Monday, November 20, 2017

Famous Canadians Include Evan Munday

My junior and intermediate students are currently involved with an inquiry around the topic of fame. What does it mean to be famous? How do people become famous? Who should be more famous than they might currently be? The students and I have done several activities together to collaboratively investigate these questions. We've brainstormed famous people and examined our lists for commonalities and occupations. We've read a non-fiction article about how to become famous on YouTube, enjoyed a picture book that hinted that fame can be "in the eye of the beholder", and will participate in a lesson I'm developing partly for my Media Additional Qualification (AQ) course on what it means when something "goes viral". One of the other tasks we've jointly undertaken was to explore Twitter. We used our school's Twitter account, @agnesmacphailps, and we took a look at the account of Evan Munday, known on Twitter as @idontlikemunday. We discussed the codes and conventions of Twitter, including the use of hashtags, and then took a look at the hashtag Evan created, #365Canadians. Here is an example, posted recently on Twitter.

Internationally renowned dancer, former principal dancer and now artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, Karen Kain.

Other Canadians that he has profiled in the last few days have included Herb Dhaliwal, Konwatsi’tsiaienni (also known as Molly Brant), Sir Isaac Brock, Barbara Ann Scott, David Suzuki, Mary Marguerite Rose, Leo Major, Albert Mah and Rose Fortune.

In our pre-viewing class discussion, students predicted how many names they'd recognize and what "kinds" of people they'd see. After we scrolled through a dozen or so, we regrouped and analyzed our results. Many of the individuals were unfamiliar to the students.

"I thought I'd know more people because I thought he'd show a lot more politicians", commented one student. (One of our other lessons involved learning a song about the Canadian prime ministers. More on that later.)

I thought it was pretty neat that after I showed the Grade 5-6 class, the students raced to the shelves and borrowed all of Evan Munday's Dead Kid Detective Agency books. When I conducted this exploration with the Grade 4-5 classes, they had even more questions. We did what came naturally - we used Twitter to actually ask Evan Munday himself. The great part is that he replied!

AgnesMacphailPS @AgnesMacphailPS Nov 15
Hey - One of 's Grade 4-5 students wants to know: how did you know or find out about some of the people you draw for ? We hadn't heard of many of them!

Monday, November 13, 2017

AASL Conference Reflections Part 2

Here is the second part of my lengthy blog reflection about my experience at the American Association of School Librarians conference in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona.

American Association of School Librarians 18th National Conference and Exhibition

Beyond the Horizon: November 9-11, 2017 

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Cosplay MakerSpaces
Diana Maliszewski and Mary Maliszewski

Relevant Links
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1GZEFajnmX7jGskDaKToHFW3mGAlIZEKrOfz8KVcHbMc/edit?usp=sharing

Summary: (taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
You've heard the term "makerspace". Have you heard of "cosplay"? Often seen and admired at comic and anime conventions, cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game. Cosplayers often make their own outfits, so why not combine cosplay and makerspaces at school? This mother-daughter team will tell their tales of creating costumes and share potential ways to incorporate it into your established or emerging makerspace.

3 Key Points

1) Cosplay and makerspaces have a lot of commonalities.

2) Making clothes or costumes can lead to lots of "extra learning" (about social justice, eco-literacy, math, language, social studies, drama, etc.)

3) Issues surrounding cosplay and makerspaces exist but can be overcome.

So What? Now What?

This was the fourth time that Mary and I have given this presentation. (The other times in 2017 were the OLA Super Conference, the QSLiN conference in Montreal, and the MakerEdTO conference.) I have to confess that it is probably the best crafted workshop I have ever created. (A lot of that can be credited to ETFO's "Workshop Presenter's Palette", the engaging subject matter, and my wonderful co-presenter.) I'm unsure what my next steps will be.







Saturday, November 11, 2017 - Beyond Identifying Fake News: Providing Effective Media Literacy PD for Librarians, Teachers, and Parents

Relevant Links
n/a

Summary:(taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
Fake news has real-world consequences, but the fact is, most adults see themselves as much more media literate than they actually are. How can we provide effective coaching for teachers and librarians so that they are more able to assess their own levels of media literacy and can provide more authentic and productive lessons for their students? Engage in a series of collaborative table discussions and develop a PD exercise to take back with you.

3 Key Points

1) Adults do not respond in the same way that students do when they are part of professional development / professional learning.

2) Using a strategy such as "World Café" helps acknowledge the expertise in the room while still getting people to attentively listen, think, and respond.

3) Media literacy is an important topic and we need to acknowledge our own biases, misunderstandings, and lack of knowledge.

So What? Now What?

I came in a bit late for this session, as it took a long time to clean up after my cosplay makerspace talk. I think my Media AQ course has been too influential on me because I asked the presenters afterwards about the conceptual underpinnings of media studies (i.e. did they use the 8 key media concepts or McLuhan's work) and they hadn't - the focus was more on how to provide PD for adults that may be your superiors or reluctant to learn. I liked the task of synthesizing the vast information (from another group) into 5 take away points - let me think about how to use that with my students.












Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Light It Up Blue: Adapted Library Techniques for Students on the Autism Spectrum and Non-Categorical Disabilities
Heather Baucum

Related Links
http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/profile.cfm?profile_name=session&master_key=B18FEE17-FE87-CC28-353E-8CB64CB406D7&page_key=E92E203B-AD47-41EF-9575-F32307F37AB8&xtemplate&userLGNKEY=0
(This leads to an adapted book flyer PDF)
https://goo.gl/evyoRP
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1RQqWewaOnfYhVhJbNSTHED6Huo3O6A0J7PSJ3dI92IM/edit#slide=id.g29b6c4be3d_2_75
(This is the slide deck)

Summary:(taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
Regular library story time can be easy to achieve, but what do you do with your growing population of students who are on the autism spectrum or have non-categorical disabilities in their library time? Come learn some new techniques to adapt books and engage students on a sensory level to build a love of the library and literature.

3 Key Points

1) Don't lower your expectations just because a student has autism - they can do things even like green screen projects with the right amount of support and modifications.

2) It takes a village to educate children - be aware of their IEPs and strive to support their IEP goals through the library and your programming. Goals may be things like fine motor skills, attending, social skills, verbalization, following instructions, etc. Strategies to work on these goals can include very tactile tools like Velcro boards, Bingo boards, felt boards, and puppets; or deliberate choices like clear, uncluttered illustrations and books with songs, repetitions, patterns or about students' favourite subjects; or technology like Pebble Go, Super Simple Learning, Pink Fong, Pancake Manor, The Singing Walrus.

3) Be flexible. What works one day might not work the next. Your puppets or stuffed animals may "go walking" for a day. Your manipulatives may be manhandled, broken, or "loved to death". Don't despair and go with the flow.

So What? Now What?
I must admit, although I was keen to attend a session related to ASD, the title worried me because of my somewhat negative opinions of Autism Speaks. I shouldn't have worried - or rather, I should have been more worried about my laptop, which suddenly refused to let me take notes about 3/4 of the way through the talk. (I have notes from sessions all over my laptop and phone, which made collecting the artifacts interesting.) Heather has a son who is autistic and obviously cares about her students, as she peppered her talk with references to specific children. I appreciated that she provided us with two already-made Velcro Board tasks. If I spend time making these kinds of boards, I am going to have to get over that huge hurdle (for me) of "letting go" if the pieces get stolen or destroyed. My next step is definitely to go and look at the IEPs of all the students I see regularly and see how I can alter my program so that I'm helping them with their IEP goals.



Heather's introductory slide

Some of the books and props used by the presenter

Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 3:10 p.m. - 4:10 p.m.
Addressing White Privilege and Unconscious Bias in the Classroom: Becoming an Ally
Jody Gray and Gwendolyn Prellwitz

Relevant Links n/a

Summary:(taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
Begin to explore how privilege and unconscious bias shape the classroom experience. This session will provide some insight into identifying how our personal identities impact the education experience for students of color. We will introduce ways to explore and challenge our social identities and become allies that contribute to the positive impact of student experiences.

3 Key Points

1) Being an ally is not an identity - it is an ongoing process.

2) A helpful analogy for understanding white privilege is one about boots and sandals. Privilege is like wearing heavy boots, so weighty that you often can't notice when you step on someone's toes. If you can reframe your response when you are called out for a micro aggression by remembering the boot and sandal analogy and tapping into empathy, this will be beneficial.

3) Unconscious bias is part of the reason why education has the desire to be more equitable but often that has not translated into actual progress.

So What? Now What?

I want to be an ally but I think I stink at it. I need to surround myself with those who are better at it (Michelle Solomon, Rusul AlRubail, and Jennifer Brown immediately come to mind) and look at ways I can be proactive instead of reactive and dismiss the erroneous notion some have of colour blindness.

Jody and Gwendolyn




Stay tuned for more AASL related thoughts on this blog page.

AASL17 Conference Reflections - it's Worth the flight to Phoenix Part 1

I'm tired but also triumphant; content and curious and contemplative. I just got back from the American Association of School Librarians conference in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a fantastic three days of learning, networking and discovering. In the tradition of my previous conference reflections, I'll attempt to share my learning and consolidate my thoughts - not necessarily an easy task while still recuperating from an overnight flight and jet lag!

American Association of School Librarians 18th National Conference and Exhibition

Beyond the Horizon: November 9-11, 2017 

Thursday, November 9, 2017 - 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Treasure Mountain Transfer

Relevant Links

 Treasure Mt. is a group of school library researchers and practitioners that met beginning in 1989 In Park City, UT at the base of Treasure Mountain in conjunction with the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City. This group has met irregularly, usually in conjunction with AASL national conferences almost 20 times over the years and has usually been organized by David Loertscher and Blanche Woolls, although Danny Calison has organized several.  

3 Key Points:

1) Dr. Ross Todd, who provided the opening keynote on micro-documentation, wants to encourage us to collect data on what matters to your specific school and your community to help with your evidence based practices. By consulting with existing research (papers and tools) and connecting it to real issues related to your students, you will show that teacher-librarians and school libraries are essential.

2) Dr. David Loertscher, in comments similar to those made at Treasure Mountain Canada, compels us to make creating just as key as consuming in our school libraries (slide 3). Not only can we have students read a book, we can have them write a book. Not only can students watch a video, they can film a video. It's been around for a while, but the LIIITE model (Literacies, Information, Inquiry & Discovery, Instructional Designs, Technology Boosts, Expertise & Leadership) and the UTEC maker model (Using, Tinkering, Experimenting, Creating) can be our guides to deciding what to document and what to focus on.

3) Vi Harada from Hawaii, during one of the table talks, described how place based learning lends itself well to collaborative inquiry. She provided a specific local example (the journey of the Hokulea, a double-hulled canoe created using traditional Polynesian building techniques, and how the schools partnered with many organizations and how the teachers [with teacher-librarian help] ramped up their regular curriculum units to tie it to these culturally relevant events) but she also stressed to us that there are special stories in every community we live it and that we must discover these stories, document it, and place them in our own schools. Listeners to Vi's talk provided their own examples (including my tale of Dean Roberts' involvement with the Taking IT Global project on transporting oil near our school).

So What? Now What?

I presented a table talk session with my daughter, Mary, on "Role Playing Games and Collaborative Intelligence". We only had one participant, but Connie was absolutely phenomenal. Connie had a basic understanding of RPGs already, from watching the students in her school library use the space for their games, and seeing how they transferred their gaming to the public library when she changed positions. I wish I remembered all the great points that were made, but my "now what" is to make sure I keep in touch with Connie through social media.

Another consideration is how Treasure Mountain will change now that there is someone new at the helm. My friends Melanie Mulcaster, Alanna King and I spent a long time over dinner (on the patio, outside, at a lovely restaurant called Fez) comparing and contrasting Treasure Mountain with Treasure Mountain Canada and pondering how the American version will change 


Ross Todd shares work by his colleague in Qatar



Vi Harada says place based learning makes students want to do more

Alanna engages with Frances at her table talk on eLearning

Melanie describes her MakerSpace Masters of Education journey
Mary and Diana with the first slide from their table talk


Friday, November 10, 2017 - 10:10 a.m. - 11:10 a.m.
From De-Silencing to Empowering Discussions about Race and Culture with Diverse Books
Nick Glass and Heather Jankowski

Relevant Links:
goo.gl/dSVxEv

Summary: (taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
Handing young people diverse books is a fine beginning, but what makes it empowering is meaningful, culturally relevant conversations about their literacy experience. How do facilitators deepen insights into these cultural journeys while feeling confident taking on difficult questions and considering their own roles and biases? Participants will learn to bring culture and race to the forefront of literary conversations, and acquire strategies to successfully facilitate authentic, contextualized discussions about race, culture, and diverse books.

3 Key Points:

1) Who teaches you can be extremely influential - Nick's advisor during his studies was the renowned Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings (author of The Dreamkeepers) and it has influenced his career goals ever since. He recommended reading an article called "Still Playing in the Dark" (slide 8) and Ladson-Billings' thesis, based on some work on having teacher candidates use The Watsons Go to Birmingham with their students, that many teachers don't feel comfortable teaching directly with diverse books. It is not enough to have these books in your library - it is imperative to give teachers strategies to engage with them directly with students, not just to have readers log minutes in a log and not consider the content.

2) The free section of Nick's site, https://teachingbooks.net has audio clips of authors themselves describing their books - let the authors themselves do the talking and practically invite students into their books. (The audience heard John Lewis describe his book, March).

3) Places such as the Anti-Defamation League have resources that are ready to use with discussion question starters and we need to be directly involved in these hard conversations, sharing our own experiences even if they differ from our students, because they don't want us to just be on the sidelines when discussing amazing literature.

So What? Now What?

I want to examine my choices of read alouds. I made it an informal goal of mine this year to make sure that I read aloud to my students at least once a month. (You'd think that'd be easy as a teacher-librarian, but with STEAM projects, book exchange, MakerSpace exploration and research skill instruction, "just reading" can get pushed aside.) I want to make sure that I'm providing a diverse selection of experiences. I also plan on exploring Nick's website more.


Friday, November 10, 2017 - 11:20 am - 12:12 p.m.
Teacher-Librarians: Oiling the Gears of the MakerSpace Movement
Alanna King and Diana Maliszewski

Relevant Links:
http://bit.ly/AASLgearslides

Summary: (taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
School libraries are at the forefront of the making movement. It's a wonderful and natural transition and teacher-librarians around the world are building it into their programs and spaces. Discover how the Ontario School Library Association and pivotal documents such as Together for Learning, the Canadian Library Association Standards, and the TALCO/OSLA Inquiry poster help provide making opportunities in schools of all shapes and sizes.

3 Key Points:

1) It's helpful to think in terms of metaphors. (Teacher-librarians are the oil, the spark, the gears themselves ... and so much more!)

2) It's mind-broadening to consider documents and standards from other countries.

3) Making fits so well with what teacher-librarians already do in terms of inquiry, creativity, collaboration, etc.

So What? Now What?

This was the first time that Alanna and I have ever presented together, and it was magical! All of the planning was online, yet our in-person synergy fit like a (steam punk) glove - and people loved our outfits! My next step is definitely to find another opportunity to work with Alanna (and I will be, as co-chair of the OSLA section for the SuperConference planning committee). 













Friday, November 10, 2017 - 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Beyond the Conference: Keeping the Momentum between Professional Development Experiences
Carmen Belanger, Polly Callahan, Dedra Van Gelder, Jacob Gerding, Sarah Gobe, Bethany Thornton

Relevant Links
http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/profile.cfm?profile_name=session&master_key=B18AF0FF-08C9-C0F0-1920-BFB5F1F06054&page_key=E92E203B-AD47-41EF-9575-F32307F37AB8&xtemplate&userLGNKEY=0 (this links to a PDF of their presentation)

Summary: (taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
Back to life, back to reality! You spend the conference collaborating, networking, and learning. As it comes to a close, you are energized and excited to return home and implement the ideas. Then, life gets in the way. Learn how school librarians in one district came together to create a dynamic professional learning community. Attendees will leave with over a dozen strategies to keep inspired and spread the energy to other librarians in their district.

3 Key Points


1) Do not underestimate the importance of conference socializing - it can be during the "fun talk time" that the deep learning happens. You make the most out of the conference when you meet new friends, conference buddies, or bring other people from your district and socialize with them during a conference.

2) Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are easy ways to stay in touch, keep discussing what you discovered, ask for feedback as you try things you heard about at the conference, get and give encouragement, involve others who weren't at the conference (like administrators). Remember that not everything works - there are "tried and died" attempts but don't give up on finding a method that works for you and others.

3) Find other ways for school librarians to lead with personalized invitations (e.g. Dedra sent an email to one of her teacher-librarians outlining exactly why she thought she should present at the School Library Journal Summit); by encouraging others to present at district, state, regional and country-wide conferences, as well as at non-library events, the learning keeps growing.

So What? Now What?

I will get a postcard from this team of Maryland librarians in the spring as encouragement and a reminder of what I learned. We used to do this with Tribes and I should send more hand-made, hand-written letters and notes because they mean so much to the recipients.


Friday, November 10, 2017 - 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Maker Space Your Literacy and Numeracy Program
Melanie Mulcaster and Diana Maliszewski

Relevant Links
http://bit.ly/2fs7XMP


Summary:  (taken from http://s4.goeshow.com/aasl/annual/2017/session_schedule.cfm)
Some people worry that with the recent focus on school libraries as makerspaces, that the role of reading promotion and the love of literacy will be reduced. Why does it have to be either-or? This hands-on workshop will illustrate how to combine both, with a healthy helping of technology, to foster critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creation, innovation, and ingenuity in your learning commons. Come willing to read, make, and think!

3 Key Points

1) Making isn't enough unless you have deep conversations with others (aka constructivism).

2) Think about your target - sometimes it's big and sometimes it's narrow (i.e. focused on a specific curriculum expectation). It's okay to have different sizes, but remember to vary them.

3) Through a "3-4 part lesson" format (Minds On, Let's Read/Let's Make, Let's Connect and Reflect), you can integrate reading, writing, and communicating with your makerspace tasks.

So What? Now What?

This was also my first time presenting with Melanie, and what a joy it was. I hope in the future to get the opportunity to do it again. For my own teaching, it's about time I started incorporating some squishy circuits in my library makerspace - it's so easy, inexpensive, and accessible!









The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Writing like this takes a lot of time and thought and I can't finish before my self-imposed Monday deadline. This is a rare occurrence, but I'll actually post Part 2, which describes the sessions I ran and attended on Saturday, November 11, 2017 (as well as follow-up posts on "the people who were with me in spirit" as well as "new connections) on a day that's not Monday!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Capable of Domesticity and More

I asked my son about which of the two potential topics I wanted to write about would be best shared on my blog, he answered, "How you dealt with Dad being away".

(If you are curious about the second topic I considered blogging, about self-regulation and my to-do list, just check my Twitter account from Friday November 3 to Sunday November 5.)

My husband, whom I have written about before, is a stay-at-home writer. His second occupation, albeit the one that takes up more of his time, is taking care of me, our two children, and the house. I am almost embarrassed to admit how little I do to maintain our home. His willingness to take on additional tasks allows me time to do extra things like voluntarily run a magazine, take AQ (additional qualification) courses, or travel to conferences, for which I am grateful.

An opportunity arose for James to attend a convention and see some friends that he had only been able to associate with online - and/but the conference was out of the country. James was hesitant about going. Part of the reluctance was because he is an anxious traveller, but he was also nervous about leaving us alone. He was genuinely concerned about how we would survive without him. The three of us reassured him that everything would be fine. The reminders he fired at us were almost comical, if you didn't consider that many of these jobs are tasks I never do.

"You'll need to wake up the children so they can get ready for school."
"Don't forget to feed everyone. Not just out-food."
"Remember to do the laundry. The kids need clean uniforms."

To ease his mind and conscience, the "ones left behind" had a meeting and we planned the meals for the week and scheduled when to wash dishes, clean clothes, and mind the pets.

He left on Halloween in the afternoon and returns late on November 6.
So, how did we do?

We managed quite satisfactorily. I realized that
a) I'm actually capable of being domestic
b) James does a LOT of work around the house
c) I'm grateful for technology that makes household tasks easier

For instance, James makes a point of waking us up personally and walking our teens to the bus stop in the morning - it's his chance to have some quiet time with them before the day begins. We set three alarms just in case one failed. They didn't fail. We didn't sleep in. We awoke, but more with a start than with a gentle nudge. The first full day hubby was away, the kids had a PLC schedule so they left after I had already gone to school. The next day, I walked them to the bus stop and noticed how cold, wet, dark and dreary it was. I vowed that the next day, I'd rather drive them to school than make that less-than-cheerful trek. James doesn't have that option because we only have one car, but while it's just the three of us, I'm using the car and skipping the early-morning wait.

We are also having new floor installed on the first level of the house and got a new dishwasher as well, which adds to the overall chaos. I was worried about having to do dishes by hand but the new dishwasher was installed before he left and it works very well. I actually remember to load the dishwasher and run it! It's amazing how I can step up to the plate when it's required. Usually, I don't even notice the pile of plates in the sink. Now, I even rinsed them before putting them in the machine.

How might this connect to school? I think that sometimes we need to create situations where students have no choice but to take charge of situations because if left to our own devices, we continue to keep to our designated roles and responsibilities. Will things be done as well as when the regular person or teacher does it? Probably not - I know I'm relieved that I don't have to come up with more than a week's worth of dinner ideas, because cooking is not my forte - but when there's no option, it's surprising how successful people can be at doing jobs they aren't used to doing. I think this also links to gratitude. I have a little sign I keep by my computer at home that reminds me to give my spouse priority time > notice the work he's done around the house, give him my full attention without distractions, and "fill his bucket". Now that I've had to do many of these tasks by myself or with the help of my son and daughter, I am grateful for how my husband does these tasks daily without complaint. Students and teachers can sometimes just assume that things run because "that's how it's done" - taking it away (like not having the library open every day at recess for free choice visits) makes them appreciate the effort behind the scenes it takes to make it happen and not take it for granted.

I've had a couple of emails from my husband while he's away - he is enjoying himself a lot but misses us and will be happy to be home. We'll be happy to have him back (and maybe a bit more appreciative of what he does day after day).


Monday, October 30, 2017

Costume Etiquette, Costume Considerations

Last week, our principal forwarded us this message from the Instructional Leaders for Aboriginal Education in our school board. (Credit to Christina Saunders and the other ILs.)

"Halloween is often an exciting time of year and also provides an opportunity to provide rich teaching and learning contexts that engage students in critical conversations that include cultural appropriation, stereotypes and caricature versus culture. This is supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, action # 63 iii. Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.

Racist costumes stereotype, misrepresent, disrespect and dehumanize Indigenous peoples." 

This was a great opportunity for some timely media literacy lessons. The #mycultureisnotacostume hashtag on Twitter elicited some great images as discussion points. However, I wanted the interaction to be more of a student realization than a teacher-led lecture. Thankfully, I had recently been reminded of a great resource thanks to my Media Literacy AQ course. "Haunted Media" is a guide for teachers of primary, junior, intermediate, and senior students for integrating media lessons into topics that lend themselves well to this time of year. I must be honest; I usually do not like using pre-written lessons. I've used the rather crass analogy of a dog urinating on a tree to explain how I need to make my mark on a lesson and "make it mine". Thankfully, this guide helped me by showing some excellent conversation starters that I could modify for my task. (I guess autonomy and agency are rather important to me as an educator.) I liked these questions because they were open-ended but still helpful for reaching the idea of appropriate and inappropriate costumes. I also like that these questions are not dependent on whether or not someone chooses to celebrate Halloween. The questions I used were:
  • Are costumes media?
  • Where might you see costumes?
  • Why do people wear costumes?
  • How might people feel when they wear costumes?
  • How might people feel when they see others wear costumes?
  • What questions can we ask ourselves before selecting a costume to wear, if we choose?
I introduced a few of the images from the original developers of the My Culture Is Not a Costume campaign (according to Know Your Meme, it was Ohio State University in 2011 - http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/we-re-a-culture-not-a-costume), including the one of the "Indian". I conducted this lesson with students from Grades 1-8 and it was very interesting to see the differences based on their ages. The youngest students had no clue what the feather headdress, coloured lines on faces, tomahawk and buckskin were supposed to represent. "Is that a clown?", many of them asked. When I explained that the person was supposedly dressed up as an "Indian", one made reference to their classroom teacher, who is of East Indian descent and from the country of India. All students, regardless of age or experience, however, could read the emotions of the faces of the individuals holding the offensive photographs and could understand that they were not happy. The older the students were, the more they understood how insulting the costume was because of the message the costume communicated about someone else's culture. (I promise to edit this post to add some of the comments the students made - I typed their responses as a method of assessment.)

The oldest students were able to branch out and generalize to other areas. Ms. Wadia, our talented and supportive Grade 7-8 teacher, was with me when her class experienced this lesson. She and I both commiserated over how difficult it was to find appropriate costumes for female teachers to wear if they chose to dress up for Halloween. The job of teacher is a media construction itself - our kindergarten students discovered this when we emailed Sylvie Webb a few years back to ask if a princess was an example of media and she explained why it was, and it applies to teachers too.
(She said that princesses [and teachers] "communicate a message
-through the clothes they wear
-the books they read
-what they talk about
-the toys they play with
-how they wear their hair
-the shoes they wear")
When teachers select costumes to wear for school, they are navigating many audiences and are communicating many messages. Not only should a teacher's costume not be offensive to a culture, race, or sexual minority, but it also has to be suitable to wear around children. So many women's costumes are variations of "Sexy [Something]" that finding a non-sexy outfit to purchase is challenging and that teachers may have to make their own or explore other options. We added another question to our discussion (and I'm paraphrasing here because I can't recall the exact words): "Why is there such a difference between male and female costumes that are supposed to depict the same thing?" There were a couple of interesting suggestions from the students. As often with these rich discussions, there wasn't enough time to sift through the ideas, but I hope that some seeds of critical thinking may have been planted.

So, what will I be for Halloween? I'm renowned for having two costumes - one for the morning and one for the afternoon. No spoilers here - you'll just have to wait and see!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reflections from TDSB Teachers Read and TMC5

I began composing this blog in a hotel room in Winnipeg. It's been a hectic week but one that I've enjoyed tremendously. Two big events occurred that I participated in and I wanted to give adequate time to sharing and reflecting on both. I wondered if there were any parallels I could draw from the two – I’ll share the similarities at the end.

Manitoba bison, Ontario teacher-librarian


Wednesday, October 18, 2017 = TDSB Teachers Read

As part of the Library and Learning Resources Open House to honour School Library Month, the Professional Library Department organized a TDSB Teachers Read panel. Five educators in TDSB were asked to champion a favourite professional learning texts. Each presenter had just five minutes to summarize the book and persuade the audience that their book was the “must-read” for TDSB for 2017-18. The talks were live streamed and recorded so that people who wished to experience the Canada-Reads-look-alike could do so at their leisure. I was one of the panelists and my book was Calm Alert and Learning by Stuart Shanker.

I chose to use an Ignite Talk as the format for my presentation. (An Ignite talk is a five-minute presentation in which the images from the slides automatically advance every 20 seconds.) I decided to share with this style because I wanted to ensure that I did not go over time and I wanted my viewers to be entertained and informed. Even though it meant extra stress for me beforehand to prepare and rehearse the Ignite talk, I think it was a wise choice because the time elapsing did not take me by surprise during the actual talk. (Thanks Jennifer Casa-Todd from the York Catholic District School Board for introducing me to this technique and allowing me to do it at a conference she arranged in her board some years past.)

I want to thank my fellow panelists … Rahim Essabhai, Chris Lee, Christina Saunders, and Jennifer Watt. I also want to thank Natalie Colaiacova for arranging such a dynamic and enjoyable event. I stayed long afterwards to talk with Joel Krentz, Catherine McCuaig, and Rian and didn't get home until 7:00 p.m. that night. 

If you missed the event, you can still see it by going to https://sites.google.com/tdsb.on.ca/tdsbteachersread/watch-vote and you can click this link to go to the voting site. (Pssst - I'd appreciate it if you voted for Calm Alert and Learning if you get a chance!) Check the twitter feed from #tdsbReads

Saturday, October 21, 2017 = Treasure Mountain Canada 5

This was my third Treasure Mountain Canada research symposium and it did not disappoint. I flew out to Winnipeg immediately after my Media AQ course. I was sad to miss the Manitoba Teachers Society’s SAGE (Special Area Groups of Educators) conference that was connected to TMC5, because it had a lot of relevance to my school and my board’s emphasis on indigenous education and would have been extremely useful to my own school's work.



You can see https://sites.google.com/site/treasuremountaincanada5/home for all the papers contributed to this school library think tank. The day was filled with great keynotes (Dianne Oberg and Camille Callison), wonderful table talks on some of the informative papers submitted (I got to hear from Pat Trottier and Jo-Anne Gibson; I myself presented twice), virtual visits (Leigh Cassell and Michelle Brown) and brain-melting "big think" tasks. I am going to have to sit down and digest all the things that were discussed.




Thankfully, I was not alone at TMC5 - several Ontario teacher-librarians and educators were in attendance: Michelle Campbell, Alanna King, Jennifer Brown, and Melanie Mulcaster. I am also grateful for my Manitoba friends, especially Jo-Anne Gibson and Vivianne Fogarty. I have known Jo-Anne and Vivianne for a long time but we only get to see each other at conferences.  This time, we were on their home turf and I know Melanie and I were grateful to have a bit of extra time before our flight home to enjoy brunch at Fort Whyte, a nature conservatory and education/recreation center. We were incredibly fortunate to have time to visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Visiting this facility was thought-provoking (and we even got a sneak peek at their library). The night before, Melanie, Jennifer and I spent time with Melanie's university friend and companion to eat a scrumptious dinner and walk around The Forks.





So, what's the similarities? I had an alternate title for this blog but I thought it would spoil the "surprise" that connects the two events.

Treasure Those You Don't See Daily

Even though I work in the same school board as some of my friends, Toronto is a huge city and I don't get the opportunity to visit with my colleagues. Double that for friends in different school boards. Triple that for acquaintances outside the province. Spending time together is so important. I'm a bit extra nostalgic because this is probably the last time I'll see Jo-Anne face-to-face. She is one of the most hard-working, talented, and wise teacher-librarians I know. You must read her paper on "Facilitating Reconciliation through the Library Learning Commons" - it will help not just school libraries but entire schools on ways to make the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations possible to implement.

Melanie and Jennifer in Forks
Rob, Jen, Andrew, me, and Mel
Me, Joyce, Vivianne, Mel and Jo-Anne at Fort Whyte


Learn Before, During, and After

I had to prepare for both events weeks ahead. For TDSB Teachers Read, it meant choosing my book and preparing my persuasive argument. For Treasure Mountain Canada, it involved reflecting on my practice and writing a paper. There was lots of learning during the events as we listened, asked questions, and came up with thoughtful answers. The learning after is still important. What will we do with this information? The Museum of Human Rights even had a section where it asked visitors to commit to paper what they would do.

The interactive display at the museum
This is what Melanie and I wrote and left as our promise
I'd write more, but this is getting shared around 8:30 p.m. on Monday, October 23, 2017 - pushing my Monday deadline a bit! I have media literacy reflections to consider, report cards to start, an extra presentation to prepare ... but despite it all, I have no regrets taking the time for TDSB Teachers Read and Treasure Mountain Canada.