How I Became a Librarian: #whylib

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I’ve lived in Georgia all of my life.  I spent the first 18 years growing up in the mountains of Blue Ridge, GA.  Our family didn’t have a lot of financial wealth, but what we did have was a wealth of love, story, and education.  My family made sure that my life was enriched with conversation, storytelling, and weekend car rides.  I was also fortunate to have a weekly trip to the library to get an armload of books.  My mom took me to the library often, so much so, that they knew me by name when I walked in the door.  We spent lots of time curled up with great books.

I’ve always loved reading, and I think my dad always thought I would grow up to be a teacher.  That’s not where I started though.  First I wanted to be a doctor.  Then, I started college as a music major, which turned out to be a horrible experience with a college professor who ridiculed me more than made me feel like a musician who could grow into a band director.  I thank him though, because without his torture, I might not have taken the path that I did.  After freshman year, I switched my major to early childhood education due to my love of learning, love of reading, and love of helping others discover their own passions.

During my student teaching at Colham Ferry Elementary in Watkinsville, GA, Martha Brodrick offered me a teaching position, which I accepted.  I’m so thankful for her early support of my teaching career.  For seven years, I taught 3rd grade.  During this time, reading and writing were the subjects that I was most passionate about and my students were involved in many reading and writing projects that put their work into the world.  For example, one year students wrote poetry about historic sites in the community and published a books that was put in waiting rooms around the county.  Another year, students sent a bear traveling around the world through the mail and wrote his story using their imagination and the pictures and objects he collected along the way.  During this time, I got my Masters in Children’s Literature and Language Arts.

You will probably notice that so far I haven’t mentioned a thing about technology.  That’s because my classroom had a chalkboard for all 7 years that I was there.  I had 3 clunky, unreliable computers that we rarely touched and the computer lab was in another building and hard to schedule.  I certainly was not a technology leader in the classroom, but I loved being a classroom teacher and had many successes.  It built my foundation in education and has made me such a better librarian today.

But how did I make my way to being a librarian?  The media specialist (librarian) at Colham Ferry was wonderful.  Kathy Graham was a master of weaving together multiple ways for students to experience a topic.  It seemed that no matter what topic you gave her, she would bring boxes of stuff from her house, gather pictures and websites into slides, and create centers that allowed students to explore a topic in multiple ways.  I had always loved libraries, enjoyed being in them, and started thinking that the library might be a place where I wanted to be in my career.  I began exploring my options and talked to several people who went to the University of Georgia program.

I applied to the UGA specialist program.  The letter came in the mail, and I was……..DENIED!  It seems that a subset of my GRE scores were not quite high enough even though my portfolio of work and accomplishments showed much more than a number on a test.  Sound familiar?  But alas, the test score ruled and I wasn’t in the program.  I was devastated and thought I would never be in the library.  After a few days of pity party, I got mad and decided to do something about it.  After exploring with UGA, I discovered that I could still get in the program in the same semester if I took the GRE again.  I registered for the test and then spent hours studying vocabulary, taking practice tests, and learning strategies.  I’m a terrible test taker, but I thought that surely I could boost my score by a few points.  I took the test, got the points, and applied to the program again.  This time the letter came in the mail, and…..I was in!

The UGA program and professor, Mary Ann Fitzgerald, were transformational for me.  For the first time, I really started to understand what it meant to take control of my own learning, to develop my professional learning network, and to use multiple formats of information to explore and create.  In those 2 years, I learned more about using technology than I had learned in all of my other college coursework.

Halfway through the program, a position opened up at Barrow Elementary.  I knew that the media specialist was incredible and that many people would be competing for the job.  For that reason, I decided not to apply.  I’m good at second guessing myself and talking myself out of things.  I figured that I was only halfway done with my program and that there was no way that they would hire someone who didn’t even have a library degree yet.  One day driving to school, it was like someone smacked me in the head, and I asked myself, are you crazy?  Why not give it a try?  This might be an exact fit, and at least it’s good interview practice.

So…I applied, got the interview, interviewed, got the second interview, and that’s how I became the librarian at Barrow.  I finished my EdS during that first year and was able to use my own library in my research and exploration.  I can’t thank Mary Ann Fitzgerald enough for pushing my thinking, supporting my decisions, and opening my eyes to what it means to be a life long learner.

Once I became a librarian, other librarians and educators continued pushing me to stretch and grow as a librarian.  Buffy Hamilton is one of those librarians.  I can’t even begin to count the times that I saw something that Buffy was doing and it pushed me to rethink my own understanding of library.  Buffy also shared my work in numerous ways from conversations to conference presentations and her support connected me with so many other libraries and librarians.

The librarian community is inspiring.  There are so many educators within our profession doing amazing work.  Each year, I add layers onto my own role as librarian and new layers onto our library program because of these great people.  Each year I understand more about using technology to consume and create and how digital literacy weaves together with so many other kinds of literacy.  There’s no way I could name them all, but just to start, I give so much thanks to librarians like Shannon Miller, Jennifer LaGarde, Matthew Winner, Sherry Gick, Shawna Ford, Jennifer Reed, Cathy Potter, Jenny Lussier, Okle Miller, Edie Crook, Shawn Hinger, Shannon Thompson, Tanya Hudson….the list goes on and on.  Each day, I connect with someone new and my understanding of library grows.

I invite you to tell your journey to becoming a librarian.  Share it with #whylib  If you decide to do a blog post, please add it to our Padlet.  http://padlet.com/wall/whylib

2014 Barrow Poem In Your Pocket Days are Coming April 3 & 4

The official National Poem In Your Pocket Day is April 24 this year.  Since this date is mixed into our state testing days, we celebrate a bit earlier at Barrow.  Over the past few years, Poem In Your Pocket Day has grown into a 2-day event in our library.  Every class comes to the library across 2 days.  I setup the library like a coffee shop or cafe with a poetic atmosphere:  tables with colorful tablecloths, lanterns, lighting, and a microphone.  Each student steps up to the microphone to share an original or a favorite poem and we celebrate each poem with lots of finger snaps.

Also each year, we have been broadcasting our poetry reading live via Adobe Connect.  This year we will continue this tradition.  I’ve created a Smore to show our schedule and to have access to the login link.

Poem in Your Pocket Poetry Cafe   Smore

To view our poetry readings, you simply visit the Adobe Connect link and sign in as a guest.  You will see students reading their poetry and also have a chat window to leave comments for them. To spread the love of Barrow poems to the world, we also encourage you to tweet about our poetry using the hashtag #BarrowPoems  We invite you to tune in to some or all of our readings.  The schedule is packed for 2 whole days.  Our students love knowing that they have a global audience listening and celebrating their poetry.  We will see you next week!

Thursday April 3, 2014

Time

Class

8:30

Ramsey

9:00

Choate

9:30

Em

10:00

Carney

10:30

Clarke

11:00

Slongo

11:30

12:00

Spurgeon

12:30

Yawn

1:00

Wright

1:30

Wyatt

2:00

Jarvis

Friday April 4, 2014

Time

Class

8:00

Boyle

8:30

Li

9:00

Olin

9:30

Watson

10:00

Freeman

10:30

Brink

11:00

Shealey

11:30

12:00

Ramseyer

12:30

Doneda

1:00

Selleck

1:30

Seeling

2:00

Stuckey

 

 

Tell Your #whylib Story for School Library Month

 

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April is School Library Month, and this year’s theme is “Lives Change @ Your Library”.  This theme connects with Barbara Stripling’s campaign to sign the Declaration for the Right to School Libraries to show that school libraries really do change our lives.

Yesterday on Twitter, John Schu shared a thought about going to library school, and he had no idea the conversation that his tweet would open up.

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I responded by sharing a brief glimpse at how I didn’t get in to library school on my first attempt.  The conversation continued with more of our Twitter professional learning network sharing stories of perseverance, stories about professional background, and stories of how becoming a librarian changed their lives.

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When I woke up this morning, the list of tweets had grown and more people had commented on how much they were enjoying the conversation about individual people’s journeys to becoming a librarian.  I love this about Twitter.  I love how one little comment can spark a conversation among colleagues across the country because they find a connection with the comment.  This morning, we decided that a new hashtag had been born.  After some discussion, the talented Jennifer Reed suggested #whylib as our hashtag.

Even author, Deborah Freedman, jumped in on the conversation with her love of the librarians.

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We invite you to share your story in any way that you are moved:  a poem, a video, a blog post, a series of tweets, a picture collection, a song, etc.  Be sure to tag your story with #whylib and post on Twitter and other social media outlets.  Let’s share our journey to becoming a librarian and share how libraries have changed our lives.

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Banding Together with Joyce Sidman and Heart Poems

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Our two schools are part of a wonderful project called “Banding Together”.  In partnership with In This Together Media, the Van Meter third graders kicked this off while working on their Rainbow Loom research projects.  After creating so many beautiful bracelets throughout the project, they wanted to do something special with all of these handmade creations.  They partnered with In This Together Media to bring these bracelets, happiness, and friendship to children from an orphanage in Mangalore, India.  The third graders decided to call the project “Banding Together” and the next step was bringing others onboard to make a difference in the world.

Shannon told Andy about “Banding Together” right away….Van Meter School couldn’t wait for Barrow Elementary to be partners with them too.  Together they would bring so much to the children in India….and to each other.

Recently during a Skype planning session, Andy brought up the idea of incorporating poetry into the Banding Together project.  It started with a wondering.  What if we added short poetry, like a fortune cookie slip, attached to the bracelets?  Shannon said, “Let’s go for it.” And the brainstorming began.
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We both started thinking of possible titles for the short poetry.  We wanted the title to represent the spirit and joy of the Banding Together project.  In looking through poets, we thought of Joyce Sidman and her new book, What the Heart Knows:  Chants, Charms, & Blessings.  In her note to readers, Joyce Sidman writes, “We believe in the power of words themselves.  Why else would we pray, sing, or write?  Finding phrases to match the emotion inside us still brings an explosive, soaring joy.”

That idea of finding a phrase that matches the emotions in our hearts really connected with what we hoped the Banding Together poetry would represent.  Suddenly, we had a thought about our poems.  What if we called them “Heart Poems”?  They would have a connection to our inspiration from Joyce Sidman’s words.  They would represent spreading the joy in our hearts to friends across the miles.  They would also be symbolic of the heart charms that we have been creating on our Makerbot 3D printers.
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We both reached out to Joyce Sidman to share our ideas and see if she would like to meet our students to kickoff the heart poem project.  Not only did she say yes, she pointed us toward a great graphic organizer on her website that would help our students figure out what their heart knows. www.joycesidman.com books what the heart knows chants heart worksheet.pdf.png

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Today our students in Athens, Georgia and Van Meter, Iowa came together with Joyce Sidman via Skype.  After a quick hello and meeting her dog, she read the poem, “Blessing On the Smell of Dog”.  She reminded us that when she is with her dog, she feels like she is home.

This setup the idea that poems come from what he hold in our hearts whether it’s joy, treasures, things we long for, or even what scares us.  Joyce spent time walking through each question on the graphic organizer and giving examples of what the question means to her and why it’s important to think about all of these emotions we hold in our hearts, even the feeling of being scared.

She encouraged our students to write from their hearts.  She also connected with our Banding Together project.  She said, “You’re helping form a bond between you and kids in another part of the world.”
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Our students were able to ask her some questions at the end of our Skype.  When asked why she writes poetry and not other kinds of writing, Joyce said, “I notice the things that are happening around me and I celebrate them.  Poetry allows me to focus on that one thing”.  IMG_2523.JPGIMG_2450.JPG

She also told our students, “Even if there are times when you don’t write, you can always go back to writing from your heart.”

Our students left this experience eager to begin writing heart poems to attach to our Rainbow Loom bracelets.  They will fill out the graphic organizer and then submit their poems using a google form.
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Students can quickly get to this form from Symbaloo or by scanning this QR code.

Poems will go into a spreadsheet when they are submitted which will allow us to easily print them and attach to our bracelets.  Heart Poems  Responses .png

We invite you to join us by submitting your own heart poems.  Use Joyce Sidman’s great graphic organizer and have your students submit their poems in our Google form.  We’ll attach them to bracelets that we have as well as share them with other special friends in coming months.  You can also use the hashtag #heartpoems to share some of your poems on Twitter.

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Thank you, Joyce Sidman, for inspiring this special addition to the Banding Together project, and thank you for taking time to connect with our students.

 

 

 

Kindergarten Blokify Creations Becoming Reality with Makerbot

blokify printing (1)Today, Mrs. Kelly Hocking brought her Kindergarten class to the library to begin 3D printing their creations that they made with the Blokify app on iPad.  It has been a few weeks since they made their creations.  After they left the creating session, 5th graders helped email all of the files to me.  We put them into Makerware, made them smaller, and sliced the files for 3D printing.  All of the files went onto the SD card to be ready to print.

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Today, they all sat in front of the 3D printer.  We spent some time talking about what a 3D printer is and looked at some of the creations it had made.  We also talked about the safety of not touching the printer while it is printing due to the heat and the fact that bumping the printer could mess up the print.

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Finally, we cued up a file on the screen and the student came up to press the M to start the print.

They loved watching the build plate raise to the top.  There were even oohs and ahhhs as the printer was heating.  Once the printing started, we let one student at a time come up to peek inside and see what 3D printing looks like.  They were all amazed.

Mrs. Hocking is working with all of these students to stretch their imaginations.  They are going on a virtual field trip to Boston over the next few weeks and along the way they are virtually stopping in each state and learning something about that state along the way.  For example, next week we will read the book Suryia and Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship and visit the sanctuary where they live in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.  Mrs. Hocking is having the class imagine packing a virtual suitcase that they can put anything in.  Today, they want to add the Makerbot to their suitcase.

These students are also planning out imaginary gardens in their minds.  Their Blokify creations will eventually find a spot in those imaginary gardens and students will imagine what it’s like to go inside of their Blokify creations.  They will create art and stories to accompany these 3D printed sculptures in their imaginary gardens.  I always love the imagination and creativity that Mrs. Hocking brings to life in her classroom.

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Over the next few days, the Blokify creations will continue to be printed until all 21 are done.  Then, the imagination and creating of stories will begin.

 

Taking Time to Say Thank You

Thank You (1)As a teacher librarian, I give a lot of my time to students, teachers, and families just as every educator does.  The rewards of teaching for me are seeing the brilliant work that students create and watching that work reach out and connect to a global audience.  I love seeing the excitement from kids as they meet an author in person or over Skype and how that one moment inspires them to read a new book or to write a new story.

When you actually get a verbal or a written thank you, it means a lot.  Those thank you’s are a reminder of how much students appreciate the opportunities that they have in the library, and they are a great pick-me-up on days where you feel like nothing is going right.  Thank you’s also give me an insight into what kids take away from the experiences in the library and what they are curious about.  This kind of feedback informs future planning to create experiences that kids are excited to be a part of.

This year during Read Across America and World Read Aloud Day, we held 36 skype sessions connecting with 50 locations, 22 states, 2 countries, and 9 authors.  I received a whole pack of thank you letters from Caitlin Ramseyer’s class at our school.  I put all of those letters up on the windows of the library for everyone to see and to validate the students’ hard work in writing the letters.

Yesterday, I got a big pack of thank you’s from Sherry Gick’s 6th graders in Rossville, Indiana.  These students shared a Skype session with us and author, Barbara O’Connor.  I loved seeing 6th grade writing, and it was so interesting to see what they valued in the skype experience.

  • I love when we get to skype with classes because it is a cool experience to meet other kids and classes in different states.
  • It was fun to see the author in real life
  • That was the best reading class ever
  • Even though I don’t like writing, I LOVE reading.  After that skype, I now like writing better.
  • We just finished Chapter 1 of How to Steal a Dog so hearing Chapter 2 was a bonus.
  • I wish we could do this again.
  • If we could skype again, it would be even better.
  • Your class had some interesting questions to ask the author.
  • I’ve always wanted to Skype with an author.  I finally did!
  • Since you are in a different state, it is awesome to see the differences in our classes and the similarities too.

There were also several sentences that made me smile

  • You class looked very nice and it seemed like they are good kids
  • Thank you again for giving us your time to Skype because it was probably hard to find time during your day since you’re a librarian.
  • I think it would be fun to live in Georgia.
  • Thank you for skyping with us.  I think we should meet in person next time!
  • So, I hear you are a librarian.  Mrs. Gick is too!
  • Once again I want to thank you for everything you have done!  Since you are a librarian, this must have been hard enough!
  • I love your library setup (from what I could see)
  • It’s always frun skying with another class because we get to see what kind of weather you guys are having.
  • You seem like a nice teacher.
  • You seem like a cool teacher.

 

They also asked me some questions:

  • What book are you reading now?  Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age: How One Small Boy Saved Our Big, Dumb Species
  • What is the name of your school? David C. Barrow Elementary
  • How big is your library?  Big.  I don’t know the square footage, but right now we have the book fair in half of the library and there is still room to have all of the books and spaces to work on the other side.
  • What is your favorite book?  Anything by Kate DiCamillo
  • Do you have swamps?  Not in Athens, but we have the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia
  • Did you like Mrs. O’Connor’s book?  I love her writing, especially How to Steal a Dog
  • Do you like animals?  Yes.  I have a dog and 3 cats.  My favorite animal is a killer whale.
  • What kind of books do you like to read?  Love realistic fiction with a bit of magic in them.  Also fantasy and poetry.
  • Do you eat gator?  Not on a regular basis.  I have tasted gator but don’t really like it.  
  • Do you know any good biographies?  I love Tanya Lee Stone’s biographies, especially Almost Astronauts
  • Wasn’t Barbara O’Connor awesome?  Yes!

This experience reminded me of the importance of slowing down to say thank you. Our school felt so connected to so many people during the week of World Read Aloud Day.  I truly do thank each librarian, author, and student that we connected to that week.  You enriched our lives in so many ways.  Thank you!

 

More University of Georgia #GeniusCon Research Partners

Geniuscon Day 2 (1)Last week a group from Gretchen Thomas’s EDIT 2000 class at the University of Georgia partnered with Caitlin Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class to work on research for the students’ GeniusCon projects.  Students are answering the question:  If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?

Students topics range from improving the lunch menu to healthier options to adding additional playground equipment to eliminating homework to starting school later in the day.  Even students who share the same topic are taking different approaches to what they would change and how they would do it.

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Today, a new group of Gretchen’s students came to work with the 2nd graders.  Last time, most 2nd graders went through their lists of questions and answered them with their own thinking.  Today’s focus was to move to researching online and in books as well as developing next steps.

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I loved walking around and seeing some of the online reading that students were doing with their partners.

I also loved seeing how the UGA students interacted with the 2nd graders and how they helped to keep our students focused and thinking.  Of course, the UGA students learned a lot too about how much our students know about using technology.

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Some of those next steps involved created Google form surveys that could be emailed out.  Some students crafted emails to send out to the lunchroom or the principal.  We asked students to wait before sending anything out.  The main reason in doing this was to spend a little more time thinking through the content of the email or the survey.  For example, one student had one question in her Google form asking students if they would like more access to the 3D printer.  She was ready to send it out, but after talking with me, she realized that if students wanted access to the 3D printer, we would have no idea what they wanted to do with it.  Our conversation pushed her to think more about her survey before sending it out.  Similar conversations were taking place all over the library.

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At the end, Caitlin pulled her class together to debrief what they had accomplished.

Catilin’s students will continue working on this project and our UGA partners will return again.