So I read me some books- September 2014

One of the positive aspects of the BC Teacher’s strike this year was the camaraderie on the picket line. It was fantastic to have some time to get to know some colleagues that I had not had the chance to really talk to before. It was also great to share reading with many of them. I shared so much reading that the pile of books beside my bedside table just didn’t seem to grow after mid-August. Here’s a photo of the books I did not pass on.


Some thoughts on what I have read:

Unfortunately this picture is missing some of my favorite reads from the summer– I think that Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and Gone Girl ranked in my top fiction reads for the summer. I finally got around to reading Allegiant (Roth) and Blood Red Road (Young)– both have been signed out in perpetuity in my library, so I managed to snag them for the summer. I can see why students are loving the Dustlands series. I passed John Hart’s The Last Child to several colleagues and we had an awesome book chat on the picket line. Many of us read In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner and had a chat about that book too.  Based on our picket line chats, I think that we need a staff book club!

I brought the Jodi Picoult book home because two very sweet students told me I had to read the book. It would change my life- sigh- I know that they will come by to chat and I will have to admit that not only did I not enjoy the book, but that I only finished it so I could tell them I gave it a fair chance.

It is fairly typical for me to read some homesteading books and dream of planting a huge garden that we are able to live off of until February.  Sometime in the middle of July I usually remember that #1 I am not a gifted gardener, #2 I live in Northern BC and our growing season is too short to really allow for successful homesteading and #3 I hate weeding. True to form, I read a couple of books on homesteading and canning, I planted three tomato plants and that was about the extent of my gardening for the summer.

I’m a little frustrated that I have lost count of the books I’ve read this summer, but I think I might have my numbers right. I’ve loaned out about 13 fiction and 3 non-fiction books.

My tally (since June 12) is approximately as follows:

41 books

29 fiction- a split between YA and Adult fiction

12 non-fiction

Favorite fiction read from this pile- It’s a toss up between Gone Girl and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Favorite non-fiction read- Happiness at Home by Gretchen Rubin


A summer series on reading #1 -You can’t throw a Kindle- Why I still choose print readings.

I am taking some time this summer to write about the incredibly personal

and potent practice of reading. 

In 2003 my husband and I spent two months backpacking through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. As we packed, I made every decision in light of how many books I could fit in my backpack. I knew that purchasing English books would be expensive and that with my nearly-a-book-a-day habit (that was before children, the need to read is there but the ability is not) I would have to find a way to take as many books as possible with me. That trip I took 15 books with me. I traded Bryce Courtenay’s Jessica for Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes, I bought a trashy mystery novel at a guesthouse for 50 Baht, I borrowed a few from Thai friends and returned them at the end of our trip, I picked up some at guesthouses and found a couple on third class trains. That trip I read books I might not have chosen if I had a whole library at my fingertips.

When e-readers became more popular, I decided to take one with me on another lengthy trip. While it was useful, it ended up being less important than I thought. While I like the ease of carrying many titles at once, I missed the interaction of chatting with others about their books. I missed the physicality of actual books. I missed picking up a book that I might not have chosen except it was the only choice.

This is why I choose print:

When I read The Hobbit for a Children’s Literature course in my undergraduate degree, I was so frustrated with my topic “A Freudian Analysis of the use of Names in The Hobbit” that I threw the book launching it into the drop ceiling of our basement- I left it there. You can’t throw a Kindle.

When I finished Life of Pi, I understood that “first wonder runs deepest” and I sat in the dark in my driveway staring at the cover. There are no fabulous covers on e-books.

I look at what others are reading. There is a poster that has made the rounds on pinterest that says ” Seeing someone reading a book you love is like a book recommending a person.” I’ve made a few friends with both books and humans by starting conversations about the book they are reading. You can’t tell what other people are reading. BTW- twice I have looked over shoulders of people reading on Kindles on airplanes, both times it was 50 Shades of Gray… 

I often read late into the night. I will sacrifice sleep for reading. I know that I can read a quarter inch of text in less than half an hour. Depending on the book, I will either race through the final pages or slowly savor the last bits of a beautiful story. e-books don’t provide a physical reminder for when they will end.

Once my e-reader battery died before I finished the book. I was in a country with intermittent power and could not finish the book until the power came on the next day. I have almost recovered from the trauma. Print books don’t require any technology to make them go.

I know that there are some great practicalities in choosing e-readers over print, but I choose print.

One Word- oops I forgot to publish this

I like New Year’s Resolutions. January always seems like a good time to become a better version of myself.  Nothing drastic of course, that’s just not me. But I like the idea of renewed focus and energy.  Every year I pick a word to be my focus for the year.  In the past I have picked words like FAMILY, COURAGE and COMMITMENT to guide my mind through the year.  I have a friend who gets inked every January with the word she uses as her focus for the year- I definitely don’t have that kind of courage and commitment!

This year it was hard to decide on “the word.” As I was evaluating where my focus should be, I found my mind full.  It was hard to clear my mind to focus. Hmmm… maybe that was a sign..

So many times this year I have found myself caught up in the chaos that is my life. I get wrapped up in defending why I might weed the library instead of promoting a changing vision for the space. I have been annoyed by grass-stains and the extra work created instead of joining in when my kids are enjoying autumn by jumping in leaves.

This year my one word is : PRIORITIES.  As I make decisions about how I spend my time, money and energy this year, I am going to ask myself how my choices fit into the overall priorities for my professional, personal and spiritual life.

I hope that by reminding myself of what my priorities are, I will be able to sort through some chaos and bring better focus to my practice.

What’s your word this year?

So I read me some books- July 2014 edition

Last year I heard of a woman who decided to read a book a week. It got me to wondering how many books I read in a year… So I thought I would try to document my reading. I can’t see myself blogging each book because I read too many and to be honest, I have discovered that sometimes I just don’t have enough writing in me to do the other parts of my life/job and blog. Also, I would rather read than blog. What I am going to do is pile the books I have read on my nightstand and when the pile gets too big to let me read by the light of my lamp, I will blog about the books. Fair?

I started this pile on June 12. That was my last day of work this school year as we BCTF teachers have been on strike since. Summer also allows me a little more time to read.

photo 1

My tally is as follows:

15 books

9 fiction- a split between YA and Adult fiction

6 non-fiction

Favorite fiction read- The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls.

Favorite non-fiction read- Book Love by Penny Kittle

Some thoughts on what I have read:

When I began at the teacher-librarian at Kelly Road Secondary, I had the fiction section rearranged by genre. I have found it has helped students find books they are interested in more easily than having the fiction section (which is quite large) arranged by author’s last name. What I have found is that some of the genre labels are a little off. For instance Ken Follet’s Code to Zero is labelled as Science Fiction. Having read it, I would classify it as a suspense or mystery. One project for slow days (ha ha) this next year will be to look for books with genre labels that are obviously wrong.

I struggled to read Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet. He sees numbers as shapes and colors and I found that the shapes and colors he assigned to the numbers was different that what I did. It made me wonder a little about myself… hmmmm…. does anyone else see 7 as a sharply edged green leaf?

I loved reading Jeannette Walls. I cannot believe that I have not read her books before. I’ve bought them and recommended them, but not read them. I really enjoyed The Silver Star because I identified with the plucky protagonist. I was frustrated with the narrator/protagonist of Half Broke Horses– her ego got to me at times. I loved Walls style of writing and I am excited that there are a few more titles for me to read.

I accidentally ordered the large text format of Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. That ended up being a happy accident as I read the book by firelight one rainy evening camping. I was prepared to love the book, but I found it to be just ok. I felt like I knew too much too early and that I was told too much. Remember authors… Show, don’t tell.

I decided to match staff members at my school with reading materials for this summer. I made a google quiz and used their answers to match them with reading materials. 18 staff members decided to participate and many books were signed out for summer reading. I have been thrilled to get texts from staff telling me how much they are enjoying their reading.

Although the reading part of the library is just a small part of what I do, I feel priviledged to connect readers with stories they will connect with.

Happy reading y’all

11 Things

I normally ignore these “getting to know you” things, but this one comes through one of my favorite educators @gthielmann and it seems like a great way to wrap up the blogging year. Nancy Searcy @ncearcy17out of Penticton, BC started this one and she asks us to share:

  • 11 Random facts about yourself
  • 11 questions asked by another
  • 11 questions that you ask to another 11 people in your PLN (professional learning network)
Me, at my third birthday.

Me, at my third birthday.

11 Random Facts about me:

  1. When I am stressed, I binge-read in lieu of sleep.  You can generally tell how stressed I am by the number of books I have read.  Last summer, I read 38 novels in a three-week period.
  2. I didn’t like little kids until I had my own.  I’ve always liked teaching high school, but 4-10 year-old children used to scare me.
  3. I dream about having a homestead with chickens and goats. I would love to try living on a self-sufficient farm with twice a year treks to the mall for Ferrero Rocher and Twizzlers.
  4. Instead of having a homestead, I try to cultivate culinary skills that I am afraid will be lost.  I have been fortunate to have a bunch of “old” Mennonite women who have taught me how to can, preserve and cook all sorts of things.  My proudest culinary accomplishments have been dairy related- I can make yogurt, mozzarella, ricotta and butter.
  5. I believe in “saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. I believe a better attitude will make a better way.” I am a huge fan of Dolly Parton’s music.  I used to hide my love… now I play the music loud and proud.
  6. I believe in respectful disagreement.  Just because we disagree on something, does not necessarily mean that one of us is wrong.
  7. I like to travel.  A week on a beach is fun, but my preference is for third-class pineapple buses through Burma and food stands at a local market over all-inclusive comfy vacations.  I hope to raise my children to be intrepid travelers.
  8. I get really annoyed by the incorrect use of their, they’re and there and then and than.  I have never been a worksheet kind of teacher, but I have been known to give a special THEN/THAN worksheet to classes when there have been chronic offenders.
  9. I hate when my house gets messy, but I love to have my children working on projects that are valuable to them.  There is a fine balance before I go nuts and all the construction paper and glue are tossed.
  10. I’ve been married for almost 16 years to my best friend.  I am often amazed that the choice I made in a partner was so good- so many other decisions I made at 21 were silly and ridiculous.  I am thankful for a husband who graciously rescues me from myself on a regular basis.
  11. My daughter is my biggest inspiration. She has mild CP and a rare and complicated form of epilepsy.  She NEVER gives up, RARELY gets down and ALWAYS thinks of other people and how to make life better for them.

Answers to questions posed by @gthielmann :

  1. If you morphed into an all-round Olympic athlete, what would be your Winter Sport and your Summer Sport? Hmmm… not really an Olympic kind of person, but perhaps x-country skiing for winter. Are home renovations an Olympic sport?
  2. What was the most interesting book or written work you read in 2013 (and was it paper or digital)? I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project this spring.  It was a soft, easy read, but I think about it often.  I have read a ton of YA novels this year and have been thrilled at the tough themes (beyond a Dystopian future) that our teens are reading.
  3. What is a major change you would make to the BC Education system? I would like to see a focus on the WHY instead of the WHAT.  Perhaps if reasons for change were clear, we would have more people partner with change.  I also think that the WHYs behind education can be supported by a variety of WHATs.
  4. What is a work of art (any genre or form) that inspires or challenges you? I am getting back into stained glass.  I love how the artist can manipulate light and shadow in the artwork and in the environment the artwork is in.
  5. Considering the wealth of oil in northern Alberta that we seem anxious to liquidate in a single generation, are you in favor of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline? Well Glen, based on the phrasing of your question, I can guess how you feel.  No.  I am not in favor of the pipeline.  I have yet to see proof of an altruistic company wishing to ensure the safe production and delivery of a product, nor do I see politicians with the understanding or competence to hold a company responsible for the long-term effects of their actions.
  6. What is a food experience that you wish on your children (or nieces/nephews)? Now that the kids are a little bigger, I would love to do an oil fondue with them.  We ate Alphagetti the other day… that was an experience 😦 .
  7. If your house was burning, but insurance would cover the obvious expensive items and your family & pets were safe, what meaningful artifact would you rescue from your home? I have digital copies of photos, so I would like to grab one of my Burmese carvings or Thai paintings from the wall.  In reality, I would grab something stupid like a can of peaches and a hammer.
  8. If you had to pick a different career than the one you’re in, what would it be? I just go my dream job, so that is a hard one.  A neurologist?
  9. If you were to ever publish a book, what would you like it to be about? Non-Fiction- would be a humorous but helpful, guide for parents of children with chronic illness. Fiction- would be about a plucky librarian saving wayward teens from boredom and idleness through a homestead/reading program.
  10. What was a great event or experience in your work life from 2013 (e.g. teacher experience for many of you)? WOOT! What a freaking awesome year.  Got the dream job. When to High Tech High. Went to Google School (GAFE)… I don’t want to brag so I will stop now.
  11. What was a great family moment from 2013?  It’s no secret we had a tough year.  Right before our daughter’s hospitalization for the VEEG we went to Great Wolf Lodge and had a great time at the water slides.

My questions for my PLN:

1. You are having a meeting to solve all the problems in the educational world.  Which three people do you invite?

2. You are hosting a meeting to solve all the problems in the world.  Which three people do you invite?

3. What is the ONE problem in the world that must be solved in our lifetime?

4. What color cabinets should I put in my kitchen?

5. What is your favorite charity?  Why?

6. What new skill are you going to learn this year?

7. How will you share your learning this year?

8. Who do you hope will follow you on Twitter? or Who from your Twitter followers would you like to meet most IRL?

9. What do you think will happen to Non-Fiction texts in our physical libraries over the next decade?

10. What influence does going to conferences have on you as a professional?

11. What is your favorite way to connect with your PLN? Twitter, Linked-in etc.

It was tough to choose who to send this to.  Perhaps because I know no one likes the chain letter.  I chose these people because they are people I like to hear from, would like to know more about and I think that if they were all in the same room, would have a mind-blowing conversation. The 11 people in my PLN I am sending this out to are:















A November Reflection in December

If September is the time for educators to make New Year’s Resolutions, November is the time to “get on the scale” and see if the hard work is paying off.

My focus for this year was to have the learning commons become a place that educators and students use to support their big questions.  In some ways, this is happening.  I have worked to with many of my colleagues to frame  library assignments around a BIG question.  Using Libguides has definitely helped with starting to get to big questions.  I now ask staff as I am making LibGuides- What is the big idea/question you want students to pursue?  I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with my new staff to make a variety of opportunities for students to take their learning deeper.

As we expand our virtual space, FIPPA has remained a challenge.  We are moving forward at an incredible pace, but our response to FIPPA has been slow.  It is a challenge to know better, but not do better.  I have found that working with the DLC team has helped bring some clarity to how to address FIPPA. I am waiting for the next steps- a finished FIPPA permissions document that has been evaluated by a lawyer.

I have worked with several teachers to meaningfully incorporate technology and collaboration into teaching this year.  I have worked with several grade 8 classes to teach how to use Google docs for collaborative lab work.  I worked with another group to evaluate, edit and use YouTube videos to teach their classmates about a scientific concept.  I spent an afternoon on a walking tour of the Coliseum with a group of students learning about the gladiators.  I have met with several teachers to discuss what digital literacy skills we would like to have our students learn by graduation- our students have such a vast difference in their technological abilities that we have not come up with one “scope and sequence” but rather we have come to realize that our goal is that students have the basic tech skills required to enable them to learn to use the technologies they need to use for their individual inquiries.

It is hard not to address the need to physically change my space.  I am s-l-o-w-l-y weeding and culling the collection.  The collection at my space is large, but definitely needs to be evaluated.  My plan is to continue weeding and to rearrange the space to allow for a larger “casual” area and to offer separation between class space and personal use space.  I have a courtyard… yup, I have outdoor space in my learning commons- It has been fun to be able to host activities where learning literally gets messy.  I am hoping to have some good ideas for how to better use this outdoor space by spring.

I have been spoiled this fall when it comes to Professional Development opportunities.  I was able to attend the fall residency at High Tech High in San Diego.  It was a great way to see how a project based learning charter school works.  I am on a Learning Team exploring how to best expand our virtual learning commons- I am looking forward to having this time with colleagues to collaborate on our virtual spaces. I attended the Google Applications for Education (GAFE) Summit in Kamloops in late October- this was probably the best Pro-D I have attended in a decade.  It was phenomenal to hear and see what other educators are doing to move to more personalised learning that focuses on skills that students will need beyond the four walls of the classroom.

I received money from PAC  to expand our games/makerspace collection.  I am excited to see the power of Gamification to enhance learning.  I’ve worked with the grade 8 teachers to plan a series of lessons about how civilizations develop.  We’ve recruited four of our favorite teachers to help us and we will be having a Settlers of Catan extravaganza on December 6th.  I cannot wait to see how our students and teachers learn about civilizations through playing this game.

My PLN has grown this year.  I have been a regular participant in the Monday night #tlchat on Twitter (you can follow me @mizwooly 🙂 ). I have come to use some of these TLs as a first line for sharing ideas.  I have been super blessed to have the DLC crew- It is awesome that the DLC team is not just the liaisons, but includes the entire DLC team.  Having the resources of that DLC team to work and learn with is awesome!

I am riding high this year on the joy of having a permanent position in a learning commons, and incredible support from those I work with.  I hope to return this investment the district has made in me in many ways. I know that I am pushing the envelope when it comes to several areas: I believe enough in virtual collaboration and the need for technology skills that I am pushing for a district response to FIPPA permissions; I believe in BIG questions enough that I am willing to push staff members to reframe their lessons in terms of big questions and I am taking BIG leaps in terms of developing my PLN- I am no longer nervous about approaching “big” names with ideas on twitter or blogs.  I feel empowered this year to make solid decisions for student learning, but I know that not everyone will like every decision.

I want to get feedback- I’ve stolen the following questions from Colorado’s Highly Effective School Library Programs.

How does the TL show direct evidence of:

  • Meaningfully integrating 21st Century skills into the library program?
  • Leadership within and outside the school?
  • Impacting student achievement within your school?
  • Encouraging a collaborative environment where students have the instruction they need to be college and career ready?
  • Creating school aligned special programs that encourage student involvement in community, cultural or global initiatives?
  • Demonstrate differentiation to meet the learning needs of all students?
  • Help teachers in assessing student work?
  • Demonstrate a collaborative environment that includes the librarian in instruction, leadership decisions, and providing digital literacy instructions for staff and students?
  • Designing purposeful lessons that create lifelong learning opportunities.

GAFE Summit- Kamloops

It’s taken me WAY too long to write about this, but deep learning sometimes requires time to process.  I was fortunate to get to attend the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit in Kamloops last month.  I had thought I was a fairly efficient and thorough Google user, but the summit made me realize how much more Google there is out there.  Yes, Google is a big name, big business company with its fingers in all areas of industry, but I think that our schools need to embrace using Google applications.

Why use Google?

  • Most of our students are using it already and are familiar with the interface
  • Free! and ubiquitous access
  • Students don’t lose access when they graduate- It is a great way for students to keep their work and continue building a portfolio.
  • It is compatible with all devices if they have access to the internet.

Did you know:

  • You can truncate YouTube videos to have only the part you really want to show students?
  • You can set up a script to mark Google forms? Great formative assessment tool!
  • You can make a high quality educational video in less than 10 minutes without much in the way of special equipment?
  • You can take a class on a walking tour of the coliseum? or Parthenon? or pretty much anywhere?

I think that the reason I have become sold on using Google for designing learning opportunities and many assessments is because of the way that many applications support the big questions of learning.  I appreciate that Google encourages and supports student (and educator) curiosity.

I had a great time learning to use many different Google Apps. I know I have just scratched the surface and I can’t wait to play with them!

What’s your favorite Google app for Education?

Gymnastics Pedagogy- What we can learn from 17 year old teachers

My 7-year-old daughter walked across the balance beam at gymnastics yesterday.  It might not seem like a big deal, but for my daughter it is huge. C has mild Cerebral Palsy that effects her gait, balance and vision.  She also has epilepsy and often has short seizures at gymnastics. Yesterday she had two. Despite my misgivings, she wanted to take gymnastics. I was fearful we were setting her up for teasing and ultimately failure.  What happened was amazing!

C’s classmates and coach almost instantly began to offer adaptations when necessary to allow her to keep up with the class. One student noticed C struggling to get on the balance beam and offered a hand to balance.  When C was “it” in their tag games, students slowed to a pace that allowed C to catch them– but not without working herself–they didn’t insult her by making it too easy. In short, what happened was the six and seven-year old students (and the 17-year-old coach) saw the adaptations C needed and worked to provide them.

I see many students in our school system who need adaptations.  We have meetings and plan and talk about how to best meet the needs of students, but sometimes I see the adaptations getting lost between the conversation and the classroom.  We want to be fair, to justify our adaptations and document the need for them. But, what if as educators we were more like my daughter’s gymnastics classmates? What would happen if we were to automatically accept the differences in abilities of our students and work to meet students where they were at? What if we made adaptations for all students as they needed them?

Meeting C’s need for a little help allowed her to learn to walk across a balance beam– it was something I NEVER expected to see her do.  And you know what? It doesn’t matter that the beam was only 12 inches off the ground.

On Burning Dinner- Or the benefits of a great PLN

At 5pm PST on the second Monday of every month, I try to make dinner and participate in #tlchat. What it means for my family is some charred dinner! Our chats are fast and I have found that there is no way to keep up with the chat and dinner.  So I choose the chat! This month’s chat was a lively discussion about  collaboration tips, tricks and hints.  We chatted for an hour through the following:

What does collaboration look like to you?

I think the first response to this question really wrapped it up for me.  It is working with teachers, students, administration and community members to promote learning. I love that @heidinelter did not say student learning.  We are all learners here! I loved that many noted collaboration was working together from planning through assessment and even through follow up later. As a group we are excited to support and reinforce classroom learning.

Why is collaboration with both teachers & administrators key for librarians?

Over and over it was said that collaboration between teachers and administrators is a way of showing investment and showing that what goes on in the library is a valuable part of curriculum. As TLs we get to see the big picture of how learning is happening at our schools.  TLs and admin share similar goals: successful teachers and successful students.

How can you encourage collaboration outside your school/district among teachers and admin?

I think that as TLs we take a lot of responsibility for collaboration.  I really do think it is important that we collaborate outside of school and district.  If we don’t, we risk living in a bubble.  Many of the tips and hints involved using technology to collaborate outside of your school and district: Use twitter, participate in twitter chats, have a Facebook group, Skype authors, e-mail people who might have similar interests, ask the students who/what they want to know more about -then contact someone, speak at conferences, put on Pro-D, be available when people have questions…   There were so many ideas about how to become a connected educator and how to collaborate with others.

What is your favorite collaboration tool?

This was a lively discussion. All of us had many “favorite” collaboration tools. From having the school Keurig to encourage water cooler conversations to our school webpages, there were some fabulous ideas for collaborating. I felt really challenged to examine how I am collaborating with teachers, staff, students and admin at my school.  I think we all agreed that an open attitude and a big smile were our number one collaboration tools.  The group also included: Google Docs, Google Preso, Flipgrid, Voicethread, a school webpage/newsletter, Libguides, Twitter and many more.

What take away from this conversation will you start implementing in your school library?

My answer was: find someone; do something meaningful and share it with others. As a new member to my staff, I have to remember that I have to start somewhere.  I’d love to implement every idea immediately, but successful collaboration can begin with two people and grow.

In one short hour- man do these twitter chats fly- we chatted about some really great, really big ideas. I am the only TL at my school, there are only five high school TLs in my district, but I have a huge group of people I can collaborate with on topics important to my practice as an educator. And that is why I don’t mind burning dinner once a month 🙂

Thanks @NikkiDRobertson for storing our chat at

Building a Virtual Learning Commons

I am working with a group of secondary teacher librarians on a learning team grant to build a vibrant Virtual Learning Commons (VLC) for our students. We are taking 5 days this year to meet, evaluate and create digital content for our school-based webpages.  We wish to make our school library websites a personalized reflection of the needs of all users by evaluating our layout, providing a collaborative space for exhibiting learning, and adding appropriate, evaluated content.

Focus Questions:

  • Does this content add to the opportunities for sd57 learners?
  • Is this sustainable for further learning?
  • Does this content support the BC Curriculum?
  • Does the content respect the barriers we must work within to comply with FIPPA?

I am excited about making a virtual space that respects the 24/7 need to access information.