Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not Living Up to the Standards

I believe in the Children's Right to Read and Library Bill of Rights.  I want children to have unlimited access to a wide variety of materials in multiple formats.  I want to be a good librarian and exemplify all that is right and good in our profession.


There are times when I cannot abide by these documents.  There are times when I cannot allow children unfettered access to the library collection.  There are times when I must put my foot down, when I must deny access, when I must hang my head in silent shame that I have besmirched my professional ethos. At least one of those times occurred today, when I refused to check out books to children who could not read the items they selected.  Here's why:

School librarians have a responsibility to support and enhance the instructional goals and objectives of the school.  If it is an instructional objective that children should select and read materials on an appropriate reading level, then we must honor and respect that goal.

So, when I have a first grader who wants books on basketball, I strive to help him select a book on the appropriate reading level.  If such a book is not available on his level, he must choose something else.  While I insist that the child get one book he can read, I allow him to get a book of his choosing as well.

Sometimes, with older children, I disregard this this policy if I think for reasons of self-esteem children need to be seen carrying around a book similar to those carried by their peers, even if those books are too difficult for them.  It has always amazed me that the most struggling readers really want the biggest, most difficult books. I try to get the most popular books for older readers in an audiovisual format to support struggling readers, but budget constraints too often limit my ability to provide enough.

Conversely, some of my most able kids choose books that are well below their abilities.  I gently prod these children into choosing more suitable volumes, usually with an attempt at humor.  Children generally understand  my understated sarcasm when I compliment them on "choosing books to read to the preschool" and make more appropriate choices the next time.  Sometimes, however, kids just want to revisit a childhood favorite.  And sometimes they just need a break.

I try to get the most popular books for older readers in an audiovisual format to support struggling readers.  Playaways have been very popular with the students of all ability levels.  Research has shown that when audio devices are used in accompaniment with the printed word, children's comprehension increases.  Unfortunately, again, budget constraints limit how many novels I can provide in Playaway or other audio format.

I also invoke the concept of in loco parenti when I deny children access to VHS or DVD feature films on weeknights.  I am happy to allow them to borrow movies on Fridays, so that they can have a weekend to view the film.  I feel I would be doing a disservice to the children and my fellow faculty members if I distracted children from their homework with non-educational films.  Of course, if the DVD or video is educational, I will circulate it to students at any time.

I don't really feel bad about my flaunting of ALA ethics in these cases, because I strongly feel I have an educational charge to fulfill.  The tenet I abuse that troubles me is the violation of privacy that occurs when I send overdue lists to classroom teachers in attempt to retrieve materials.  Again I cite the in loco parenti facet of the educational system, but this violation bothers me most.  I would hate to have a child feel embarrassed because I shared information in this manner.  I violate this knowingly, because without teacher help I would have a hard time getting items returned.

I would like to hear from other library media specialists and hear how they have addressed these ethical dilemmas.   I think using in loco parenti has a reason for my actions could very easily be used as an excuse for other restrictive actions, such as censorship.  That is one line I do not want to cross.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where I Get My Bright Ideas

One of the best advantages of Web 2.0 is the ready availability of professional and personal development opportunities.  In the last few years I have been able to participate in many professional development opportunites that have been far better for me than the offerings presented by more traditional means.

Twitter has been one of the most impressive sources of professional knowledge, and this realization has come as quite a shock to me.  For the longest time I dismissed Twitter has a type of mini-Facebook status that was used to tell the world what you are doing at a given time.  True, many people use Twitter in this way.  The key to making it work for you professionally is to follow leading thinkers in your field.  Some of the leaders I follow are Steve Hargadon from the Future of Education, David Warlick, and library leaders Ross Todd, Joyce Valenza and Buffy Hamilton.  From their tweets I have been led to a plethora of worthy information that can be used not only in the classroom today, but insight into trends and political actions that will affect my practice in the future.  I highly recommend joining Twitter and searching for opinion leaders you admire.  If you'd like to follow me, I am martinls0030.  An added benefit:  Twitter is not blocked at school.

Many of the leaders in education maintain their presence on  Facebook .  Their pages usually contain more information than that which could be found in a tweet (Twitter post).  I primarily use Facebook as a tool to interact with parents.  It is a nice way to let parents know what is happening in library world, to ask for volunteers or supplies, or just maintain a community presence.  Some have cautioned against interacting with the parent/student public on Facebook, warning that you have to be careful what you say.  I would assert that one should always be careful what one posts, regardless of who the intended audience may be.  

I cannot say enough about the value of Classroom 2.0 .  With weekly archived sessions going back to February 2008, the viewer may access a wide variety of hour-long presentations on various technology topics.  Live sessions air each Saturday afternoon at noon.  So far I have taken classes on cell phone use in the classroom, Google Research and Google Search Curriculum, Succeeding with Web 2.0, Copyright, Creative Commons and Databases, and Edmodo.  I have a long list of classes I would like to take.  

Online conferences offer another wonderful venue for learning.  Two wonderful conference archives are the K12 Online Conference and the Capital Region Society for Technology in Education (CRSTE) Conference.  I recently attended six sessions of the CRSTE conference and was very impressed with all its offerings.

All of these learning forums are very easy to use and can be accessed 24/7.  When you find time to investigate these conferences and sites, I promise you"ll find something of value to you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Greener Pastures

While the ground has been covered in snow and no hope of spring in sight, I have been thinking a lot about the farm and yearning for the days to return there. Judging by the 10-day forecast, maybe I will get my chance next weekend!

The farm is good for me in so many ways.  First of all, it is nice to experience a a state of disconnectedness. I am online for the better part of each day and when I am not online I am tethered to my cell phone.  Even though I take both my laptop and cell phone to the farm, I lack adequate service to make the most of these devices.  Most of the time the computer isn't even turned on.  I have no television at the farm, and hence, no NCIS to consume my time.  Even the radio signals are spotty.

When Dan and I work at the farm I feel a true sense of accomplishment and know the sweat of hard work.  Seeing the results of one's labor is truly rewarding,  I am thrilled how much we have accomplished in the short time we have owned the farm.  Of course, last year most of the labor was accomplished by Dan. This is it may not only be desirable for me to share more of the load, it may be necessary.

I have found I do my best thinking and writing at the farm.  Almost all of my National Board entries were either written or planned at the farm.  Looking back on past blog posts and other writings, I can barely believe that I wrote them, their clarity is so above my usual efforts.

Occasionally I will become annoyed with the neighbors running four wheelers up and down the road below us.  I am not as distressed by the sound of the machines as I am the interruption of my reverie. My thoughts pondered beneath the maple trees often turn into action plans for my conduct of life.  It is a horrible thing when a dream is terminated and unrealized.

Dan was able to visit the farm this week when work brought him nearby.  It was the first time either of us had been there since November.  He reported that we had little wear and tear over the winter months and that our "structure" is waiting for us, the trees ready to bud above our Adirondack chairs.  I can barely wait.