I am a primary-school teacher librarian living on the Lower North Shore of Sydney, Australia with my husband, two high-school-aged children and dog. I am currently finishing up my study at Charles Sturt University to officially add the Teacher Librarian qualifications to my bag of tricks.
Dr Seuss’ birthday is coming up on 2 March and I have Dr Seuss-based lessons planned for Library throughout the week. This will also be my first week with the students this year (hopefully) as I injured my foot a couple of weeks ago and am hoping for the go-ahead from my physio to go back to work in March!
EDITED 23/02/2021 TO ADD:Mary Verdun, a member of a Facebook Group where I posted the Stage 3 slideshow posted a link to the following paper which looks at racism, anti-semitism and orientalism in the work of Dr Seuss/Theodore Giesel. It is an interesting read and raises questions that I am thinking through and which may change my decision on whether to use these plans next week. The paper’s citation is: Ishizuka, Katie and Stephens*, Ramón (2019) “The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss’s Children’s Books,” Research on Diversity in Youth Literature: Vol. 1 : Iss. 2 , Article 4. Available at: https://sophia.stkate.edu/rdyl/vol1/iss2/4.
For Kindergarten, I will be focusing on rhyme and onomatopoeia with the entertaining Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You? Last year’s group seemed to enjoy this book and it is good to dramatise and use with a bit of call-and-response, which suits the younger As a reading response, I will be having them assemble and colour some flipbooks I found here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Flip-Book-for-Mr-Brown-can-Moo-Can-you-by-Seuss-Sight-Words-Vocab-FUN-2423162 . I think I will only choose 4 – 6 of the possible phrases because we don’t have a long time once we’ve read the story and students borrow. This will be my first meeting with this cohort of Kindergartners… I hope they like it!
Stage 1 will be listening to the madcap Ten Apples Up on Top and making a connection between the text and themselves. I was inspired by a worksheet I saw on Twinkl to create my own, simpler version (to suit my cohort and time availability) that can be used for various books.
Time willing, we will read The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins with Stage 2. I read this to Stage 2 two years ago and they seemed to engage with it, so I am hoping it will tickle the fancy of this year’s cohort as well. I was struck at the time with the juxtaposition of some beautiful descriptive passages with black and white illustrations (highlighted with touches of red). Therefore my focus tasks this year will be on visualisation and description – with a choice between drawing a hat and describing it OR reading a descriptive passage from the text, drawing a picture to match it, then highlighting the words and phrases from the passage that are evident in the picture.
Finally, I decided to go a bit more mature for Stage 3. We will be looking at a biography of Dr Seuss from the Seussville website and then at some of the politicsl cartoons that he created in the World War II era. You can find a good collection of these at the University of California San Diego Library Digital Collections site. I have created a slide presentation that can be accessed below. Hopefully this will not be too mature for the students and they will find it engaging to see a different side of a familiar author.
My school is working through the professional learning modules prepared by the NSW Department of Education to accompany the What works best: 2020 update published this year by the Centre for Eduaction Statistics and Evaluation (CESE)(2020). I found my reflections on certain areas – especially assessment and effective feedback to be tricky to complete because my library lessons are release from face-to-face teaching (RFF) and cover transitions to and from classes, borrowing/returning of library books and whatever lesson and learning activity I offer all within an hour. In my current model, the response activity to the lesson is not always done by all students (and certainly very rarely completed by all students) because browsing the shelves and borrowing is done at the same time as the response activity (to control traffic in our current small space).
I was especially thrown when asked what evidence I have for my impact on student learning outcomes. My initial answer was that I don’t really have any, but today I was thinking that I may have some data to show after all (offering somewhat indirect evidence).
This reminded me of my post from a similar time last year when I finally got the courage to check on comparative borrowing statistics between the year prior to my hiring and my first year on the job. My thoughts on evidence this year came from finding the courage to look at the records for previous years’ Premier’s Reading Challenge (PRC) completion to assess whether my efforts, which I deemed underwhelming, had made any difference to participation in Years 3 – 6. To my utter shock and surprise, I found that more Year 3-6 students had completed the challenge this year, compared to last year. Also, in both of my years of overseeing the challenge there were more Year 3-6 completers than in the three years prior to my arrival. I was feeling like a failure because I was comparing my efforts to promote the PRC with that of other teacher librarians at other schools on social media – when I compared myself with my own school context, however, I could see evidence of growth.
When I saw that data, I realised that data regarding borrowing patterns and participation in PRC and other literacy-based activities could be used as evidence of my impact on student outcomes. While not as direct as reading or writing test scores, data regarding students accessing and reading a variety of quality texts shows evidence of my impact on their literacy outcomes, especially if taken in combination with improvements in test scores.
So my main takeaways from this experience:
Don’t sell myself short – think creatively about how what I do contributes to learning outcomes.
Realise that the data and evidence I can show will be different to that of a classroom teacher – and that is okay.
Don’t compare myself and my school context to other school contexts, and don’t let myself feel like a failure by comparing my efforts to the successes of others.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2020). What works best: 2020 update. NSW Department of Education: cese.nsw.gov.au
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I came across an interview with Mo Willems thanks to a post on the Facebook Group “On Butterfly Wings – English and More”. It provided food for thought across a variety of topics, but something that particularly struck me was Willem’s comments on drawing as a form of writing and as a narrative process (especially for children).In paragraphs 29 and 30, he states:
I think it’s a mistake to assume that drawing or doodling isn’t a form of writing—I think drawing is a very accessible form of writing. Many writers use storyboards or make maps or sketches, even if they’re only writing prose. There’s an inherent value in drawing that’s really powerful.
Children tend to draw chronologically, which is to say narratively. They’ll start with, “Oh, I’m going to draw a character. Now, is it a hero or a villain? It’s a villain. Well, if it’s a villain, it has a cape. And if it has a cape, it can fly. Let me draw the sky.” And all of that story comes out of having a drawing utensil in your hand. It’s magic.
While I should and would like to do some more research on that, it has inspired me to use drawing as narrative more throughout my K-6 library lessons. I think it is tempting for me to want more text-based responses from students as they get older. However, with a substantial EAL/D and LBOTE population in my school, I think that incorporating more graphic responses would be beneficial as well.
Hopefully this musing is not too light on… I am trying to get back into a blogging mindset after the topsy-turviness of the COVID-19 shakeup of the schools.
For my theoretical audience, LOL, a few questions to comment upon:
How do you use drawing in library or writing lessons?
Do you have any other readings or thoughts on this topic?
Are you willing to demonstrate your creativity through having a go at drawing (and accepting what you have drawn without negative comment) in front of a class?
I was looking for a low-key way to get my Stage 3 students active in the first library lesson of the year. I decided to ask them each to pick a book that they would recommend for a Kindergarten student and fill out a slip with a few simple reasons for their choice, for instance the book is:
This also gave me a selection of books to suggest to Kindergarten on their first couple of library visits, and tied it to students who they had been spending time with in buddy activities rather than just from me, who they had only recently met.
I think the idea worked fairly well. Most of the recommended books have been borrowed either by Kindergarten in their first two library sessions, or by Stage One students in their second library visit.
I also took advantage of the concept of Library Lovers’ Day to create a “Books we love” display on the back wall. Students in stages One to Three were asked to write a book or series that they love (and a reason for the older students). Each stage used a different colour post-it and I arranged them in different shapes on the bulletin board. I am thinking of adding some pictures of covers of books we hold in the library that are mentioned on the post-its to complete the display. Here is a picture of what we have so far:
I came into the new school year with some trepidation. In the last week or two of the school holidays, as I was just starting to relax after finishing the coursework for my Master’s degree (YAY!), my social media feed seemed bombarded with images and posts of other teacher librarians getting ready for the year. From the creative soul weaving a whale to hang on display in her library to the different variations on library advocacy welcome back packs for staff, and the pictures of beautiful library display areas I was a bit dizzy with the array of quality preparations that were underway across the land. And I was left feeling incompetent and unprepared. Continue reading “Thoughts on a new year”
This week I submitted (and received back) my final assignment in my final subject for my Master’s in Teacher Librarianship. YAY!! It did, however get me thinking about balancing stress.
Throughout my Master’s journey, I have received distinctions or high distinctions on every assignment. Yet, with every submission I worried that I would fall below the standards I was aiming for. On the one hand, stress about my assignments was beneficial: stress about meeting deadlines meant that I got them in on time, and stress surrounding fitting all the requirements from the rubric into the word count led to fairly tight, high quality writing. On the other hand, stress led to snapping at my family, losing sleep and making poor exercise and eating choices. There is definitely a balance between the beneficial and detrimental aspects of stress, and I often found myself on the wrong side of that balance.
As the school holidays draw to a close and I start feeling stirrings of stress about the coming school year and the tasks I want to accomplish, I find myself hoping that I can find a better balance. I hope for the control to allow enough stress to spur me on to accomplish things and meet deadlines without falling prey to its detrimental aspects.
Some tips that I have come across (The Leaders Institute, 2002 – 2019; WebMD, 2005-2020) that I will try to implement:
Eat a balanced diet – this is something I try to do, but I have started tracking my eating to keep myself accountable to healthier food choices;
Exercise – I have signed up for a fitness passport membership to encourage me to do some intentional exercise weekly;
Analyse and schedule tasks – I am looking into better ways to manage my task lists and schedule my time so that no facet of my job or life responsibilities gets overlooked;
Take breaks – make sure that I take at least one break period in every work day… some time when I am not trying to get jobs done, plus make sure I take at least one day of my non-work days where I do not do ANY school-related work;
Relax, stretch, be mindful – when stress rises in ways that start inhibiting performance, I will stop and take time to consciously relax (breathing, stretching or some other mindful stress-managing and releasing activity).
How do you manage and balance stress?
The Leaders Institute. (2002-2019). The key to balancing stress in the workplace. In The Leaders Institute. Retrieved from https://www.leadersinstitute.com/the-key-to-balancing-stress-in-the-workplace-work-smart-live-smart/
WebMD. (2005-2020). Ten tips to manage stress. In WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/tips-to-control-stress#3
An effective teacher librarian (TL) fully engages with students and staff as both teacher and librarian. The TL supports teaching and learning experiences by: resourcing the curriculum in a manner that considers the local context; providing access to and implementing current research in best teaching and learning practices; developing the information literacy and fluency capacity of students and staff; and inspiring a love of literature and ethical information use. The TL also develops themselves and their library by keeping up to date with best practices in the information services industry and responsibly managing its resources.
Part B: Thematic Reflections
I have focused my reflections on the themes of leadership, technology and literature. These themes are ones that recur throughout most, if not all, subjects in the course and are areas where I could see growth in my understanding and application to my practice throughout the course.
At the outset of ETL504: Teacher librarian as leader I was sceptical about the claim that leadership is part of the role of the teacher librarian. As I detailed in my initial blog post for the subject, my experience with school leadership structures did not resonate with the idea of the TL being recognised as a school leader. Through reading the discussion forum and blog posts of other students on this topic, I realised that perhaps it was my understanding of leadership that needed to change. I therefore engaged in the subject with a mind open to entertaining such a paradigm shift.
Hot on the heels of my feelings of triumph and competence came the creeping panic and overwhelming stress of the end of the year. Last Thursday, I had little stress flutters all throughout the day, which was not helpful when trying to accomplish the tasks that I assume were setting off these attacks. I am lucky that I work in a small school with supportive staff. Several times that day I was asked if everything was okay and help and support were offered to me. This was helpful on the one hand, on the other hand I felt like something must be seriously wrong for everyone to notice that I was so stressed out. I want to project the image of having it all together and being a source of support and assistance – not the beneficiary of it!
I guess my lesson for today is: it takes a village to build a library (and to build a librarian). None of us can be truly successful on our own – together we are stronger, better, and brighter. So, I am giving a shout out of thanks to the staff members who asked after me and offered their help on Thursday. I am also giving a big shout out to Lindy at Abbey’s Bookshop who helped me find some library award books on Friday – the time spent poring through the children’s section with her was deeply restorative to my soul and equilibrium. And today or tomorrow, I will also try to take a piece of advice given to me by my library assistant recently and make a list of what needs to be done. I did not really want to face everything in black and white, but I think I need to organise and prioritise my tasks to get it all done.
How are you handling the mad rush at the end of the year?
In my placement report, I reflected that one great benefit of the placement experience was to be able to measure my competence as an information services professional through working alongside others in a larger organisation. Receiving a glowing report from my placement supervisor and feeling that I had made meaningful contributions to the Sydney University Library in my time there gave me the confidence I needed to step forward in courage in my school library.
A few months ago, a member of my teacher librarian network was asking on Facebook whether I knew how to run a report on loan statistics to compare the current year’s circulation figures to previous years’. I never had to figure it out because she figured out how to do it before I had a chance to try. At the time I considered finding out how and running the report to see what my statistics looked like. However, I chose not to do it because I was afraid I would find out that there was no change or that we had gone backward since I arrived. With my newfound confidence (and a complete year of borrowing finished) I ran the loan statistics report this past Wednesday and found that borrowing had increased by more than 40% in 2019 as compared to 2018. Given that enrolments had risen by less than 10% I found this to be a meaningful increase.
I encourage you to face that feedback you’ve been avoiding – you might find it brighter than you imagined!
The University of Sydney Library is an academic library supporting one of the leading universities in Australia. Their mission is to “inspire a love of learning in order to advance the potential in everyone” (University of Sydney Library, n.d., p. 1). The library seeks to fulfil this mission in a way that expresses its values of inspiration, collaboration, integrity, respect and curiosity (University of Sydney Library, n.d., p. 2). While their chief users are the 77,000 university students, faculty, and other staff, they also serve the wider community.
The library provides users with access to information sources both physical and digital (University of Sydney Library, n.d., p.1), without which their scholarship would be impossible. In 2019, this resource provision included enabling access to 19 million ebooks and journals and the loan of 471,000 physical items. If the library did not exist, the university would lack the resources necessary for research and for teaching and learning at the tertiary level.
The library also provides safe space in which users can interact with the information resources accessed through the library and other sources. The changing nature of university study, with more emphasis on independent online learning and less on lecture theatre experiences may create a greater need for students to find learning spaces outside of traditional classrooms (University of Sydney staff, October 3, 2019, personal communication). The library provides twelve facilities, seven of which are staffed, all of which provide study space. Facilitating this role is one of the main tasks for the Learning Spaces division where I did my professional placement. Continue reading “Professional placement report”