Ah crap. I’ve been doing it wrong.

Well, this was an epiphany of pretty high measures. Check out this article about why you should give the student a pencil when they need it, every time they need it.

While it is opinion, every thing this guy says makes total sense. I always kept a slew of writing utensils when I was teaching and asked students to give me something if they needed to borrow one so I would get them back. I don’t know why I was concerned about getting them back, in hindsight.

Anyway, just something I wanted to share. If I’m ever back in a classroom, this will be a difference from the last time. And it definitely is already the norm in my library. I have a drawer of nothing but writing utensils in the supply cabinet in the middle of the library. I just shove everything extra in there and students are welcome to it whenever they need.

Hour of Code

NPR aired a really interesting story from All Tech Considered this morning while I was driving to school, and it reminded me that I had a post about Hour of Code that I had been putting off writing about because I feel like I failed so miserably at the whole thing. You can find the NPR story here.

The NPR story is about the lack of computer science classes in our public schools and the seeming lack of connection between the drive for STEM and the overlooking of computer science. Here’s a really interesting infographic pushing for the inclusion of computer science. Until fairly recently, I would not have been the type of educator to say that our students are missing something when it comes to computer education. But when I went to grad school, I realized how woefully little I knew about computers and what I can do with them, and I’m pretty much a tech native, with a lot of the basic know-how I need, and all of the ability to find help I might need. As I thought about my own ignorance, I realized how shockingly little my students really did know. I mean, I had a student tell me once they didn’t know what the back button on the browser window was. I have students now who don’t understand what Chrome vs Firefox vs Explorer means.

No, these examples are not computer science. (That misconception is addressed in the article, too. A principal is dreadfully wrong about what computer science actually is.) But imagine how much less I would have to be concerned about things like that if we start addressing understanding the “behind the scenes” of computers at younger ages.

Anyway, all of this reminded me about Hour of Code and my lame attempt to get something started with it at my school. I really can’t think of a nice way to say that I failed. Nothing happened and no teachers wanted to partake. I got started late and didn’t have enough to give them to make it seem awesome.

I am sure they thought things to themselves like “I can’t possibly fit this in,” “I don’t see how this is aligned to CCSS,” and “That’s not my area.” I can’t blame them. I didn’t do what I should have done.

But at a school/system where computer science isn’t even offered (I don’t think it is anyway… I know it’s not required), how do I begin to get entry-level support for something? What could I have done differently than to just announce that it’s a thing I’d like to do and does anyone want to work with me?

I think I probably could have gone ahead and made lesson plans for an Hour of Code activity in a classroom and gone to a specific teacher to show them and ask if they want to be involved or give it a go. I probably could also have had a brief presentation ready to give at a staff meeting or in department meetings ahead of time. I will admit that I waited until the last minute to get started on trying to make Hour of Code happen in my school.

One thing I’m definitely not sure how I could have done differently is dealing with teachers thinking they can’t fit things like this in. My school serves mostly low-performing, low-level students in a Title I setting. And our test scores reflect that. I can’t blame teachers for thinking that if only 8% of their students passed the Common Core Math 1 exam last semester, then they’ve really got to focus on basics. Coding doesn’t really fall under basics. There’s no proof that a couple of lessons on coding will help them figure out how to find the slope.

Doing a school wide coding activity is something I would want to do as my Media Center becomes a Learning Commons. I need ideas for how to embed that into our school culture.

$9.17 an hour

This article from April 30, 2011 speaks to me on so many levels. It is titled “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries.”

First, the authors make an excellent point about blaming teachers for failing schools using a really good metaphor.

Then they hit you with numbers I am familiar with, but I know some members of society aren’t. “Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education…The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000.”

As I’ve started this school year, at a new school for me and one that is in the beginning stages of a huge transition, I can’t help but notice the amount of work the teachers around me are doing. It’s staggering. Absolutely, utterly staggering.

Once, when I was still a classroom teacher and not a librarian, I kept a spreadsheet of how much I worked for one month, what time I got to school, what time I left school, hours spent in actual teaching, hours spent in planning, how much of my planning time was taken away from me, hours spent grading at home… I kept track of everything I could think of. That spreadsheet turned out to be terrifying.

And, in the end, I only made $9.17 an hour that month.

That’s about the same as what I made when I worked part-time at a tanning salon after school my first three years of teaching.

Please. Support public education. Our future depends on it.

Storytime isn’t Just a Tradition!

I am in LOVE with this article entitled Secrets of Storytime: 10 Tips for Great Sessions from a 40-year Pro! In case you don’t want to read the whole thing, the author’s 10 tips are highlighted in red.

One of the main points of this article is simply stated in this early quote: “My longstanding belief [is] that storytime is for children and adults.” Parents learn how to build literacy skills in their children, as well as learning about library programs and services and how to foster interest in reading.

YES!

When I was a classroom teacher (in a high school setting, mind you), I used storytime often. Teenagers need to be given the chance to address difficult subjects in simple formats. I realize that this is a little different, but I think what this public librarian has recognized is that something as simply as reading a story out loud is an educational experience for everyone involved.

I work at a school that, at this time, caters mostly to high school age students with small children who accompany them to the school and are in the pre-K rooms in the same building. This is, quite literally, my second day on the job, so I’m not sure what programs are already in place, but one of my ideas is to do storytime with the parents (high school age children) and children.

I’m really excited to try it and will update the blog on the progress and success!!

Spinster Librarians

“You’re a librarian? But you’re young! You’re pretty! You haven’t told me to be quiet yet! And you’re out here having fun…”

I can’t tell you the number of times those words have been said to me. My favorite was in Florence, Italy, where I was speaking with a young English couple, who ended that tirade of shock with “You’re literally blowing my mind right now. I will never look at librarians the same.”

GOOD!

Here’s a really interesting article from NPR about the portrayal of librarians in popular media. My personal favorite stereotype is the librarian doomed to spend eternity alone in the library, as if this is the worst possible fate. Librarians are portrayed as introverted white women with few friends except the books they consider their friends. They wear glasses, put their hair in buns, and struggle to suggest anything besides a Jane Austen novel to a reader.

But here’s the trick: being a librarian is not the only thing we do or what makes us who we are. Does your chosen career adequately reflect everything there is to know about you?

This is a huge topic of conversation among librarians. There is a changing dynamic and face to librarianship; most of the people I got my MSLS with were younger than me. It’s not exactly a goal of ours to bust through these stereotypes – I mean I’m still a white woman, and that’s a huge librarian stereotype – but we recognize them, and recognize that we don’t all fit into them.

Reading for Fun

Here is a really interesting article from The Guardian summarizing a research project about the importance of reading for pleasure for teachers.

I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything the article and research says.

In my English classroom, we read the “classics” that we were able to in class, but I always had students read their own choice of books outside of class. I love talking with them about their choices and hearing what they had learned, and it always helped when I was able to say “Oh, I loved that book” or “I’m so glad you liked it. It’s the next thing on my list to read!” But it was extremely hard to keep up. I didn’t read Twilight or The Hunger Games until several years after they were first mentioned in my classroom. The article does mention a teacher’s lack of time to read, which was always difficult for me. I read mostly during the summer.

As a librarian, I *should* have more time to devote to building myself professionally through reading, as I won’t have things like grading papers to do. I think it’s really important for librarians to remember that and help teachers keep up with the reading interests of their teenage students.

Perhaps something like a once-a-semester booklist for teachers of books the teens are loving right now, or YA books that have movies coming out that the teens may be interested in, could be helpful to teachers. It would offer suggestions to the teachers for easy reads, and even if they don’t get to reading any of the titles on the list, they would at least have heard of them and be familiar with the plot thanks to the booklist. This could also easily be something done at the end of the year as a summer reading list for teachers. Obviously, this would be nothing required; it would just be something helpful for teachers, no strings attached.

I really like this idea. As a bonus, those are the type of lists I’d be creating for the students, too, so it wouldn’t be a heaping amount of additional work to make them for an audience of teachers instead of students.