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What might the LLC look like if/when we go back to school?

This has been the question on the mind of every school library professional since the start 
of the shut-down. At least, I know it has been on mine. 

The LLC is a space where students and educators come together to tinker, 
explore, play and of course READ. 

What happens when we need to stay apart for the safety of all? 

How might we re-imagine the methodology and pedagogy behind the LLC in order to bring the learning to the students, educators and their families? 

Jenn Brown and I facilitated an open discussion at the end of the school year with school library porfessionals across Ontario (and from BC!) discussing what the future might hold for our LLCs and the stakeholders we serve. 

You can listen to our debrief here as a podcast episode of Read Into This. We also looked over the notes taken during the discussion and the thoughts submitted from the participants in Google Form to come up with six "big" questions K-12 library questions in a pandemic world. 
These questions can be seen listed in Open Shelf

Of course my mind as been whirling and swirling all summer long. An educator's mind is never far from school and what might be...

A few thoughts I have had about how I might adapt my library program to move beyond the wall of the library space and into the classrooms of students....

Most importantly, in my mind, is getting books into the hands of students. Each class can have a designated bin of books that is delivered on Monday and picked up the following Friday. The books can be kept in "quarantine" if needed after I pick them up before being distributed to other classes.

-students will have access to books in their class that they can read through out the week
-classes can put together request lists or topics of interest to help guide me in choosing books for their bin

-students don't have access to the entire library collection and the self-regulation that comes with choosing their own reading materials in the space
-it will be time and labour intensive to choose and deliver bins of books to 30+ classrooms each week

Last summer when we moved to Caledon East I was very excited to see inquiry style bags that had been curated for busy families. The idea being that families could choose a bag of 10 or so books to bring home without needing to spend time browsing and choosing. Also included in the bags were artifacts, games, and other items that connected with the books or might spark an inquiry at home.

-students love to explore and play with the tinkering stations spread through the library when they visit as part of our free flow routine, by creating this type of inquiry provocation in a bag or a bin student can continue to enjoy and explore within their classroom
-students may get an opportunity to explore a material they haven't previously explored or revisit an old fave
-the bins can be tailored to specific curriculum based inquiries that educators are exploring with their class (this can also help educators with their planning, grade level teams can co-plan with the teacher-librarian to create a set of bins related to the curriculum that can be shared among the classes (with proper disinfecting completed as needed))

-a lack of of free choice in materials to explore, students usually have free range of the library space
-do we have enough materials to spread out among the entire school population?
-completing the necessary disinfecting and tracking of materials to ensure equitable access
-once again time is a factor... 

Cultivating a maker mindset and a maker culture within our school community has been a huge focus during my time as the teacher-librarian and I'd love for the momentum and passion for making that has been developed to continue to grow... even if we can't create together in the LLC space. I documented our journey and wrote a paper about it for Treasure Mountain Canada 2020. (You can access the paper and accompanying photo essay here.) (I also recorded my paper and was interviewed by Alanna King for the Read Into This podcast. The episodes can be found here and here.)

Once again.... bins, bags, boxes. 
Different maker provocations could be bundled up and delivered to classes. 
Perhaps each grade level could explore a different material? Perhaps it's just a box of materials and the invitation to create anything you can think of? Perhaps it's a guided maker project where the students can explore and learn a new skill? Perhaps it's a focus on the process of making and the creation must be deconstructed (like with loose parts) once the making has been completed and documented. 

- students get to make stuff
(That's it... in my mind that's the best rationale there is. Students. Get. To. Make. Stuff. 

-materials (budget? containers? disinfecting? amounts?)
-always time...

At this point, no one know what the fall might bring in terms of school or in terms of of school library learning commons but I'm hopeful that the magic of the library will still be there. Perhaps in a different form, perhaps in a better form? 
Time will tell.

Do you have an idea for how you might spread the magic of your school library program if/when we return to school? I'd love to hear about it. 


Summer is finally here? Or is it?
It's hard to tell this year as we have been home since March. 
But the temperature is hotter and I'm getting less emails so it must be summer break.

I think many educators are feeling a little adrift this year as we settle into summer break. 
Doug Peterson highlighted this blog post by Lisa Corbett on This Week in Ontario EduBlogs

Lisa was writing about the last week of school but I think this description -

"I’m a ship lost at sea this week – meandering here and there with no real aim." 

- applies well to the first week of the summer. 

We haven't had any real routine here at my house. We are halfheartedly attempting to break the reliance on screens built from months of two adults attempting to work with two young children in the house. We are trying to get outside every day but it's HOT. We need to clean, tidy, organize and straighten all the makeshift works spaces and craft areas that have sprung up. 

But we haven't. Not really.

For the last two weeks I have taken part in the #QuarantineEd chat on Thursday night hosted by Matthew R. Morris and Jay Williams. Both discussions were open, honest and thought provoking. Last night's was interesting as the topic was supposed to center around summer plans but one participant asked an amazing question- 

"Do you think people will burn out or tire of anti-racist education?" 

(I'm paraphrasing and convinced their wording was better than mine. That was the gist.)


So many people shared honest concerns- that'll be worksheet-ified, that it will become something on a checklist to say we've covered it, that people won't see their place in the system and won't do the work, that people will find excuses not to do the work.

A big takeaway from last night for me was-

“You can only meet people as deeply as they have met themselves”

Which means as an educator it is my job to meet myself as deeply as possible. 
To look inwards, to reflect on my place of privilege, to consider my role in past wrongs, to unlearn and re-educate myself, to name and disrupt racism when and where it occurs in my sphere of influence. 

Doug also shared a blog post by Amanda Potts on This Week in Ontario EduBlogs and although I missed the broadcast of the show on Wednesday, reading the blog post really spoke to me. 

Is what I am doing enough? 

Is it enough to read and unlearn? Is it enough to listen and try to understand my role and to do better?
Is it enough to discuss my new learning with other educators and those is my life?
Is it enough to advocate for more books by Black and Indigenous authors for the library collection? To advocate for more diverse authors and illustrators that represent the tapestry of our world?
  To advocate for more books with diverse characters? 

I don't know.

I do know that I will keep reading, I will keep listening, 
I will keep discussing, I will keep learning, and I will keep advocating.

At first I thought picking my own word for July would be difficult given that
 I only picked June's word 13 days ago.
 I know that I originally posted that I might just keep unlearn for two months. 

But I want to be intentional in my own reflections and I want to stay committed to my goal of choosing one word each month for 2020.


July's word is connected to June's word... 

Unlearn. Forward.

As a white woman I recognize that my journey will be unending. 
I will be working every day to acknowledge what I don't know, 
to learn what I don't know, to de-centre myself, to do the WORK every day.

To learn forward. 

The Great Pause. Or the Push Forward.

So June.

Specifically June 19th.

Is it just me or do each of the months just get longer and longer this year?

2020. For real.

Back in January I decided to do one word for each month of the year based on what was happening, how I was feeling, and the goals I wanted to accomplish. Doug Peterson mentioned back in May that I just might be a genius (Well.... wink wink!). In all seriousness, if there was any year in which to do this, 2020 was definitely the year. 

And here we are in the 6th month of the year. Halfway done. 
But does it really feel like half? 

Or does it feel like an eternity. 

In truth I've had this blog post rolling around my brain for 19th days now. I knew going into June what my one word would be. I knew mostly want I wanted to say and to share.

So why did it take me 19 days to sit down and write it?

Because 2020. 

A look back at my OneWordx12 for this past year before we get to June's word(s) and why. 

January- Renew
February- Motion
March- Appreciate
April- Breathe
May- Grace

It's an interesting progression of words. Discussing it might be a whole other blog post.

Back at the end of May I heard a colleague say that in a meeting they had someone in yet a different meting describe this time as "the great pause". 
That we'd all look back and see the time as when we stood still. 
When we took a pause. 
When we had time to spare.

And while I can see certain aspects of that, I'm not driving my kids around to activities, we aren't rushing home from school to eat dinner and head out again, we aren't making weekend plans just to wish we'd stayed home and relaxed, etc, there's so much more to this that is not a pause.

Of course, I must acknowledge the wide path of privilege I have walked in during this time. 
Both my husband and I are still fully employed and getting our full paycheques. We have fully functioning wifi (for the most part). Our children have devices on which they can learn or entertain themselves. No one in my family is sick, got sick, or was hospitalized. We own A LOT of books. We are not food insecure.

But I don't see this as a pause at all. If anything this has been a huge push forward. 

When I think of the learning gains undertaken by educators and support staff across the world to pivot to emergency distance learning and completely change the way in which we deliver the education system as never before. 
That is not a pause.

Considering the duality of the roles taken on by many parents and caregivers to not only do their own work and see to their own responsibilities but to become homeschool parents to multiple ages and grades of children when in most cases they hadn't taken part in an education setting since their own days in school 20 or more years ago. 
That is not a pause.

The door, the lock, the unspoken knowledge of the wide gap in equality of education, food security, wage inequality, home life, access to health care, and systemic racism was blown wide open during this time. Never again will people be able to say "I didn't know." 

If you don't know after this, it's because you don't want to know. 

This was not a great pause for many people.

This was stress. This was heartache. This was illness and death. This was wondering which bill to pay and which meal to eat. This was continuing to see how society treated you differently because of the colour of your skin. 

Inequality did not pause for COVID 19.
Food insecurities did not pause for COVID 19.
Racism did not pause for COVID 19. 

I hope this is the push forward.
I hope this is the point from which we unlearn. From which re-educate ourselves.

And that is my commitment. My word for June is unlearn. 

To confront my place in the truth of anti-Black racism and 
white supremacist structures here in Canada. 
To acknowledge my role and responsibility to 
understand the settler-colonizer history of this land that is now called Canada. 
To work to learn and take action to support the communities that live with the 
trauma of this daily oppression  and marginalization.

Given the importance and necessity of this work I think 
I will keep this word or choose a variation of the idea. 

This work will take a lifetime.

Moving Forward With Grace

Each month of this year I have been choosing a new ONE WORD. Instead of one word to try and fit the whole year, I wanted to be constantly reflecting on where I am and where I am going.

And who knew back in January when I started this that 2020 would be the year that each month would require it's own word.

Seriously. Each month of the year has actually required a word.
It's only been 4 months. 4 months.


Listening to educators and parents express their frustration and stress over the emergency distance prompted me to share the following on my personal FaceBook page. And in writing it I determined my word for May.


Teachers are doing their very best with what amounts to emergency distance learning.

This is not e-learning, this is not planned, this is not normal.

Good pedagogy involves establishing a relationship with your students, talking with them, observing them work, observing them struggle, observing them master a skill.

Almost none of these things can be done through a screen.

Teachers are trying their very best. In many cases they have learned more new things in the past 4-6 weeks than many of us who have dedicated time to innovating and trying new tech have in years.

Will some activities take too long? Yes.

Will some activities need a lot of adult help? Yes.

Will some activities be too short or too easy? Yes.

Will it involve YouTube videos? Clicking many links? Downloading docs and slides and PDFs and jpgs and and and? Yes.

Is it learning? Maybe.

Some families are demanding teachers send more work. Some are complaining to their friends that it’s too much. Some are complaining loudly and to whoever will listen that we don’t deserve to be paid.

And I believe that all of those parents are overwhelmed, scared, stressed and worried.

I also believe that most teachers are working longer hours and feel that they aren’t making any difference. They know this is the best learning situation for your children... for their students.

They know.

There is still no end in sight to this.

So as we move into May and end another week of emergency distance learning let’s all live with a little grace.

Give yourself and your children permission to not do the work for a day, or two... or a week. It’s ok.

Give yourself grace to recognize that you can’t do your job and teach your kids at home.
We get it. We can’t do it either.

Give your children grace and time to read, time to play games and time to laugh. They will still learn.

If we get through this with happy and healthy children, we win.

If we get through this with children who have learned the value of standing strong with their community, we win.

If we get through this with children who have learned cooking and laundry and cleaning and other life skills, we win.

Wake up tomorrow and give yourself grace.

If you aren't still in a school library...

... are you still a teacher-librarian?

It's a question that's been swirling around my head now for a few weeks. One that at times I've wanted to explore deeply and at others the mere thought sends shock waves of pain. But the ache and the wonder is always there. 

It's there like a toothache. 

As the world, as Canada, as Ontario has made the emergency pivot to distance learning,
to remote learning, to e-learning... 
to all the names that would require and demand a whole other blog post...

As we pivot, I wonder- 
Am I still a librarian? Am I still a teacher?

I know that I am still a curator as I work on the virtual library learning commons and as I gather resources in a Google Classroom to support teachers with their new reality.

But I'm not teaching students.
Not that I know of.

I'm not even interacting with students, beyond my own two daughters, to be honest.

A few students have reached out via email but it's not anywhere near like it was in the physical library. There's no asking what books I think are good. There's no questions about which section in the library the books on weather are found in. There's no requests to take a picture of the students' tinkering and creations at the maker stations.

Am I still a teacher-librarian?

I know I am a resource. I know that I have helped educators with tech questions, with Google questions, with finding resources, with read alouds, and read alongs and the list goes on and on.

So I don't feel unnecessary or unneeded. I know I am helping. And I'm grateful to have a role.

But if I'm being honest, I didn't become an educator to work with adults.

I miss the students. I miss the daily interactions and the buzz of the library.
I miss the mess. I miss reshelving books. I miss the chaos.

The saying "you don't know a good thing until it's gone" never really applied to me
and my role in the library learning commons as a teacher-librarian.
I know I hit the education jackpot. I knew how good I had it.

So now I wonder- 
Am I still a teacher? 
Am I still a teacher-librarian?

What is the definition of those roles and where do I fit in the current educational landscape?

I don't want anyone to think I am feeling sorry for myself, because although I am sad and grieving as many of us are- I have my job, I am getting paid, and my family is safe.
I am doing work everyday that matters and is helping people.
I am continuing to learn new skills - how to create choice boards,
how to curate valuable resources for others, how to create Screencastify videos as tutorials for educators, how to do many, many, many, many new things within the Google suite.

I know that this has clarified for me my love for teaching, my love for working with students as they learn and explore new things, my love for all things school library and my desire to never work in a role that doesn't involve being in and around children on a daily basis.

As we moved forward with our pivot, our emergency plans and our eyes open to many realities of the education system that is inequitable and broken in so many ways, I wonder what new roles will emerge. What new job descriptions will be written? What roles will be seen as essential and necessary? 

Where will the role of teacher-librarian go from here? 
How has it been changed through this experience?

What will the landscape of education look like moving forward?

April 1st...

This year I had decided to choose one word each month during the year in order to document my own learning and living journey. The plan was to blog about it each month and to talk about the words I chose.

I did well for January and February.

I picked words. I blogged about them. I shared my thoughts.

Then March came.

Oh March.

I did choose a word for March. 
I recorded it in my bullet journal after contemplating a list of words.
But I never blogged about it.
In fact, I didn't blog about anything in March.

In a year where everything about being an educator was a little bit harder, a little bit more strained, a little bit more stressful (okay, a lot more stressful...) I choose the word appreciate for March.


I felt that if I chose appreciate I would slow down, look around and pay attention to the things in my life that were beautiful, that were good, that mattered the most.

I tried to voice my appreciation to my children when they were helpful, when they played nicely together, when they listened well. I tried to voice my appreciation to my husband for every thing that he is and does. I worked to appreciate the days I had at school with my colleagues and students after weeks of strike days and interruptions. 

I wanted to view my world through a lens of appreciation.

And then...

The world got scary. The world turned upside down. 
The world shrunk down to the walls of our homes.

And now we know we will be here for the month of April.
And maybe longer.

And the questions just keep swirling through my mind.

How will we support our students at such a distance?
How will we work to ensure the enormous gap in equity and privilege doesn't expand beyond what we can ever recover from? How will I be a librarian without a library?

How are my students? How are their families?
How are my colleagues? How are their families?

How are you?

How can we work to maintain connections? How can we strengthen connections?
How can we create connections?

How? How? How?

And I know that I am not the only educator struggling with these and many more questions.

So what will be my word for April?
How could one word be enough?

I chose breathe.


April's word will be breathe.

I chose to keep breathing as we move through this time.
I chose to breathe as we embrace and encounter struggles.
I chose to breathe as we find new ways to support our students and their families.

I chose to breathe until we are all together again. 

Applying a Critical Lens on I Read Canadian Day

I believe the world needs more Canada.

This year schools, school libraries, public libraries, families and more celebrated the first ever I Read Canadian Day on February 19th, 2020.

It was a fun and exciting event that will only grow with each year's planning and programming. I really enjoyed curating the books from all sections within our library learning commons in anticipation of the day. 

It also helped bring to light same gaps within our collection. As with everything we do in the library learning commons, we need to look at the collection with an eye to how the books reflect the community and provide an opportunity for readers to see themselves in the books they read. It's also important to include examples of Own Voices. This is a good article with a description of Own Voices if you are unfamiliar. 

As I was curating our collection, I really struggled to find books written by Black Canadian authors. While there as been a concentrated effort to increase our collection of books with Black main characters and books written by Black authors until the onset of I Read Canadian Day I hadn't intentionally looked to see if Black Canadian authors were represented in our collection. 

This led me to think that I also need to take the time to see what other cultures within Canada may not be represented by Canadian authors in our collection. Again, this is an area where we have worked to increase the collection overall but without an eye to Canadian authors specifically.

If I Read Canadian Day has done nothing else, it has given me another lens to which I can use to critically evaluate the collection within our school library. 

I ordered 300 maple leaf stickers to add to the cover/spine of books in our collection in anticipation of I Read Canadian Day and was surprised as I began to pull books from the collection how many there were and that I ran out of stickers.

As I was pulling books to add the maple leaf stickers another opportunity to think critically about the collection, specifically the movement to decolonize the library.
I wondered whether I should put a maple leaf on any of the books
 we have in the collection by an Indigenous author? 
Was I creating a situation that would cause harm to 
authors who do not identify as Canadian? 

I read this article by Tanya Talaga today and my worries continued to grow. 

I ended up putting maple leaf stickers on the books by Indigenous authors because I wanted them to be easily found and noticed by students and educators as they came to choose their books for I Read Canadian Day. 

I hope I haven't caused harm but if I have I will work to undo that harm and learn from it. 
I will work to find another way to highlight these authors in a 
way that is respectful and honours their voices.
But for this first I Read Canadian Day it was all new territory and 
I didn't want them to be shut out, forgotten or ignored. 

Do the best you can until you know better
Then when you know betterdo better.” —Maya Angelou

All I can hope for is that I did the best I can for this first I Read Canadian Day and that by the time next year comes around I will know more, our collection with have grown and I can continue to share a love of Canadian literature with our school community. 
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