Monday, March 28, 2011

Student Teachers: A list

1) All student teachers are not created equally. There are loads of horror stories out there. Luckily, this is not one of them. 

2) I recently had a student teacher. She's just left. :( Suddenly, there's only one librarian brain around this place. Having a student teacher made me realize just how wonderful it would be to have a colleague. I've got listserv friends, Facebook buddies, and librarians down the street, but there's nothing like another one living in my space.

3) I would say I "lucked out," but I knew I was getting a good one. Future school librarians enrolled at Syracuse University's LMS program have to do LOTS and LOTS of field experience. This is a great opportunity to vet student teacher candidates. I can handle working with someone for a few hours regardless of ability, but if the person is going to live in my space and work with "my" teachers and "my" students, then they need to have their act together. Interacting with students during field experience placements is like an extended interview. I think it probably works both ways - students also get a chance to check me out - why waste their time here if they don't think it will be a good fit? After all, not everyone likes a crazy, sometimes loud, and always busy junior high setting.

Above: Penny Sweeney, my super-duper
student teacher who defined and then
exceeded all these bullets.
 4) What makes a good student teacher? In my opinion, the following:
  • Follow-through. If you tell me you're going to write the lesson plan and create a PowerPoint for Monday's classes, you better come in on Monday morning with a lesson plan and a PowerPoint. This isn't practice - you can't hand in late homework assignments in the real world.
  • A positive attitude. I know some days are rough, classes can be tough, and not every faculty member is a peach - but deal with it. Nobody likes a grumpy colleague.
  • Ability to reflect. Do you have the capacity to think about what you did? Can you see what went wrong? Can see what you did well?
  • Responsiveness. If your lesson bombed first period, can you use your second period planning to make it better? Professionals are constantly tweaking things - you should too.
  • Risk-taking. Getting up in front of thirty 15-year-olds is scary stuff. It's okay to be nervous, but you gotta be willing to jump. Standing on the edge and dipping your big toe in isn't going to cut it.
  • Inquisitiveness. Ask me questions. I don't know what you know and don't know. If you don't get it - ask me! If you want to know why I'm doing X, Y or Z - ask me! If you need ideas or you're struggling with something - ask me! I'm not a mind reader and you're here to learn. Make both our lives easier.
  • Honesty. I'm still learning, too. If you don't think I'm fulfilling my obligations as a mentor, let me know! I've never seen a handbook for this position, so if I'm missing something, or not meeting your expectations - I need to hear about it!
5) This was my first experience hosting a student teacher. Next time, I'll do a few things differently. Penny was awesome - so awesome that I had her teaching by the second day. We were double booked, and suddenly I had two librarians -- it was too irresistible to let her just observe. She handled it beautifully, but I think she's probably the exception rather than the rule. Next time I'll let the student teacher decide when to jump, rather than pushing over the edge! I'd also provide more feedback - it was tricky this time, as my student teacher was confident and skilled, but we can always improve on something, and your student teaching placement is certainly the place to do it!

Overall, hosting a student teacher was a great experience, and I'd do it again!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Students on Facebook...kinda sorta

Our ninth grade Global Studies curriculum spends a lot of time on religions. Earlier this month, I posted about a digital storytelling project using metaphors to understand different faiths.

I'm back with another religion project, this time using Facebook to explore different beliefs. Students in a ninth grade classroom were asked to create a Facebook page exploring a religion. Adequate research and background knowledge allowed them to develop relevant status updates, select appropriate images, and creatively apply their understanding to establish favorite movies, TV shows, music, and books for a religion.
Above: Clip from student's Facebook page for Buddhism

I mentioned in the post title that it was "kinda sorta" Facebook. The network in my district is much more open than it's ever been, but students still can't access Facebook. So, to get around this, we used a PowerPoint template modeled after a Facebook page. I can't claim credit for the original template - it's been posted many times now, but this might be the original source. We just utilized it in a new way.

Above: Student's Islam Facebook page
Check out our student examples:
Here's the download link to the template I gave the kids (this one's on Shintoism) if you want to use it yourself. Note: This is the "old school" version of Facebook - my kids were quick to point out all the differences between the template and the newest version of the site. I'd love an updated version of the template if any one's got one!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I need an app!

I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but I have the perfect app all dreamed up in my head, and then I get annoyed and disappointed when I can't find something similar in iTunes. It would be so much easier if all those app developers out there would just read my mind. 

We're about to kick off a project (nothing like waiting until the last minute) about teen health and wellness issues, and we need an app. We've already got the perfect database: Rosen's Teen Health and Wellness is amazing!

Health and Wellness is a subscription database. It's absolutely awesome for students investigating all kinds of teenage issues. The database covers everything from autism, anorexia, and adoption, to abstinence. And that's the just "A's."

I'd love Rosen to develop an app. I'd pay $$$ for it, too. There aren't any reference apps for teen health issues and concerns. Hey app developers, please fill this niche! 

Did I miss the perfect app? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Live from Read Across America

Not quite as exciting as Apple's event this afternoon, but here are some images from today's Read Across America events.

Below: Wednesday is wear wacky socks day in honor of Fox in Sox. It's a little challenging to show fun socks when it's 20 degrees out, but students dug shorts out of storage or rolled up their jeans.

Below: We have a Grinch costume and a Cat in the Hat costume. Students are dressing up and walking the halls to advertise events in the library.

Below: We're raffling off a fish-themed prize pack. Every student who reads in to an audience gets their name entered into a drawing. The winning student will get a One Fish, Two Fish book, Swedish fish, and Goldfish crackers.

We're having fun and looking forward to continuing the celebration tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

D.S. Metaphors and Best Friend Collaboration

I work closely with the 9th grade Global Studies teachers in my building, especially the one that also happens to be my best friend.

Collaborating with a best friend/colleague is great because:
  1. They're completely honest. My buddy has no problem telling me if the lesson and/or project didn't live up to her expectaitons.
  2. You can text random ideas about a upcoming lesson to your partner on a Sunday morning without her thinking you're crazy.
  3. You can collaborate in your living room while drinking coffee and eatting cookies (doesn't everyone think best that way!?).
Recently, said best friend and I collaborated on a new digital story project. We've done digital storytelling in the past, but she wasn't satisfied with the critical thinking required for the old project and wanted to raise the bar a few notches. After tossing our ideas around with a wiser, more experienced colleague, we arrived a satisfactory solution:

Our new project requires students to create an extended metaphor comparing a religion to something else. It's great -- students must actually understand all aspects of the religion before they can adequetly compare it to something else. And developing the metaphor? LOADS of creativity required! Students turn their metaphor into a script, find images to illustrate its different aspects, and then produce a digital story.

At the top is one of our favorite projects, comparing Christinaity to a Skyscraper. All the images in the video have a creative commons license (a biggie in my library), but the credits are on paper rather than in the actual video (sorry about that!). Enjoy!