Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Day with Sharon Draper

“One series of notes, high and delicate, sang of a sweet moonlight kiss gone sour; another line of music rippled with regret over opportunities forever lost.” ― Sharon M. DraperThe Battle of Jericho

Students at Central Freshman Academy in Phenix City, AL are required to read "We Beat The Streets" written by Sharon Draper.  

Booklist (April 1, 2005 (Vol. 101, No. 15) Gr. 7-10. "What started out as three boys skipping class turned out to be the most significant experience of our lives," says George Jenkins, who, together with Sampson Davis and Rameck Hunt, made a teenage pact to leave their impoverished New Jersey neighborhood, attend medical school, and become doctors. Author Sharon Draper helped shape chapters, written in the third person, describing each doctor's challenging childhood experiences, including a parent's drug addiction, forays into crime, and succeeding in an environment that made "failing equal to being cool." Following each story, passages written in the doctors' own words offer advice and strategies, and acknowledge the help received along the way. This information is directed straight to young people growing up in similar circumstances, but all readers will be riveted by the profoundly inspirational stories and personal, intimate voices that frankly discuss big mistakes and complicated emotions, including "survivor guilt" for choosing a different path from friends and family. 

After reading "We Beat The Streets", students were eager to read more books by Sharon Draper and other authors who appealed to their love of realistic fiction.  Picking up on this opportunity to expand learning, my former co-librarian, Gabriella DuBose, and one of her coworkers, Patti Laundaeu worked  most of the 2011-2012 school year to get author Sharon Draper to visit Central Freshman Academy to keep the excitement in students towards reading alive. 

Sharon Draper receives more than 300 requests to visit schools each year.  Getting a visit from this amazing author is close to winning the lottery.  Central Freshman Academy convinced Dr. Draper to visit and was not disappointed. 

I meet Sharon Draper in Gabriella's library at the Central Freshman Academy while she waited to be lead to the gymnasium where she would address the whole student body.  This may seem like a daunting feat for many, but to 30+ years veteran educator and National Teacher of the Year, Sharon Draper, it was just a large classroom.  

Sharon Draper mesmerizer students as she cleverly shared her books through role playing the stories with student volunteers playing the book characters. Can you imagine a gym full of 9th graders quiet, attentive, and completely enthralled with a speaker?!  It was a site to behold a master educator working her magic with these students.  The local media even featured Dr. Draper's visit on the main evening news.

After lunch, Sharon Draper meet with a small group of students (about 40) to discuss more about her books, reading and writing.  

One of my favorite quotes from Sharon Draper came as students asked her about other authors/books.  "Some books are corn flakes and others are gourmet steak dinners.  You need to consume a healthy balance".  The subject of race and the characters in Sharon Draper's books was brought up during this small group meeting.  Dr. Draper said that she didn't write books with race in mind, stating, "The race of a character is not important in a story, the peer pressure, trials and tribulations a character deals with is what is important". 

Spending the day with Sharon Draper was special treat.  A big thank you to Gabriella for inviting me to her school to share in this great experience.  Thank you to Sharon Draper for being so "real".  It was truly an honor to meet such a great author and an even more amazing educator.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

EdCamp Birmingham-The Best Just Gets Better!

I looked forward all year to EdCamp Birmingham.  As soon as tickets were available I got mine, and it's a good thing I did since they sold out fast!  Many EdCamp events into their second & third years sold out this year as well. Why?  Because EdCamp events are the most inspiring, energizing, creative, innovative professional development unconference you will ever attend.  It will be THE professional development you will eagerly wait in anticipation until it comes your way again.

EdCamp Birmingham was hosted this year at Trace Crossings Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama. Members of the EdCamp Birmingham team greeted us at the door with an incredibly easy sign in procedure using an iPad and EventBrite. Student ambassadors provided attendees with name badges and bags containing sponsor and EdCamp Birmingham event information.

The EdCamp Birmingham team provided attendees with a breakfast treat of coffee from Starbucks and bagels from Panera.  It was awesome to see old friends from the first EdCamp Birmingham event and exciting to meet new twitter friends face to face.  While enjoying breakfast we were oriented to how EdCamp events work, where to find the session board, how to add sessions to the session board and other housekeeping information.

The first session I attended was "Love It! Hate It!"  In this session participants are presented with an educational topic like tenure, homework, charter schools, etc. and asked to move to the side of the room with a smiley face on the wall if you Love It, to the side of the room with a sad face if you Hate It or to the middle of the room if you are "riding the fence" on the subject.  Then each group has a minute or two to discuss why they choose the side they are on.

Lunch was delicious, fun and informative.  Besides great food, lunchtime is when my very favorite part of EdCamp happens...the SmackDown!  During this time any attendee can come to the computer to share with the group an app or website that they have used that has been beneficial in their classroom. Here is a link to the EdCamp Birmingham's SmackDown:

After lunch I attended another fun session about Photoblogging.  We learned several ways to blog easily with our students using photoblogging apps.

Before I even realized it all the sessions were over and I was having to say goodbye to friends new and old.  The nice thing about EdCamp is that the connections and the learning never really stops.  Since EdCamp Birmingham I have continued to learn from attendees on Twitter as they share their knowledge and exciting new educational finds.

I guess the overall reason I love attending EdCamp events is because the educators who attend these events are passionate about learning and are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to provide the best education for their students.  These people invigorate me to continue to keep learning and moving forward as well.

Not sure where to find an EdCamp event?  Click this link to see when an EdCamp event is coming near your town:

If you are near the Atlanta area be sure to attend the first EdCamp Atlanta event on September 8, 2012.  I love EdCamp events so much I just had to bring this unique experience to the Atlanta area!  You can check out the fun planned for EdCamp Atlanta here:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ASLA Twitter Chat Session May 8, 2012

A tie vote resulted in a quick discussion on the topics: 
Censorship and Open Educational Resources

Like many of our monthly ASLA Twitter Chat Sessions enough is gained from a session to wet the appetite to delve further into the subject matter after the session has concluded.  The face of education today is changing rapidly as is the role of school librarians.  More than ever, school librarians are (or should be) the leaders to which administration and teachers alike look to for guidance, after all, we are the information specialists in our schools!

Censorship, especially in regards to banned books is a topic all school librarians deal with on one level or another.  Some challenges and censorship make headlines while others may simply be through conscious or unconscious self censorship when ordering and or displaying books, periodicals, and other materials.  The book, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America's Libraries (, depicts stories from school librarians who have dealt with censorship issues.  In the book one librarian shares how during Banned Book Week she wore a "I Read Banned Books" t shirt to work and was sent home by her principal to change her shirt to something appropriate.

I think Deven Black, a middle school teacher-librarian from New York City expressed how I feel quite well:

One of our own Alabama librarians stated during the chat that she has faced challenges every school year but has been fortunate the process has never gone too far due to their challenged materials policy that is in place and followed.  

If you do experience a censorship issue in your school library please be sure to report it through the American Library Associations Online Challenge Form:

I'd Like to Find the *BLEEP* is a cute video about censorship:

One time I attended a library conference session in which the presenter proceeded to tell us how she refuses to order books for LGBT students because "we don't need that filth in our high school".  This type of self censorship should be closely examined.  As librarians, we are here to serve the needs of all, not just those that correspond to our personal and/or religious beliefs.  In fact, our personal and religious beliefs should have nothing to do with the selection of books and other materials purchased for our libraries.  

(stepping off my soapbox now)

Let's move on along to our next topic of conversation:

Open Educational Resources or OERs:
OERs are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assign., quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations.  OERs can come in the form of online museums, lectures, podcasts & videos, media, online networks, libraries, archives & reference.

Before I began investigating blogs and other librarian sites for current topic trends for the ASLA Twitter Chat vote I didn't know very much regarding OERs and the role school librarians play in the curation of these materials. Once I learned more about OERs the more I realized that for school librarians it is the modern equivalent to the vertical file (remember those!).

OERs & Information Literacy go hand in hand with each other:  Not quite sure what an OER is?  Perhaps one of the most known OERs is HippoCampus, Khan Academy, Curriki, TED, and Thinkfinity are just a few examples of OERs. (,,,,

I think many school librarians are already curating/bookmarking/pinning OERs for their teachers and students already, they may just not have known the new fangled jargon identifying it.

Here are several other sites with links to OERs:

As you delve deeper into exploring either or both of these topics, please be sure to share what you find out on Twitter using the hashtag: #aslachat.

A special thank you goes out to our librarian and Instructional Technology teachers from Madison City Schools: 
Gina Ashley (@gashleylms), Sandy Brand (@MCSTechCoach), and Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan).

Also thank you to those who joined the conversation from other states, re tweeted, favorited and added to the conversation after the session was over: 
Deven Black (@devenkblack) a middle grades teacher librarian from New York City, Jean Jaudon (@jean_jaudon) from Auburn, AL with Lee Scott Academy, Karen Tisdale (@irmoreader) a high school librarian from South Carolina, Jen Meyer Wells (@madamewells) a Jr. High School Librarian from Indiana, Kathleen M. Thomas (@KMThomas) a retired high school librarian from Wisconsin, Kathy Dawson Shields (@KathyDShields) an elementary school teacher from Georgia, and Donna Baumbach (@AuntyTech) a retired educator from North Carolina.