12 Ways to Rock Being the Boss of a School Librarian

So you’re the boss of a school librarian? Congratulations! School librarianship can be one of the most rewarding positions in a school, as long as it’s a respected and well-utilized role. The good news is that school administration can positively impact the mutual satisfaction of both the school and the school librarian.


  1. Encourage your school librarian to be proactive. They need to get out there and work on relationships, attend curricular meetings, and be part of the life of the school. One of the best things about being a school librarian is that your role is somewhat amorphous– no one knows exactly what you’re supposed to do, so it’s an opportunity to surprise and delight your staff by exceeding their expectations. In my experience, expectations of a school librarian are that they check books out to students. It’s not difficult to raise the bar here!
  2. Demonstrate to the staff your respect for your school librarian. They are watching you and will follow your lead. Listen to your school librarian, ask for his opinion, and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Include your school librarian to participate in a wide variety of meetings and committees. The school librarian’s schedule is often flexible (I know this isn’t always the case), so it makes sense to include her in meetings on a wide variety of topics– no sub coverage needed (again, depending on the case), and you get additional input from a unique perspective.
  4. Encourage your school librarian to be a technology leader, and include her in technology planning meetings. Most school librarians I know are tech-savvy. They also have direct and specific knowledge about copyright and other issues of digital citizenship, so adding this additional element to your technology meetings makes good sense.
  5. Visit the library often. Talk to the librarian, talk to the staff, and talk to the students. The school library is usually one of the main areas of the school in which students hang out before, during, and after school hours. You can learn a lot about your school community by spending time in the library.
  6. Leave your office and work in the library for an hour a week, at different times of the day. Observe how it functions, how students and staff use the library, and note any areas of need. Provide support and feedback, much as you would after a classroom walkthrough. Plus, you might even get some work done (the library’s good for that)!
  7. Hold meetings, events, and celebrations in the library. Show it off. People who don’t usually come to the library are often surprised at what a great space is is, and are then more likely to come back.
  8. Talk about your own reading— professional, personal, what you liked to read when you were in school, anything to demonstrate that you value reading.
  9. Ask your school librarian to provide professional development (information literacy, technology, etc.) for teachers. Institute Days are a good time for this, as are faculty meetings, after school workshops, lunch-n-learns, etc. Maybe she could even create a series of short video modules on a variety of topics (this is where the tech savvy-ness comes in).
  10. Provide adequate support staff. This is perhaps the most important support you can provide to your school librarian. All of the other suggestions on this list are almost impossible if the school librarian is tied to the library’s physical space and is solely responsible for the clerk/supervisory activities of the school library.
  11. Meet with your school librarian on a monthly basis. Keep in touch with what’s going on in the school library. Share with him issues that you are working on as well, because he might be able to help you by providing support, ideas, volunteering for committees, etc.
  12. Understand the importance of the physical library space. If it’s not inviting or comfortable, encourage (and financially support) your school librarian to make improvements.

For more information on hiring school librarians, read the fabulous Jennifer LaGarde’s recent post An Open Letter to Principals (Before You Hire a New School Librarian)!

Loving Twitter Part 3: Twitter in the Elementary Classroom


My Grade 4 and Grade 2 tweeters!

I work in a school where, partially thanks to our awesome and proactive ES Technology Integrator, Elementary School Twitter usage is a regular part of the curricular program. A quick glance at the ES Twitter List for our school shows that, during every hour of the school day, an ES classoom somewhere in the school has tweeted. I come from a primarily high school teaching background, but have worked in close proximity to the ES over the past two years here at my international school. I also have two elementary-aged daughters and have followed their classroom Twitter experiences quite closely over the past two years, and also have a few good friends in the ES who were willing to share with me more about their Twitter journey.

One obvious question is: How can you use Twitter in the Elementary School when Twitter’s minimum age requirement is 13? The way that our school has addressed this issue is by having classroom accounts. The account names might either be something like “Ms. Dewey’s PreK Class”, or, at our school, each class chooses a name for itself at the beginning of the year, so my daughter’s classroom Twitter account name is “Puffer Fish”. The teacher is the account owner and holds the password.

When students first discuss their classroom Twitter account in the beginning of the year, teachers usually engage with them about appropriate information to post, what not to post, who their audience might be, how to compose a tweet, etc.. This early exploration into appropriate use of social media is crucial to forming a strong foundation in digital literacy/citizenship. 

***The following comments and videos provide more insight into the teacher motivation behind Twitter and the student experience and perceptions of using Twitter.***

I asked six PreK, Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 teachers a few questions about how they use Twitter in their ES classrooms:

  1. How often does your class tweet? Most reported that they tweet between 1-5 times every day.
  2. How do you (or they) decide what or when to tweet? Most reported that they tweet when they’re engaging in an especially interesting or enjoyable activity. A Grade 1 teacher also stated that “We also tweet based on need. We’ve used it to tweet solutions in Math, with our twitter feed projected on the screen. We also use twitter to share reflections.​ I usually have it out for them to access if there is anything they feel is worth sharing about their learning.Yesterday at  Terrarium Workshop, I laid out the iPads alongside the other tools.” A Grade 3 teacher responded that “Sometimes for a lesson we all take an iPad and tweet different pictures at the same time.  We then keep the Twitter page projected on the board so that there is an ongoing collection of pictures.” 
  3. Do you compose tweets together as a class, or do individual students take turns? Responses included “Tweets are composed mostly by individual students.  Tweets are usually with a picture of what we are working on.”; “I have jobs of the week and each week a different child is chosen so everybody gets to have a go at least twice. They are good at deciding or asking when to tweet.”; “We compose with individuals, small groups, and whole class.; “I use their words and quote them.”
  4. Do you have any specific examples of when something really cool happened because of a tweet? The most exciting example was when a PreK class tweeted questions to several airlines, and ended up engaging in a Twitter conversation with @KLM! Another reported that“We’ve tweeted at airlines, astronauts, authors, and other interests. We tweet with our UK buddies and we have followed a nursery rhyme group to get new rhymes for our rooms.” A Grade 1 teacher’s experiences included “When an author retweeted our read aloud of her book; when a tweet on shapes was retweeted; when they had to search for me around the school and we exchanged messages and photos on twitter; when a student said, ‘Let’s tweet Jamie Oliver’ when I asked how we might find an expert to ask our question about restaurants​.” 
  5. What do you think students gain from being engaged with Twitter? Responses included: “Their parents have a better understanding of what we did that day and can engage in conversation about what happened. It really reinforces the home-school connection – and connection to families far away.”; “Immediate sharing to the world!”; “They love it as it keeps then connected to their families, they take pride in their work, they want to do it, they ask, great for general literacy skills & confidence.”; “An online collection of different things that we’ve been doing.”; “Our skills are embedded in the use of Twitter, but one particular use is the chance for instruction about technological behavior  and interchange, because they use Twitter, we are also learning about how to interact online.​”
  6. Any additional comments or observations? Responses included: “I’m not quite sure if they understand the reach of Twitter and how other people connect and can respond to each other via Tweets. They don’t realize who their audience is going to be.”; “I would like it more if we had more interaction from parents on the tweets.”; “I wonder how to search for tweets without needing to hashtag every tweet.​”

I also interviewed three Grade 2 students about why they use Twitter:

My final thoughts about how our ES program is using Twitter: We are proficient in teaching students how to use Twitter by composing tweets, adding pictures, etc. We also do well with the habit of regularly tweeting (not every class tweets every day, but we have enough of a critical mass that Twitter can legitimately be described as being an important element of our program). Students also seem to understand the importance of sharing their work and their learning with others.

I think the area in which we can most improve is in Connecting. We have mastered the art of tweeting for one-way communication: to promote, inform, remind, share, etc., but haven’t yet truly explored what makes Twitter so unique and impactful, which is forming connections with others. A few classes have made connections and have found the experience to be powerful for students, but most classes are still using Twitter as a one-way communication tool. Possibilities to consider include: creating a Twitter slow chat that happens once a week between ES classes (classes could answer one or two questions during the course of a day); having Twitter “classroom buddies” where two classes are responsible for tweeting to and communicating with each other via Twitter during the semester/year; encouraging administrators to tweet at classrooms on a regular basis; partnering with classrooms around the world to converse and learn about one another’s cultures; conducting parent information sessions or speaking directly about Twitter during Open House nights in order to encourage parents to join and participate; exploring lists of education-related Twitter chats to see if there are Twitter events in which ES classrooms could participate; continuing to tweet to experts, authors, other classes, teachers and administrators, etc.. The possibilities are endless if you creatively explore the ways in which Twitter can facilitate safe, meaningful connections for students in the elementary school.

Lean In Circles: Women Supporting Each Other at Work


This photograph is the product of nine intelligent, professional women trying to figure out how to operate a camera’s self-timer. This may have been the fourth try on the second (!) camera we attempted to use, so if we look a little wild-eyed, that’s why. Anyway…

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead explores issues of women in the workplace that she initially examined in her 2010 TED Talk “Why we have too few women leaders”. While reading this book I was challenged and disturbed by Sandberg’s analysis of what keeps women from rising to the tops of organizations, and invigorated by her thoughts about what women can do to break through the very real glass ceilings (of both our own and others’ creations) in order to attain career success and recognition.

When I was in college, I was fortunate enough to take several amazing, formative courses on women’s history and women’s roles in society from some very strong female professors. After beginning my actual career, however, and then gliding through my 20s and 30s without much professional angst, I stopped thinking so much about gender and career, as I didn’t see anything that I found particularly disturbing. I’ve started to sit up and pay more attention over the past two years, however, both in my own life and in the world in general. It’s clear that gender biases exist. I’ve been reading more on social media as well as in the traditional media and have been feeling increasingly that there is something I could do to help myself and to connect with other like-minded women.

After I read Lean In, I was hungry for more connection and ended up discovering that an entire foundation has been established to support the Lean In cause! On its website, LeanIn.Org states:

We are committed to offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals. If we talk openly about the challenges women face and work together, we can change the trajectory of women and create a better world for everyone.

One important element of LeanIn.Org is Lean In Circles, which are small groups of women committed to career growth, leadership, and maximizing their own potential. Another like-minded colleague and I decided, after a night of cocktails at a departmental party (always a good start to new collaborative efforts!), to create a Lean In Circle at our school. We debated about how best to go about creating a solid group– should we just ask people we already knew and with whom we felt comfortable, or should we open it up to the whole school and see how it shakes out? We ultimately decided on the latter, which ended up being a great decision. We were concerned at first because the Lean In organization advises circles not to have more than twelve people, mainly in order to ensure everyone’s personal investment and commitment to one another, but we trusted that it would ultimately work out. I think we started with almost twenty interested women, but after the first few meetings we ended up with a core group of eleven– the perfect size. We meet once a month for about 2 hours, rotating between members’ homes. We found that Sunday afternoons are best for most people, with a few weekday evenings thrown in every few months. Whoever hosts the meeting provides the food, often with help from one or two others, and then everyone is asked to bring wine. Yes, we do have wine (or sangria, thanks to a few talented mixologist members!). Obviously wine is not necessary, but it does help create a relaxed and social atmosphere, and it also helps differentiate these meetings from typical “work” meetings.

The Lean In website is amazing, because it provides downloadable guides for about twelve ready-made meetings, which have taken us a year to work through. It will also soon have a receptacle of “Create Your Own” meeting resources, which should be helpful as well. Additionally, there is a large library of videos that can be used to spark discussion on a variety of topics. A colleague and I meet a few days before each meeting to read through that week’s guide (meeting themes have included “Connecting”, “Energizing”, “Framing”, etc.) and decide who is going to lead which section. After trying a few different things, we found that printing packets for each group member worked best. That way members could read along with the instructions, write down their thoughts, and complete activities easier than if they did not have the text in front of them.

So those are the logistics of how we hold and plan our meetings, but what about the good stuff? What do we get out of it? SO MUCH. We have women from Elementary, Middle and High School, ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-40s. We have women who currently hold leadership positions (though no upper administrators) and women who have not yet held official leadership positions. We have women from North America, South America, Australia, the UK, and even one truly “TCK” (Third Culture Kid). We did not all know each other. We all have different career goals. We have different personalities. AND we all support one another 150%. Our meetings are completely safe spaces, with the explicit understanding that what is said in the meetings stays within the meetings. We share our frustrations at work as well as our successes. But even more than that, we help each other THINK and REFLECT on what these frustrations and successes mean. And while we all acknowledge that getting complaints and frustrations off our chest is important, we also all acknowledge that we don’t wish to rest in our dissatisfaction or frustration. Rather, we help each other to figure out how to navigate our situations, and how to understand that gender issues in the workplace are real and how to work with each other and with our colleagues to make our jobs and our organization a better, stronger, fairer place to work. The tone of all of our meetings is positive, with the ultimate goal being to strengthen our own capacities and to understand not only what we want out of our careers, but also how to form a roadmap to get there.

Also, as I’ve documented in this blog, I’ve just gone through a major, months-long job search. A HUGE, impossible to overestimate, boon to me during this time was the unwavering support I received from my Lean In group. These women regularly checked in, sent me emails of support, took time to listen to my hopes and fears during meetings, and just generally had my back. They’ll never know how much their care meant to me, and I can’t wait to do the same for them someday.

If you’ve got the drive, and are considering starting a Lean In Circle of your own, go for it! Find some women who are interested in leadership and career– even those with whom you have loose connections– and see what you can create. It’s been a transformative and inspiring journey for us. If you need something to get you started, read Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, or How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by McKinsey consultants Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston.

Good luck, and Lean In!

Can You Make (Professional) Dreams Come True?

moon-478982_1920Two years ago I left a great job, a job that I enjoyed and that had the potential to progress my career in a new direction (educational technology). I left the job because my family had an opportunity to move overseas for a few years, where my husband and I would teach at an international school again and have the wonderful experience of traveling with our daughters, who would be attending the same school in which we would be teaching. I had to resign from this great job without knowing if I would ever have the chance to step back into the forward momentum I had been building toward a career in educational technology (I have been a school librarian for the past twelve years– I realize that there are overlaps between the two, but I have been looking forward to jumping with both feet into ed tech, with the hope of maybe someday being able to merge and lead in both areas).

During my two years at the international school I feared for the impact that my family’s move would have on my career. This in itself was guilt-inducing, as wasn’t it selfish of me to be so concerned about my own career, when my family was having an incredibly meaningful and enriching experience?  This was a struggle that I never really overcame, but did find peace with eventually. I had to accept that our decision could be both positive (overseas travel, family time, working in and having our children attend a great school, wonderful new friends) and negative (the potential impact on my career) at the same time. A little cognitive dissonance never hurt anyone, after all.

This past December, we had to officially declare whether or not we would be returning to the school next year. Partly due to my career goals, we decided to return to the U.S. This meant that my job search was on, and the pressure (much of it self-designed) began to mount. The five months between my first application and today have been a study in patience and in equanimity. During those five months and, really, in the two years since I decided to leave my previous job, I dedicated myself to intentional, continual, self-improvement in ways that would bring me closer to my goal of working in educational technology leadership. Even though it may have seemed strange considering my role as school librarian, I gained Google certifications, volunteered to create and manage the high school’s Twitter account, presented on technology at various conferences and workshops, designed and facilitated an online staff technology professional development program, and continued to read widely and participate frequently in the area of educational technology, particularly online via social media and blogs.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m thrilled to say that I recently got the Job of My Dreams. The one that seemed like an impossibility, especially due to those life and career decisions I made two years ago, which, while positive in may ways, seemed to derail the potential to achieve this dream. I am a testimonial to the fact that Dreams Come True and that it’s worth believing in this– and believing in yourself– even when it seems like you’ve taken a road the path for which is irreversible. I’m currently reading How Remarkable Women Lead by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, where I came across the following rather serendipitous passage*:

Many women set out, traveling down academic and career paths, only to discover meaningful work after more than a few turns in the road. The zigs and zags of their career may seem inefficient (surely a straight shot to your goal would seem a better choice). Things are not always what they seem. In most cases, women leaders recall that these zigs taught self-awareness and those zags led them down the path to skills and experiences that opened a door. It was not time wasted. It was their time for discovering what they loved and learning new capabilities (p.23).

I identify with this so strongly because I don’t for one second believe that these past two years, spent in a situation that I thought was actively moving me away from the career direction in which I wanted to go, were wasted time. They obviously were NOT wasted time when it came to family, travel, friends, and new experiences, but neither were they wasted time when it came to my career. This was a lightbulb moment for me. These past two years have confirmed for me the following: that I am ready for a change in career direction; that I do have leadership skills; and that educational technology leadership TRULY is my passion.

I felt a burning need to write this post because for so long people tried to reassure me by saying that it would all turn out alright, and that I could jump back into my career trajectory after this detour, but I DIDN’T BELIEVE THEM. Now I believe. I also wanted to write about this because I have several friends who have similar fears about their own careers, wondering if kids + family have set them back, or if they will ever have the opportunity to break through the ceilings of their own (or others’) creation.

If you’re feeling defeated and directionless, or just wondering how to increase your chances of finding your own Best Job, here’s what I’ve come up with– it’s not rocket science, but it is what ultimately worked for me:

CONTINUAL HARD WORK & GROWTH (Seek additional education and training; present workshops in your area of expertise; find small or large opportunities to get involved; create something new. Seek out anything that will grow your skills and experiences, and try to always have something going on the back burner.)  

MAINTAINING & FORMING NETWORKS (Maintain relationships with people whose careers you admire; who inspire you and from whom you can learn; who support you and your career aspirations; and who could help you with a reference, a phone call, a job posting heads-up, giving career advice, etc. Also seek to form new relationships with people who inspire you; who are leaders in your organization; and who might be able to strengthen and add to your professional networks.)

THE RIGHT FIT (Vital to remember. It’s not always about you. You could be working hard and growing, maintaining relationships and forming new ones, but if the job isn’t the right fit, it will never work. If an opportunity doesn’t work out for you, but you feel that you’ve done everything that you could, examine the reasons why it wasn’t the right fit. The jobs that didn’t work out for me during this time of interviewing and job hunting were for positions that didn’t fit my experiences and skill set, or for which there were already strong internal candidates in mind– aside: never underestimate the power of the internal candidate!! The job that ultimately worked out and was the Dream Job of the bunch? The job where the district’s needs aligned with my strengths and experiences. The same position in a different district may have had completely different needs and therefore would have led to the selection of a completely different candidate. It HAS to be the right fit for you and for them.)

Don’t Give Up. Believe in yourself. It’s out there.

* More serendipitous quotes:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. – Steve Jobs

The thing that I learned early on is you really need to set goals in your life, both short-term and long-term, just like you do in business. Having that long-term goal will enable you to have a plan on how to achieve it. We apply these skills in business, and yet when it comes to ourselves we rarely apply them. – Denise Morrison, CEO Campbell Soup Co.

Genrefying the High School Fiction Collection

Over the past two years, the high school library has undergone massive transformations: organizationally, physically, technologically, and instructionally. This post will examine the ways that it has changed from an organizational perspective.

books-164530_1280First, one of the most striking characteristics of this library when I first arrived was how HUGE, bloated, and packed-to-the-gills the collection was. All of our shelving for both Fiction and Non-Fiction is six shelves tall, and every single shelf was packed to the edge with books: approximately 28,000 of them, to be precise. It also felt like a very old collection. If you walked through the stacks to browse, it seemed like a too-large percentage was dated, unattractive, falling apart, etc. Although I would normally advise waiting for a year or so before undertaking a weeding project, the situation was dire. We began with the Non-fiction section and then, when that was completed in about February of my first year, we moved on to the Fiction section. Each time we finished weeding a few hundred books, we advertised them to staff using Smore flyers such as this one and this one.

By the time my second year rolled around, it was time to get creative! Now that the collection was much more manageable (and after one more round of comprehensive weeding– all told, we weeded approximately 7,600 books between the two years), we decided to turn our attention to the Fiction collection, because that’s where you can really have some fun. After observing that high school students here were not perusing the Fiction section looking for books, or asking for recommendations, or being required to have books to read for pleasure, and just generally were not engaging with much Fiction, we decided to make it really easy and attractive for them to quickly find books that were right for them. Yes, we decided to GENREFY! Genrefying as a concept has been around for a while, but I had not felt compelled to explore it at my previous school, as our collection was not very large, and because students were regularly and successfully asking and browsing for books. At my current school, however, the question of how to get books into students’ hands has been much more of a challenge. After doing a little online research, I found inspiration and great ideas from The Mighty Little Librarian (@librarian_tiff) and Mrs. ReaderPants (@mrsreaderpants), and decided to embark on a genrefication journey of our own.

The rest of this post details the steps we took to complete this project.

Step 1. We came up with 10 initial categories for genrefication: Action Adventure; Classics; Fantasy; Historical Fiction; Inspirational; Literary Fiction; Mystery Suspense; Realistic Fiction; Romance & Relationships; Science Fiction Dystopia. We knew that these might change as we went through the collection.

Step 2. We created 2-letter abbreviations for each genre, which is how they would be initially labeled and then how they would be identified in the catalog. We walked through the entire Fiction collection and made a light pencil mark indicating genre on the Date Due slip of each book.

librarycard1 librarycard

Step 3. We adjusted the categories according to the needs of the collection. It immediately became too difficult to differentiate between “Classics” and “Literary Fiction”, so we scrapped Classics and kept Literary Fiction. Also, near the end of the initial identification process, we still had only about 15 books in the “Inspirational” category, so we discarded that category and added most of them to Literary Fiction. We finished the identification process with a total of 8 genre categories.

Step 4. We color-coded each genre and created labels to affix above the call number sticker on each book’s spine. We did this so that we did not have to generate unique new call number labels for every book in the entire Fiction collection. This was suggested by the library assistants and was a BRILLIANT idea that avoided hours of the painstaking work it would have required to generate new unique call number labels, peel off old labels, and affix new labels.


Step 5. We began to take books off of the shelves and put them onto carts. We then affixed the genre labels to each book, according to the genre indicated on its cover page, and then adjusted the catalog record accordingly.

1. Search Catalog by Barcode

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2. Edit Copies

 Details for -The handmaid's tale-.clipular

3. Add Genre Abbreviation

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4. Edit Title Details

Details for -The handmaid's tale-.clipular (1)

5. Add Series/Notes

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6. Add Genre Note

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Step 6. Once books had been labeled and their records had been altered, we began to put them together in various places throughout the library. This proved to be a challenge, especially for very large genres like Science Fiction Dystopia and Mystery Suspense, but we felt that it was important to have everything off of the shelves before we began to put them back together with their genres. We utilized space in the library workroom, on long tables at the sides of the library, on shelving behind the circulation desk, and on as many carts as we could find.

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Step 7. While we were working on this project, the library looked markedly different, so we posted signage on our temporary genre storage locations throughout the library as well as on all of the empty shelving. We wanted people to be able to find what they were looking for!

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Step 8. Once the entire Fiction collection had been labeled, re-cataloged, and placed together with their new genre-mates, it was time to re-shelve everything in the new locations. We decided to organize the genre sections alphabetically throughout the library, with the exception of “Literary Fiction”, which we placed at the very end.

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Step 9. Once the entire Fiction was back on the shelves, organized by genre, it was time to add signage.

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Step 10. Finally, it was time to advertise! This digital advertisement was posted on the front page of the library website, and was also included on this digital invitation to a faculty wine and cheese gathering hosted by the library.



Walking through the library stacks now is a breath of fresh air. Having weeded so aggressively really allowed us to give the collection the breathing room it needed. There are now no books on bottom shelves, and the books on each shelf extend only 3/4 of the way, maximum. The colorful labels very clearly delineate between sections of books, and the signage is plentiful. I’m presuming that librarians are the only people who are interested enough in library genrefication to have read this far, so I will tell you guys, if you are thinking about re-genrefying your own library, not to be discouraged if no one is as excited as you are! i mean no disrespect to my awesome and amazing colleagues, but when a well-meaning fellow teacher politely says, “That’s nice” after you enthusiastically describe your big exciting project, it’s a little bit of a bummer. So take ♥! It’s a great change, can be a needed change, and is all about the STUDENTS and ACCESS, which should lie at the heart of any major educational decision. So with that, Go Forth and Genrefy!

Finding Inspiration From Faculty

I love being inspired by new ideas, and believe 100% in sharing creativity and also sharing the great things happening at our school. I recently had the opportunity to learn about an absolutely amazing, yet little-known, project happening in our Design Technology lab and I just had to find a way to tell others about it. Our high school has gotten several 3D printers this year, but I had no idea exactly how these work, what they look like, or how you go from having an idea to actually creating a finished product. I emailed our Design Technology teachers and asked if they could let me know the next time they would be using the 3D printers so that I could come up and learn more about them. They emailed back right away to let me know that a printing project was currently running, so I headed up to the 4th floor Design Technology area (a place that I’ve only been to three times in the whole time I’ve been at this school– and one of those was for an afterschool TGIF party!) to check it out.

First, the DT teacher showed me prototype miniatures that students create before they create full-size projects. These prototypes allow students to identify potential issues that must be addressed before they print the full-size models. The teacher then showed me the software program in which students create the 3D model digital files, which are then sent to the printer, which uses a large spool of plastic cording, which is fed into the printer, heated at high temperature so that it melts, is then drizzled (I’m not sure if this is really the best adjective for what actually happens here) onto a cooler metal plate, where the molten plastic cools and solidifies, yielding the final 3D printing project. To say that it was cool to watch is an understatement.

The teacher then explained to me the project that was currently being printed, and that’s where the inspiration kicked into full gear. Students had been designing small plastic items to take down to Estancia (a coastal town that was devastated by the 2013 typhoon) on an upcoming service trip, and this particular student had designed a simple bubble blower (the wand with a circle on the end), which was in the process of being mass produced by the 3D printers. To top off this wonderful marriage of education and service, stamped onto the wand was “ISM ♥ ECS”. Our school has been collecting money and working with other organizations to rebuild Estancia Central School, which had been destroyed by the typhoon, and when students go to visit the school in a few weeks they will take a variety of toys and other items that have been created and produced using the school’s 3D printers. If this is not an example of meaningful, real-world education, I don’t know what is.

Hearing about this incredible idea, and knowing that I’d just found out about it by chance because of my geeky interest in 3D printing, I decided to embark on a new project. The goal of this project is to share as many of the great things happening in our school with as many people as possible! I emailed a group of teachers that I feel are known for their creativity, and hopefully their willingness to share, in order to collect a handful of videos that I can then use to try and encourage even more people to share. Teachers can either create their own videos or can have me come down to take the video for them. The videos can and should be simple. I’m also planning to participate in an upcoming afterschool PD time and will try to film as many teachers, staff and administrators from across all school divisions sharing short stories about something great that happened during the year. Not sure what the final product will be (ideas?), but I’m excited about the potential. Video testimonials about all the good things that happened at our school this year? I’d watch that!

If this all comes together, I will share an update in a future post.

Coming From a Place of… “No”?

monkey-557586_1280I love feeling creative and thinking out of the box to solve problems, design new programs, and connect with teachers and students in different ways. This has normally been met with general success throughout my life and career, which has allowed me to continue the cycle of coming up with an idea, telling the right person (or people) about it, and then planning, executing, and reflecting on the successes and failures of the project. This cycle ultimately depends upon the answer to my initial request being something along the lines of “Yes. Go ahead and try _______. Sounds like a good idea. Here are a few things to consider, but I believe in you. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!” Or something along these lines, but always “Yes.” A question I’ve been considering lately, however, is: “What if the Answer is ‘No’?” Not every organization or workplace is receptive to new ideas, or is flexible enough to allow for a degree of risk and uncertainty. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the end of the day, in order to maintain some degree of personal and professional forward momentum as well as to maintain the desire to be creative and forward-thinking in the workplace, it’s become imperative to make the “No” meaningful to me in some way.

It is far too easy to get frustrated after several rejections and just stop trying new ideas altogether. That doesn’t work for me, however, because NOT thinking about improvement, current trends, etc. is almost more frustrating and unsatisfying than making proposals that are ultimately rejected! So I say embrace the rejection, accept the “No”, but use it to investigate the underlying causes of the rejection. Maybe I didn’t talk to the right person to obtain the proper clearance along my path toward approval; maybe the reasons for the proposal weren’t articulated well enough; maybe the potential risk factors were not addressed enough; maybe it was TOO “out there”, and I could have taken a smaller step first; maybe there are political factors involved. All of these are considerations about which to be curious, and I am trying to consciously analyze my more recent proposals to preemptively identify any of these potential pitfalls. Even with my most recent failure, I am trying to take a philosophical approach and consider the factors I’ve laid out here when I reflect on the reasons for its rejection. Rejections also help me understand the organization’s values and beliefs on a deeper level.

Rejection is never easy. Having a growth mindset about it, however, can turn the very real disappointment– and sometimes hurt– into a valuable learning opportunity. It’s a work in progress, but that’s my new plan!