Saying YES to Teachers

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In our back-to-school meeting today at Vance Providence Elementary School, our faculty was asked to choose a watchword for this year. As the morning went on we heard from our principal, our guidance counselor, our secretary, and others on the faculty and staff.  As I listened and made note of the information being shared, the question lingered in the back of my mind: What word will define my attitude for the year? What word will sum up what I want my co-workers to notice about me?  What word can I use to remind myself of what is truly important this year?

The word I chose is Yes. That one simple word represents my desire to assist and support the teachers as I begin my education journey with them. So many times in the past I’ve had to tell teachers “no” when they needed something because my time was completely taken up with conducting Library classes. This year I have a flexible schedule, so I can 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. You’re having technical difficulties with your document camera? Yes, I’ll come look at it. You need enough folk tales for every student in your class to have one? Yes, I’ll bring a selection to your classroom. You want to use a Promethean flipchart to give students practice classifying different types of rocks? Yes, I’ll help you create that. You’re looking for a website to help students learn more about Greek and Roman mythology? Yes, I’ll find one for you.

Sometimes it will be yes, and … (here’s something more we can include)
Sometimes it will be yes, or… (we could try this idea instead)
Sometimes it will be yes, if… (it depends on someone else doing their part)
Sometimes it will be yes, after… (I need to finish something else first)
Sometimes it will be yes, when… (as soon as I can find the answer/solution)
But always Yes.

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.


Making a Difference for Children

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Ever since I began reflecting and sharing online in 2007, I’ve adhered to a strict policy of keeping my private life and my professional life totally separated.  I have different social media accounts for work and family, and I will unfollow people who include too much “politics” in the education sector.  This blog post is my sole exception in my twelve years of writing about my experience as an educator.  You’ve been warned.

Normally I look forward to starting my mornings by fixing myself an iced mocha and perusing my news feed to find out what’s happening in the world.  Today I experienced only a sickening sense of dread as I powered up my ipad, and my churning stomach led me to skip the coffee altogether.

This article from USA Today that I read yesterday perfectly summed up all the troubling stories I’ve been following lately, and seeing details of these separate events compiled in one place just brought me to the point of feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in our government and in our country.

 I’m feeling profoundly sad (we took frightened children away from their desperate parents?), dumbfounded (we took these children from their parents with NO procedure for eventually reuniting them?), bewildered (we think this is okay because these aren’t American children?), outraged (we’re using the words of a loving God to justify destroying families?).  **And I intentionally use the pronoun “we” because when the rest of the world looks at what’s happening, they are watching what America is doing.**

And that list doesn’t even include…

…my contempt for those who would rip the blindfold from Lady Justice so as to twist the law to benefit themselves

 …my disgust for those who would take advantage of people’s media illiteracy to make up their own stories about real images in the news

…my scorn for the merging of Education and Labor into one government department – as if the only worth our citizens have is as part of the work force

 …my disdain for anyone who would use fashion to send tone-deaf (at best) or brazenly arrogant (at worst) messages at a time when we need compassion and concern.

As the kids say, “So many feels!”

 So what to do about it?  I confess to wondering, as Hamlet did, “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?”  Because I keep my private/political opinions to myself in the professional arena.  I don’t want personal beliefs to get in the way of valuable cyber connections and learning opportunities.  But in the end I realize that I must heed these simple yet powerful words also from Shakespeare, “This above all, To thine own self be true.”  So I’ve decided I can’t remain silent.

What I can do is stay informed, contact my legislators, raise awareness of these issues, and pray.  And even though I can’t directly touch the lives of the immigrant children who are suffering right now, I CAN touch the lives of the students in my school and community.

To bring all of this back to the original purpose of this blog, I can reflect on what’s really important each day that I’m in contact with the kids who show up at school looking for relationships, looking for validation, looking for someone who sees and appreciates and nurtures their potential.  What a blessing and a responsibility to be an educator!  I want to keep doing it better.


Regional Librarians Workshop 2018

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  I was fortunate to be able to attend the South Carolina Regional Librarians Workshop this week, sponsored by the University of South Carolina, The S.C.Department of Education, and the S.C. Association of School Librarians.  The schedule featured a general session in the morning with information about our state’s Read to Succeed program, upcoming events for librarians, and most importantly our new library standards developed by the American Association of School Librarians.


  There were five librarians from my district in attendance, and we were all taking furious notes to bring back to our colleagues at our March librarians meeting.  Some of the things I found most interesting:

  • The S.C. Education Oversight Committee has partnered with to create the Palmetto Digital Literacy Program, paid for by the S.C. General Assembly, to assist students in improving basic computer skills
  • 40% of schools in S.C. have 1:1 learning programs
  • Lottery money provides $29,288,000.00 for S.C. schools
  • Because of the shortage of certified librarians in our state, Charleston has organized a cohort for those who are interested in pursuing their masters degree in Library and Information Science which includes tuition assistance and mentoring from librarians in their district.  (This is something we feel our district should pursue as well to accommodate the needs in our own schools.)

After lunch we received a tour of the Richland Two Institute of Innovation, which hosts advanced technology classes for high school students, public concerts in its stateWe also-of-the-art auditorium, and meeting spaces for community groups.  It also houses a public children’s library that is completely user-friendly, from the reconfigurable furniture to the well-lit makerspace area to the invitingly curvy bookshelves to the outdoor reading area.


Workshop attendees also had a choice of several break-out sessions, so we decided to divide and conquer so that we could get information from each presenter.  I’ll do another post after gathering info and links from my fellow librarians to share what we all learned and how we can use it to improve our services to students and teachers.

If you were at the Regional Workshop please leave a comment and tell us about your experience!

The Magic of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

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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!


What’s Your Library Slogan?

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“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.



Reflecting on 2014-2015

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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.
  • 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!


Keeping Busy

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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.

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