Monthly Archives: February 2010

Making Things Work

The main part of class was taken up by the a Skype discussion by Carl Harvey, which was really enlightening as he talked about how he makes things work in his elementary school. I think the thing that I found the most fascinating about what he talked about was how he really got himself into the planning stages of the grades and consciously went out of his way to say, yes, I’m not like the old librarian. When he spoke about the different parts of collaboration and how there’s a time when you let a teacher take over a project at a certain point even though maybe you created all the groundwork, that seemed to be a hard thing to do but something quite powerful.

When I was at a summer camp before my last year of high school, I was in a sort of leadership program where as part of crew rotations to do all the chores, I worked with a counselor/mentor. I remember so clearly one day when I had been trying to show someone how to do something in the kitchen and Sam, my mentor spoke to me about how I could be too teacherly and not let the person make their own mistakes and own it. Carl reminded me of that and how for collaboration or any partnership to work, both sides have to give up a little control and ownership because it all comes down to the end result. So as in the research projects that he mentioned, there are some clear lines of you do this, I do this, but the heart of it is people really figuring out what works.

In terms of looking at the library redesigns, I was amazed at all the different ways that people rearranged the space and presented their designs. As we spoke about our designs, I realized that I actually did have a clear idea of what my library would be like and that was a wonderful surprise. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a chance to lead a redesign but I do know what counts for my library, which is for it to be a community space where young people feel safe.

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Challenges of Working Together

The first article by Harvey really put together I think some of the issues that came up during the online class, because it shows how easy it is to not think about what teachers are doing. To really be an effective collaborator with teachers requires time to really understand how the teachers in your school are working and what’s the best way to mesh with them without stepping on their toes.

I found the Marcoux article seemed focused on how do you define what makes good collaboration and how do you insure that its going on. Also I liked how this article took the time to look at how collaboration can be a benefit for students and educators and that one of the most important things is how its based around working with a peer. The research evidence also was fascinating in terms of showing just how powerful collaboration can be on many different levels while showing that it requires work from all sides at the same time.

The Motown Method is a wonderful way to explain how powerful collaboration can be by showing that it allows teachers to take turns being in the lead and that when it works properly there can be great harmony. I can see how this metaphor would be a wonderful way to introduce collaboration to teachers who maybe worried that its a negative reflection on them when its actually a way to add more to teaching. I’d be curious to know how the Motown Method works in practice.

From the start the Todd article is really striving to create a reality check of how much collaboration doesn’t happen and that instead there might be coordination but not the true collaboration that everyone wants. Then it goes into the discussion of the ILILE program which looks to be focused on looking at how to make collaboration work but also understanding where it works best and is appropriate. I especially like the finding “helplessness is learned” and that using that as a way to step into really talking and training with teachers and librarians. I also found it interesting how many of the findings talked about planning, which makes sense since good collaboration is based around taking the time to create a plan and bring it together and working through challenges and barriers.

The Moreillon chapter seems to be going along the same lines and my first thought is that I really like the use of the phrase teacher-librarians since its an effective way to remind everyone that librarians do teach. I found the idea that making that step from seeing librarians as simply support to co-teachers seems to be one of the greatest challenges but that when there’s a lot of accountability, they can become an ally. The balance of where lots of books should be housed was something that I found of particular interest since it seems like the idea of children learning to read for pleasure can become less important as standards need to met. This presents a real challenge since teachers and librarians might not think to work with each other on this issue, the focus might be more on learning to research instead of more reading. Assessment seems like a powerful tool in showing that collaboration can work, but also in showing that its always a work in progress. Since after every lesson or project, there should be time to figure out what worked and what didn’t and that’s something that can be talked about with an administrator and shown to say, this is what we found worked and this didn’t so we’ll do this next time. Also the combination of talking about lowering student to teacher ratio along with the discussion of how collaboration can help teachers not be isolated resonates because such an important part of the learning that happens in school isn’t always easily measured. This seems like a way of considering what does it mean to have more people involved in teaching and how can it really be effective and a growing experience for everyone.

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My Library Redesign

The focus of my library is an easy flow of communication and a feeling of community between everyone in the library. I’ve created a welcoming space in the center of the space where students can sit and read and also work on their computers. To the side are classrooms and a computer lab but for this library to be effective, the aim is to have students feel welcomed as they enter the space. So the circulation desk and new desks greet them as they enter along with seeing their fellow students at work in the central space.

I found this discussion of redesigning libraries fascinating and more difficult than I expected because I didn’t have a clear sense of how to transform my values into a library space. Part of the difficulty came about for me, because with all the different factors that are involved, I just wasn’t as clear as I would like to be of how to put across my values in the space. This is something that I think I’m going to keep revisiting and thinking about, because what I have now doesn’t feel like it matches up with what I’d like just yet.

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What will your library look like?

All the readings were focused on different ways of how to best use the space in the library. I found them all rather thoughtful, because there were so many things that had to be done in a library and various considerations to be balanced from safety and visibility to privacy for classes. It seems like there’s only so much most librarians can do to change how a library looks, because the focus in the articles was if you have the chance to redesign think about this and this.

While Woolls was saying, most of us can’t start from scratch so you have to figure out what you need and what you can actually do. Her various configurations were really interesting in terms of how many ways you can reorganize a space to make it do what you need to do. I think what really came back to me was how much space you give for teaching and study space hinges a lot on your priorities and your schools.

Also I was quite struck by the different ways of creating the library space whether its another classroom, a computer room or almost a cafe sort of space. They all seem to have their challenges and benefits and some of the suggestions in the Hart article seemed as if they’d be better suited to a public library. Throughout all this reading, I kept considering libraries that I’ve been in and what works, which is a rather complicated question since what works for one library might not work for another. I’m very curious to know just how much a new librarian can actually rearrange a library or is it something that you really can only do when there’s a major renovation or rethinking going on.

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What makes a good instructor?

Throughout our discussion, I was really struck by how powerful the idea of what makes someone a good teacher is and how do you define that. In the posts by Ferriter, his defensiveness about his teaching seemed to play a great part in how he seemed to dislike media specialists, as if their being a good teacher took away from his teaching. Throughout our various discussions, it was fascinating to hear how he really isn’t facing the same job worries as a media specialist might be and so that was filtering through. As we were talking online, I realized that one of the wonderful things about communicating online is that you have time to consider and think about what you say though not everyone does. I think this blogger is an example of someone who doesn’t quite understand just how they will be perceived online so he gets on his soapbox and then feels confused when people disagree especially when he uses phrases like well I know some media specialists and they’re nice.

The other aspect that I really wanted to mention since its been in my head a lot from the readings and discussion is how do you make a paper or a project work on a deeper level. Part of what brought this into my mind was that within these last two weeks, I’ve had two papers that were very similar in terms of style but the way I felt about them was worlds away. Both of them were analyzing how non-profits use and create a web presence. In one, I was able to choose three organizations and dissect their web presence, a simple assignment yet by giving me ownership of what I was looking at, it became more powerful. While the other one, I was told what organization and exactly what things I would be recommending and the format so really the only choice that I had was in the words I used. I think this really shows well how tricky it can be to find that balance of proving you know something and something that’s easy to assess.

Since most of the kinds of knowledge that educators really want to promote is difficult to assess quickly. If you want someone to show that they’re a critical thinker than you need to provide them space to examine things on a deeper level and the freedom to find something that they wish to look at on a deeper level too. In the world of standardized testing, that can be hard which is something I found a lot in the blog post. He sounded jealous that he couldn’t do those deeper kinds of assignments which I don’t think he meant to, but I read it that way.

I’m not sure if I was able to really come to any nice simple conclusions this week other than good instruction is a complicated and powerful thing and I think a lot of people out there are trying to find ways to make sure it happens. Yet its complicated and especially good collaborative teachers requires a lot of give and take all around as does sharing knowledge, but that can help inspire students to listen and learn together too.

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Making the Library More

I found the articles this week fascinating in terms of how they talked about ways to really take learning beyond rote and how to do it without alienating teachers. The Hrada articles presented really incredible road maps that I could see someone putting into practice without too much trouble. Again there’s always the issue of personalities and negotiating with teachers to say, let me partner with you and together we can create a lesson plan that’s more than both of our expectations and that hopefully the students will enjoy and gain from.

Also there seems to be a clear connection to what we read last week but taking that step of saying okay these are the standards, here are ways to actually make them work in the classroom. Everything is really connected which is I think the most amazing part of this class, because it makes sense in terms of how a library is so much at the center of the school community that so many different and varied issues have an impact on what a good school librarian does. This is also a tricky thing to try and show to someone else because all of these roles are important but not always obvious.

Empowering Learners did a good job too of presenting how do you really become a partner instead of just the librarian who keeps having ideas that get in the way of what I want to do. It really seems like a tricky balance and ties into so many other things we’ve read and talked about in terms of how difficult collaboration and inquiry teaching is to get right.

I thought that the Valenza and Warren-Gross articles touched on some critical issues in relation to the panel and everything that’s happening in the economy at the moment. The idea of figuring out really how to use reading to improve test scores and help a school and students succeed really resonated with me, because its a reminder that while technology is important as with everything it comes down to how you use it. I think that’s really what I ended up taking from all of these readings that AASL, curriculua and so many other places can provide some powerful roadmaps and ideas but it all comes down to how you use them in your school.

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Finding and Defending Being a Librarian

I found the panel and discussion in class really interesting by the different ways that the women in the panel defined themselves in terms of finding and keeping their jobs. The idea of presenting a possible employer with an idea of this is who I am really stuck with me since it feels like a change from what I was told after college of change to what they need.

Instead bringing a mix of this is what I can do for you with what do you need seems very powerful to me. Also that connects to how do you then defend what you do because if you’ve framed yourself well enough than when the time comes that you need to defend your job, hopefully you can stand on what you started. So you can say when I came here blank years ago, the library was like this and now its like this, look at the improvement and the mixture of having facts on a sheet but combining them with powerful stories that ring true.

I found the defense memo difficult and fascinating and one that I think becomes much more effective when you’re within a library so you can tailor it to the administrator and culture. As I was writing up the memo, I kept considering things like well if I brought this to a meeting than from this point I would talk about this and really use the memo as the basis for a conversation and presentation. This week felt like a different sort of reality check than last week as it was more about how perception affects the larger role of a librarian while the scheduling is the next step.

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