Posted in Back to School, Covid 19 Teach-from-home!, perserverance, traditional topics, non-traditional teaching

Back to School: Planning with uncertainty

Like you, I watched the Mead district webinars explaining the process of coming back to school in person. I can tell you the level of “unknowns” inherent in the start of this school year is very uncomfortable for teachers. Many of us are major planners, after all. I am a little less regimented than some classroom teachers and open to improvising, but I’m still uncertain (and worried) about how the library will be used–will it be converted to a classroom because of its more generous dimensions? Will I be going room to room to deliver library lessons? Is this a greater risk of cross-contamination? Will I teach my usual concepts or create new ones based on the last six months? How can we possibly pretend our world is the same as it was last year?

My favorite article addressing the “should we or shouldn’t we” open schools debate was written by Spokesman Review columnist (and book author) Shawn Vestal. This was written three weeks ago, before Mead had made the difficult decision to open in person. (The day the article came out, the number of cases in Spokane county was 3,884. Today, it’s 4,956. Source http://www.srhd.org)

Here’s an excerpt:

Reopen. We have to. However: Are you nuts? Kids are going to wear masks? All day long? Stay 6 feet apart? Even when no one’s watching? Have you met kids? For every age level, from kindergarten to senior year to undergrads, this vision of a rigorously compliant student body is a fantasy. The district has been put in an impossible position. There is pressure to open, and there is pressure not to open; there is the idiot fury of the anti-masker cohort and threats to defund the schools from the president; there is a daily rise in cases and a growing recognition among political leaders that we may have to backpedal on reopening the economy; there is contradictory and evolving science; there are incompatible demands at every turn. We’re laying it all at the door of the schools.

Of course we all want to return to school to see friends and engage in class activities. I miss my library and students so much! And parents want to see their kids in a normal school setting, but it’s definitely not the normal we are all used to. One of my former colleagues who had the CUTEST themes to her classroom every school year has pared down nearly all her decor, ditched her desk and bookshelves, and now it looks like this:

new room
Back to basics! Like the olden days, but even further apart. No one can pass notes without being seen, that’s for sure! Oh, wait, do kids pass notes anymore?

I mean, of course it will function, and the same level of love and academic rigor will be present, but so will the anxiety about “What if…? For all of us.

In times of stress, I count on satire, and this article by Kara Foster from humor website http://www.mcsweeneys.net lets you laugh heartily at the difficult-to-solve issue of schools in a pandemic.

“…Hybrid learning, mixing constant fear with a dollop of logistical chaos
.. Remote learning, marrying logistical chaos with the cold cloak of devastating isolation..”

Seriously, though, we–teachers, specialists and administrators, are working every day to come up with Plans A, B and C for all the what-ifs when can imagine…which hopefully is a comfort for you.

So here’s what I have been doing during the uncertainty (and my continued snacking and subsequent weight gain) : Shopping for cute masks. How many cloth masks can I justify buying? One for every color scheme? Look how many cute options there are for librarians!!

Librarian masks
So cute, but do I NEED it?

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HA HA HA sorry but it is so Grinch. And also all of us for the last six months. Really getting cozy with our inner Grinch

BTW you should all be having your students practice wearing their masks every day. We put this graphic up on our social media sites, and it’s becoming more and more urgent. It will become very tedious and difficult for children to keep masks on all day, and this will help: covid graphic

I have a friend who works in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) which is one of the most sanitary places on earth (teeny babies are the most fragile patients) who showed me these shields. There is a preference to wear masks but for those of you who just truly believe your child CAN’T keep a mask on, consider these: And add a neck drape to make the contamination less likely. This is a new requirement from the district for those who choose to go with shields.


For those families who choose to learn remotely, don’t worry! I have a plans for lessons and I promise to have engaging and fun content and activities.  I am so thankful that our district has agreed to fund a paid version of Seesaw, which families used so well during the spring. While people talk about the shortcomings of our remote learning, I will say we created some primary-aged video superstars who loved posting video content like animal reports and read alouds.

We are still sorting it all out, and this whole situation will make such a good book later. Which I will read to everyone with expression! I should proably be writing this book, but I’m so busy with (snacking and) mask buying…

Posted in Award Winning Books, Freedom to read, Reading and Library Advocacy

20/20 Vision. Hindsight 20/20. Other clever uses of 2020.

This isn’t the topic of this post but I really am made crazy by outdated blog posts and I totally have this affliction! I maintain the timeliness of our school website but not so much this one. Here is a newsletter I sent to the staff that talks about what we have been doing and plans to do up until Spring 2020. Library 2020 newsletter (1) But AAHH that has outdated stuff too! Let’s just post photos from our wonderful “Cozy Up to Reading” event last week.

What a lovely evening of reading, reader’s theater, wonderful guest readers and starstruck Elsa fans. My daughters had to wait two hours in line to meet a Disney princess at Disneyland!

Thank you to the Mt. Spokane softball and basketball players who read with EXPRESSION, and the Spokane County Library District for sharing about your important services and programs, and our generous, supportive PTO for financial and creative help transforming our hallways into winter magic! ❄️ Plus a hot cocoa bar that was Ned Flanders-esque


Posted in Back to School, Covid 19 Teach-from-home!, Empathy, Equity, perserverance, traditional topics, non-traditional teaching

Distance Learning: 16 Practical Tips for Parents and Caregivers 💻

I was going to copy and paste a bunch of excerpts from this blog entry, but it is great just the way it is: Thoughtfully written with a goal of school to home partnerships in mind.

In this wonderful post, taken from the “Teachers Pay Teachers” website, homeschoolers and teacher-parents share their tips for parents and caregivers who are supporting distance learning. ⬇️

Source: Distance Learning: 16 Practical Tips for Parents and Caregivers Supporting At-Home Learning | The TpT Blog

Posted in Award Winning Books, Diversity, Empathy, Equity, Freedom to read, Reading and Library Advocacy

Thoughtful Conversations About Race

I was in my library checking in books, gloved and masked, and it occurred to me that I should take some action to help create conversations about why the current protests are happening. I am not qualified to lead any conversations about how to rectify hundreds of years of oppression. But I am qualified to recommend books written by those more qualified to do so. I believe, like most librarians, that the most powerful way to connect, is through reading the stories and insights of those who we seek to understand.

Here are a few lines from the American Library Association’s “Freedom to Read” Statement:

“Now as always in our history, reading is among our greatest freedoms. The freedom to read and write is almost the only means for making generally available ideas or manners of expression that can initially command only a small audience. The written word is the natural medium for the new idea and the untried voice from which come the original contributions to social growth. It is essential to the extended discussion that serious thought requires, and to the accumulation of knowledge and ideas into organized collections.”

“It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.”

Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. “

YAY rebels! When I read this in librarian school (getting my Library Media certification) I was like “OH! Libraries are part of social justice!” It all clicked.  So, yeah, we have conversations about empathy

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and diversity very often in the library, and I hope that reading some of these recommended books will help you to have them, too. Reading is exploring another person’s experiences and the most natural path to empathy and understanding that there is.

This New York Times article and the list is awesome. We have several of these books in the Midway library.

And here’s some more I compiled from different resources.

  • “Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester
  • The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz
  • “The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism” by Pat Thomas
  • Sesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” by Bobbi Jane Kates
  • “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
  • “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers
  • “Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia
  • “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes
  • “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” by Jennifer Harvey
  • “Daddy Why Am I Brown?: A healthy conversation about skin color and family” by Bedford F. Palmer
  • “A Terrible Thing Happened” by Margaret Holmes
  • “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi

List of books for adults: (teen +)

  • The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
  • “All-American Boys” By
  • “Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson
  • “This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work” by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand
  • “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
  • “Dear White People” by Justin Simien
  • “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
  • “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi Jason Reynolds is a very important voice in children’s literature right now. 
  • “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
  • “Raising White Kids” by Jennifer Harvey
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
  • “The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement” by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
  • “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson This movie (based on the book) is offered FREE on all platforms through the month of June. It’s very well done and stars Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. 
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson (this one is LONG. I haven’t finished it but I’m not giving up! )
  • “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement” by Wesley Lowery
  • “Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That The Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall
  • “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by bell hooks
  • “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People” by Ben Crump
  • “From Slavery To Freedom: A History of African Americans” by John Hope Franklin
  • “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and William Barber II
  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
Posted in Covid 19 Teach-from-home!, Trending technology

What goes viral during a viral pandemic

My own teenagers have been trying for years to educate me about 1. What memes are 2. Why memes are not just funny graphics that my mom friends made and 3. Whether still photos with words that are viral are memes or if jokes/images need to go viral to be considered memes. I still am not clear. However, watching what types of images are being shared across all social media platforms during this massive pandemic-forced uptick in online use is fascinating.

I gravitate toward animals-doing-human things, stressed-out mScreen Shot 2020-03-31 at 10.53.37 PMom humor, or anything relating to Harry Potter (as long as the content is true to the spirit of the franchise and not hacky) and elementary teaching. 

And I have to admit, I actually attempted to make my own talking cat video go “viral” because I believed it was just as funny as Pluto the Schnauzer. The problem is, I don’t have enough followers, mostly because I don’t know how to do it. And it was no longer NOVEL once the dog happened. In the 1990’s, I came up with an antidote for the sappy “Chicken Soup for the Soul” collections that I would call “Cold Chicken Broth for the Soulless.” I’d gone as far as lining up a few actual writers to talk about absolutely awful people and things that had happened to them. A few weeks later I saw a low-rent paperback called “Chicken Poop for the Soul”  in Hastings book store and I knew my own idea had been quickly executed by someone who already knew the steps and head taken them. The novelty was gone.

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I read this article about how and why graphics and images go “viral.” The largest reason something goes viral is if it is a popular opinion someone has figured out how to express in a new/novel way. This is the same draw people have to good stand up comedians. A shared surprise laugh is cathartic.

But despite knowing what people respond to, it doesn’t mean you have “IT” –the thing that will motivate others to share your ideas. Visual Capitalist says  “…widely-shared articles, infographics, and videos tend to pique our curiosity, or they hit us with powerful “a-ha” moments,” but it’s not always the ones you think will.

I am a fan of gallows humor, but during a time where massive numbers of people are dying all over the planet, it’s too soon to make certain jokes. Anything directly citing the countries hit hardest by Corona/Covid is not ok.


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Above? Not funny. Too soon. Borderline racist, def. culturally insensitive. At right? YES. Hilarious  It’s a tired mom joke.



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These two Covid-adjacent memes are successful because they are relatable: We all did this with the stupid toilet paper and no one can go a whole day without a “Friends” reference. And there was collective mourning about the cancellation of TV sports.

The Titanic image has been used in several memes, but this version is showing up on teachers’ social media feeds..usually in private messages, where I received mine. It may not be too soon to make Titanic jokes, but it’s too soon to merge a Titanic joke with a still-developing deadly health crisis. HFullSizeRenderowever, I think this meme is less about the tragedy and more about the futility of the violinists. Teachers–and particularly teachers of elective classes–are trying to work full-time (how do we teach kids without kids to teach?!) by creating core-curriculum-focused, multi-sensory projects and assignments and furiously sending links through multiple technology platforms (the modern-day equivalent of sending messages in bottles) while simultaneously realizing there are bigger problems for some students’ families than academic gaps. They are grappling with job loss, food shortage, lack of childcare and other financial constraints. We know this, and we are still playing. We will always play. 

And I guess that is all I really have to point out; that people are dependent on content, as always, and the content is simple and lightly produced (Kimmell and Fallon are using child-created crayon graphics) and there is a science to finding THE thing that will connect to thousands of people in a short amount of time. Sadly, It isn’t my own cat video. Or my book reading videos. Or my posts about free content. But I’ll keep creating, just as the violinists kept playing.

Posted in Award Winning Books, Covid 19 Teach-from-home!, perserverance, traditional topics, non-traditional teaching, Trending technology, writing

“Isolated and together,” Preventive closures, day 1

“Let’s find a way to be isolated, and together at the same time,” says Mo Willems, who is the number one author for grades pre-school-2. Mostly because of his Elephant and Piggie, and Pigeon franchise.Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.17.24 AM

Out of new, strange necessity, Mr. Willems decided to create a new live program: “Lunchtime Doodles with Mo Willems”  to keep kids creative and engaged (with

Graphic from Mo Willems Lunchtime Doodles
Lunchtime Doodles with Mo Willems


something other than Netflix, Disney+ and video games). He teaches how to doodle and he is a silly man (who is just so likable!!) and like many authors and people whose job it is to be public figures, not able to be in the public right now, so….enjoy him and enjoy whatever time you can get your kids to spend with him, and YOU.

Speaking of GETTING kids to SPEND time, I have to say I was both inspired by a colleague’s schedule she created for her kids (It’s AMAZING!)90240069_10219158019873950_531948265298460672_n (1)

and shamed by the fact that I not only A. Failed to create such a schedule, and B. know that if I proposed such a schedule my own teenagers would laugh in my face and not be interested in hearing me read aloud, even! But I DO DIFFERENT VOICES, I’d plead again. “Yes, mom, we know. It’s awkward.”

“Well, my students love it!” I mean, most of them, I think.

Anyway, please be easy on yourselves if you have no such rigorous plan. Do what you can, and please check on Google Classroom. I’ll be posting an instructional video to do so, as well as other lessons and reading ideas. Here’s our district-wide set of suggestions for tech, reading and STEM activities for now.



Posted in Digital Citizenship, Media Literacy, Netiquette, Technology Expectations, Trending technology

Media Literacy

Media Literacy is a 21st-century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.” ~ Center for Media Literacy 

This video below (starring Joey Papa, who I didn’t previously know, but now respect) is short, compelling and starts the conversation I’m having this week (and, really, I touch on the topic weekly, be it with discussions of literature, digital citizenship, or online safety. 

What IS Media Literacy?

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“Media literacy is the ability to ACCESSANALYZEEVALUATE,  CREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication. In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing. Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.” ~ NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education)

Here are a few slides from the Media Literacy lesson I’m presenting with the 4th and 5th graders.


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Slide from class presentation

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Another slide from class presentation

“Media Literacy describes the act of being capable of handling different forms of media and being competent, critical and literate.” ~ Urban Dictionary (Defined with no swears! That’s pretty rare, actually!)

If you want to go deeper into the myriad elements of “media literacy” here is the CML’s “glossary.”




Posted in Best Books, Reading and Library Advocacy, Scholastic Book Fair

Arctic Adventure Book Fair!

IMG_6182You know librarians are some of the most likely people to hoard books? That’s why it’s a delight when we get to host temporary book stores in our libraries. They’re the beloved Scholastic Book Fairs!

book fair 3I happen to be fortunate enough to have a school/neighborhood parent who LOVES putting on the book fair. And I mean PUT ON from the beginning; concept to Pinterest board posting to decoration to volunteer acquisition. The decor is extravagant and detailed and color coordinated and I keep it around for months after the sale.

The community shows up for their students, particularly during the Grandparents Day, which was yesterday and I manage the website and social media account so I get to take all kinds of photos. The sight of an older person leaning over to gently lead, or be led by their grandchild IMG_6235is beautiful.

The Scholastic Book Fair has so many great deals on paperback books, and an equal number of sparkly overpriced journals that draw the attention of young customers…particularly the young girls, and I work to divert the kids from the junk corner. I tell the kids to expect the items to last from 2 days to two weeks. I am constantly working to promote reading so why would that change in what is essentially a book store. I actually told one of my students today “I will not let you buy this chocolate calculator. ”

I already heard the complaints of a student who bought the mini chocolate calculator: “It doesn’t smell like chocolate, the keys are too small and it was overpriced.”

‘Yes,” I agreed, “that is a bummer.” You don’t go to a seafood restaurant and order spaghetti and meatballs. You don’t go to a book fair and buy cute office supplies.

IMG_6230Anyway, it’s been fun and I’ve been teaching outside of the library and leaving my water and laptop and books behind in random classrooms but it’s all worth it!! Thank you to Angela Wolverston for all of her time and creativity and time and more time and her n=husband who dressed up as Dogman and ran into walls and couldn’t fit through doorways. AND THANK YOU, FAMILIES, for coming! And getting books into children’s excited hands!


The book fair is usually the largest source of income for the library but during this budget shortfall year, it is the only one!

Happy New (School) Year!

schools first day of school
This picture book is WONDERFUL! By  Adam Rex, the award-winning illustrator of The Day the Crayons Quit. 

The Midway Sharks are a little younger this year, which means more malleable minds with which to develop a lifetime love of reading! Because our sixth graders moved to the Sixth Grade Center, we had extra classrooms which now house active, curious kindergarten and first graders! While it is more challenging to teach first graders how to sign in to Chromebooks (picture the GIF below, but a 6-year-old version.) it is delightful to hear them giggle and watch them marvel listening to a thoughtful, funny and rich picture book. (PS Reading aloud with different voices 

computer rageis my favorite thing in the WORLD) We are learning how to hold, identify, categorize and generally take care of books and electronics, as well as take care of our classmates and communities by being good citizens in real life and online. Digital Citizenship is the main guideline for 4th grade, but I begin to touch on it early, as all of our young students now have access to online devices.

dig cits

We are beginning to promote the upcoming book fair, which begins September 30. The book fairs are always very successful community events because our families value books, have a positive background with literacy and are engaged in their students’ activities and interests. And we all love a fun community event!  As we did last year, our Grandparents morning celebration will coincide with the book fair this year, also, on Wednesday, October 1. Thank you for your support and partnership in raising readers and thoughtful digital citizens.

Arctic Adventure Book Fair
Coming to Midway September 30-October 3 (with a last-minute grab before school on Friday, Oct 4)


Posted in traditional topics, non-traditional teaching, Trending technology

Fakebook Projects

The culminating projects for our fifth and sixth graders are the “Historical Figures” Fakebook pages. It is the favorite thing I do all year, and I actually hadn’t done it in two years! The premise, for the sixth graders, is to choose a character from ancient civilization already studied in their social studies classes, and create a pretend Facebook profile for that character (as if they are that character) and the fifth graders have the same challenge, just with an American from the colonial era who either lived, or is  made up but has connections to legitimate historical figures.

Here was a summary of the directions.

Create Fakebook friends that your ancient civilization character or deity comes in contact with. You can post what kind of interaction the character has with those “friends”; You can even have the antagonist be a friend and leave comments or make reference to major events and conflicts they share

The basis for my pet project was first purchased from “Room 119 Language Arts and Social Studies” on Teachers Pay Teachers, then from “Make History Fun” which gave me an adaptable google slides-based copy for the rough draft. We then used the “Classtools” website and the “Fakebook” link to create the Final projects. We also took inspiration from “We Hold these Tweets to be self-evident” There are some quirks with the fantastic but also free “Classtools” website which involve having to finish in one session. Anyway, here are a few of my faves:

King George

Famous (fictional) Colonial Wigmaker Gilbert Williamsburg

Aphrodite 1

Aphrodite 2