Beyond the Poster

I love love love my new school! This Smore is something that I shared during a short PD session during yesterday’s faculty meeting to introduce teachers to some great tools for creating digital products. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a number of teachers about upcoming projects and I realized this would be a great time to share these resources. I talked about using Smore, PowToon, ThingLink, Piktochart, Buncee, and Canva. I used Smore to create a take-away with embedded tutorial videos for each resource:

What other digital creation tools do your students use and love?

Posted in Library Lessons, Professional Development, Resources & Links, Technology | Leave a comment

The Flood

For those of you who may not be aware, I live in the Baton Rouge area. Five weeks ago, our area experienced what is being called a “1,000 year flood event.” Flooding like our area has never seen. This wasn’t a hurricane, like we are accustomed to; this was a storm that sat on top of our area and dropped over 30 inches of rain in 36 hours. Although my home did not flood, we evacuated and had a period where we were uncertain about what we would return to find. My parents, grandparents, and brother and his family all had their homes flood.

I have tried several times over the past several weeks to blog about our story, but I’ve been unsuccessful up to this point. First, because we had no connectivity for the first two weeks after the flood. By the point that we were reconnected with Internet service, I was just too exhausted and too drained to get my thoughts out. We spent weeks gutting homes — putting furniture at the road, pulling out floors and drywall, then cleaning and trying to get them dry. Five weeks out, and the sides of the roads are still piled high with 4-6 feet of “garbage”, which is actually most of the worldly possessions of family and friends that couldn’t be salvaged. In the South Louisiana heat and humidity, people are still struggling to get their homes dry and mold free in order to start hanging drywall again to restore their homes.

Many schools in the area flooded. We missed our first six days of the school year — the rain started the evening before and our first day of school was canceled. Then the following entire week. We were among the first in our area to return to school, despite the fact that several buildings on our campus flooded and teachers were displaced. Schools in the neighboring parish just started back last week — after four weeks between their first few days of school and their “new start” day, many schools combined and sharing facilities in less than ideal conditions.

I wanted to write an eloquent post where I painted a full picture of what happened here, but I’ve come to realize that I can’t. It’s so overwhelming. And life isn’t going back to normal anytime soon. People have lost everything. Those who didn’t flood (and in the most heavily impacted areas — including where I live — 80-90% of homes flooded) have displaced family members living with them. Things are extremely stressful and emotional for everyone.

In the coming months, families, businesses, and schools will continue to rebuild. We need support in every way possible to rebuild. Recovery is going to be a slow and tedious process, but I know that the beautiful people of Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas will come out of this stronger than ever.

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Your Librarian Can…

Let me start by saying how much I love and adore my network of educators!

I’ve started feeling a little nervous about the upcoming school year. I always do, but this year is different as I’ll be in a new school for the first time in a long time. There’s a new faculty for me to get to know and build relationships with and I want to start things off by setting a positive tone. Thinking a lot about how I want to introduce myself as the new librarian so the teachers will really get me and what all I’m about, I reached out to my PLN for some help.

I posed these questions of Facebook so I could tap into the great minds of both the awesome tribe of librarians that I belong to and to my awesome teacher friends, especially those who have taught with me serving as their librarian. Here’s what I asked on Facebook —

Teachers (especially those that have worked with me): What are the most helpful and meaningful things that a school librarian can do to support you?

Librarians: What would you want teachers new to working with you to know that you can do to support them?

The response was overwhelming and incredible. I got intense, thoughtful responses from teachers and librarians that helped me create this list and fun graphic:

YourLibrarianCan

I sorted and tallied responses to ultimately refine and combine ideas into this list. It will be very exciting to use this graphic to introduce myself and what I can do for my new teachers. What’s even more exciting is that I get to share this graphic with my awesome PLN! Please feel free to use and share this in any way that you see fit. Even if you are in a school where you have established relationships, it’s always great to start off the new school year reminding your teachers the many ways that you are a resource to them.

If you’re interested in downloading the high resolution file of this image, you can download it from Flickr. I hope this can be something for you to take back to school and use to kick off an awesome school year!

Posted in Making Connections, Professional Development, Reflections, Resources & Links | 10 Comments

Chalkboard Paint Circ Desk & Word Cloud

In between trips (because summer is all about travel, right?), I’ve been working in my new library to get ready for next school year. In addition to weeding and genrefying the fiction collection, I also had a few aesthetic projects in mind. I feel like there has to be some visible change in a space to get students excited about other changes. Back in 2010 I did some mid-year updates at the old CMS and summer of 2012 was a decorating frenzy as we moved into the new CMS.

Here’s the view of the circulation desk walking in before we started anything:

Photo Jun 21, 3 08 56 PM

I wanted to do something fun with the HUGE circulation desk staring you in the face when you walk into the library.

Photo Jul 06, 11 40 50 AM

Valspar makes this cool Tintable Chalkboard Paint that you can get in tons of colors! The guy at the hardware store recommended that we print with a bonding primer.

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After two coats of the primer, we were ready for color!

Photo Jul 06, 3 07 48 PM

The blue is one of our school colors and the green matches some of the furniture and gives a fun pop of color. Again, the paint took two good coats plus more touch up. We let it sit for several days so it would be fully cured. Then we primed the surface by coloring the entire surface. This was messy and made the surface not look perfect and clean like it does above, but otherwise when you start drawing on the surface, you’ll have ghost shadows of old designs. I read this blog post on Ella Claire Inspired by Vintage Charm to better understand this chalkboard paint situation.

Photo Jul 12, 2 51 24 PM

After it was all cured and primed, my mom and I got to play around with the chalk!

Another fun project was the library word cloud. I love using vinyl to create word clouds and wall quotes, but the area where I wanted to hang this was a little high. Instead of applying the vinyl directly to the wall, we bought a canvas and applied the vinyl to it. I was really happy with the result!

Photo Jul 07, 5 25 22 PM

You can see it below hanging in it’s proper place.

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I’m feeling good about the changes we’re making in the new library. As always, it will be a work in progress for quite some time. I’m very excited about the upcoming school year!

Posted in Decorations & Displays, Reflections, Resources & Links | 1 Comment

Upcoming Follett Webinar

Summer is the perfect time for professional development, don’t you think?

Follett

You don’t want to miss the upcoming Follet Webinar on Ditching Dewey: Genrefication in Your Library on Thursday, June 23rd at 2PM Central Time. I’m so excited to be part of this webinar as this is one of my favorite things to talk about. Although I’ve spoken on this topic numerous times over the past several years, this will be the first time that I get to share about the genrefication in my new library at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. I will be presenting the details of my five years of success with genrefication at Central Middle School and the early progress I’ve made this summer in genrefying my second library.

This webinar will walk attendees through each step of the genrefication process and give a clear overview of what it means to “Ditch Dewey.” In addition to the experiences with genrefication that I will be sharing, Don Rokusek, Program Director with Follett School Solutions, will share the resources and assistance that Follett can provide to schools and librarians during the genrefication process.

Be sure to go ahead and register for the webinar now! Even if you are unable to attend the live webinar, you will receive a link to the recording.

Posted in Genrefication, Resources & Links | 1 Comment

Operation Weed & Genrefy

Last week at CMS was a very emotional week. The last day for students was Wednesday and teachers wrapped up their year with the annual crawfish boil celebration on Friday. I’m thankful that I’ve attended all 9 of the CCSS end of the year crawfish boils so far and I’m sad to part ways with a district that I love.

After a very busy weekend, I started my summer with a quiet (okay, I did crank up the music since I was by myself) and very busy Memorial Day Monday at Episcopal in my new library.

I have the very ambitious goal of starting off the new school year with the fiction section fully weeded and genrefied. With the amount of traveling I’m doing this summer, this is a lofty goal. After two full days of hard work, I’m exhausted but optimistic.

Here are some pictures I snapped yesterday, before I got started and then during my initial steps of weeding and genrefication.

Like I said…I’m tired after two full, nonstop days of work. But I still wanted to share some early thoughts in my second library to genrefy.

I do have to say, this is easier the second time around. A massive weeding of a new to you/older library collection is daunting. I’m trying to take this project on much more quickly than I did the first time, and that definitely adds to the stress level. I do have to say, though, it’s manageable when you approach with the idea of weeding when “books that haven’t moved since I graduated from high school are GONE…books that haven’t moved since before I was born are WAY gone.” None the less, it’s daunting to cull such a large collection so quickly…but definitely possible and not unreasonable!

It’s also easier to genre tag when I’ve been there/done that. I’m going to write in greater detail later about the details of selecting genres, as that’s something I’m asked about frequently. Knowing my previous collection as well as I did, I’ve been able to draw on that knowledge as I work with and get to know this new collection.

I have two more busy days ahead of me before I leave this Friday on my annual road trip with my BFF. I’m so thankful that my #1 volunteer (my mom) is helping to push me through this project. I am so excited to see this project through and keep working towards an amazing start to the 16-17 school year. Stay tuned for the next update!

Posted in Genrefication, My Ramblings, Reflections | 4 Comments

Passing the Torch

Dear new CMS librarian,

You’re going to love it here. This school, this library, these students, these teachers…it truly is an amazing place to work and I hope that you’re as happy and fulfilled here as I have been these past five and a half years.

I’m going to go ahead and apologize now — there will be things in this library that make you wonder about me. You’ll wonder WHAT I was thinking, why did I decide to do this that way, why didn’t I make such and such a bigger priority. As someone who has taken over two libraries already in my career (and as I move on to another), I know these things will cross your mind. Just know (like I always have about those that came before me) that I tried my best and did as much as I could as best I could. A librarian’s work is never done. The library is never perfect. There are always unfinished projects (I’ll tell you about those later). Just know that everything I’ve done here, every choice I made, was driven by a desire to make this space the best possible environment for my students and teachers. I tried not to make this library about me (okay…the pink book cart was definitely about me…it’s an exception, though), I’ve always wanted it to be about the kids.

Over the years I’ve learned that relationships are what make or break a school library program. The great thing about this school is that strong, working relationships are expected — they are the rule, not the exception. The teachers here (especially the ELA teachers) will expect you to be one of their go-to people. This is not an easy thing to establish, so I hope you will love it…and run with it! Spend time getting to know the faculty members here — they are a great group. They’re willing to try new things and let the librarian be their partner in teaching. Take full advantage of this and don’t allow it to change.

Students at CMS are READERS. You will have some great book conversations with students and it will be amazing. Get to know the collection, get to know the students, and help get books in the right hands. This library is NOT full of pristine books on tidy shelves. Once the school year gets cranked up, the shelves don’t look super full and the books look more and more worn…but it’s because they’re reading, so it’s a win.

One of the things I’m most proud of in this library is the organization of the books — known lovingly as genrefication. The fact that my spell check recognizes it now as a word is a testament to how passionate I am about it. Ditching Dewey was never about me — it was about the students. They’re able to find the books they’re looking for easily. This layout is based on the idea of browsing. The signage is key (as are the stickers). In this space, students are able to find their reading “home”, explore new interests, pair fiction with nonfiction, discover new authors and series. They use the word genre often (and they understand it). I’m sure it will take a bit of getting used to, but I HOPE that you will love it as much as I do, as much as the kids do.

Self check-out is another big way that I’ve made this library “theirs.” Students definitely feel more ownership of the library when they’re in charge of checking in and out their own books. Maybe even more importantly, it freed me from the circulation desk. Instead of constantly running to the desk to check out books for students, I’ve been able to teach classes and work one-on-one with students while the library remains open for others to be able to check out and return books as needed. Sure, I know we lose a few books due to this process throughout the year (although I’d also argue that we were losing books before, too, when I was too busy to watch over the circulation desk). Ultimately, this helped me to accomplish the goal of making the library constantly available for book business while I could still work to be an instructional partner for the teachers. The biggest key to self check out success is PROCEDURE, PROCEDURE, PROCEDURE.

The best thing about the library — and about teaching middle school — is that every day is different. There’s never a dull moment, there’s always something to be done. Enjoy what you do and laugh often. Take time on a regular basis to reflect on your successes (and your failures). Set goals to continue to push this library and this school on to bigger and better things. You’re going to be great at this, and you’re going to love it here.

All the best,

Tiffany Whitehead

 

P.S. – In addition to the MANY files on the flash drive I have for you (and lots of reflections/resources are on my blog as well), I thought these things would be informative:

Posted in Genrefication, Library Procedures, Making Connections, My Ramblings, Reflections | Leave a comment

Change ahead!

ChangeJFK

I am thrilled to finally share the news of a big change that is on the horizon. Next school year, I will be the upper and middle school librarian at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. Friends and family who know me well have been a bit shocked by this news, as they know how much I LOVE my students, faculty, and library at Central Middle. It was a difficult decision for me, but in the end I knew this was an opportunity that I would regret passing up. Change pushes us out of our comfort zones and forces us to grow and adapt. I am anxiously anticipating the professional growth that I will experience in the coming years as I work with the incredible students and faculty at Episcopal.

As eager as I am for this new adventure, it is bittersweet. During my five and a half years at CMS (and nine years in the Central Community School District), the library program, the reading culture at our school, and the use of technology have come so far. Genrefying our library has helped increase circulation tremendously and self check-out has given the ownership of this space over to the students. I’ve developed relationships and professional partnerships with so many of the amazing faculty members here, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support, encouragement, and willingness to work with their crazy librarian. Of course it’s going to be difficult to leave behind my students that I’ve made connections with through our mutual love of reading. I am so proud of the library and school that I’m leaving behind, and I know that there are many great things ahead for the library, school, and entire district in Central.

The next year will be an exciting one — full of changes and new experiences. I’m looking forward to building relationships with a new faculty and group of students. I will be working with students in grades 6-12, so high school will be a new adventure for me. There are already some great projects in the works for next year that I’m looking forward to — I know it’s going to be a great year and I can’t wait to share all about it. Bringing my past library experiences and knowledge to a new setting is going to be a lot of fun!

Look for many blog posts as I make the transition (and start the process of genrefying another library)!

Posted in Genrefication, Making Connections, My Ramblings, Reflections | 5 Comments

Dominate Music Video

I know that all educators have strong feelings about standardized testing. No matter how we feel about the upcoming test (and I will say I’m thankful that this year we’re spending FAR less days testing!), our CMS faculty tries their hardest to make the best of the situation. Every year for the past four years, we’ve released a teacher music video immediately before testing. I’m so excited to share this year’s video…and revisit our previous ones as well!

I’ve served as the main planner, videographer, and editor for our videos for the past several years. This year, I passed the torch along to our awesome speech teacher, Leslie Pierce. She did such a great job pulling this together, along with the help of my BFF and ELA teacher, Alaina Laperouse, and our band teacher, Thomas Huckaby.

They rewrote and recorded a version of Rihanna’s Desperado…our version is called Dominate. Check it out:

We want the world to see this video (and how awesome our CMS teachers are)…so please share it out! We REALLY would love for Rihanna to see it!!

And just for fun…here are our videos from the past several years:

2015 – Shake It Off

2014 – Happy

2013 – Harlem Shake

I love this tradition so much! It helps us bond as a faculty and make GREAT memories…and of course laugh at ourselves and have fun. We are middle school teachers, after all!

Do you have an awesome, fun teacher tradition at your school?

Posted in Making Connections, My Ramblings, Reflections, Resources & Links | Leave a comment

My Breakout EDU Obsession

I am absolutely, positively obsessed with Breakout EDU!

Although I’d heard about this and briefly looked into Breakout EDU a few months ago, a fire was lit within me when I played at the MiniLACUE conference a few weeks ago. Immediately upon playing my first game, I knew this was something I HAD to do with my students. I couldn’t wait the 3-4 weeks that it was going to take if I ordered a box through Breakout, so thankfully they have an open source kit and I have a handyman husband. Within a few days, I had acquired my box and become obsessed with locks.

Photo Mar 17, 8 38 18 AM

Being the crazy person that I am, I couldn’t just use an already developed game…I had to create my own. I planned to do this game with my 6th grade ELA classes, who were working on a unit about the gold rush. I tested it out with my teachers and with a group of 8th graders who hang out in the library at lunch.

The teachers broke into the box with almost 20 minutes to spare!

Photo Mar 03, 3 18 52 PM

Even though my 8th graders didn’t have time to finish, they had a BLAST trying to break into the box!

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Of the fourteen 6th grade classes that played last week, only one was able to break into the box. This is an AMAZING social experiment to watch (but it’s SO HARD not to help them — or want to beat your head into the wall when they pass over an important clue)! The class that broke in communicated effectively, worked together, and demonstrated a great deal of persistence. These are skills that I’ve noticed MANY of my students are lacking…and it’s something that we have to help them develop. Breakout EDU is an amazing way to give them practice with these skills.

I’ve also learned that I have a hard time watching my students fail…but playing these games over the past two weeks has shown me the importance of this as well. Students are so used to things coming easy or being given to them. That’s not doing them any favors! They need to learn to pay attention to details and to keep trying…and trying…and trying…

Breakout EDU is so engaging. It’s such a fun way to get students problem solving and working collaboratively. Get a box! Play a game! Share it with your teachers and students…I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Posted in Library Lessons, Reflections, Resources & Links | 14 Comments