addressing the common core standards, and planning time is something they don’t have enough of, either.  Fortunately we were able to add a Curriculum Coach to our staff this year, and she and I have been putting out heads together to figure out how we can best help teachers align their content with the standards, and integrate more technology into their lesson plans.

NetworkedTeacher
Frankly, I blame a lot of my problems on social media.  My PLN has expanded in the last two years from just reading blogs to following tweeps on Twitter and  pinners on Pinterest, and participating in monthly webinars hosted by TL Cafe, School Library Journal, and various other providers.  Consequently, I’m exposed to more great ideas than I have time to try!  Curse you, PLN, for thinking so creatively and sharing so generously!

So, how do I eat the elephant?  One bite at a time!  When I’m discouraged at the end of each day by how many things didn’t get done, I have to remind myself of all the things I did accomplish.  Toward that end, I started a Project 365 photo journal, but I have to admit that I’ve been too busy to keep up with it.  Do you have any tips for staying positive when things get hectic?  Please share them in the comments!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Alec Couros via Compfight

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Is It February Already?

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted!  This happens every year; I go into a sort of social media hibernation in November, due to an unfortunate confluence of events beyond my control.

First we have our two-week circus book fair in the Library which, when combined with the publicity beforehand and the tying up of loose ends afterward takes us straight into the Thanksgiving holidays (a whole week off in my district!), and when we return we’re thrown into the Christmas season with its inevitable family obligations, and in January it’s time to get back into the routine of work and catch up on what didn’t get done during December, and it’s not until the ALA Youth Media Awards are announced at the end of January that I lift my head dazedly and exclaim, “Yikes, where did the time go?!?”

The last few months have been a whirlwind of professional activity, including collaborating with teachers, presenting at conferences, and re-examining my role as the teacher-librarian at my school.  I’ll be sharing documents, resources, and reflections on all of these things over the next couple of weeks, including some advocacy materials that might be helpful to other media specialists, but for  now here’s a sampler of items I’ve been creating and/or using and sharing with my teachers:

Time Life Photo Archive – great database of historical photos for social studies and history classes

I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) Blog – the published nonfiction authors who write this blog are giving us an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Common Core is affecting the publishing world

ActivCarolinas Conference Flipcharts – for those who use Promethean boards and ActivInspire software, here are the flipcharts the presenters used.  (The flipcharts from my sessions can also be found on my ActivCarolinas page.)

It’s nice to be back!

 

Image: ‘Marmotte — Groundhog
Found on flickrcc.net
 
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Saying Yes

In our first back-to-school meeting last week, our faculty was challenged to think about our attitude for the new year.  When the two Sumter school districts merged into one last year, there were many fears and frustrations as everyone adjusted to doing things in new, unfamiliar ways.  But that difficult first year of transition is over, and everyone is eager now to focus on making this year successful for our students.

So after an inspiring “welcome back” speech from our principal, everyone was given a stress ball (hey, the most difficult part of the transition may be over, but no one expects this year to be easy!) and asked to choose one word to define our focus for the year.  One word that sums up what we want our students and co-workers to notice about us, one word that we can use to remind ourselves – as we squeeze that rubber ball and take deep calming breaths – what is truly important this year.

The word I chose is Yes.  That one simple word represents my desire to assist and support our teachers this year as we begin implementing the Common Core standards in our school.  So many times in the past I’ve had to tell them “no” – either by word or deed – when they needed something because my time was too taken up with conducting Library classes.  This year I want to be there with resources, with ideas, with collaborative teaching plans, and with technology innovations to empower them in their classrooms and beyond.

Whatever a teacher asks me for this year, I want to be able to say Yes to it.  Technical difficulties with your printer?  Yes, I’ll come down and look at it right away.  Enough folk tales for every student in your class to have one?  Yes, I’ll bring them down to your classroom.  A Promethean flipchart to give students practice classifying different types of rocks?  Yes, I’ll help you create that.  A website to help students learn more about the Greek and Roman gods?  Yes, I’ll find one for you.

Yes, it will be a juggling act at times, but yes, it will be worth it to help our teachers accomplish their goals.

What’s your word this year?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 
Image: ‘Friday, 13th, Nov‘  Found on flickrcc.net

 

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This is Why I Will Never Be Joyce Valenza

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the new Delicious interface, and if you read it you already know that I wasn’t thrilled.  The site looks different, and some of the features have changed, and there’s some new terminology to learn.

Did you catch those key words?  New.  Different.  Change.  Oh, how many times have we shaken our heads in pity over our less-enlightened colleagues who bemoan these very things?  (tsk tsk tsk)  I thought I was above all that.

The day after I posted my reaction, I read Delicious Stacks by Joyce Valenza at her Neverending Search blog.  (Go ahead, take a moment to read it; then meet me back here.)

As you can see, Joyce immediately embraced the positive aspects of the new Delicious and began using it with her students.  She didn’t waste any time freaking out over the unfamiliarity of it; she just plunged right in and made it work for her.  That’s why she’s Joyce Valenza and I’m just me.

So I’m taking this lesson in keeping an open mind to heart, and I’ll remember my own feelings of resistance next time I’m sharing a new way of doing something with an apprehensive teacher.  I think Joyce would approve.

 

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