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.


So Many Reading Projects…

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…so little time!  That’s the way I feel as I’m catching up (after a summer of travel and reading, away from the computer) on all the exciting reading events coming up this fall!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the ways I want to share books with kids this year.  With our new open library schedule I’m not guaranteed that “captive audience” every week, so I’m going to have to be more creative in reaching the students with my reading message.

We all know that kids are social, so this year I want to try to make reading more social too.  Certainly books can be enjoyed independently, as a private and silent conversation between the reader and the author.  But books can also be read aloud and discussed and debated and reviewed and recommended – that’s what builds excitement for reading!  Think about the last time you were in a movie theater, and everyone in the audience gasped or laughed or cheered at the same time for something that happened on the screen.  Our kids should be having this same experience with books!

One of the ways I’ve been sharing books socially with students is through my Book Buzz blog.  It highlights books in our library collection that the kids might enjoy, authors who write for K-5 readers, and school-wide and local reading events our students can participate in.  They are encouraged to add their voices to the conversation via the comment section, which gives them an opportunity to write for a real audience.





This year I’d like to widen their scope a little and have them participate in some national, and even international reading events.  So far I have my eye on The Global Read Aloud Event Oct 1-26 featuring the books Charlotte’s Web and The One and Only IvanJumpstart’s Read for the Record on Oct 4 featuring the book Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, and the Harry Potter Reading Club presenting a live webcast from author J.K. Rowling on Oct 11.  There is something for readers of every age here, and this is only the beginning!

If you know of any other reading events suitable for elementary students, please leave me a comment!


What’s Your Slogan?

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“Branding” is one of the buzzwords that media specialists are hearing a lot about lately, but because we are often locked into using our school name and mascot 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 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.

Stop messing up the books.

“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 Guidelines” corner; they are right there on the home page!

Yes, we need policies, 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.

Therefore, I hope these are the 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.

What’s My Real Mission?

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All teachers have a philosophy of education.  Whether we’ve put it into words or not, it’s there in some nebulous form in the back of our minds as we prepare our lessons and interact with our students, and it determines how we approach the task of teaching each day.

I’ve recently been attempting to define my vision and mission as the library media specialist at my school.  The springboard for this inner dialogue was a statement I made in an email to a fellow book blogger.  I told her, “My mission is to match kids up with ‘just right’ books that will help them discover a love of reading.”


In the 22 years since I became a school librarian, a lot has changed.  There is much more emphasis on technology now, because there is so much more technology available.  Fortunately, it turns out that I am a not only a book-loving nerd, I am also a computer geek, so that suits me just fine.

But maybe I’ve been focusing too much on the technology side of things lately.  As the Technology Coach for my school, it’s inevitable that much of my time will be spent helping students and teachers learn to use technology effectively.  But as the Librarian, I need (and want) to concentrate on helping students fall in love with reading by introducing them to great authors and illustrators, by exposing them to award-winning books, by helping them to hone their book selection skills, and by encouraging them to share their favorite titles with one another and with the world.

Can technology play a role in doing all of this?  Absolutely!  Most authors and illustrators have wonderful web sites, our library catalog is available online to students 24/7 and includes eBooks as well as print resources, and our students are invited to leave comments about what they’re reading on my Book Buzz blog.

But there’s really no substitute for old fashioned story time sessions and face-to-face book talks.  Yes, I know students can enjoy books online; I’ve purchased a subscription to TumbleBooks for my school.  Yes, I know book trailers are all the rage right now; I’m following the School Library Journal Trailee Awards contest right along with the rest of you.  I just don’t want to lose sight of the fact that in addition to learning how to read, kids need to discover the sheer joy of reading.

storytimeSo I’m re-examining my library lesson plans to make sure I’m achieving a balance between sharing the Internet tools and the printed books.  Because in the end, computer content can’t replace human interaction, no matter how engaging the digital world may be. 


Photograph by John Lovretta. Click to enlarge.

p.s. As an interesting side note, my original title for this post was “What is My Real Mission,” just as it appears now.  But as I proofed my writing before hitting the publish button, I realized that I had inadvertently typed “What is my Read Mission” instead!  Actually, I guess either one would have worked!

Passion + Persistence = Change

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In an earlier blog post I mentioned a webinar that was offered back on April 5, 2010 at the TL Virtual Cafe entitled What it Means to Be a Change Agent in Educational Technology.  When the participants were asked to share their thoughts on what makes an educator a change agent, one consistent piece of advice was to be passionate about what you believe in and be persistent in pursing it.

If it’s true that passion can drive change, and I want to effect change at my school, then I need to be asking myself these kinds of questions:  What are my teachers passionate about?  How can I help them share that passion with their students?  And for that matter, what are my students passionate about?  And how can I help them explore and share that passion with others? 

I love this quote from John Ross at his TeachLearnTech blog:

A strong leader acts like a ladder or a scaffold, one that supports and helps teachers reach new heights.

So maybe if some of my teachers are a little afraid of heights, their passion and my persistence can make them bold enough to take a risk and make a change.

Putting Technology In Its Place

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I just read two blog posts yesterday that echo some of the ideas I’ve been wrestling with lately concerning the place of technology in the classroom, and I’d like to share them here.

Background:  As my school’s Library Media Specialist and Technology Coach, I have a responsibility to provide appropriate resources to my students and teachers, and to make sure they know how to use them.  With so many useful (and free) technology tools available out there in cyberspace, I want to make sure I’m keeping up with them, using them appropriately, and sharing them with those who need them. 

However, I don’t want to become so focused on the “coolness” of technology that I lose sight of my ultimate goal, which is student learning.  I also don’t want my attitude regarding the importance of technology to become so overbearing that I alienate teachers who, for various reasons, are hesitant about using a lot of online resources or tech tools.  I need to balance my role as a cheerleader for Web 2.0 with my role as someone who assists users with what’s actually going on in the classroom.

Enter Jennifer Wagner and Joyce Valenza, two educators who are doing wonderful things with technology at their respective schools.  Continue reading

My Vision For Technology?

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I’m excited about writing this post, because it concerns the EdTech session that was the most thought-provoking for me: Planning a Technology Vision: I Know Where I Want to Be…Now How Do I Get There, by Jeff McCoy, Director of Instructional Technology for Greenville County Schools.  I expected the session to be about technology visions and missions and goals, and in a way it was, but not in the way I thought it would be.  Confusing?  Let me explain.

I am guilty of never having articulated Technology Vision Statement for myself personally or for my library media center.  The closest I’ve come is that I want to be known at my school as the “How to Integrate Technology (and media resources) into the Curriculum” specialist, not the “Change the Laminating Film and Come Hook Up My Printer Cable” specialist.  (And believe me, this is an uphill battle, much more so than I expected when I started this job last year!)  So I guess I thought Jeff was going to do my thinking for me and talk about Technology Visions, and I could just piggyback off of his Dreams for a Technology Utopia.  What he presented was much less mystical, much more practical. 

Jeff is the guy who is responsible for planning and implementing actual technology projects involving hardware, software, ongoing maintenance, budgeting, communicating with board members and administrators, professional development opportunities for users, and ongoing as well as final assessment of success.  Whew!  I feel exhausted just thinking about it.  The project in which he’s currently immersed is putting 5,000 Promethean boards into classrooms, training teachers not only to use them but also to troubleshoot their own technical difficulties (!), and demonstrating that their usage (they have 3,000 boards in place so far) is having a positive effect on student engagement and achievement.  Technology dreams?  Sounds more like a nightmare to me!

So Jeff is all about reality.  He took us step-by-step through how to plan for every aspect of a technology project, no matter how large or small.  He shared his early failures and his current successes with us, giving concrete examples of each.  He outlined each phase of the process, starting with approval from administrators and early buy-in from stakeholders, and ending with plans to continue building on what you originally accomplished.  He even offered some strategies for bringing curriculum zealots and IT nazis together to work in harmony!  Now that does sound like a dream!

If you’d like to learn more, visit Jeff’s website, where he shares his presentations and handouts, his training manuals and tutorials, and some “Cool Websites” that he finds valuable. 

Now, I still need to do my own thinking about technology.  After all, the first part of the session title states, “I Know Where I Want to Be….”  Do I?  I believe it’s time to do some more reflecting on just what it means to be the Technology Integration Specialist at my school, and what steps I can take to accomplish that.  How about you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on how it all fits together.