on the week that was: a success and a FAiL…

I know that my pop culture references get older and more obscure by the day, but I have these really clear memories of watching That Was the Week that Was on TV. This truly obscure show satirizing the news of the day seemed a lot like the Daily Show of its time and, according to Wikipedia (which, as librarians, we know is ALWAYS accurate because it is in print on the Internet), the show only ran in 1962 and 1963. I was born in 1964, so there is no possible way that I watched this show in its first run, but as I said I have very clear memories of the theme song and watching the show.

Anyway, what a week it was for the library!

Our Success!

It was Scholastic Book Fair week.  My librarian partner, Mrs. G., ran the show from beginning to end. Goodness! My wish for everyone in the independent school library world is for each of you to be fortunate enough to work with a partner like Mrs. G. Believe me when I say, that she’s got energy and creativity to spare! Over the course of the week during our “Under the Sea” themed fair, lines of fish were hoisted into the air, puffer fish with lollipop spines appeared out of the blue, the faculty room refrigerator somehow got COMPLETELY filled by hundreds of cups of deep sea blue jello, and fair hours even got extended into an early evening “family night” to allow our many working parents to drop in with their little ones. Watching all of it unfold was amazing. Working with great people is something for which I am grateful everyday!

Mrs. G. was too busy, basically squeezing two weeks worth of work hours into one week, to take many pictures during the fair so we have just a few pics to share.

Note to self: always assign a student or parent volunteer to take pictures of library events.  You will want the pictures later!

It is always a good idea to make a shopping list!

It is always a good idea to make a shopping list!

So many good books!

So many good books!

As Mrs. G. was toiling away at the book fair in the Tech Plaza which is in another building on campus, I sat in my office and enjoyed coffee and bonbons.  Okay…Just kidding! I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

A FAiL – (First Attempt in Learning):

I put my coffee cup and bonbons aside for just long enough to do some really fun lessons with some of our frosh English classes.  They finished reading The Odyssey and their teacher asked, “Why do we have you read a book that’s 2900 years old?” the question set our students off on a quest to find out why the Greeks matter to us in 2015. We did some presearching and researching and things were all going heroically well until it was time for our students to develop a thesis at which point it turned into a Greek tragedy.

Because of the cultural idiosyncrasies of the institutions I have worked in over the years, I have had very little opportunity to work with English teachers.  I felt thoroughly prepared for my lessons on building a thesis statement. I’ve been trying to see if I can explain the main ideas in my library lessons in 3-minutes or less via Powtoon so I had my spiffy new Powtoon on building a thesis, a slideshow, and a worksheet.  As it turns out, the librarian needed a lesson on the effective use of information because my approach to building a thesis was…Yeah…NOT GOOD!

In history and social studies classes, and in rhetoric and debate classes, I have had success teaching the “3-part and although” thesis:

ID: Identify the topic –> Claim: What do you believe? –> Direction: Why you believe your claim to be true

We have students build their 3-part thesis, then have them add an “although” statement to force them to deal with the counter-claim.  It looks like this:

Pretty slick, right?!?! The problem, though, was that the task our students were addressing didn’t really focus on having to persuade as much as it was about asking for analysis. This rather significant aspect of the information task wasn’t… Alas… Very clear to me until I was working with students and seeing how much of a forced fit it turned out to be.

T’was a rough time…

Mr. N., the English teacher, and I went back to the drawing board and rethought it all.  Here’s the result:

It was time to move on from the Greeks, so we didn’t have an opportunity to try the analytical thesis approach with Mr. N’s students just yet, but he had a good debrief with his classes about why the information task needed to be approached in a different way and, in the end I think they REALLY DID understand and learn about information use from the experience.

They are moving on to Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar next and we’ll be exploring “why Shakespeare and the Renaissance matters in 2015” as part of the process so we’ll give the analytical thesis approach a shot in the near future.

Our school endeavors to foster growth mindsets in the students we teach. Growth mindsets, though, are really useful for teachers and librarians as well. Do I aim to FAIL? Absolutely not! I hate failing! There, I said it. I hate failing and I fear failing because failing feels awful. Sometimes though, as a teacher or a librarian, a First Attempt in Learning provides the, small “s”, stress needed in order for us to be spurred on to learn how something can be better the next time around!

It is really wonderful to realize that I get to come to work everyday in an amazing place that allows us to fail so that I can pick myself up and be better the next time around. I’ve come to realize that getting to learn something every single day in the course of my work is a BIG part of what makes being a teacher and a librarian one of the best jobs one could ever hope to have!

6 thoughts on “on the week that was: a success and a FAiL…

  1. Your work environment sounds wonderful. I can always use any advice about how to teach thesis statement lessons. Thanks for sharing.

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