WHY not? Social media mission statements

So this post is really late for my #28blogging challenge. It is January, bitter cold and snowy. . .and not only am I a school and public librarian, but also a farmer. These little darlings have kept me busy!

We had an Institute Day last Tuesday in our district.  I prefer to be teaching and not sitting in meetings, but this is life. For part of our meeting we watched a portion of Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “Start with Why”. I have seen this before and I always love it.  It speaks to who I am as a person. I have to be invested and feel valuable to the institution I work for in order to focus my practice and use reflection purposefully.  I need to believe in something bigger than my daily tasks.  This got me thinking. . .

Why do just teachers need a WHY? Students need a WHY too. Students need to direct their actions to a WHY. Maybe middle school is a little young to create an entire mission statement to guide all their actions, but then after a great Digital Citizenship Twitter chat, I started thinking even more about how students could create their WHY for social media.

I am an optimist and believe that most kids do not purposefully want to hurt others. I think hurting others is a consequence of mis-managed emotions, poor self-management and a deficit in social awareness. When I teach digital citizenship I use these terms and we explore what it means to be a good person on and offline.  This then leads to a discussion of the positive uses of social media. Spreading awesome.  I see the awesome in my students and I want them to take that light and amplify it on social media.

WHY do I use social media? Well. . .it is really complex. I use different platforms in a variety of ways. I use Twitter to network with other educators, librarians and book minded people to share and expand new ideas for my profession. I use Facebook to stay connected to friends and family while sharing photos and information on a personal level. I really stick to these. If I am at a concert with friends, I will probably post a pic on Facebook. If I want to read about trends in education or post a lesson outcome. . .I am on Twitter. For me, this works.  Although I don’t explicitly state that I will be positive and make the world a better place (something that I think students would write to make their teachers happy), I do have the goal of connecting with others. . .not alienating people.

I wasn’t entirely sold on this “social media WHY”, but I thought of framing the discussion with students in the following manner. I am guessing that many students would say that there purpose on Snapchat is to have the highest Snap Score. (If you are not familar with this it is the score given to you by Snapchat based on how many Snaps you have sent.) This is what students are going for, right? Or, how many people like your Instagram post.  As adults, we need to re-frame the conversation. This is what gets teens to post quantity NOT quality. My kids do it. In the car they are Snapping their faces to friends. . .I always say ‘Who needs to see your face so bad right now?’ Maybe, they are making their friend laugh or telling some silly joke. There needs to be purpose behind the post. I want them to have fun, but I have seen too many kids use a million selfie posts as a cry for attention and lonliness fueling issues of self-worth.

WHY do kids use social media? I know that kids aren’t on social media to expand their PLN or share really great STEM projects. I would have to say that most kids might create their WHY around having fun with friends, seeing pictures of my favorite stars or unicorns or some other version of entertainment. I think that is fine. You know what they won’t say? I am on social media to make fun of other people, get in trouble with adults or post lies. This is all just a version of  the T.H.I.N.K. model. I like how students could use what they learn from our lessons on the T.H.I.N.K. model and make it personal and more meaningful to them. I will continue to explore this idea with young people in the future.  I am not sure of the outcomes yet.

In the meantime. . .I use Facebook to post pictures of my kids and animals and Twitter for my lessons. 


Magic Art of Tidying Up the Library Part 2-Genre-fying.

Yes! I did.  I only genre-fied fiction in my middle school library and I would never go back. My circulation  increased 175% and kids can still use the catalog. What has disappeared are my kiddos that wandered aimlessly and then just grabbed a book. I know that it is a great skill to be able to find a book on a library shelf, but I work at a public library and we have popular collections and staff who WANT to help you find a book. It starts a conversation and builds relationships. I can really say the same thing about having those great book conversations with students. I still teach the basics of library organization, but with increased curriculum demands I have eased up on it.

Here are the steps that I used to genre-fy the fiction collection:

  1. WEED. Tidy Up those books and tell them ‘thank you!’ Less is more and less books will make this a lot simpler.
  2. Decide what genres will best suit your library and buy stickers that represent each one.  This was a little tricky, but less is more. I was also intentional about how I named the genre sections. Our sections were: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Sci Fi, Mystery, Sports, Suspense (otherwise known as scary or horror), Romance, Historical Fiction and Graphic Novels (I prefer Comics, but that is another blog post).
  3. Next, put an appropriate sticker on each book in your entire fiction collection.  I know this sounds overwhelming. It goes faster than you think. You will be able start judging books by their covers. . .literally. Now, you are probably thinking about what you would do with those genre defying books. . .give it your best go! If you have two copies put one copy in two different sections and see how they circulate. You can always change the book’s location. This is also a great opportunity to get some excellent historical fiction books in other more popular genres like Sports or Romance! Adventure and animal books are difficult to place. I didn’t want too many sections so I put them in Realistic Fiction.
  4. Now you will need to move the books. Whaat? I know it is a daunting task. I was remodeling and packing so it was a bit easier. I used carts and pulled one section at a time. For example, I pulled Fantasy and put them on a few carts. We then wrapped the carts or boxed the books by section. It gets tricky if you are just moving around books. Spacing can be difficult to judge. If you have students help, make sure they are reliable and good listeners. The more you move the books will increase the chances that they will get out of order. Plan or map out your sections and shelving. I count shelves and try to make sections wrap around in a way that makes sense to kids. Just think about all those calories you will burn. Wear your Fitbit and be amazed.
  5. Changing Call Numbers is next. In our Follett Destiny system we were able to scan barcodes and change call numbers through a global change. We did not physically change the spine labels. We mostly let the stickers do the talking in that respect.  All the books we added going forward had the updated genre call numbers. I chose 3 letters that made sense with the genre. SPO for Sports, HIS for historical, SCI for Sci-Fi etc. Realistic Fiction became RF because I didn’t know how else to shorten it, but in hindsight I probably could have kept that FIC.
  6. Teach the students some really great genre lessons! When I got my books from book fair every year I would divide them up and let the kids decide where they would go. This was after we had already discussed genre elements. This was a great opportunity to have students use critical thinking skills and make some tough decisions. I had them share out and some titles would create a thoughtful debate.

I know that genre-fying is not for everyone. That is okay. I had a great time with it, and it gave me an opportunity to intimately know my collection. I have actually left the building where I genre-fied, but I am planning on doing this again. I heard that the next librarian UN-genre-fied  the collection. We all have different ways to be organized and make sense of our lives. There are always oops and redos, but I don’t sweat the small stuff as a teacher. And, if you can tell me where to put Steam Punk books. . .that’d be great!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up the Library

Many of you may have now watched the series, read the book or manga of The Life-Changing  Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Both the book and manga are in my selection areas at my public library job. . .I have read them, but then I watched the Netflix series. I WANT to love it. If you saw my house, I NEED to love it . . .but it gives me anxiety. Pile all my clothes on my bed!? Yikes. I have a serious cardigan and dress and library related t-shirt  collection. 

Thinking about this however, I realized that over the years I have embraced the life-changing art of weeding. While my house is not in the best shape (I work two jobs, have 2 kids and 4 dogs) my library is different. Clearing shelves to look neat, clean and orderly is transforming for the library space, and my sanity at work. At my last middle school we completely transformed the library and genre-fied. Yes. It was AMAZING. My circulation stats increased by 175%. I did weed over 3,000 books from when I started in the process.  

So you might be wondering how you can apply Kondo’s style magic to the library? Well, if you haven’t seen the series, she has people go through each item in their giant pile of stuff by hand. They carefully pick up the item and decide if it brings them joy right now. If it does it stays, if it doesn’t they say ‘thank you’ to the item and place it in a pile.  Sounds like weeding, right?

Many of our texts in the library  do not currently bring our school joy. I am sure at one time they did, and that is why we say ‘thank you.’ I have had to weed some of my personal favorites, or purchases I clearly remember which is tough.  The good ones I can usually get into the hands of my kids through book talking.  Often, I will make the judgement if the book hasn’t circ-ed that it might be the condition. I love when my favorite authors re-release update covers of their books. Have you seen the new Lurlene McDaniels covers? Kids will eat that stuff up over John Green when they see fresh copies.

Many times books pre-date my service to the building so it is really not that difficult for me to part with texts.  Sometimes teachers that have been in the building for a while. I am getting better at this awkward encounter of “Why are you throwing away books?”  Teachers say this, and they haven’t even used them in years. I usually use the it hasn’t been checked out in 5 years answer. But, I have been better at follow up conversations with those teachers. It goes something like, ‘I would be glad to help you find updated similar resources. We could look into print or digital for any subject that would support your curriculum.’

Then, of course, I try to donate what I can so that maybe that book will bring joy to someone else. In closing, I have one final thought on this subject. My assistants in the library are actually my secret life-changing magic. They maintain order, bring stability and can always spot where I left my coffee cup. Without them, lots of tidying up in the library would not happen.

Creating Student-led Book Buzz

So here I am, again, in the New Year ready to change all sorts of things in my personal life. I have a fancy journal/planner where I can keep track of my healthy choices and manage my time more efficiently.  This year I am going to use library time more efficiently by taking MORE planned time for engaged student-led reader conversations.

Time is one area I struggle with as a teacher-librarian. I NEVER see the kids for enough time to get in all of the wonderful library-ish things I want to share like books, tech tips, current events and more . This year has been especially challenging because I am in multiple buildings! At the heart of it all, I want my students to share with each other in a quick, focused and warm manner what they read that week, hopefully inspiring a love of literature among their peers.

My goal is to set aside 3-5 minutes in the BEGINNING of the period for this exchange. I am firm on starting library time with these conversations because previously, I had them after my lesson and before checkout and I found myself chopping it out if I ran out of time.

I would model with sharing a book that I have read first. I love sharing with kids what I have read anyway! So this practice is really a win-win for me.  For the students, I have a graphic that I created to lead their conversations.

Our school district name lends itself to the ‘book buzz’ title.

This conversation will be explicitly taught, not to be a control freak, but to get students directed on the right path. My hope is that their conversations will blossom (not too much–this is SHORT)  from this model and we will revisit if we need to change the direction of our ‘book buzz’.

3 Expected Outcomes from Student-Led Book Buzz

  1. Creating a climate built on relationship-building and kindness. Didn’t a group of bears in the 80’s say ‘sharing is caring’? My youngest students always need practice with greeting each other, saying thank you and listening to their peers. My hope is that this practice will provide another opportunity to regularly practice connecting with other humans. (Also, this might be a practice that will hold up well for my Danielson evaluation.)
  2. The love of reading will be contagious. I don’t have 100 copies of Dog Man, or whatever the coolest book happens to be at the moment. This practice with create some ‘buzz’ around other really great reads students may stumble upon. Also, I would argue that this could be used to add some ELA academic-specific vocabulary to your library time.
  3. Reflecting as a reader might build some self-awareness to student reading habits.  As an educator, I know that the reflection piece is key for my students, and for my own practice. Just this small amount of reflection will help my students think critically about their reading preferences. Many times students ask for book suggestions, and when I ask what kinds of books they like to read they say ‘fiction’. . .which isn’t very descriptive. When I teach what this conversation looks like with my students I am going to discuss what to do if you didn’t read. I am an optimistic realist. Sometimes kids don’t like to read (at least not yet!). Hopefully, however, they at least used some independent reading time in the classroom or library to start a book buzz conversation with a friend. And then, who knows, maybe they will hear about that book that in the future they can’t put down, and LOVE to read.
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