Category Archives: High School

Dystopian Recommendations

Need a book but you’re in a post-Hunger Games funk?  Try one of these.


Discovery: iMovie

I’m an advisor for the Class of 2015.  I love these kids.  They make me laugh.  And they make me cry.

Spring 2013 Recommendations

Some reading recommendations for my high school students…


I read an article last week that I didn’t realize was still rolling around in my head.  But now that I’ve referenced it two times in two different conversations, I’m wishing that I would have marked it so I could go back and read it.  That’s my problem with reading from Twitter links…I can never remember the exact details of where I read something and I can’t go back!

But that’s not the blog post that I intended to write…another time, perhaps.

I had a new (to the school and to teaching) teacher observe me this week as part of our Peer-to-Peer observations that our admin asks us to do.  This was my second observation by a Bible teacher, oddly enough.  Something about the literature and discussion aspect of English that they wanted to see in action.

My seniors are currently working in book groups (lit. circles) for their final whole-class novel (Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga).  One day per week, after a pre-determined number of chapters, we all come back together into a large group and discuss the reading, the controversial issues, the author’s choices, etc.  The whole group discussion can be a bit difficult to manage, a bit of a challenge to find a good tempo, and sometimes a bit intimidating for both the teacher and the students.

I told my supervisor that one of things I want to work on this year was clearly communicating to my students…giving concise instructions, providing multiple forms of the instruction (verbal and visual), and following up to make sure they understand.  I didn’t say anything to my observer but that was one of the first things mentioned when we met afterward.  I felt that I was being careful to have the attention of my students and careful with my word choice and it was nice to see that he recognized that.

Later, during the discussion, I posed a question and then waited for someone to respond.  The kids snickered a bit with the deafening silence.  I just continued to look around and didn’t make a move to fill the silence.  Hello, wait time.  But a student did.  He filled the silence by asking another question and putting it out to his peers to answer.  It was one of those things that I saw as distinctly poor about the discussion.  However, when discussing things afterward with the other teacher, that was one of the things that he saw as distinctly positive.  That student picked up the conversation and was genuinely curious about what his peers thought about the topic.  I saw it as a response to the “awkward pause” while he saw it as a student taking an active interest and role in the discussion.

With the fairly low-pressure nature of a peer-to-peer observation, I could tell that I was very consciously thinking through my words, my body language, my eye contact as I was communicating with my students but without the nerves that come with my supervisor coming in for an observation.  A nice change to an observation, indeed.

The John Green Obsession Continues…

Setting my yearly goals…

We’re nearly two months into our new school year and a mere week away from the end of the first quarter…and I’ve finally just met with my principal to determine my professional goals for this year.  My timing is impeccable.  To be honest, if I had met before today, I’m not sure that I could have rationally thought through the areas that I want to focus on for professional growth for this year.  This year is undoubtably the most busy of my career thus far.  There is no humanly way that I could have carried this load any year prior to this…and I may never be able to do it again either.

So while my position technically falls under the supervision of our deputy superintendent, I met with our HS principal as the majority of my goals for this year are classroom-related.

I’ve prefaced all of my goals with the word PRACTICE. defines this verb as: to follow or observe habitually or customarily.  And that perhaps is my first goal…to practice these things.

My principal is already concerned that I’ve set too lofty of goals for myself.  It’s likely true.  But these practices may just be the communication, the reflection, the balance…and ultimately, the organization…that I need in order to keep myself sane during this tremendously challenging time.

Almost there…

A few comments on the Moodle entries of some of my classmates and I’ll be finished with my first grad school class!

I posted my Final for the class on my wiki:  It’s Module 7: Assignment 2.  I’ve created a content lesson entitled “Readers for Research” as an introduction the role that RSS Readers can take in the research process.  I’m happy with how it turned out and am looking forward to using it once I get into my library.

I’m probably most proud of the tutorial videos that I made to introduce Netvibes to my students.  I used Jing Pro to do the screen capture videos.  Check them out:

Conversations with librarians

Part of my job for my 6-month home assignment is to meet with librarians, tour their libraries, and discuss with them their struggles, joys, frustration, advice they may have, things that wish that they could do differently, the role that digital media is playing in their libraries, among other things.

I have felt so incredibly welcomed by the librarians that I have met while I’ve been out here in Washington.  I’ve met with Christian school, public school, and public libraries.  They are elementary librarians, middle school librarians, teen librarians, combination librarians (Grades 7-12).  They are in schools that have significant budgets and no budgets at all.  And they have all been so gracious in answering my questions.

As I leave Washington, I wanted to reflect on some of what I have learned and discussed with these amazing women (have yet to meet with a male librarian…which I find a bit discouraging…boys need to see men reading and promoting books).

1.  They are all passionate about what they do.  It is thrilling to watch how their eyes light up when they talk about the love that they have for their jobs.

2. Each of the school librarians deals with the struggle of providing quality pieces of literature to their student population.  They are all asking the questions – what is appropriate?  What’s the line when it comes to content, language, situational appropriateness?

3. Teaching students how to use the library well is something that they are all wrestling with.  One school does an orientation with all of their incoming Grade 7 students (youngest grade in that school) and then they do another orientation with their incoming Grade 9 students.

4. All of the libraries are hooked into the public library system.  Some still have their own online databases that they purchase but many are hooked into the ones that the public library system offers.

5. The physical space of every library that I’ve been in has wide-open space.  While the shelving units on the wall are floor-to-(almost) ceiling, none of the center shelving is above chest level.  There’s almost nothing blocking the librarian’s ability to see every corner of the room.

6. All agreed that the phrase “unquiet library” was probably the most accurate description of what they are and how things work in the middle school and high school setting.  Thank you, Buffy Hamilton, for coining the phrase.

7. I saw a variety of circulation systems.  Most are using a Follett product.  Some will be moving on to Follett Destiny when Follett no longer supports their older products.  One school was in the process of moving from Concourse to Koha.  I liked the open-source idea of Koha.  It appeared to be very user-friendly and I loved it’s visual appeal to the “digital natives” who use it – pictures of the books, ability to search at home.

8. All have a policy and process in place when the situation arises that a parent or staff member or student takes issue with a book in the collection.  All of the librarians were pretty firm on making sure that you have this policy in place before you ever open the doors of your library.  Some have to have the educational board read the book in question; others have committees that read the book and make a recommendation to keep or discard.

9. All see digital media as changing the game.  Not sure what that’s going to look like in the future but it’s going to be a game-changer.

10. They passed on a wealth of resources: print-outs of books that they’ve added to their collection in the last year, Booklist, LM-Net listserv, the Indie Next List, reading lists by grade level.

I really appreciate the time that each of these librarians has spent with me.  Most have given me an hour or more of their time.  And I’m fully aware that as a general rule, they are THE librarian with a limited amount of time to spend with a school-librarian-in-training.  So my sincere thanks, Jean, Pat, Aubrie, Liz, Sue, and Anita!

Podcast: An Abundance of Katherines

Podcast: An Abundance of Katherines

On Banned Books Week

It’s the end of Banned Books Week but I didn’t want this week to pass without writing down some of my own thoughts about banned books.

I bought a copy of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson last week.  It’s probably my 4th or 5th copy of that book.  Although I’m sure that I have one in storage somewhere, I knew that I want to reread this powerful book and then pass it on again.  In mid-September, a professor at Missouri State University wrote a letter to the editor of his newspaper calling Speak “soft-core pornography” and advocating for its removal from the English curriculum at the public school in his area.  What a controversy and movement did he create!  It did not take long for the book community to stand alongside Anderson and other authors whose books were also classified as “filth.”  Twitter users used the hashtag #speakloudly and a Twitter twibbon to spread the message and support Speak and Anderson.  Blog posts appeared in many places and Melanie at the Reclusive Bibliophile compiled them in a post on her blog.  More than 400 comments followed Wesley Scroggin’s original letter.  And Laurie Halse Anderson wrote her own response.

I personally think that it is incredibly dangerous to ban books from the classroom or the library.  It prevents people, both young and old, from being able to make their own decisions about their reading practices.  However, it also gives me more fuel for my own beliefs about the role of a teacher or librarian.  We have to be reading!  We need to be reading what our students are reading!  We must have conversations with them about their reading!  To leave a reader with no additional support or further conversation is foolish.

This past year, I passed on Anderson’s Speak and Wintergirls to a couple of girls in high school.  They are powerful books that deal with subjects that so many of our high school girls encounter.  We talked about the content of the book before they read it.  I followed up with them while they were reading.  And when they finished, they came back not only to return the books but also to ask questions, put their opinions on the table, and to try to articulate what the book made them want to do and say in response.  I wouldn’t choose it any other way.  Let them struggle with it but let them have a place to talk about it too.

In one of the blog posts that I read in response to #speakloudly (but cannot remember which one for the life of me), a blogger wrote that the copy of Speak at her school had handwriting in the back.  Many had written that this had happened to them.  That they had stayed quiet.  That they hadn’t told anyone.  And that blogger decided to write one more thing in that book – the phone number for a crisis hotline.  She gave them a place to talk about it.

Someone shared this Google Map on Twitter last week.  It’s certainly not all of the Banned or Challenged Books but it does give a sampling of what is happening in libraries and schools around the United States.  Click on the map to see which books are being banned or challenged and where.

Read a banned book this week!