Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010 - Define Appropriate

Procrastination can really bite you in the behind sometimes. During Library Camp OTF this summer, we had an incredible presenter, Karen Beulter, talk to the group about interactive whiteboard technology. The presentation itself was awesome, as she modeled a three-part congress lesson structure and incorporated differentiated instruction in her tasks. (For those of you who are not teachers, please forgive the edu-babble.) Back then, I planned to create a spectacular Smartboard file on something very practical for teacher-librarians: a lesson on how to choose appropriate books for themselves. Fast forward two months and here I sit, the night before I want to actually teach the lesson, and not only is the file uncreated, I can no longer find the notes I scribbled with the plans of how to craft it.

The thing is, I won't be able to just whip it up in 15 minutes. There are no manuals for me to refer to. Teachers and teacher-librarians are always using the word "appropriate" - "that's not appropriate language for school" / "was that an appropriate response?" / "make sure you choose an appropriate book" - but do we ever take the time to go over what appropriate means? It's so much more than an age rating on the back of a book or the presence/absence of a swear word. Appropriateness in choosing a book depends on the individual as well as the context - there are many books that are appropriate for me to read by myself that I'd never read aloud, such as the Larissa Ione series my good friend lent to me. I'm also concerned about condemning books that may deal with sensitive or mature subject matter - my friend Rum's blog dealt with banned books this past week and many of the groups that complained about certain titles felt that the content was inappropriate, yet many of these touchy issues shouldn't be swept under the carpet. I want my students to develop an inner thermometer, so that they can judge for themselves if a book is beyond their current stage of reading comprehension, social development, or maturity. With my graphic novel collection, I do have age limits set, but I know that sometimes I have to make exceptions to those rules, to ensure a boy that dislikes reading isn't turned off forever, or to challenge a reader that has read everything we have and can handle some scenes different from those read previously.

October is National Library Month in Canada. During the month, I'll be tweeting the responses my students made to my September question: what is our school library most like? While I post answers from them, I'll be wrestling with a new question of my own: how can I define appropriateness in a way that encourages individual judgment, reflective thought, and responsible choices?

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