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.

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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!

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!

Are You Ready?

 

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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.

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?

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.

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:

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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!

Upcoming Follett Webinar

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

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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.

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!

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: