I cannot believe that June is almost over...although my body can! After surviving my oldest son's graduation from high school, presenting at the GLMA Summer Institute, and a whirlwind vacation in Washington D.C., I have a bad case of sore feet and bronchitis. Yep, I'm sick. The most comforting thought is that I don't have to jump out of bed and rush to school. I can just stay in my jammies, do a little reading, and sip warm tea all day. The other thing I'm doing is dreaming about my new horizons.
As you all know from my very dramatic "All good things" post, I am not going to be working in a school library this coming fall. Saying goodbye to something you love is very hard to do, but to be truthful, I am relieved. I feel as if I have had a tremendous burden lifted from my shoulders. Please don't misunderstand me, I still love the library and books and all that happens there, but I know that I am ready for a change. And change is coming!
Several of you have reached out to me by text, email, or Twitter to ask "what's next for the Happy Librarian?" And for months I've had to answer "I have no earthly idea!". But that is beginning to change. I have accepted a part time position with a college and although I cannot go into details (my own decision because I'm still being processed by Human Resources and I don't want to jinx it), I am really excited about the work I will be doing. I hope to share more of that with you in the near future.
I do want to share another aspect of my work that will be expanding. For the last 8 years or so, I have worked to coach and train school librarians and teachers on the use of technology and STEM to support curriculum. It dawned on me a while back that I should really try to expand my reach in this area. Many of my trainings have been through our local RESA, but there are countless RESAs in our state and maybe I could be of some use. I also thought about the staff trainings I've done in my own schools and have wondered if any other schools out there might be looking for someone to teach their staff. Who knows? I may be completely off base, but I've got to give it a shot. So, the other day, I whipped up a promotional flyer using my favorite tech tool (wink, wink) and sent it out via email to several local schools that do not have full-time librarians or instructional technology staff. I have no earthly idea if anyone will want to hire me for a day to do some coaching, but it is worth it to try. Here is my flyer if you are curious...
And don't worry too much about my disappearing from the library scene. I've volunteered to host one of the #GaLibChat sessions in the coming year on Twitter. I've agreed to help draft a position statement on the dangers of leveling school libraries for the GLMA. And of course I'll still be hanging at #coffeeEDU and the #nwgams consortium with my local library peeps.
As for keeping up with me...the best place to connect online is Twitter. I'm still there. @LeighaBurnham
Or feel free to check out my updated website at www.leighaburnham.com to see what happens with my new work.
See ya around!
I'm super excited to be here at the Georgia Library Media Association's Summer Institute 2018! The first day has been full of excitement as I was honored as the recipient of the GLMA Intellectual Freedom of Information Award. What an honor. I received this award for the work I've done this year in educating my literacy committee and administration on the best practices concerning leveling and labeling of books within a library media program. Being nominated by Deana Cicero and then being selected as the recipient of the award has been such a blessing to me. And this award is heavy! It is a beautiful glass sculpture (a flame...very appropriate I think) and I think I just might have to display it on my mantel at home for a bit.
My morning was filled with a little volunteering, as I worked alongside Wendy Smith (pictured below) at the registration table. I laughed a lot with Wendy...she is so much fun! I really love working check-in because I get to meet so many smiling faces! Repeat attendees are filled with excitement as they approach the table and I also love the nervous anticipation of those who are first-timers. Volunteering at your favorite conference is so satisfying and such a great way to make new friends and grow your PLN.
After a lively lunch, I headed into my first presentation of the conference. Of course I chose to share my favorite tech tool (can you guess?) with a packed room! I'm so thankful to my tribe who took photos during the session and shared their learning on Twitter! I feel like the time just flew by and I hope that everyone walked away with a new tool in their toolbox.
After such a busy morning, I attended a session with Karen Burton Garner from Grayson on utilizing tech centers in media center. Karen had a few technology issues, but like any media specialist, handled it with grace and charm. We laughed a bit and with a little help from her friends, Karen was up and running in no time! Can you just imagine how much help someone gets in a room full of librarians?! It is awesome to watch. Later in the day, Keith Osburn and Shauntice Wheeler of the GaDOE shared some information about how our Georgia media specialists will be evaluated in the coming year. We aren't implementing SLEI just yet in our State, but we are well on our way to getting more attention in terms of a quality, meaningful, and reflective evaluation....which we deserve, right?!
The evening of the first full day of the conference was spent at dinner with friends and then getting a good night's sleep in my luxurious room. The Crowne Plaza at Peachtree City has undergone some beautiful refurbishments and I was fortunate enough to get a room with a king bed overlooking the beautiful lake. With the spa packages left in my room and the sound of a splashing fountain outside my window, I slept like a baby! It was a lovely respite during a busy conference. Just look at the sunrise on Tuesday morning from my room window!
The next morning was a bit emotional for me as I headed into my second and last presentation of the conference. My presentation was titled "Leaping from High School to Elementary" and I planned to share my successes (to give other ES folks a chance to get some ideas) and also to share my failures. Now anyone who really knows me knows that I just don't like to talk about failing. I'm pretty much a glass-half-full kinda girl! But my dear friend and colleague, GeAnne Bolhuis told me that my story had value and that it was important for me to share my year in an honest and open way. Of course, she was right. I had a small group of attendees for this early 8:30am session, but it was the perfect group. I had three people come up to me afterward and tell me they were in similar situations in their schools and that hearing my struggles (with the push for lexiled libraries, leveled book labeling, etc.) helped them reflect on their own. One sweet colleague even shared this tweet....
This was such a rewarding experience. Telling our story isn't always easy. It isn't always pretty. And feedback like Martha's means so much to me. That morning session was very cathartic! I now feel that I can walk away from The Happy Library with a full heart and a sense of completion. Someone in the session asked me...."so what's next for The Happy Librarian?" I had to respond...."I don't know, but I'm excited to find out!" So folks, you will just have to stay tuned as they say to find out. I'm sure I'll post a little something here and certainly on Twitter once I know where I'm landing in the coming months. And if you aren't following Martha on Twitter, do so! She is one of the founders of our #GaLibChat on Twitter and is an up-and-coming in Georgia's library world! She was also just recognized at the conference as the 2018 Coastal GA Library Media Specialist of the Year, so congrats to her on that accomplishment!
I attended many great sessions at this conference, but one that I must give a little shout-out to is the STEAMing up your Library! presentation by Kathy Schmidt. Kathy is a dynamic librarian who has been on the forefront of the maker movement in our libraries. She is a member of ISTE and you will find her at almost every big conference related to technology, so if you ever get the chance to hear her share her ideas, do it! She's also on Twitter so follow her HERE! Kathy shared her experiences in a STEAM certified middle school, Coleman Middle School in Gwinnett County...the first middle school to receive the designation in the State. I got lots of ideas from Kathy and she is just FUN to listen to and laugh with!
There is so much more I could share about this wonderful conference that supports our profession, but I feel that it would be lost on readers. Sometimes you just have to be there. So, if you were there, thanks. If you weren't, then ask yourself why not. Any school librarian deserves a conference like this one. There is no other conference in our State that directly supports, encourages, and advocates for the work of the school library media specialist like this one. And at 180 attendees this year, we are growing! Learn more about GLMA and the Summer Institute HERE. I hope you will consider taking two days out of your summer next year to attend. And bring your tribe with you!
Someone once said "All good things must come to an end" and in the case of my work here on this blog...it is true. This will be one of the final posts here at The Happy Library blog. I know, you might be in shock. So, take a breath. Re-read the first sentence. And then sit down and let me share my heart with you.
I have been so blessed in my professional life. My career started almost immediately after college when I landed a wonderful job in a small high school that was only 15 minutes away from my alma mater. I had a fantastic principal who really taught me a lot about leadership and how to be a true professional. I also had an amazing group of mentors in my English department...several became colleagues in other schools down the road and others just became good friends.
I eventually stepped away from that job to stay at home with my three beautiful boys who are now practically men. The five years I spent at home were such a joy. I wouldn't take anything for them.
When I decided to return to work (my oldest was starting school), I looked high and low for a school library job. I had earned my master's degree while pregnant with my middle son and really wanted to make the transition upon returning to work. But, as God willed it, I accepted a teaching job at Armuchee High School. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. For many reasons. The first being that we relocated to that area of the county and our boys have had their entire education in the wonderful schools here. The second being that I count my time at Armuchee High School as some of the best of my professional life. I made lifelong friends there...faculty and students alike. It was not an easy decision to leave when a library job in another county opened up and I was offered the job.
It was the middle of the school year (my 7th year at AHS) and it meant giving up walking to school (literally) for a 23-minute commute. But...I did it. That too was an amazing decision. I loved my years as the librarian at Gordon Central High School. I treasure that time. It was a time of learning and innovation and it laid the foundation for all of the advocacy work I now do for librarians in our little corner of Georgia. I made wonderful friends...correction, FAMILY, there. I love them all so much. But another opportunity presented itself and I took a chance on a big job in a big district as an Instructional Technology Specialist.
The leap from the library into instructional technology was fast and furious. I felt strongly that it would help me build a better career, but at the time I wasn't sure how. I knew it was an opportunity. And that opportunity led me to relationships with two colleagues that continue to support and nurture me in so many ways! (You two ladies know exactly who you are!)
The job of training teachers to more effectively use technology was awesome. I loved my work. I did not love the 45-minute commute that came with it. After just one year I gave in. I knew I had to find something closer to home. I also still had the library "itch". I wondered if I had made a mistake leaving the library. I aggressively sought to find a library job closer to home. And that brought me to where I am today....The Happy Library.
If you look back at my first posts here on the blog, you will see that my heart was full of joy and my eyes full of optimism. I was nervous about entering the elementary world, but I also felt confident that I could do it. And not just do it, but do it well. I set about all sorts of plans. Plans for new, bright decor. Plans for innovative STEM-maker activities. Plans for the latest and greatest children's books.
Much of what I envisioned became reality. You have seen the photos and read the stories here. And some of what I dreamed about didn't happen...for a multitude of reasons. There were great challenges. But there were also great joys. The children have blessed me in so many ways. They make me laugh, they make me think about things in a new way, they give me hugs, and they push my buttons a little too. But, in reflecting on my work this year I have come to a few personal revelations that have guided me to today's post:
I want to be back on a schedule that supports my own children. My oldest son is graduating high school and entering the United States Navy. With this transition comes big heart pangs for me. It makes me long for home. For the last 8 years or so, I have left my house before the boys are awake and often return to the hustle and bustle of after school commitments and homework. The fact that holiday breaks don't always line up across district school calendars often leaves us disconnected during the spring and fall breaks that other families use to vacation together. FInding a job back in my home county will allow me more time with my boys. The time is fleeting. In just five short years, they will all "fly the coop" and I don't want to be saying "I wish" about my work schedule.
I think it's time to close the chapter on my library work. This was the hardest revelation for me. When I left the classroom to become a librarian, I wasn't burned out on teaching. I still loved it. Desperately. When I left the library to become an instructional tech specialist, I wasn't burned out on library work. I still loved it. Desperately. BUT....this is the kicker right here...this year has been so hard. I don't want to go into all of the reasons, but it just has been hard. So hard that it has made me fall "out of love" somewhat with the work of the school librarian. This grieves my heart. After many tearful conversations with family and friends, and some serious self-reflection, I've decided that I need a change. A real change. So, I'm seeking work that will help me fulfill this desire.
The realization that I won't be accepting any jobs as a school librarian next school year hit me hard a couple of weeks ago. I have had a few good cries over this. I have grieved over it. But I also have had such peace. Peace that passes all human understanding. And that is how I know that it is right.
So, although this may not be the very last post here on The Happy Library, I wanted you all to know that it has meant the world to me that you have supported me in my work as an elementary librarian. And I appreciate every kind word and comment about this blog. I appreciate that you even took time to look at it! The website will remain active for one year so that you can go back and get the things you need or possibly share with a friend. But, all good things must come to an end and this space will surely have its end.
As I've mentioned several times this year, our school participates in Scholastic's Reading Counts program. As part of that, I'm responsible for helping plan, fund, and organize 4 reading celebrations throughout the year. Today was the last celebration of the year and boy were the kids excited! I must admit that my level of excitement increased when they gave me a megaphone to use outside!
Luckily, the weather was beautiful (like 87 degrees) and we had a lot of kids earn the party. I had originally wanted to have an author come, but my literacy committee voted for a party instead. In searching for ideas, the committee brainstormed possibilities and I also asked some of our readers. The winning selection "ice cream and extended recess" was offered up by one of our book club students. And everyone loved her idea.
In thinking about buying lots of ice cream and toppings, I had a bit of a panic. Where would I store all of that? We aren't allowed to store in the school's freezer. How on earth would I have enough people to help me scoop and serve all of it? It made my head spin until I was talking with my bookkeeper about the money and I remembered that at one of my previous schools, we used to have the Jandy's truck come and set up as a fundraiser. Yatzee! I could call them and use my funds (I had been stashing book fair money aside to save for the author visit) to pay for the Jandy's truck to do all the work!
It worked out well because this company was so easy to work with. They gave me all sorts of options and even brought a "nut-free" truck so that we wouldn't have to worry about allergies with students. We had six flavor options, six "dry" toppings options, and about six "wet" topping options, plus syrups and whipped cream! Literally, I set up the visit, told them where to put the truck, and then several teachers and I supervised the older students and assisted the younger ones in making their custom frozen yogurt treats. It was a win-win! They also included a visit from "Mr. Jandy" and the kiddos went cRaZy over this! And I think you can see that the kids were very happy with their sweet treats too...just look at all of those smiles.
This past Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to chaperone our GATEWAY field trip to Georgia Highlands College in Cartersville, Georgia. GATEWAY is our gifted program and these students have been doing a lot of STEM as part of their "Tinkerlab" theme this school year. The teacher is my co-sponsor for our school STEM club, so it was fun to spend the day helping her. We carried 18 students from our school and had an amazing day of learning! The kids LOVED it!
The day started with a welcome from the Georgia Highlands Science Department Head and that kicked off us getting into groups. These groups were a mix of students, so it was a wonderful way for kids to get outside of their own bubble and make new friends. And I was chaperoning a group of students that did not include a single one from my school, so that was extra fun!!! I made lots of new friends too!
The students in my group all had permission to be photographed, so I wanted to be sure to share that before jumping in to what we did. Basically the day was a rotation of class sessions. Students were guided to each session by some of the college's softball team members who were generous enough to volunteer their time. Our first session was CHEMISTRY and the kids loved it. They learned about pH testing and acids and bases. Tons of fun with real-world application. This class was taught by one of the college instructors, so that made it extra cool to the kids.
Our next session was led by one of our district's GATEWAY teachers and students created Bristle Bots from small toothbrush heads. These were in kits and the students had fun figuring out how to connect the wiring properly to set up the battery powered robots. They then worked on controlling the direction of the bot's movement by the placement of pipe cleaners, paperclips, or rubber bands. It was an activity that got them thinking about distribution of weight and so on...
Our next session was led by another of the college professors and his graduate assistant. Students were stoked when they learned they would be working with a team to build a robotic arm! The task involved students really working as a team and this forced kids to talk to students they didn't know and build a collaborative group. They used awesome tools to complete a multi-step process in design. It took a LOT of teamwork to actually build one of these in the time allotted. Not every group completed the task, but everyone walked away wanting to go home and re-create the task! These arms actually work in picking up objects! So much fun.
After our lunch break, we headed into our final (and longest) session of the day...Battle Bots. More robotics...these kids love it. Students were set up in pairs and were instructed to design a robot cover in about 5 minutes. They were given specific supplies and only 10 minutes to bring their design to life. Then, the pairs had to enter a ring (hula hoops on the floor) and place their cover on a Sphero Spark robot. They had just a minute or so to test out the robot and figure out their speed and controls. Then, they had to battle another team. We went by process of elimination in 4 hoops until we had a champion. The champions from throughout the other sessions battled it out in a grand finale at the close of the day. Can we say LOUD anyone?! The gymnasium was full of cheers as kids watched these teams battle it out. The outcome was a winning team comprised of two students from different schools! Isn't that awesome?!
We loaded the bus and arrived back at school just in time for dismissal. And boy was I exhausted! I must admit that it was fun to step out of my library cocoon for a day. Now to put my feet up.
As the school year comes to a close, so does our Happy Readers Book Club. It is a little bitter sweet, I must admit. These kids have been a joy to work with and read with! They love books!!! For our last selection, the students were all gifted (through a very generous donor) a paperback copy of Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses. Students enjoyed the book tremendously and of course, loved the scenes with the superhero squirrel.
For the last book club meeting, we started by watching a wonderful interview with Ms. DiCamillo. She speaks about her inspiration for the characters, as well as how the vacuum came to enter the story. Students enjoyed hearing from her and I think they followed most of what she shares. They all loved her laugh.
After watching the video, we talked about the book. I shared photos of an old Electrolux vacuum, the type my mother and Ms. DiCamillo's mother owned. The kids got a real kick out of this. We also talked a lot about Ulysses and his super adventures in comic book form.
I then shared that we would be designing our own comic book pages with original superheroes! The kids were jumping for joy at this idea...which made me feel very pleased. I can't take credit for the idea. My youngest son did a similar activity with his school librarian, Sarah Watson, several years ago. He is the one who reminded me of it and I thought it would be a great choice.
Some students worked alone, while others opted to work with partners. We had superheroes like "The Pig-i-corn" and "Masked Monkey Man". The kids also created some really fun villains....I think "Ringo the Raccoon" was my favorite. The little girl who invented him also had a villainous giggle to match. Although we didn't have enough time for students to complete a full cartoon, they got some great characters and story starters done. I also gave them extra paper to take home so that they could continue to write more adventures!
We all love to hate mandatory testing for students! I am responsible for testing a group of students and the offices of the library space are being used for small group testing, so I had to re-think the library schedule for a two week time frame. The first half of the school day, the library is closed. But once testing is done, we open the doors to our "De-stress from the Test" activities! And it has been a huge hit this first week....students in 5th grade can't wait to come next week! So...what am I doing? Take a look...
You know I just had to advertise with signs made in Buncee, right?!
I had a 1000 piece puzzle out during National Library Week and the reaction from teachers and students was overwhelming. They loved it! But...it didn't get completed. It is a very challenging puzzle that I bought for $4 at a local discount store. I chose to leave it out and add more options!
I purchased four more puzzles from Barnes & Noble. They are 500 piece puzzles of varying difficulty. I knew that the only students working on these puzzles would be 3rd-5th graders, so I didn't have to have anything too primary. I set each puzzle box and pieces out on a library table. I also purchased these really cool Sort & Go puzzle trays! They are awesome!!! You can use them to sort pieces as you work or to gather loose pieces for storage at the end of the day. They are really handy.
The most adorable puzzles I purchased were from Mudpuppy. Everyone loved the designs and the colors. This one called "Little Feminists" was my absolute favorite...and many afternoons I could be caught sitting at the table working on it myself!
The way the schedule has worked this week is that the library has been closed until around 11:30 or so. Once I'm in here to open the doors, teachers write a pass for 2-3 students at a time to come and work. They can work a puzzle of their choosing OR they can opt to sit and read. Most have chosen the puzzles. I think out of novelty. And after reading the state test for three hours, who wants to read a book? Very few...and that's okay.
I marked the time students arrived and when their 20 minutes were up, I just sent them back with a friendly pass. Then, most teachers sent another pair of students. It has worked well because many teachers chose to do centers in their own classrooms and the library visit became one of the centers! Genius!
With close supervision, there haven't been any real issues other than one torn puzzle piece. I still opted to print some guidelines and tape to each table. These just serve as reminders. You can see parts of these signs in the bottom photos in the gallery above. Overall, I am pleased with the effort from students in caring for the puzzles. And I've had a little chuckle over how possessive of certain puzzles the teachers have become...several teachers have come in almost every day to spend 5-10 minutes working on a puzzle! LOVE it! This truly has been one of the best ideas I've had all year!
As National Library Week comes to a close, I wanted to share the few things we did in The Happy Library to celebrate. I chose to keep things simple, as this week was our return from spring break and our week of review prior to state testing. Although I had all sorts of grandiose ideas, I went with the simple things and I think they were just right for us.
Like most of you, I ordered NLW posters that I placed on our library doors and I ordered the matching bookmarks which I placed at the self-check-out for students to pick up as they made book selections this week. I also ordered some adorable stickers that said "Happy Reader" and gave those out during each library lesson. I'm not sure that I have photos of any of this, but these little treasures were well received by students.
I also put the question "Why do you love your library?" up on our Wall of Wonder and the students and teachers took time to write answers all week long. The board looked a bit of a mess by the end of the week, but there were some really touching comments on the board and it was nice to step back and reflect on the community we have created in the library this year. With only 25 days of school remaining, I'm a little nostalgic at this point.
I also put out a 1000 piece puzzle that I tried to use once before. We were not able to finish it the first time, so I thought I would try again this week. The students and teachers LOVED this, but alas, we still didn't get it completed. I think this particular puzzle is simply too challenging for our age groups, so I've been inspired to buy some new puzzles that will be more appropriate for our kiddos and place them all over the library next week...I'm calling that adventure "De-Stress from the Test" and kids can earn a pass to the library to work on puzzles for 20 minutes after testing is done. It's nice to see that a little idea can spark an even better one.
The library lessons this week consisted of a read-aloud for students in K-3 and silent-sustained-reading for students in 4-5. Our PreK students had a fun "beach" themed lesson. I brought in beach towels and put a beach sounds video on my board. We listened to the crashing of the waves, lay on our beach towels, and read all sorts of books about summer fun and water (they've been studying water and rain this past week in class). This beach lesson was such fun. And easy to pull off.
Finally, I celebrated our library workers this week. They had been having a little competition to see who could have the neatest shelving section, so I told them I would tally points and select a winning group to have Krispy Kreme donuts. Little did they know the prize was for everyone! They were so excited! I was shocked to know that many of them had never eaten a KK donut before. I forget sometimes. They relaxed with me, ate donuts, and talked about why they loved working in the library so much...and a few gave me hugs which is always well-received. It was a perfect ending to a very simple, but rewarding, National Library Week.
No, the exclamation point in the word library in my title is not a typographical error. As we begin National Library Week, I wanted to share one of my favorite Ted Talks with you all. This one is titled "How to design a library that makes kids want to read" and is given by Michael Bierut, a graphic designer. This Ted Talk deals with the unexpected...and I love that. Enjoy! And have a great week celebrating your library, the work you do, and the difference you make in the lives of children and teens across our great nation!
I have attended many professional conferences over the years and there is one that is the highlight of the year for me. The Georgia Library Media Association's Summer Institute is by far the best conference I attend. I love that it is an overnight conference, but doesn't take three to four days out of my life. I love that it is FULL of great sessions (some long, some short) that offer great ideas that can literally be implemented the next day (if school were in session). I love that there are always wonderful authors and guest speakers featured at the large group sessions! I love that it is my librarian family...this conference is all about the school librarian!
The conference usually takes place in Peachtree City, Georgia which is not too terribly far from where I live. This makes for a relatively short commute to the conference and requires no plane tickets. The conference also highlights and celebrates librarians by offering awards....Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year, Georgia Intellectual Freedom of Information Award, and Exemplary Library Media Program Awards to name a few. It is fun to see librarians being recognized for the amazing work they do each and every day in Georgia libraries! They also award grants!
If you are near Georgia, please know that this conference is open to ALL librarians. We usually have several folks from Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida with us. And...if you are interested...I'm doing two sessions this year. One session is on my favorite digital tool and some of the projects I've done this year using it. You know what it is if you've read any portion of this blog. The other session I'm doing is a reflection on my year in the elementary library. I'm going to share the challenges, successes, and take-aways from a high school librarian-gone elementary-perspective....should be interesting!
So, please come join me!!! I promise you won't be disappointed.
HERE is the link to the registration and more information about the conference.
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