Monday, October 15, 2012

The director is coming! The director is coming!

Next Monday, our board's director of education will be visiting my school. At our admin team meeting, I asked if there was anything special we needed to do to prepare for his arrival. My principal reassured me that we should just be who we usually are and not do anything out of the ordinary. He said he did not want to turn the director's tour into "a dog and pony show".

I agree with and understand my principal's position but it's difficult not to pull out all the stops when special guests enter the school. When I had my last Teacher Performance Appraisal (TPA), I arranged for my last principal to see the culminating task for one of my favourite collaboratively taught units - the NADCAA auction after our Grade 4 research study on Canada's natural resources. Although it is not necessarily indicative of the type of daily activities I undertake, it is a better observation of what my students are capable of as learners and what I am capable of as an instructor/facilitator.

I realize that he will only be in the building for an hour or so and it's not a TPA scenario, but I thought I'd list three things I wish my director could see in my school library.

1) My Primary classes working on their TV shows

The folders contain our related media texts.
I teach media literacy to all the K-4 classes. The Grade 1-4 students have been working on creating a TV show that we plan on posting to YouTube. The purpose (or main message) of our shows is to teach viewers a simple definition of media. This unit was inspired by Colin McCauley (@cmcauley on Twitter) who asked me if my action-filled definition was available in video form. The students and I have realized that it takes a large group of people a pretty long time to produce a TV show. They've also realized how crucial writing is - we could not begin anything until we had a script in hand and this script (along with the directors'/producer's vision) guides the various decisions that must be made with everything from wardrobe choices to camera angles. Each group selected a different method of filming their TV show, and we are now at the exciting phase where the groups are preparing to film. For instance, on Friday, the wardrobe, makeup, and prop departments for a Grade 2-3 class were busy creating Media Man's logo for his superhero suit and spikes for Bowser's shell, while I helped the camera crew, directors, and actors in the same class practice their scenes. I'm delighted when I hear the students say "Is it media time? I looooove media class!" I hope my director could see the level of engagement and teamwork.

2) My students using Minecraft

One of the classes that have media with me chose to use Minecraft as the vehicle for their production. I had some trouble with opening the LAN so the students could build the sets needed for the show and one day, a recent graduate came by to volunteer. He showed me how to get the LAN connection to work and changed all the character skins to match the requirements of the screenwriters and wardrobe crew. Word must have spread because the next day, three of our former Minecraft Club members that are now in Grade 9 were waiting after school to see if I needed any Minecraft-related "help". Although Minecraft Club is "paused" right now, I wish the director could see the incredible creations our students build while in Minecraft.

Technascribe built this medieval church in our GamingEdus server.
3) Book Selection during Book Exchange

Book exchange is often boring to watch. I tell my students that if we only did book exchange during our library time without lessons, then they wouldn't need a teacher-librarian with the training I have. However, there are times where it would be lovely to have people witness what occurs during some book exchanges. Public librarians call some of these moments "Reader Advisory" - that time when someone approaches and asks for a recommendation. Then there's the conversations that occur about how to find desired books (which often lead to individual review lessons on the online catalogue) or on whether or not students are permitted to borrow certain books (which they then reference the strategies list for selecting books on a semi-permanent bulletin board). These kinds of interactions happen when I have a library assistant or one of my adult volunteers manning the circulation desk, leaving me free to circulate myself and be available. I wish that the new shelving unit we ordered for our graphic novels would be there for his visit, to showcase the great collection of comics we own - I suspect we have the largest collection of graphic novels in any elementary school in our board (and this wasn't noticed by the team that conducted our District Review, to my chagrin) - but maybe seeing the students rush to this area, cobbled together with tables and metal stands, will show that our school still has needs as well as successes to share.

I've been working with my students on articulating what and why they are learning, related to our division inquiry questions (on control for primaries, truth for juniors, and success for intermediates). We'll see how it goes next Monday.


  1. Have you seen The Media Literacy Clearinghouse?
    Great resources for teaching visual and media literacy and I conduct prof development workshops with educators.

  2. Frank, thanks for the new link. Here in Canada, we also have Media literacy is a very important subject, for sure!