Down the High School Research Rabbit Hole

This school year has been full of new beginnings for me as I’ve experienced the high school setting for the first time as a librarian and settled into my new position at my amazing new school. I’ve been a blogging slacker, which I’m not going to apologize for (although I will admit that I’ve been battling with the guilt) because I’ve needed time to acclimate.

The area where I was most nervous about the transition to high school was teaching research skills. I came from a middle school setting with very little funding for digital resources to a school that highly values research and has fantastic database offerings for student use. It took me quite some time just to figure out what resources we had available here and to familiarize myself with them. Building out our new library website allowed me the time to do just that. In the first month of school (immediately following the flood when several world language teachers were stationed in the library for several weeks), I had some time to work on the structure of our new library website. We all know how important it is for our library resources to be easily accessible and user friendly. It’s hard enough to convince students to use databases over Google. We don’t need to let our clunky websites add tot he challenge! I used Weebly to build our library website, and I’m so happy with the results.

Since all of our databases are authenticated on campus with our IP address, it was important that I find a way to securely share off campus login credentials with students. I found the simplest way to do this was to create a Google Doc shared within our school’s Google Apps domain. As long as students are logged in to their school Google account, they can access this doc and access the necessary passwords.

Just like my summer weeding and fiction genrefying allowed me to get to know my print collection well, the process of developing this website helped me to become familiar with our digital resources. As I started to share this website with students and teachers through orientation type lessons on library resources, I knew that this was going to work out as the best way to get students using them more frequently.

In the past few months, I’ve had the privileged of attending and presenting at two fabulous conferences — the California School Library Association and Association of Independent School Librarians conferences. Both of these conferences allowed me to attend some great sessions on research by school librarians that I truly admire.

At the CSLA Conference, Tasha Bergson-Michelson, Connie Williams, and Castilleja School student and Library Research TA Sara Zoroufy shared a session on Source Literacy. I was absolutely amazed at the insights that Sara was able to articulate in the way that students think about and evaluate sources.  Sara has written a great post on the AISL blog on this topic, Distinguising evidence from analysis: A student’s perspective on the first step in source evaluation.

Then this week at the AISL Conference, Courtney Lewis shared a fabulous session called “Solid Research or Stuck in a Rut?” where she shared research she has collected in trying to assess the college readiness of her students and their research skills. I highly recommend you check out her slides and post on this subject on her blog, The Sassy Librarian. She also shared a great activity that she does with students called The Source Deck, created by the University of Virginia Library. I can’t wait to do this activity with a group of students, and I’m sure I’ll blog about it when I do.

So with the great ideas and resources that have been shared, I will continue to go deeper into the rabbit hole of research so that I can keep finding more ways to support my students and teachers in the research process.

Do you have any ideas or resources that have changed the way you approach research with your students?

Posted in Library Lessons, My Ramblings, Research, Resources & Links, Technology | 4 Comments

New School Reflection

I’m not quite sure how it’s February 21st. This school year has been a whirlwind so far. The flood that devastated the Baton Rouge area still has us reeling a bit, but we are definitely on the road to recovery. On top of that, I moved to a new school this year — from a public middle school where I served 1000+ students in the library on my own to an independent school where I serve about 650 students in grades 6-12 with a fabulous assistant. The move has been incredibly rewarding and continues to push me to better myself as an educator and librarian.

Back in September, I wrote a post for the school blog reflecting on my experiences at the school so far. Looking back and seeing that what I wrote several months ago feels even more true and validated, I want to share it here:

Community + Opportunity = Success

As a newcomer to Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, there are two things that set this school apart from others: community and opportunity. That is not to say that other schools are devoid of these things, but that Episcopal embodies them at a level that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Episcopal is thoughtful and intentional in building and deepening a sense of community. From students of all ages, faculty and staff, parents and alumni, it is apparent that the bonds of the Episcopal community run deep. This type of community is not something that happens by accident; it is developed purposefully through shared experiences in teams, clubs, chapel, advisory groups, and other regularly occurring group meetings and events. Having time to come together with a shared focus and purpose built into the schedule each week may be taken for granted when it has been the norm for many years.

I have heard so many people comment on how impressed they have been while witnessing the ways that the Episcopal community, especially the students, came together during and after the flood to help and support each other. I have had a unique perspective in these events as I observed the post-flood volunteerism and generosity first, then came to see the school community in action after the school year officially began. Upon seeing these regularly scheduled community events taking place and becoming part of them myself, I was then able to understand how this community bond is formed and maintained.  As a new member of the Episcopal community, I am amazed at the impact these common gatherings and events have on strengthening relationships across campus and beyond.

The concept of opportunity ties in very closely with community at Episcopal. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines opportunity as “a favorable juncture of circumstances.” This is exactly what I see when I look around at Episcopal. In striving towards the mission to nurture and develop the whole child, students are afforded a variety of opportunities to grow spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically.

Through service learning opportunities, students are developing character and an understanding of civic responsibility. The robust curriculum and course offerings provide students with opportunities to work closely with faculty members who are well respected and passionate about their fields of study. A variety of athletic opportunities push students to develop physical and mental strength while understanding the value of being part of a team. Opportunities for students to express themselves creatively are abundant through the visual and performing arts programs.

To be in a place where there is excellence in every facet of the school is invigorating for me as an educator. Seeing students embrace opportunities to learn and grow while being an essential part of such a vibrant community is powerful. This is what makes Episcopal School of Baton Rouge uniquely different.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

#TLChat FREE PD is back!

I am so excited to announce that the awesome #TLChat professional development (formerly TL Virtual Cafe Webinars, #TLChat LIVE, and TL News Night) is back in its new incarnation! A great new team has been assembled and will revive our favorite PD on Monday, February 6th at 8PM Eastern Time!

FebTLChat

Find more details about this webinar and upcoming #TLChat PD opportunities HERE.

Thanks to the amazing Colette Cassinelli, Renee Cunningham, Stony Evans, and Jill Sonnenberg for stepping up and taking the reigns on bringing great opportunities for PD to our tribe!

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

Flooding Central with Gifts for Christmas

ccaf

The city where I live and the school district where I previously worked was massively affected by the flooding this August. Many families continue to struggle as they are displaced, work to rebuild their homes, and deal with the emotional burden of experiencing such a loss. As I shared my experiences from the flood on social media and through my blog, I had many people ask how they could help. This is a way that you can show support and care to those affected. I hope you will share this opportunity with administration or groups in your school that would be interested in adopting one or more of these students this holiday season.

If you are interested, please contact Janet Stevens at jstevens@centralcss.org.

Posted in My Ramblings | 1 Comment

Chapel Talk

The student vestry asked me to speak in chapel last week. It’s crazy how nervous I was speaking in front of 400 high school students, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share my heart with them! Here’s the text (and accompanying slides) I put together in preparation for my chapel talk:

 

I’ll admit that when Griffin approached me last week and asked if I would be willing to speak in chapel today, I was quite anxious and a little reluctant. After I agreed, I did what many of you would do — I texted my best friend.

chapeltalktext
Later that afternoon when I had a chance to talk to her, we started brainstorming ideas on what I could talk about. Just like any good best friend would do, she reassured me that I could do this and it was a great opportunity for all of you to get to know more about me.

“Just talk about the things you love,” was her advice. That got me thinking about the core ideas that I try to live my life by:

slide4

If you’ve been in the library lately, you’ve probably noticed that I really like inspirational quotes, and I’ve put several up on the library walls in the past couple of weeks. There’s a quote from Steve Jobs that really resonates with me about doing work that you’re passionate about:

slide5

This was so true for me, I knew it when I found it. When I took my first position as a school librarian just over eight years ago, I knew that this was my calling.

slide6

To find a job that allowed me to do the things I love — spending my days working with students, teachers, books, and technology — that was a great feeling.

Discovering what makes you want to get out of bed, show up, and do your best work everyday is important. That’s not to say that everyday will be all rainbows and butterflies, but at the core, your work can and should be meaningful and satisfying. You are at the point in your life when you’re figuring out who you are and what you love to do. You’re making your way towards the path to your future career.

Don’t underestimate the power of things that you find joy in, that make you curious, that challenge you. Explore and experience as many of these things as you can now, because they will help guide you down the path that will lead you to do great work in your life.

When I left my previous job to move here, my principal gave me a framed picture with this quote from Seth Godin:

slide7

The times in my life when I’ve experienced the most growth and found myself feeling most fulfilled have happened after stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m not saying that there haven’t been times where I stepped out of my comfort zone and fell flat on my face — I’ve definitely been there too.

Coming to Episcopal this year was definitely a scary thing for me. I was comfortable at my old school, my students and teachers knew me well, and I was in a good place. But when this opportunity came about, I felt that it was time for me to try something different, get out of my comfort zone, and hopefully become an even better librarian through new experiences.

I’m so glad I didn’t let fear of change intimidate me, because I wouldn’t be here today with all of you. This is a great place to be, and I’m so thankful for opportunities like this one today. This school is full of incredible opportunities that we should all embrace as much as possible.

Another time when I tried something scary and ended up learning a lot about myself was when I first ventured into public speaking. The first time I was asked to give a keynote presentation at a school library conference, I was terrified.

slide8

My first keynote in Springfield, Illinois was intimidating because I knew I would have to stand up in front of a room full of school librarians, most with far more work and life experience than me, and share my “expertise” in their field. I could have easily decided that I was not qualified or didn’t have a story to tell, but I decided to put myself out there and try something new.

That allowed me to discover that public speaking is something I really enjoy and helps me to push myself to be the best librarian that I can. Since then, I’ve been afforded incredible opportunities to travel and speak I get to meet other librarians and learn from them, helping me to continue to grow and learn as a professional. In fact, this time next week I will be arriving in Nashville to give the closing keynote at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians conference — an opportunity that wouldn’t have happened if I had been too scared to try something new years ago.

Most of us aren’t magically struck by the revelation that we’re good at something or love to do something that we’ve never tried before. Giving something new a try usually means feeling nervous, uncomfortable, and unsure. I know for me, though, times when I’ve discovered something great have been a direct result of forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

I want to leave you with one last quote and a few final thoughts on happiness. Henry Ward Beecher said,

slide9

I absolutely believe that the quality of our life is influenced largely by our attitude. Making the decision each day to be joyful and appreciate small moments is essential.

The picture with this quote is a field I pass every morning on my way here. When I pass by and see the sun coming up behind the trees, I take a moment to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

slide10

On summer road trips with my best friend, we relish moments on the open road with our favorite song on the radio.

slide11

When I finish a great book, I take a minute to appreciate the person who poured their time and energy into writing it.

It’s the little moments that make life great, so enjoy them!

Posted in My Ramblings, Reflections | Leave a comment

Changes Ahead for #TLChat

Seven years ago, our amazing tribe of Teacher Librarians embarked on a journey to deliver much needed professional development on library and technology topics. At the time, there were no such free opportunities to be found to meet this need, so the TL Virtual Cafe Webinar Series was born. School library leaders Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones, along with numerous others, started offering monthly webinars to teacher librarians and other interested educators. Not only did this webinar series provide valuable free professional development opportunities, but it also helped to build and strengthen our tribe.

In the past several years, we’ve expanded our offerings to include monthly Twitter chats and News Night broadcasts to further engage our community. Our #TLChat tribe includes so many inspiring educators who generously share their knowledge and experiences with others. It has been an incredible honor to be part of such an inspiring group of people.

Over time, we have found a decline in participation in our professional development offerings. This is no doubt due in part to the wealth of learning opportunities now available online. We are glad to have been able to provide great opportunities to learn three times a month for the past few years. We have reached the point, though, where we feel that it is time to reevaluate our offerings in order to best serve our community and learn together.

For the months of November and December, we are putting a pause on our professional development offerings to make plans to revamp our offerings starting in January. Although we are still working out the details of what that will look like, we will return on the first Monday of each month at 8PM Eastern Time, starting on January 2, 2017.

We are looking for new voices to get involved with our professional development offerings, in whatever form it may take. If you are interested in getting involved, please fill out the form below to let us know your interest and contact information.

Thank you so much for supporting our #TLChat community. We look forward to what the future holds for our tribe!

Posted in Making Connections, Professional Development, Resources & Links | Leave a comment

Are You Ready?

 

octobertlcafe

Join us on Monday, October 3rd at 8PM Eastern Time for Are You Ready? with guests Andrew Marcinek, CIO at Worcester Academy and Former Chief Open Education Advisor for the Office of Educational Technology, and Stony Evans, library media specialist at Lakeview (AK) High School. They will address Open Education Resources and what it means to be a future-ready librarian. The webinar is free, open to all and you will walk away with loads of useful resources and ideas to take back to your school.

Important TLCafé note:

We launched our TLCafé monthly get-togethers nearly seven years ago as a grass-root volunteer effort. And we have had some of the very best leaders in the field plan, organize and shepherd our conversations.

As with any volunteer effort, leadership needs to shift if a project is to be sustainable. And so we’re looking for a new generation of leaders!

Are you ready to step up and help refresh our project?  Do you feel you have what it takes to plan cool sessions, moderate conversations, and accept the love and  recognition of our TL community?

We need

  1. Presenters with fresh ideas
  2. People who can to plan cool sessions
  3. Folks to help update/maintain the website
  4. Gracious moderators
  5. Planners and archivists
  6. Social media mavens to get the word out

If you are interested, we will train you. Please contact me at librariantiff@gmail.com and we can talk about how you can help with our webinar series.

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

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 | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in My Ramblings | 5 Comments

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 | 12 Comments