Monday, August 19, 2019

Redo the Report (Thanks to Library Inspirations)

With Jonelle and Fiona in Caledon

I know it's still summer vacation time in Ontario for the majority of us, but I can't help thinking about school. August is my time to fix up my school scrapbook and polish my school library annual report. It's a great time to look back and look ahead.

I've been doing annual reports for a long time, and as far back as 2012, I've been yearning for a new format that does a more thorough job of illustrating the patterns in my school library, be it with book circulation or program delivery. I've made some improvements, such as including graphs and charts generated from my library recess visit tracking form that I use throughout the entire year.

These are good steps, but the document itself is too long (6 pages) with a lot of long-term data (from 2004 to now, my entire time at my current school) that can be tedious to go through without incentives (such as the paid lunch I provide to my principal and chairs). My annual report needs a bit of a face lift!

There are a few people that have recently crossed my path that have been very generous about sharing their annual reports and inspiring me to make some changes.

Jordan Graham

Celebrating Jordan Graham on this blog is long overdue. (I even said so on Twitter, so it *must* be true!)
She was absolutely amazing and worth her weight in gold to my Additional Qualification course students this summer. She stayed late to help them locate the right resources and even helped improve their inquiry questions.
Jordan works at the Professional Library of the TDSB and is a font of wisdom. Don't let her youthful exterior deceive you - she has great experience and worked with the New York Public Library (in one of her many past positions) before joining the TDSB. Jordan helped my AQ students but she also helped me. I was a few statistics short for my annual report and she was able to obtain them. I asked her for some tips and she kindly shared a pair of annual reports she did for the NYPL. What I really liked about Jordan's reports were several things. I liked how she collected quotes from people who were happy with the work. I also liked how she described take-away nuggets from conferences she attended; it wasn't just about attending the conference but about the learning and next steps. One of the subcategories she had was "stories with impact". Combined with a photo, that was a powerful way to demonstrate the importance of certain programs or workshops. I have elements of some of these things in different locations (e.g. my blog when I write conference reports, or my scrapbook) but I need to consider how I might combine them into one document.

Lisa Wallace

I met Lisa Wallace in my AQ course this summer. She was the only Specialist candidate enrolled in a class of 15. She was so patient with me and generous with her own time, sharing her expertise with the other course participants. One of the assignments in the York University Library AQ course for the "part 3s" (designed by the marvelous Sue Peel) is to create an annual report. Lisa hadn't made one before but jumped at the opportunity. The annual report she created was absolutely beautiful. What I really liked about Lisa's report was the size - it was a compact three pages. I also liked how concise she was, limiting herself to 3-7 bullets per section. Her annual report was very forward-focused, and one section used the Start-Stop-Continue-Other Considerations categories to frame her next steps. I liked how she examined trends in things like the kinds of materials most borrowed, and I like how she included things I hadn't considered, such as how many parents were borrowing books. I may use a template similar to Lisa's for a nice, one-page executive summary of the school library at a glance.

Beth Lyons

I follow Beth (@mrslyonslibrary) on Twitter but only met Beth Lyons in person for the first time at the 2019 OLA SuperConference. We went out to dinner with a large group but it was so late, the group was so big, and I was so tired, so I didn't get the chance to talk as much or as in depth as I had wanted. I just got such a "*this* is a person I need to get to know better" vibe that I eagerly accepted her invitation to an informal Peel DSB TL gathering at Beth's house in Caledon.
It was delightful at Beth's house, but for some reason I was a little shy and didn't socialize much. Beth made me feel very welcome and when she heard about my annual report dilemma, she showed me the one she created as part of her Library AQ course. What I really liked about Beth's report was the inclusion of quotations that captured the philosophy of her school library. Her graphs, especially the one where she analyzed her collaborative teaching periods (from her Google Spreadsheet) and categorized the types of lessons most requested, were illuminating. I can't remember what tool she told me she used to create her document, but it sounded like a good one to employ.

Jonelle St. Aubyn

Peel District School Board teacher-librarians are pretty awe-inspiring. They do so many things! In my unexpectedly introverted state at Beth's gathering, I sat close to two dynamic secondary school TLs. Fiona Ross (@fionaross15) and Jonelle St. Aubyn (@Ms_St_Aubyn) were just as wonderful in person as they are on Twitter. I created a notes document on my phone during our conversation - that is a testimony to how much I learned from these two during our short time together. Jonelle showed me her annual report, which she made using Book Creator and featured her Bitmoji. What I really liked about Jonelle's report was how engaging and inviting it was to read. A narrative approach was something I totally was not expecting from a secondary school library annual report and the Bitmojis added a personal touch that made it less of a chore and more of a joy to dive into. I need to consider how to make my report just as playful and interesting.

I don't know exactly what my new-and-improved annual report will look like. I'm unsure if I will use Book Creator or Canva or Piktochart or even just a Google document. Whatever I decide, I'm thankful to have so many examples and so many colleagues willing to share their work. Thanks!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Further Reflections after Faith in the System Podcast

I'm not new to podcasting. It was part of my focus for my media unit two years ago. I talked about it as part of my MAD PD YouTube session and at the recent NAMLE conference in Washington DC. I've appeared on quite a few of them. However, I recently recorded a podcast that was challenging for me to tape and led me to a lot of thinking. It was Munazzah Shirwani's show on VoicEd Radio called "Faith in the System".

When I say it was challenging, I do not want to suggest that it was less than a pleasure to chat with Munazzah. She's wonderful! She and I had a phone conversation prior to the show to discuss the topic. We get along well. She was super-organized and took care of all the technical requirements necessary. The challenges were all with me and all internal. Below are two links to the show and a description of the show's purpose.

Faith In The System, hosted by Munazzah Shirwani, is about having authentic conversations that promote Faith Literacy for educators and stakeholders. The podcast covers religion, religious communities and interactions in both public and private school systems as well as in the wider public square. It’s a place for us, as educators to gain insight and empathy into handling the issues that come our way. The opinions of guests on the show are not necessarily those of the host or voicEd radio but are welcomed in the spirit of civil discourse.

The topic of our discussion was about my decision to give up Twitter for Lent. I knew that we'd chat about my job in education and about aspects of social media and religion. Munazzah has already written a blog of resources about our podcast here. I wanted to return to the conversation we had (and I even re-listened to the whole thing) because I was definitely not as articulate as I hoped to be, and there were so many things that I neglected to mention and/or needed more time to consider.

Questions That Needed More

Question: What is a teacher-librarian? Are you focused on the books?

I mentioned things like literacy and more (e.g. inquiry, finding information)

I forgot to say the role TLs play with integrating technology, research, digital citizenship, supporting teachers with curriculum. In other words, I left out a lot!

(Thank you Laura Wheeler for giving permission to me to include her visual in this blog post.
Credit and attribution for this image are to Laura Wheeler.)

Question: What is a typical day for you as a teacher-librarian?

I described what happens at recess, which involves sewing, using the makerspace, practicing dances, and helping students find books. A lot happens at recess! (You can tell by the graph below, based on the data I collect during the year about library recess visits, included in my annual report.)

I forgot to say anything about my teaching responsibilities! My schedule is not ideal - I have very few what I used to call "partner times" - open collaborative flexible periods where I can work with teachers and their classes to help them address grade-specific curriculum together. I provide a lot of preparation coverage and I have a very "fixed schedule". For instance, for 2019-20, I will have a library prep period with every class from kindergarten to grade 5-6 (but a collaborative library period instead for the 4-5, 6-7, or 7-8 classes), media periods for 8 primary classes and two prep classes devoted to STEAM. I also am the primary division SERT (Special Education Resource Teacher), providing academic support to the Grade 1, 1-2, 2, 3, and 3-4 classes. I suspect that I didn't mention the classes I teach in the podcast because, although I think I do a decent job of inspiring students and teaching them in engaging ways with the schedule I have, it's not the ideal. It could be so much more.

Question: Munazzah asked something about makerspaces and their connection to school libraries.

I said that the two were a good fit because of things like literacy, inquiry, curiosity, soft skills, the ability to test findings, discovery, and resources.

I neglected to mention maker culture, (also known as the maker movement) and that it's more about the philosophy and attitudes than the physical space housing equipment or supplies.

(This quote and this image were created by and should be credited to Melanie Mulcaster and Julie Cruise. It is used here with permission from Melanie Mulcaster.)

Question: What about creativity in digital spaces?

I focused on options / choices / many ways to share learning. I included references to my recent AQ course and how people selected different ways to share their inquiry projects.

I forgot to even say the word Minecraft. Maybe it's because my school computers can no longer run Minecraft? Maybe it's because it feels so "been-there-done-that-everyone-knows" to me? All I know is that on the radio recently (98.1 CHFI) I heard the host (John Tesh) discuss research that showed that your brain experiences a creativity boost after playing/exploring Minecraft for 30 minutes. (It was amusing that John Tesh asked his millenial coworker to explain what Minecraft was about, and the person used a similar analogy that my wise friend Denise Colby often uses comparing it to Lego.)

(This is a screenshot from our 2018 New Year's Eve Minecraft Party hosted by the incomparable Gumby Blockhead, aka Andrew Forgrave. It's a Maliszewski household tradition to attend.)

Question: How do you explain about why you gave up Twitter?

I said I found I was dependent on Twitter for entertainment and communication, purposes. I noticed that Twitter could be distracting from "bigger purposes" for me.

How ironic: I neglected to say the word "God" until the 14 minute mark of the program. This connects to the next two questions I struggled with immensely.

Question: How is your relationship with God as a Catholic? What is your faith practice?

Even though I was aware that this question was coming, I said it was very awkward to talk about because discussing religion sounds corny and I didn't want to sound like I was trying to convert anyone. I actually turned the question on Munazzah and asked her how SHE would answer.

Gracious and unflappable, Munazzah said she set aside her fear of being preachy, focused on the "I" (like "I believe") and described her connection to God.
I really had no clue how to articulate my faith practice and my relationship with God. I'll try my best in the next couple of paragraphs below. (You'll know when I'm trying to find the words for it when you see the asterisk.)

While recording, I could not, for the life of me, remember the different stages of prayer life. I looked it up (with hubby's help) and found a few sources to trigger my memory. There is recitative [with words], meditative [with images] and contemplative [beyond both]. Another explanation of the differences can be found here. (I'm good at recitative, okay at meditative and poor at contemplative prayer.)

This is a photo of me and my husband with a statue of Mary, Mother of God on our wedding day.

Question: I was invited to consider my Catholic background and upbringing.

I said I went to public school instead of Catholic (due to geography)and that my faith upbringing related a lot to Sunday School. As I grew older, I realized it resulted in some gaps in my own knowledge. This portion of the broadcast had a lot of "ummmmms" as I floundered to find the right words.

I realized that despite coming from a Catholic family, we didn't much talk about or practice religion at home. It was something we "did", at church. When I was a girl and into my teen years, my family was super-involved. At least one of us (my mom, dad, sister, brother or I) were part of the choir, Parish Council, lector team, Youth Group, ushers, catechism classes, RCIA (rite of Christian initiation for adults), sacramental preparation, and Legion of Mary. Now? In my childhood family, only my mother and I attend church regularly and I suspect her attendance is more out of habit than anything else. I think faith shriveled up for the rest of my family because (to use some words from Jesus), the "seeds didn't fall on good ground" (found in Matthew 13: 1-23, Mark 4: 1-20, or Luke 8:4-15). Some still consider themselves Catholic, but I wonder what that actually means (and conversations along this line tend not to end productively or happily if I initiate the discussion with them)!

Another photo of my husband and I praying during our wedding Mass (July 5, 1997)

I forgot to mention my own children. I had some initial angst about sending them to Catholic school when I went to and was employed by the public school system. However, it was a good decision. Being in a separate organization meant that I could be a mother (who happened to also be a teacher) during parent-teacher interviews, instead of having to watch my step (and my tongue) because my child's teacher was also my colleague or coworker. It also reminded me that faith development is too often left to the church or school to develop, when it should be developed at home (as well as church and hopefully at school - I'm not going to dive into the "funding religious schools" debate here but I know I'm fortunate to have the chance and I'll take advantage of it as long as it is available.)

Munazzah was so patient with me as I fumbled and talked around her question. She didn't scoff at my focus on the rosary instead of answering her question. She explained that it's easier to identify ritual before spiritual and helped me formulate my thoughts on prayer with a "manual vs auto pilot" metaphor.

So what is the way we've tried to develop my children's faith at home? What is my relationship with God like? What are my faith practices?

***As a Roman Catholic Christian, I follow the tenets outlined in the Apostles Creed. I am committed to attending Mass weekly and to the seven Sacraments. I pray (although not as often or as deeply as I feel I should) to God (in the persons of God the Father, the Son [Jesus] and the Holy Spirit) and I also have particular fondness / devotion to the Blessed Mother [Mary] and to my favourite saint, St. Anthony of Padua (the patron saint of lost things, who has always helped me when I appeal for help). I hope that people can see my faith through my actions and that I try to love my neighbour (Matthew 22: 34-40) and consider life to be sacred. I try to learn more about my faith through daily scripture readings and discussions with my family. God and I are like a parent and child; I mess up frequently but I believe God is forgiving and loves me unconditionally. ***

Here's a photo with two of the seven sacraments happening - Eucharist and Matrimony

Hesitations and Realizations

That last paragraph was extremely hard to write. It took a lot of edits. My husband asked me, "Why are you writing this for your blog? What is the connection?" I told him that I had to consider how this podcast and how my religious practices and faith impacts my teaching.

I hesitate to be too public about my religion because people have certain assumptions about practicing Catholics. I don't have my religious affiliation listed as part of my Twitter biography. It's not that I'm ashamed of my religion (although sometimes I get really frustrated about how the Pope or church authorities deal with some issues).

I want to reassure students and staff that my religion doesn't impede my decisions as a teacher-librarian. For instance, I purchase many LGBQTI2 books for my school library. (Once I was asked what percentage of my school library collection contained "gay themes" and my answer was "not enough"!) These resources include stories of same-sex marriages, even though Catholic beliefs about marriage state that it is between a man and a woman. There is some cognitive dissonance for me that I wrestle with privately (fueled also by the posts of @JamesMartinSJ, a Jesuit priest who writes often about supporting LGBQT Catholics) but I would never consider excluding books from the library because they might contradict my faith's doctrine. It's not about me; it's about providing a diverse collection that reflects Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop's idea of "mirrors, windows and doors". I love my friends and their spouses/partners (regardless of their sexual orientation). I want students of all faiths to feel comfortable to talk to me about anything. I don't want them to feel that I think that certain topics are off-limits because they are atheists, agnostics, or any other kind of faith background and would not find a willing listener in me because I am a Catholic Christian. I support my trans friends and I use the pronouns that belong to them (i.e. the ones they tell me are theirs). I regret the role the Catholic Church has played in the genocidal actions impacting the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Yet, I still am Catholic.

I remember seeing a tweet by Jael Richardson that addressed the complexities of being a Christian while still respecting other faith traditions and groups that sometimes other Christians don't respect. I couldn't find her tweet, but I did find a blog post of hers - - that made me feel that it might be possible to support others and maintain my religion.

I read my "starred explanation" to my husband to see if I "missed anything" and he pointed out something to me: this is on my mind and maybe is the reason why I answered the door (August 10) when some Jehovah's Witnesses came by to evangelize. It was another opportunity to talk about my faith, acknowledge the faith of others, and sort it out in my own mind. It also made me feel more comfortable to talk with my friend Salma Nakhuda today about parts of her Muslim faith (Eid Mubarak Salma! Eid-al-Adha starts Sunday August 11 and ends Thursday August 15 if my quick research is correct.)

Faith isn't the "f-word" we should be afraid to use.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Using Our Power and Privilege to Make Change

Have you ever read about things in the news and felt the urge to want to do something? To take action and improve situations? To right wrongs and make a difference? The impulse has crossed my mind and heart before, but for certain reasons (see upcoming flashback below), I haven't.

Cue the flashback: I doubt that anyone in my family except for me remembers this, but long ago, my brother was in Cub Scouts. Something unpleasant happened at one of his Cub meetings, and I, a protective bigger sister, after hearing about it (second-hand) was incensed. I wrote a fiery letter to the Scout leader complaining about a person related to the incident. (I think I may have even recommended that the individual resign or be removed from the volunteer organization.) Well, the Scout leader phoned me to talk about the letter. I didn't keep a copy of the letter, so I couldn't recall almost anything I wrote. He firmly rebutted my points and verbally took me down several pegs. He took me to task about my understanding of the event that precipitated the letter-writing and my emotional overreaction. At the end of that conversation, I was completely humiliated. It led me to a couple of unhealthy,"warped" habits that I upheld for years - I became obsessive about keeping drafts of any correspondences I sent, and I grew very reluctant to speak up if I thought I saw injustice. (End of flashback.)

 (Note: this picture is "labeled for re-use" from Pixabay.)

I apologize for centering myself in this narrative, but I wanted to give some context as to why this past week's action was a bit of a big deal for me. I use my Twitter feed to connect with my network of friends and colleagues, but also to learn more about equity issues. Someone once recommended checking your Twitter feed to see who you follow and to pay attention to those faces to ensure you aren't in an echo chamber. I try and that's why it's such a great source of learning for me, despite the 280 character limit.

I am so fortunate that I follow Desmond Wong. I met Desmond when we were working with the Ontario Library Association's Super Conference. Desmond was part of the Careers / Mentoring Committee and I was one of the two OSLA Planners. (In the photo of all the Planning Team on this blog, he's in the far back and I'm right in front.) I followed him on Twitter (@desmondcwong) and paid attention to the things he retweeted and shared, because he's super-smart, aware, and fun. Recently, he'd been sharing a lot about Manua Kea. It inspired me to do more than just "like" or "retweet". I decided that, even though it felt like just a drop in the bucket, that I'd try to write a letter to the Canadian contacts behind the TMT Project that a Hawaiian librarian named Kawena (@pastelpatrol on Twitter) mentioned. Desmond agreed to proofread my letter. He did a great job of helping me ensure that these were my thoughts (he didn't put any words in my mouth) and that I was clear about why this was such a problematic project. Both Desmond and Kawena expressed heartfelt gratitude for my action - and writing a letter isn't earth-shaking. I've done it for education-related issues (like the recent provincial cuts) but that was, to be frank, somewhat in my own self-interest. This was an issue that I didn't know much about, but because of people like Desmond and Kawena, I wanted to know more about and help.

Below is the letter that I wrote to three Canadians:,, and I am sharing it here publicly not to make myself look good, but to use as a potential inspiration or template if other people would like to write.


My name is Diana Maliszewski. I am a teacher-librarian with the Toronto District School Board and an instructor with the York University’s Professional Learning office. I don’t usually write letters like this; letters in which I’m asking formidable institutions to reconsider a position they’ve taken about an issue that I’m still in the process of learning about myself. However, the more that I’ve read, the more I believe that even though my voice seems insignificant, I should still register my concerns about this project.
The project I’m referring to is the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. I tried to ensure that the research I encountered as I educated myself about this project was as “balanced” as possible.  On, in which both sides were given ample air play, what struck me most was the statement that “Hundreds of scientists and astronomers, including many from institutions linked to the project, have also condemned the "criminalisation" of people opposing the TMT.” These people are specifically Hawaiian cultural leaders, Elders, Uncles, Aunties and Land Protectors on their own Lands.
According to Eve Tuck from the University of Toronto, “[m]ore than 3000 people are on Mauna Kea to object to this construction, and they are being monitored and arrested by police armed with guns, batons, tear gas, and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs). Directly or indirectly, Canadian universities are involved in using militarized force to construct this massive 18-story telescope.”
Kaniela Ing said (in an interview found at that other options are available – some of the 13 other telescopes already on Mauna Kea can be dismantled or repurposed to make room for this big new one, or it can be built on the Canary Islands. There has been no consultation with Indigenous Hawaiians regarding the use or movement of this project and a distressing lack of care towards their needs and culture.
I implore that the people who are non-violently objecting to this construction project be treated with respect and that solutions be devised that take into account the cultural, spiritual, environmental, and educational aspects of this issue.
Thank you for your time,

Diana Maliszewski

I didn't include it in my letter, but I also want to call attention to a great article by Christine Torres. In an earlier draft of my letter, I said:

Christina Torres recommended that educators discuss issues such as this in her online article (found at; I plan on doing so and I hope I’ll be able to share that the Canadian involvement in this project is one of which I can be proud.
As educators (and especially for me, a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, able-bodied, upper-middle-class, Christian woman), we have privilege. We should use that privilege to speak out more frequently than we do. I hope that maybe I can learn to do more than write letters or conduct lessons. As Kelly Wickham Hurst (@mochamomma on Twitter) said in something I retweeted, "I'm on a journey too." Hopefully I don't stall and continue to move forward to try and make the world a better place.

Monday, July 29, 2019

First Jobs and Travel Time

Do you recall the very first job you ever had? Mine was as a dance instructor for the studio where I once took classes as a student. It was for two hours a day, four to five days a week (no weekends unless we had competitions or parades), from September until June. I taught ballet, tap, baton, jazz, acrobatics, and highland dancing. I kept that job throughout high school and university.

Undated photo (late 1990s) of me teaching tap

1993 Toronto Beaches Easter Parade (circled figure is me)

My daughter (who has given me permission to write about her and this topic) just recently obtained her very first paid job. She just finished her first year of university and was ready to commit to something other than her studies. Initially, she had hoped to parlay her volunteer work at a certain institution into part-time, paid employment, but this didn't turn out as planned. Instead, she works as a "squire" at Storm Crow Manor. The establishment ( describes itself as

Toronto's geekiest bar! Opened in late 2018 in an elegant Church St mansion, it includes a sanity-shattering array of theme rooms, secret doors, catacombs, cyberpunk bars, glowing, bubbling cocktails, randomly-generated burgers and, oh yeah, tentacles.
I would not have pegged Mary as being eager to work in the service industry, especially at a restaurant/bar. However, she really loves working at Storm Crow Manor. Part of it has to do with the atmosphere. The particular environment means that she can chat about Doctor Who, role playing games, anime or any kind of pop-culture phenomenon with customers and staff alike. They just had a "Halloween In July" event, co-sponsored by Fan Expo Canada, where cosplay was expected (and enjoyed). The people have also made Mary very happy at her first job. Her managers have been super-supportive and her fellow employees have made her feel welcome. They make it worth the travel time.

This is Mary and our good friend Denise taking us to Storm Crow Manor for the first time in April 2019
Which leads me to the second half of this blog post - travelling to get to work.

We live in north Scarborough. Storm Crow Manor is at Church and Wellesley in Toronto. I used to drive my daughter 20 minutes to south Scarborough so she could catch the subway directly. Once there, it usually took her 30 minutes. 50 minutes one-way is not an excessive hardship unless it gets so late that the subway stops operating. Then the choices are the late-night bus that drives all the way along the Danforth to Warden Station, a taxi / Uber, (which would eat up a lot of the money she would make that evening) or the kindness of parents who are willing to drive downtown. Last Saturday, we picked the final option and drove down to pick her up because she was booked for the closing shift. She got out at 3:00 am and we got home by 3:30 am. Boy, were we tired!

It led me to reflect about how commuting impacts work experience. In my recent Library AQ course that I ran, I had individuals taking public transit for nearly an hour one way to make it to my school. I had participants driving from North Brampton to Scarborough for the course. They never complained but I suspect that the issue was present in the backs of their minds. If class ended closer to 4:00 pm instead of our regular 3:30 pm, what would that mean for the traffic volume? How much more time would it add to their journey? We always began our mornings with a community circle, which led to a bit of flexibility with our start time. This was a benefit when there were accidents along Highway 401 (according to this website, the busiest in North America) which led to tie-ups and unexpected delays. And it wasn't just my participants either.

The one saving grace for the AQ course was that it was only ten days. This made me think about some of the teachers I know that have lengthy travel times as part of their regular day-to-day routine. One teacher at my school lives in Bowmanville. A vice-principal I know lives in Whitby but her school is in the west-end of Toronto. Anything related to a location near Eglinton Avenue will add significant delays. When it's your first job as an administrator, or at a location that brings you a lot of joy, you don't want to complain about the commute. But this comes at a cost. A quick online search found these articles about the impact of commuting on people.

It takes me 15 minutes to get from my house to my school. That's 30 minutes per day. Even though it'd be healthy for me to switch schools at some point, I'm extremely reluctant nowadays to even consider the idea. I like the lack of travel time. Shorter commutes mean I'm willing to stay behind after school to run an extra club, or stay late to clean the library. 

Each of the articles I linked to above have suggestions for solving the problem of long commutes. For my daughter, I predict that her youth, enthusiasm for the job, and considerations when scheduling her for shifts will mean that she'll stick with the position during the school year. For others, who struggle to afford to live in the city where they work and try without success to transfer to locations closer to home ... 

Bitmoji Image

Monday, July 22, 2019

10 Days, 9 Guest Speakers

James, Diana, Maria (& Maria's nephew!) chez moi

I didn't think I'd be able to surpass last year's arrangement where I arranged to host 5 guest speakers in 10 days. My husband likes to remind me that the middle initial of my name really stands for "push-it" and he may be on to something. For the 2019 Summer blended Library AQ course, there were 9 guest speakers. Who were they? What did they contribute? Check it out below.

1) Neil Andersen on Monday, July 8, 2019 (Day 3)

Neil came as a representative of the AML (Association for Media Literacy) to talk with our course participants about incorporating media literacy teaching and learning strategies into our School Library Learning Commons (SLLC). He provided so many useful tools and techniques and prompted some thoughtful discussion.

2) Jill Kelsall on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 (Day 4)

Jill joined us from the top of a hill so she could get a signal to reach us via Google Meet. Jill connected with us to talk about what it is like to run a bilingual school library. I hadn't originally anticipated Jill's participation. While talking with the AQ attendees prior to Day 4, the topic of French collections arose. It turns out that 9 of the 15 individuals were in schools that had dual-track libraries. Andrea Sykes gave me a list of talented, experienced teacher-librarians with bilingual school library collections and Jill agreed to join us remotely. Thanks for taking time out of your vacation, Jill!

3) Peter McAsh on Thursday, July 11, 2019 (Day 6)

Peter's visit started as a joking exchange on Facebook! I mentioned my Library AQ course via a link to last week's blog and Peter offered to be a speaker despite having no experience in library. Peter DID have something to offer the group; as the president of ECOO (Education Computing Organization of Ontario), he talked about subject associations and gave us a virtual mini-tour of Teach Ontario. Peter even arranged to have a SIG (Special Interest Group) set up for us related to teacher-librarianship. (I'll post something there soon Peter; it's on my list of things to do!)

4) Tim Pedersen on Thursday, July 11, 2019 (Day 6)

Tim's virtual visit to our class was hastily arranged but so worth it. Once again, the inspiration came from the AQ participants themselves. They wondered about decisions related to the school library from the perspective of a school administrator. I reached out on Twitter, and Jennifer Brown connected us with Tim, her principal. What made this visit extra-appreciated was that Tim was actually arranging to leave the province the very next day! It took a little bit of organization behind the scenes and there was a bit of uncertainty about what this interaction would look like, but I was so delighted with how it turned out. A useful tip: if time is limited, try generating your list of questions beforehand and sending it, so that the interviewee has time to prepare thorough answers. This was also the first time Tim had used Google Meet for a virtual conference - I was really impressed with how willing Tim was to try new things.

5) Kate Johnson-McGregor on Monday, July 15, 2019 (Day 7)

Kate fulfilled many needs with her presentation to us. As a secondary teacher-librarian in a board not represented at the table (since our participants came from Toronto DSB, York Region DSB, Peel DSB and Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB), she shared with us about how we can help transition students from elementary to secondary and from secondary to post-secondary. She also talked about some of her work with Treaty Recognition Week. The audience loved Kate's infectious laugh and practical strategies for making the library inviting to all.

6) Patricia McNaughton on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 (Day 8)

Pat has been in the library during the Additional Qualification course since the beginning, but in her capacity as a dedicated volunteer and weeder. On the third-last day of the course, she wore a different hat - that of a presenter, to talk about collaborative weeding and book repair. Pat speaks from a lot of experience. She has been helping in the Agnes Macphail PS Library since 2010 and her daughter, the incomparable Kim Davidson, is also a TDSB teacher-librarian. We even got the participants to help us weed parts of the library for us!

7) James Saunders on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 (Day 8)

8) Maria Martella on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 (Day 8)

We love to experiment during our Library AQ course. (I won't mention the non-human guests.) Would it be possible to have two presentations occur simultaneously? Why not try? James Saunders represents Saunders Book Company and Maria Martella represents Tinlids. Both came to talk about the Canadian book publishing industry, supporting Canadian vendors, and school library collection development. They brought freebies and years of experience to share. 

9) Jennifer Brown on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 (Day 9)

Jennifer Brown was my only "repeat guest" from last year. It wasn't because last year's guests weren't worthy - Melanie, Michelle, Jennifer and Alanna were all fantastic but mostly unavailable during this time - but Jennifer came both as a representative of the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA) and to talk about equity in the SLLC. Jenn is a passionate speaker and loves school libraries (which is a good trait to have in our OSLA President). She stayed until after 5:00 pm chatting with some of the attendees. 

Neil, Jill, Peter, Tim, Kate, Pat, James, Maria and Jenn - thank you so much for giving your time and expertise to our group of library learners. A lot of the positive feedback revolved around having a variety of speakers and experiences to benefit from. Your presence made the course that much better. What next year holds, I have no idea!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Tackling Time in our 2019 Library AQ

I am extremely blessed to have been given another opportunity to facilitate York University's 2019 Library Additional Qualification Course, blended model. The blended model means that part of the course is run online and part of the course (just ten intense days) happens face-to-face. I am also very fortunate to be teaching the course this year in my own school library at Agnes Macphail Public School. (Last year, I taught about library in a non-library space.) It helps so much because a) I can grab a book or a resource quickly when the need arises, and b) my school is air-conditioned. I also had high hopes to actually weed my entire print collection (with the help of my uber-devoted and hard-working adult volunteer, Mrs. Pat McNaughton, mother of teacher-librarian whiz Kim Davidson) during and after the class.

[please insert hysterical laughing here]

Foolish me! Ten days is a pittance of time. It's so little and we hope to do so much. We have adult learners but that doesn't mean that we can go full-throttle without any breaks. Even breaks and "free time" are taken up with questions, clarifications, and conversations, so it's difficult to try and multi-task. So how do we maximize our time together when it is so brief?

1) Separate and Delegate

When it comes to my school library weeding project, Pat has come in to do what she can independently. Ideally, I'd like to sit side-by-side with Pat and we consult each other about the books. Our modified plan involves Pat going through the book shelves and making "delete" and "maybe-delete" piles. Pat has years of experience volunteering in school libraries, so I trust her call when it comes to the physical condition of books. If it's damaged beyond repair, or moldy, or look super-dated, or we have multiple copies of the same title, she adds it to the "delete" pile. I peek at the "maybe" pile because Pat would like me to use my teacher-librarian training to make the final call on certain books. Is it a classic that needs to stay on the shelf despite its age? Is there a certain reason why it is important to keep it? Like I said, I'd prefer to weed alongside Pat instead of asynchronistically, but I don't have much choice. Priority has to go to the course! The course itself has three sections (Part 1, 2 and Specialist) and it is like teaching a 3-grade split class. Thankfully, there are times where we separate and the different "grades"/sections will tackle a Moodle-focused task, allowing me to go between the groups for support. I also appreciate how the individuals taking the course are invested enough in the class to offer logistic solutions and then create them (forms, spreadsheets, surveys, tracking documents) for everyone's benefit, especially mine!

2) Open Flow / Fluid Scheduling

I wish there was a way we could implement this during the regular school year. York University specifies that we must have a certain number of in-person hours logged, but they don't dictate how we must arrange them. The participants and I together decide how the flow of the day will go. Do we need a morning break at 10:00 am or at 10:30 am? Is it a 5, 10, or 15 minute breather? It changes depending on the day's events, which might be trying for people who like very regular routines, but seems to be working for our 15 learners. We also use the adult learning principle of "the law of two feet" - if you have to go to the bathroom at some point, then go to the bathroom; if you have to make a phone call, then excuse yourself into the hall and make the phone call. No one has abused this privilege. Many of the participants come from far away and are taking the chance to enjoy the multicultural delicacies that Scarborough has to offer for lunch. They carpool, pre-order, and make all sorts of creative arrangements with each other so that we can feed ourselves but still ensure we have a lot of class time for learning. In teacher-librarianship, we talk about fixed schedules and flexible schedules, prep vs parallel vs partnered instruction time. Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn't have to worry about squeezing a lesson into a 40 minute period? Even though we are crammed for time in this course, we have the luxury of shaping our time much more freely than in a traditional school day.

3) Making Moments Matter (3 Field Trips!)

Another way we've maximized our time together is to bring speakers in and then take students out! I'll talk about all our guest speakers next week (in a post tentatively titled "10 days, 9 guest speakers") but this week I'll mention the 3 field trips that we've undertaken. Field trips mean time for transit, so we really need to make our time away count; thankfully, the excursions we've had have been very worthwhile.

a) MakerEdTO - July 4, 2019 (Day 2)

Who actually arranges a field trip on the second day of class? I do! MakerEdTO seems to have something for everyone. (I already wrote about MakerEdTO in detail last week.)

b) Toronto Public Library, North York Central Branch - July 10, 2019 (Day 5)

It was worth temporarily abandoning our home base to go to Yonge Street north of Sheppard Avenue. Diane Banks and Peggy Thomas shared a lot of information about the Toronto Public Library and then took us on a tour of the incredible facilities. I'm not sure what impressed us most - the Children's Area, the Fabrication Studio, or the Multimedia Studio. Our group undertook a "Tallest Freestanding Pipe Cleaner Structure" challenge and came up with many different designs!

c) Board Game Bliss - July 11, 2019 (Day 6)

It wasn't planned but was a natural next step after we had discussed games-based learning in class. "After school", half of the participants chose to follow me a short distance down the road to Board Game Bliss, a great board game store and play space. Many of us made purchases (for home and school use) and had a great time perusing the shelves for new treasures.

We only have four days left of in-person class time. The juggling act is to ensure that the participants don't feel rushed (a big facilitator no-no is announcing "Oh, we ran out of time for X" - it makes audience members feel like they are missing out and makes you as a presenter look disorganized) but also guaranteeing that no vital components of school librarianship are glossed over or missed. For some, this may be their only course showing them how to be a teacher-librarian, so we need to make every minute count.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Delivery and Reflection - 2 Different Maker Events

This is usually the time of year where I get the least amount of sleep in a four-day stretch. Two of the premiere Maker events in Ontario are scheduled for the days following shortly after Canada Day: MakerEdTO and Maker Festival Toronto. (Last year's post on that whirlwind week can be found here.) My circadian rhythms got a respite because Maker Festival Toronto did not run like it usually does in July. (You can read the explanation at However, several of the MakerFestival Toronto core team members met during the weekend we'd usually host the festival to re-group and re-imagine the possibilities. This is a brief overview of the 2019 MakerEdTO Conference and the Maker Festival Toronto Retreat.

Thursday, July 4, 2019 - MakerEdTO

My son finalized his high school volunteer hours thanks to MakerEdTO this year, so he and I headed out bright and early to The York School. He had training the night before with the fabulous Mark Zochowski (who was the subject of what I consider to be one of the best photos taken from #makeredto in 2019 - replicated below. Who gets credit for being the photographer? Was it you, Zelia?)

Everything came together so well at the end (even though it never looks like it will when you are smack-dab in the middle of planning) that on Wednesday July 3, when I was about to travel from my AQ course down to do last-minute preparations, I didn't need to because all the work was completed!

Registration went silky smooth, at least to my eyes, thanks to Larissa Aradj and Lisa Lewis. The Playground (Mark's area) was hopping constantly and kudos go to Tim Boudreau and the other volunteers (Peter Maliszewski, Andrew Li [one of my former students who is now a McGill U alumnus!] and Jacqueline Tse [a teacher friend of Teresa's]).

The keynote, Leslie McBeth, (@lesmcbeth) was inspirational. You can tell that the audience was soaking up her message by the amount of phones rising to capture a slide that captivated their minds. I heard that people really appreciated the real-life examples of student projects that she shared during her talk.

My task for the day was to check on the volunteers. This was quite easy because we didn't have many teen helpers and our organizing core team did so many extra chores. This meant I got to network, talk with some great educators, and even attend a few sessions myself! Considering how many photos I took of Peter and Andrew in action, it might have looked like I was stalking them, but I wasn't!

Peter facilitating Paper Circuits

Andrew facilitating Squishy Circuits
The schedule (found at for easy access) showed what a solid variety of offerings were available. The sessions I attended were a) Tim Cooper's session on how to capture student reflection on making, and b) the discussion group hosted by David Hann on the big questions of Maker Education. Check my tweets for a sample of the insights I gleaned from these conversations.

The prizes from the vendors were amazing! The great news was that four of my York University 2019 Summer Blended Library AQ participants won something! (I swear I had nothing to do with this!) Thank you to all the exhibitors!

The core team needs a standing ovation! Congratulations to:

David Hann (@TeacherHann)
Tim Cooper (@tcoops)
Teresa Allan (@allanteresa)
Ray Mercer (@raycmercer)
Michael Vaisman (@STEMTDSB)
Lewelyn Lee (@LewelynLee)
Sharon Moskovitz (@s_m077)
Mark Zochowski (@MarkZochowski)
Shaun Grant (@CanadaGrant)
Zelia Capato-Tavares (@ZeliaMCT)

and fervent apologies if I missed anyone!

Here are some tweets from the event:

Saturday, July 6, 2019 - Maker Festival Retreat

I won't give a lot of details about what transpired during our retreat. We stayed together at a farm near Walter's Falls, ON to reflect on the past, consider the future, and contemplate our own roles and the possibilities. Big thanks to Jen, Eric, Jounghua, Vicky, Paul and Sophie (as well as Ewan, Blake, Natalie and Elliot) for sharing your time and thoughts. Indirect thanks to Sylvia Duckworth for teaching me sketch-noting - this skill came in handy when scribing and capturing our conversations. The road trip back was longer than planned with lots of pleasant pit-stops to see Georgian Bay and visit farmers' markets. I can only share a couple of the photos with just me, since I didn't obtain people's permissions.