Twitter: You’re still the one!

I recently received a comment (hi Rohondolita!) on a blog post from just over four years ago about hosting a Twitter Boot Camp. She asked about how I feel about Twitter now, and if there are other social media sites that I prefer for professional learning now. Since I read that comment, my love letter to Twitter, the long-term relationship of my professional learning, has been formulating in my head.

Twitter,

You’re still the one. After nearly nine years together, our relationship is strong and you are still my most trusted source for professional learning. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times where I have been frustrated with you, needed a little vacation from you, or rolled my eyes and clicked the little “x” to walk away for a minute. Much more often than not, you are the trusted and comfortable place I can go to discover new ideas, connect with old and new friends, and seek advice from trusted colleagues.

There have been others that have tried to replace you or compete: Facebook groups with their easier to view streams of discussion, Pinterest boards filled with inspiring photos, conference apps full of their promises of engaging games and fancy messaging abilities. No matter what, I end up coming back to you, Twitter, because you are tried and true. You are best equipped to connect me with my Personal Learning Network, whether in real time or asynchronously.

So I’ll continue to share your greatness in any way I can manage. There’s no telling how many times I’ve spoken the words, “Twitter changed my life.” I’ll continue to get on my Twitter soap box via Twitter Boot Camp, Twitter Bingo, or conference presentations that urge librarians and educators to become connected. Although I may not be quite as eager to spend SO much of my time with you like I did in those early years, you’ll remain one of those essential pinned tabs on my Chrome browser.

Thanks, Twitter, for all of the years of learning and connections! Here’s to many more!

P.S. Follow me on Twitter @librarian_tiff

 

Back to School Bookmarks

It’s hard to believe that summer has slipped away and it’s time to get back to school. It’s always exciting, hectic, and a little overwhelming this time of year, but it’s also a great time to reflect on summer learning and make plans to try something new.

I’ve been Bitmoji obsessed for a while now. My awesome library assistant and I communicate almost exclusively via Bitmoji communication on SnapChat. Seriously, we’ve kept our Snap Streak alive all summer!

This summer has provided me with some great professional development opportunities, including my first ALA Annual Conference, a training at school on Social Emotional Learning, and EdCamp Watson today. After chatting with my friend and new librarian Laura Foy at EdCamp, I was reminded of a fun book mark design contest I did several years ago. This inspired me to come home and design some back to school bookmarks for our library. Shannon Miller blogged recently about using friendmojis in the library, and I was inspired to add bitmoji Ms. Kramm and Mrs. Whitehead to our bookmarks.

I created these bookmarks in Canva, using this great background photo I found on Pixabay. I wanted to include important info about our library, like our hours and website. Since our middle school students are 1:1 iPad, I made sure to include a QR code that will bring them to our website with our library catalog and databases. They’re being printed by OvernightPrints, so I made sure to follow the dimensions and instructions they provide for design. I can’t wait to get these in person so I can share them with students and families at orientation next week.

Looking forward to a great 2018-2019 school year!

FETC Recap

Last week I was lucky enough to attend FETC for the first time. As a long-time ISTE attendee/presenter, I’m definitely comfortable with the large ed tech conference scene. I especially enjoyed FETC because it’s just the right size for me. I loved this conference because for the first time in quite some time, I was able to go as an attendee, without the pressure of presenting. I accompanied two other folks from my school’s technology team, which made the experience even more fun.

Anytime I’m attending a conference, I think about my learning goals and plan my sessions accordingly. For this conference, I focused on gathering resources to support teachers in Project-Based Learning, ideas for design for collaborative learning spaces, and new tech tools to take back to share with my teachers. They keynote by Sir Ken Robinson and TechShare LIVE with Adam Bellow, Hall Davidson, Kathy Schrock, and Leslie Fisher were definitely highlights of the conference.

I’m still working on digesting the things I learned and new resources I’ve brought back, but I wanted to share some of the most intriguing tools and apps I was introduced to at FETC:

Goose Chase – App to organize and run a scavenger hunt.

Mentimeter – An interactive presentation tool.

YellKey – Temporary, simple URL shortener that uses REAL words, not crazy letter/number combos.

Incredibox – This one is SO FUN! It’s a free music creator (web and app) that’s as simple as drag and drop.

StoryFab – App that is basically an AR movie studio. AR and VR were big topics, and this is one of the many resources I saw that has tons of potential to use with students.

 

Do you have any new (or new to you) tech tools that you’re obsessed with right now?

Library Confessions: I’m a terrible book talker

I’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ about some things lately, and perhaps putting some library confessions out there might at least make me feel more honest about where I feel I am professionally and what I’m doing to improve myself. With blogging, it’s easy to post only the good things and make it look like you’re a library rock star, but the honest truth is that we all have things that we struggle with professionally. It’s what we do about them that really defines us.

I’ve always felt that one of my shortcomings as a librarian is book talking. I know some teachers and other librarians who are book talking geniuses. I am not one of those people. Back in my elementary days, I could throw down a mean story time. And I feel like I’m great at connecting students with books on a one on one basis. That may be one of the roots of my book talking failures — I prefer to get to know students and their preferences, then recommend books I know they will enjoy. I usually establish those relationships so well that I don’t really have to ‘sell’ the books, I just hand them over and ask students to report back. So over the years, “Here — you’ll like this one,” is kind of the direction where my book talking skills have gone. There’s definitely not much of an art to that — so I’m working on it.

As with most things that I do, I require thought time and preparation to be anywhere decent in my execution of book talks. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those amazing-on-the-spot-book-talk-givers. With all of my middle school and freshmen library orientation/book check-out visits this year, I did a hand full of book talks as well. I went through and pulled a selection of books that I know and love, then I wrote little blurbs on sticky notes to put on the back to use as a guide when I book talked. Of course, I kept all of the stickies, because that was a lot of work!

After two weeks of this, I realized handwritten sticky notes probably weren’t the best long term solution for keeping track of my book talk notes. I’ve since made a Google Form where I’m inputting my notes so I can reprint them on sticky notes and reuse them in the future.

And just for fun, here are some of the books I find myself recommending most often to students:

Do you have any advice to improve book talking skills? Or favorite books that are checked out every time you share them with students?

Banned Books Week Display

One of the things I love about working with 6-12 grades is that I have such a large range of books to highlight during Banned Books Week!

Look here for resources from ALA on Banned Books Week.

Last year, I made these really cute banners for Banned Books Week, which I reused this year, along with excessive amounts of caution tape.

I followed this tutorial to print on sticky notes. I printed the blurbs from ALA’s annual bibliographies on Frequently Challenged or Banned Books on the stickies to give students more information. For a few of them, I wrote some of the key phrases describing their challenge/ban on a paper bag to make the display more interactive.

Students are always interested to learn more about books that have been banned or challenged. This is one of my favorite displays of the year!

Expectations with a bit of humor…

It’s hard to believe that many of my friends are just starting their school year this week, as we have been back in the swing of things for a month now. It’s also hard to believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted here, but after what was a year full of challenges and changes for me professionally and personally (move to a new school and a total home remodel, anyone?), I’m ready to kick it back into high gear for an awesome 2017-2018 school year.

Our schedule throughout the day gives our students a lot of flexibility (and “free” time), which means the library is often PACKED. Even though expectations for common spaces were discussed with the student body when we returned from summer, we were already noticing tons of trash and food left behind in the library after breaks. My fabulous library assistant and I are on the same page — we want students to feel welcome, we don’t want to fuss at them all the time, but we also need them to respect the library space.

After yesterday’s morning tutorial (a 45 minute block where we average about 150 students in the library), the library was pretty trashed from Goldfish and cereal. We had talked about making a humorous video to get our point across about this last year, but we never got around to it.

With my schedule open yesterday, it was the perfect opportunity to throw together a quick video to show to the entire upper school student body during afternoon announcements. I prefaced the video with the fact that we love that they feel so welcome and comfortable in the library…we just need them to keep this expectation in mind:

The students were definitely amused, and the faculty even more so. It’s often hard to balance enforcing library expectations while still maintaining positive relationships and open rapport with students. That balance is definitely something I struggle with, but as educators we know how important consistency is for our students. Hopefully, this fun reminder will do the trick (at least for a little while).

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.

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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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,

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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.

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

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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!

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!

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:

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!