Let’s Show Our Work with the #PowerOfPublicSchools

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Created by Kristina Holzweiss

When I speak at conferences or lead workshops, one of the ideas that I try to stress to educators is the importance of showing our work.  It’s something I’ve always believed in but my belief has strengthened each year.

One of the books that I got a lot of encouragement from is Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work.

So many of his ideas resonate with me. As educators, we truly have an opportunity to show the world what is happening within the walls of our schools.  I share at least one thing every single day on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook about the work that is going on in our public school library.

Kazoo parade #librariesofinstagram #steam #makerspace #ccsdmaker

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I do this for many reasons.  The biggest reason is that it amplifies the work of my students, teachers, and families.  It shows that the work that they are doing matters and deserves to be seen and heard by a global audience.

Another reason I share is to inspire other educators to take risks and try something new.  I’ve gained so much from reading the tweets, pictures, and blog posts of fellow educators around the world. People like Jennifer LaGarde, Tiffany Whitehead, Matthew Winner, Sherry Gick, Kathy Burnette, Nikki Robertson, George Couros, Todd Nesloney (and many more than I can list) inspire my thinking.  They push me to innovate, to try something new, and to offer more opportunities to my community.  By sharing my work, someone else out there will see something we are doing and twist that idea into something new.  Someone out there will try something they weren’t even thinking about.

Finally, I share my work because it defines for the world what is happening in a public school library.  Without sharing, many assumptions are made about what happens in public schools.  It shouldn’t be a mystery to the public.  You can look through my blog posts, Instagram pictures, and Tweets and see that our library and school are filled with miraculous things.  Everything isn’t perfect, but it has value.

Usually, when I share my work, I add hashtags like #edchat, #edtech, #studentvoice, #tlchat, #istelib, #makered, and more.  This sends our work to specific audiences.  This week, a new Secretary of Education was sworn in. There has been a lot of controversy around Betsy DeVos and her views of public education.  There has been a lot of controversy about her lack of experience with what actually happens within public schools. So…I decided to occasionally share with her on social media some of the things happening in our public school library.

When I did this, several people in my professional learning network started having a conversation around showing the great work of public schools. Sherry Gick, Rebecca Flowers, and more started brainstorming a hashtag.  Many suggestions were offered but the brilliant author/illustrator Matthew Cordell offered this one #PowerOfPublicSchools

 

Kristina Holzweiss created a graphic, and we all started sharing it along with our posts of the great work of public schools.

 

I hope that you will join us.  Show the powerful things that are happening in your school and use the hashtag #PowerOfPublicSchools

 

Use our graphic within your networks to encourage others to share.

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Also, consider tagging people who need to see the power of public schools.  Perhaps it’s local, state, and federal government.  Perhaps it’s businesses in your community.  Perhaps it’s someone else.

Regardless of who you might tag, show your work.  You never know who it might inspire, influence, or change.

 

 

I’m a 2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker!

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I’m beyond excited to finally announce that I’m a 2016 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. This has been a very hard secret to keep for so long. I’m extremely honored to represent the power of libraries in our world along with the many other talented individuals on this year’s list.  I have so much respect for the other librarians who have been on this prestigious list through the years, and it’s surreal to see my name alongside people who are my mentors and friends along with new inspiring people to discover.  I’m taking time to read each person’s profile and be inspired with each and every story.

To look at the map of movers, and see the number in Georgia bump up to 17 movers and shakers was a special moment. I’m honored to be one of the 17 Georgians across the 15 years of this award and 1 of about 750 movers and shakers around the globe.  Out of the 17 Georgians, only 3 of those are school librarians. This year’s list of 54 movers and shakers included only 5 school librarians.  Theses 5 librarians include the amazing Colleen Graves, whose makerspace leadership always inspire me to try something new. Also included is Sue Kowalski, who empowers her students to take charge in the library and is always thinking about how to grow the library program in the community.

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When I found out that I made the 2016 list, I immediately started wondering which category I would be placed in. That is one detail that you don’t find out until the very end. Now that I know I’m in the “community builder” category, I couldn’t be happier.

When I really look at the heart of what I do, it’s about creating communities of learners, dreamers, innovators, creators, and leaders. The library has never been just mine. I’m always looking for opportunities to increase access to resources and experiences for all of the members of our library. Whether it’s collaborating with Gretchen Thomas at the University of Georgia, Charlie Miller and Brad Hosack at Fliprgrid, Lindsey Hill at Evanced, Janet Geddis and the bookseller team at Avid Bookshop, Jim Boon and Amy Cox at Capstone Press, authors and illustrators, or my librarian colleagues around the country, miraculous things happen for the students, educators, and collaborators involved. We realize that we are never alone. Every time we connect in person or virtually, we realize that we are part of one big community and the words of Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw’s Same, Same but Different  ring true for us all.  I feel like I have so much more to learn about building community within the walls of our school and beyond, and I can’t wait to see where we go in the coming years.

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I do want to pull back the curtain just a bit on what it was like to go through the process of being on the Movers and Shakers list. First, you are nominated. I am fortunate to know several people who nominated me, but I know that’s not always the case. I want to thank Charlie Miller, Lindsey Hill, Gretchen Thomas, Sherry Gick, and Ellen Sabatini for their nominations along with anyone else who may have submitted my name.

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In December, I got the email with an invitation to come to ALA Midwinter in Boston for the photo shoot and first time meeting several of the 2016 Movers and Shakers. I was so excited to attend my first Midwinter and get to tour the massive exhibit hall.  I arrived a little before registration started, so I had a chance to tour a little of Boston.

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One of my favorite spots was the public library. I loved touring the old and new spaces and thinking about what libraries have done for communities throughout the years and how the spaces are always evolving to meet the needs of the library members.

I of course also had to visit the Make Way for Ducklings ducks in the Public Garden.

As soon as I went to registration, I saw several librarians I knew, and it was so hard not to talk about why I was really at midwinter. Luckily, I did have a meeting to talk about transforming libraries with Miguel Figueroa, so I had that to talk about. I got to meet some superstar authors and illustrators like Jeff Kinney, Herve Tullet, Mac Barnett, and Jory John.

The night before the photo shoot, I went to the Candlewick party at Fenway Park. Being in this historic stadium at night and completely empty was unbelievable. We dined on ballpark food along with about 20 authors and illustrators including Peter & Paul Reynolds and Gregory Maguire.

On the morning of the photo shoot, I made my way to the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. I wore my red shirt, Dr Seuss Converse shoes, “expect the miraculous” bracelet, and carried my copy of Flora and Ulysses. The lobby was breathtaking and I was extremely nervous, so I took a few moments to look around before heading up to the suite.

When I finally decided to go to the room, I was relieved to see other movers in the room so it made the shoot less intimidating. There were two rooms setup with backdrops, and the photographer and other staff were very helpful in making the shoot fun and special. We took many different group shots along with our individual pictures. While we waited, we got to learn a bit about one another and make some connections.  I got to chat with fellow teacher librarian Sue Kowalski and snap a quick selfie too.

I also met Stephanie Anderson, and after chatting, we realized we had a mutual connection with Janet Geddis and Avid Bookshop.

The rest of the conference was filled with great conversations about libraries and celebrating up and coming books. I was glad that I flew Southwest just so I could pack books into my two checked bags.

Also, within this same time frame, I had a long phone interview with Carly Okyle, the writer for my profile. It was fun to chat with her again since she also wrote the article for my SLJ School Librarian of the Year finalist profile. She’s a big fan of our library program, Check out how the final article turned out.

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The print copies have arrived!

Waiting on announcement day was really hard, and it was a huge relief to finally have the secret out and celebrate with people who care about my work. I can’t even begin to list all of the social media posts that I received from friends in my PLN and people who have found some inspiration I’ve done.

My wife brought me red flowers to school and snuck up behind me playing 100% by Mariah Carey.  It was my own singing telegram.  The work we do is hard, and it is rare that we get thanked or celebrated.  However, anything someone did for me or said on release day was special to me, and reminded me how we really need to stop and celebrate educators more often.  On March 28th, my school is having an “Andy Plemmons Day” where all are encouraged to wear red!  I look forward to that special day of celebrating with you Barrow community.

Red flowers from my wife on this special day #ljmover16 #tlchat #librarian #leadership #congratulations

A post shared by Andy Plemmons (@andy.plemmons) on

In June, I will travel to my first ALA annual in Orlando. There will be a Movers and Shakers luncheon that will reunite Movers and Shakers from previous years along with the 2016 winners.

As always, it is incredible to be recognized for your work, but these awards are really a celebration of libraries and the members who make up each of these libraries represented.  There are many more school and public librarians out there that need to be on this list, and I hope we see even more of those people on this list in years to come. Thank you for following along with me in this journey. Now, forward we go to the next adventure expecting the miraculous the whole way.IMG_8827

Taking Over Georgia Department of Education Instagram: A Lesson in Trust

A few months ago I was alerted to an opportunity by one of my favorite collaborative partners, Gretchen Thomas. The Georgia State Department of Education was inviting educators to apply to takeover their Instagram account for one week. I filled out the quick application, and within a few weeks, I was notified that I was selected for the week of January 18-22, 2016.

When I applied, I really didn’t give a lot of thought to what the state DOE was actually doing, but as the week neared, I was really struck by this opportunity. Social media accounts have a lot of power. They allow organizations or individuals to really show the day to day realities of what we all face. Those accounts have influence and help create the brand of an organization. Handing over an account to someone who is for the most part a complete stranger is a big exercise in trust. How many organizations will just hand over their account and allow people to freely post?

This honor, of course, came with rules to follow.

  • Always use the hashtag #gadoeteachertakeover
  • Reply to comments, but indicate who is replying
  • Post photos that are representative of the profession
  • Anything deemed inappropriate could be deleted by the DOE
  • Post 2-5 photos per day
  • Follow any local policies on posting to social media

I took the responsibility very seriously, and I’m sure that every educator who was chosen is doing the same. In fact, if you scroll through the #gadoeteachertakover tag you’ll see the amazing opportunities our students in GA are receiving every day. Since I was allowed 5 photos per day, I thought very carefully about what to post because I wanted to show a variety of opportunities our students have in our library program.  It isn’t just about technology or just about books. I hope that the photos I chose show that it’s about giving students a voice and giving them opportunities to explore a variety of topics, interests, and passions and share those with the world.

Now that I am at the close of the week, I can back up and collectively look at my week in 25 pictures. It’s very easy for me to get lost in the day to day bustling library and focus on all of the things in my head that I’m not able to get to. When I take time to look back at blog posts, tweets, or pictures, I’m reminded of what is actually happening. This was honestly my first time doing this with Instagram, and I loved seeing a visual of images that showcased one week. In  my head I know what’s missing, what problems we faced, what moments of frustrations I had, but the images remind me that there were miraculous things happening all around us.

I would like to thank the Georgia State Department of Education for this opportunity. Thank you for trusting the educators of Georgia to show their work. Thank you for empowering the voices of educators and students to define what education looks like in our state. I hope that other professional organizations will consider how this type of campaign empowers the voices of its members and amplifies the work that is happening on the front lines of the organization.

 

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

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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Crowd-Sourced Poem in My Pocket

IMG_0073 - CopyEach year for our Poem In Your Pocket Celebration I try to write a poem that somehow connects with what I love.  This year, I had an idea.  Since I have talked to the students so much this year about what I hope our library represents and how I want them to take ownership of the space, I thought it would be perfect for them to help me write about that.  Also, I often hear adults telling students that “the library is a quiet place”.  While that is true sometimes, it’s not really the kind of library that I think we have here at Barrow.  Putting these 2 thoughts together, I created a Google form with some various stems about our library not being quiet:  Our library is not a quiet place it’s a…, In our library you can hear…, In our library you can see…., In our library you can feel…

I emailed the form out to students and also sent it to teachers so that they could do it with their whole class.  After lots of submissions, I went through and pulled lines to use in our poem.  I used at least one idea from every entry that was submitted.  The following poem is the one that I will carry in my pocket Thursday and Friday and read into the microphone to start each poetry reading session.

Our Library is NOT a Quiet Place

A Crowd-sourced Poem By Barrow Students

 

Our library is not a quiet place

It’s an energetic, media place

a chatty and productive place

a sort of noisy place

You can hear

people talking creativity

the beep, beep, beep of the checkout machine

kids discussing books

pages flipping

fingers typing across keyboards

fans whirling

projects connecting with the world

 

Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a reading place

a cheering place

You can see

shelves lined with well-loved books

happiness for a nook

people reading

smiling faces

kids enjoying, researching

checking out books on their own

children running, shouting, free

imaginations soaring

 

Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a wild safari

a wonderful, awesome place

you can feel

friendship

the hum of energy

peacefulness

warm and safe

complete and overjoyed

calmness, floating

anticipation

smart

 

Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a word place

A big, loud punch in the face place

Sometimes a rambunctious place

Even an aggravating place

You can hear

playfullness

kids laughing

mentors reading

Quiet talks about books

Authors and experts skyping

Students blogging and commenting

 

Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a living space

Buzzing with awesomeness

 

Our library is not a quiet place

It’s everybody’s learning base

Little Free Library 5th Grade Project

I’ve known about Little Free Libraries for awhile now, and since I learned about them I wanted to help establish one at our school.  I was waiting for just the right moment.  This summer I attended the Decatur Book Festival and saw several creative Little Free Libraries that were being auctioned off and it made me want to establish one even more.  I posted a picture of the libraries on our media center facebook page and immediately Ms. Cross, a 5th grade teacher, said she wanted to help make this happen at our school.  Her comment made me think about the gift that our 5th grade gives to the school at Moving On Ceremony at the end of each year as a way for the 5th graders to make their mark on the school before they leave.  Since our 5th graders won’t get the opportunity to go to school in our brand new building next year, I thought this year’s gift needed to be extra special.  I had found the perfect fit for the idea.

I began talking with people at our school about the project.  As always, our art teacher, Rita Foretich, was on board to help weave this project into an interdisciplinary experience.  Other teachers in the school that don’t even work with our 5th graders began offering ideas too and within a few days our spark of idea was really starting to grow.

I sat down with Mrs. Foretich and we did an initial brainstorming of what our project might look like.  We thought of materials, resources, locations, and also a sequence of events that would need to happen in order for the project to be done by the end of the year.  Our plan consisted of:  an intro to Little Free Libraries for the whole 5th grade, persuasive writing in 5th grade classroom, continued research and conversation in the media center, and little free library designs and artwork in art.  I took our plan to the 5th grade team for feedback and additions.  The teachers brainstormed ways for the students to really take ownership of the project such as donating their own books to stock the libraries and bringing in $1 each to cover the registration for the 2 libraries.

We launched into the first phase right after this session.  I made a short introduction video using screencast-o-matic and uploaded it to Youtube.  Mrs. Foretich showed the video at the beginning of an art class.

As she showed it, the kids immediately began having ideas and wanting to contribute them.  She developed a Google form to share with the students so that they could all submit their feedback without taking up too much of the class time to hold a discussion.  Mrs. Foretich’s student teacher also began contributing her knowledge and connections to UGA.

The next step will be for the student to brainstorm more about the materials, labor, and location so that they can begin writing persuasive letters to individuals and organizations for support.

Our goal is to create 2 Little Free Libraries by the end of the year.  One will be installed at the new Barrow and one will be installed somewhere near downtown so it is accessible to our students and the community on that end of town.  Who knows what this project will develop into, but it is already full of participatory culture as more and more people contribute their ideas, their expertise, and their creativity.

If you have ideas or resources for this project, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact our library.