Thursday, September 27, 2012

A book challenge to celebrate Banned Book Week!

Perks of Being a Wallflower, (Chbosky) has been used in our 11th grade classes for years but two challenges this semester, this week, may drive it from the curriculum.

I am a strong supporter of parental involvement in student access to media of all kinds and of student awareness of the potential content of books, movies, songs and games they consume.  I believe teachers, even more than librarians, need to consider the content and tone of media assigned in their classes.  And yes, librarians should build collections to meet the needs of their audience, BUT . . . . .

While librarians should focus on their audience, the goal should not be to stifle, but to enlighten and expand.  For every book there is a reader and for every reader, a book.   In every audience there are varied interests and needs.  Inevitably, to support the interests or needs of one group will eventually offend another.  While librarians should attempt to fill shelves with books that will speak to all segments of our readership and even stretch beyond the limits where feasible, we should also be aware and sympathetic to the limitations and expectations of those readers we assist or guide in selection.

In the video below, John Green suggests that more often than not, what people find offensive in books is exactly what the book is actually arguing against.  I find this and the comments and Banned Book Choices of others being interviewed in this promotion for the BBW Virtual Read Out very interesting.

So, what are my thoughts about the challenges to Perks?  It has been a long time since I read the book.  I don't remember it being offensive beyond any literature that has been taught in schools for years.  That said, if a parent or student truly finds it offensive, I tend to support the opportunity to choose an alternate text.  I do wonder, in saying this, how those same parents and students react to discussions and readings in health classes or even social studies.  Luckily, it is not my job to guide people's thoughts or beliefs, but only to provide them with books that they can connect with in a way that others can also find books that fill their needs.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why do we bother with library orientation?

OK, I understand not everyone will agree with me, but really, why?

I'm not talking about elementary school or about real library orientations ... where stuff is, how to access it, who the staff is, what we can do to help.  I'd even like to pursue a little "shocker" lesson to earn students' attention - something to display either, how little the majority of our students know about research, or how we are able to help.

What I am tired of, at the high school and possibly even middle school level, is the multitude of creative and not so creative ways we try to re-package and push "library rules" down our student's throats.  They got the same basic list of rules every year in elementary school.  Perhaps students listened to them then and, developmentally, probably needed to learn in this way.  They get the same basic list of rules from every teacher in every grade the first few days of school and probably from a principal within the first week or two.  I am not so naive as to believe that every teacher has the same expectations but the tone for the school should be set before most of us get an opportunity to do library orientations.

Are we really asking for anything more than common respect in the library? Respect toward others, respect for materials, equipment and the common space, respect for ourselves, and student respect for themselves . . .  If we are asking for more than this, is it really necessary?  More importantly, if our focus on rules, regulations and punishments lasts more than ten minutes, is there any evidence that students will adhere to the standards any more carefully?  Is it possible that excessive discussion about rules, fines and punishments actually deters visits to the library or even provokes inappropriate behaviors among a larger set of students?

I have not done my research on this topic.  No literature review, no combing of the Web or other blogs.  Perhaps I am out of line.  But, in my humble opinion (IMHO to the text savvy), if I expect students to respect me and my space, I need to begin by respecting them!  I need to assume they have a basic understanding of library expectations and, with minimal review and appropriate delivery, they will act appropriately.

What is appropriate delivery and will this really work?  It certainly will not work all of the time.  But then again, reviewing the rules ad nauseum doesn't work all of the time either.  Appropriate delivery?  It definitely begins with respect and modeling appropriate behaviors.  Perhaps a bill of rights that indicates things that are allowed and expectations / responsibilities?  Perhaps a short list posted discreetly around the library and handed out on library orientation day, but overshadowed by the really interesting "shocker" lesson discussed above.

I did not do my homework.  Please help by commenting your feelings regarding library orientations, alternative options, or perhaps suggestions for that "shocker" lesson.  Feel free to post also if you think I am off my rocker and traditional conduct and procedure orientations are still necessary at the high school level.  Please let me know what you think!  Thanks, in advance for feedback!

How Google Works!

So . . . I'm taking the Power Searching with Google certificate course.  Hoping to learn a few tricks and really hoping to pick up a better vocabulary and teaching method to describe the tricks I already know and use.  Right out of the shoot, in lesson one, I am very excited about the video by Matt Cutts, engineer in the quality group at Google, who describes how spiders and page ranking lead to the results we see.

It is an "unlisted video" on YouTube, and as such, am not sure if they will let me re-post, but until they tell me I can't, hope it will stay here for my future reference as a teacher and dedicated Google searcher.  I hope it is helpful to others as well!