Proud to Be a Loser

There’s an Irish proverb that says: You must empty a box before you can fill it again. I’ve been dealing with some empty boxes – ones that came from rejection and failure to achieve what I wanted. Yet, I am not upset. I am a loser and proud to be in the club.

All year long I have been talking to my students about how it’s okay to take risks. That it’s okay to fail because you gain strength when you get up again. Talk is cheap and easy to do. So when I failed for the third time in a BIG way this spring, it was my time to take a dose of my own medicine. I didn’t like the taste one little bit.

To understand why I was so disappointed, I have to backtrack a bit. In 2012 I founded the Books to Africa Partnership where my students raise money to send books to teachers and students in some impoverished schools in Africa. Through the years, these teachers have become close friends and visiting them in person became important to me. I knew I could learn a lot by visiting their communities and bring back that knowledge to my library classroom.

In 2014 I applied for a grant through an organization that specializes in investing in teachers who want to enrich their classroom through professional development which enriches their skills and confidence. I was turned down. I was heartbroken when I read the word “with great regret, we are writing to let you know…”. I moped and had a great big pity party for myself and invited anyone who would listen to me complain. That was failure #1.

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However, I am pretty self-determined (stubborn) person and applied again in 2015. I rewrote the grant, edited it, and changed the focus. Once again I was turned down. Failure #2. This time I swallowed and nearly chocked on the “you are a failure” message. I shared the news with one of my classes, and one boy raised his hand. When I called on him he asked, “Why don’t you go anyway?” I quickly listed off all the reasons why I couldn’t go. He heard me, but wasn’t listening. “I still think you should go,” he mumbled as he walked away.

His words rumbled around my brain. I told my husband and he said, “if you can figure it out, you need to go.” That summer I traveled to South Africa and visited the teachers and students at the schools we send books to. I turned my failure into a success.

My 2015 trip had such an impact on me as a person, that I decided to try grant writing one more time. I spent over 40 hours wordsmithing each paragraph until I thought there was no way it would be turned down. I consulted a very experienced grant writer and I submitted my application with confidence.

The “we regret to inform you” email arrived April 5th. Failure #3 was like a punch to the gut. I hurt from the inside out. I wanted to quit. I did quit. Three times out was enough for me.

In an article “How to Fail Up!”  Lucie Hemmen, PhD., author of The Teen Girl’s Suicide Guide, writes about the four steps in the aftermath of failure.

1 – Sit with your feelings.

2 – Reflect

3 – Set a Goal

4 – Act.

It wasn’t until today when I read her article, did I realize I went through those stages without really consciously realizing it.

During my reflection stage, I realized that quitting wasn’t setting a very good example for my students. All year long I’d been harping on them to not fear failure. How could I quit on something that matters so much to me and be a believable role-model for my students?

Ask any writer or artist to tell you their story and they will have their own rejection experiences. Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before his first book was published. Author Dan Gutman openly writes on his website www.dangutman.com about how he’s been rejected hundreds of times. Even basketball legend Michael Jordan was cut from his basketball team during his sophomore year because he wasn’t good enough. But Jordan, like Seuss, Gutman and many others, didn’t give up. They got down to business and used that rejection as a launching board to success.

In her TED Talk author and psychologist Angela Duckworth calls that desire to persevere and charge through the muck as grit. In several studies, and in her own experiences as a math teacher, she has found that it’s not intellect or talent that makes a person a life-long achiever. It’s grit. It’s the ability to turn the negative into a positive by keeping with something especially when the going gets rough.

As I moved through the steps of my own failure experience, I set a new goal and acted upon it.  I would take my grant failure and turn it around into an opportunity to grow and risk again.

Educational Postcard: Cultivating a willingness to persevere Ken Whytock via Compfight

I created a GoFundMe campaign and quietly shared it outside of school with friends, family, parents, and colleagues. Those people then shared it with their friends. Seven days after launching my website, my dream to teach in South Africa this summer was fully financed. In 88 days I will depart on a trip that will take me away from my family,friends, and everything in my comfort zone.  I will live with a host family I don’t know, teach in a school radically different from my own and spend two weeks struggling to understand a language I’ve never heard before in my life. I can’t wait to grow and learn!

I shared the news first with my kids. After all, they have been coming to before school meetings for months. They are the ones who believe in helping others. They are the ones who will ultimately benefit. As tears rolled down my face and they looked at me strangely wondering what was wrong, I told them about my upcoming trip.

With the help of a dear friend, we talked to the kids about how failure does not make you a loser. With the right mindset, failure can turn you into a winner and I can show you how.

 

 

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Backpack Buddy Tribute to Golden Acorn Recipients

Our PTSA honors amazing volunteers each year with the Golden Acorn Award. The recipients are chosen for their excellence in service to the school community. They are dedicated to making our school a better place for all of the students.

This year’s winners are Cynthia Lydum, Dara Schaffer and Celinda Hoover. As a tribute, we now have added three new Backpack Buddies to our collection. These interactive reading backpacks are ready for checkout for our primary age students.

Backpack Buddy “Ballet Cat” for 2017 Golden Acorn winner Celinda Hoover

Backpack Buddy “The Kissing Hand” for 2017 Golden Acorn winner Dara Schaffer

Backpack Buddy “Pete the Cat” for 2017 Golden Acorn winner Cynthia Lydum

I have been creating backpack buddies for many years, but recently started the program at my present school in the fall of 2016. Each backpack has a hand puppet or a stuffed animal and a matching book. The idea is for children to practice reading in a fun manner. I got the idea after working with my former Reading with Rover therapy dog. Students sat down and read to him. The format takes away the stress of reading because nobody is correcting the child if they say a word correctly or read slowly.

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In the Reading with Rover program, children with reading difficulties actually read stories to a dog and the logs love to listen. a child that may be hesitant to read aloud to his peers is typically less stressed when reading to a dog and the dog never judges the child’s reading ability. Click this link to learn  more about the local Reading with Rover program. There are local events at the Crossroaads Community Center in Bellevue and at the KCLS Sammamish Library in Sammamish.

Since we can’t have therapy dogs on campus, Backpack Buddies are the next best solution. The stuffed animal or puppet is used as the listener and the child reads with a quiet and very attentive audience.

Example of a backpack buddy coming soon to the library!

We now have about a dozen backpack buddies with more to come this spring. Due to the limited numbers of backpacks, only students in grades 1 and 2 are able to check out backpack buddies at this time.

If you would like to create your own Backpack Buddies, I have found the clear, large take home backpacks from Lakeshore Learning to last the longest. I love the flush puppets and book character dolls from Folkmanis and MerryMakers. You can often find the same items in local quality toy and book stores.

I also try to have an assortment of fiction and non-fiction topics that appeal to primary aged boys and girls. The kids can practice reading non-fiction and using text features without knowing they are doing valuable homework.

If you have any other questions, please leave me a comment and I will try to answer your questions.

Happy Reading,

Julie

 

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Book Dilemma Solved

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Lately I’ve been feeling like this even though I am a librarian. I have a number of bilingual students who would really like to read stories in their native language occasionally. Who wouldn’t? The problem is when they ask ME for that book. There isn’t really a “bilingual section” in the library where I can send students to browse for that just right book. I’ve spent the last 8 months coming up with a whole lot of nothing to offer, except for a couple translated Dr. Seuss books.

Out of the blue, our ELL teacher asked me if it would be okay for her to purchase some bilingual books and donate them to the library. What? Was I hearing that right? She would spend her PTSA money and give us the books? I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Then last week I went searching for a favorite Cinderella book, only to find that the 398.2 section was a miserable mess. The next day, I took every fairy tale book off the shelves, did a fast and furious weeding of the most ugly and awful books, and re-shelved everything. It was four hours of singing the alphabet song through dust and stinky pages. Definitely not fun. At times I felt like I was buried in the stinky book muck.

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Not my library, but how it feels to weed a collection sometimes!

What did I discover in the process? A whole bunch of bilingual fairy tale books! I was delighted by the news. Granted some kids don’t consider fairy tale books the top-tier of reading, but I had at least something more than Green Eggs and Ham to offer my bilingual students. Plus those new ones were arriving soon. Things were great, until they weren’t.

What would I do with them?  Where would I put everybody and non-fiction bilingual fairy tales where they could be found together easily and logically by students? I decided to ask Mary Schroeder, my “Batwoman” a librarian friend who also ponders the answers to these types of questions. Her answer? Put them in the 400’s – the language section. That’s what she has been doing. Language dictionaries, children’s stories and fairy tales will be shelved together by language in the 400’s.

Easy. Problem solved. Whew! Is it June 16th yet?

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Become a Microsoft Expert Educator

If you’ve read my blog very much, you already know that I’ve been part of the Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program since 2012. I firmly believe that I would not be the teacher I am today with the skills I have developed without this program. I connect with educator friends both in the US and around the world. No you won’t get paid with dollars, but you will get paid with amazing experiences that will change your life both professionally and personally.

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The Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program is an exclusive program created to “recognize global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.”

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What do MIEs do? We work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education. We give feedback on new products and tools. We advocate for effective use of technology in the classroom. We collaborate to develop new lessons and project ideas that bring promote optimal student learning. We develop life-long friendships. And often we have fun!

The self-nomination applications for 2016-2017 are now open! I urge you to view this Sway and find out more about the program and then send in that application. Find all the details and the application you need by clicking here. If you have questions, please contact me. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/educators/miee/default.aspx

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Global Poetry Unites Project

Happy April! I am launching a brand new project today called the Global Poetry Unites Project. I hope you will join me in celebrating the wonder of poetry during the month of April and beyond.

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I’ve had the great fortune to attend three major conferences this year. In the fall, I went to our state librarian conference in Yakima, Washington. In February I attended the NCCE conference in Seattle. Then in March I had the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft E2 conference in Budapest, Hungary.

Some common themes emerged from all three conferences. From fellow teachers and librarians I learned that teachers need to:

  • Collaborate with other teachers beyond our classroom and building walls
  • Give our students a global voice to show them that their work matters
  • Provide opportunities for students to create while learning
  • Remind students that failure is really an opportunity to learn, not something to be feared

I was particularly struck by this slide at the E2 conference. It made me stop to think about how I could expand what I am doing in my library classroom to the next level.

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I believe the E2 conference gave me the final push to innovate in a different way. Inspired by global projects I’ve seen other teachers and librarians start, I decided it’s time to try something new with one of my favorite units – poetry.  I decided I would like to try a crowdsourced project. A project like this would help students meet both Common Core and American Association of School Librarian Standards (AASL), build connections and leverage technology to enhance my poetry unit.

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While I think I am a bit of a risk-taker, this new project is a gigantic step down a brand new tech road. I have never started a global, crowdsourced project. I was at the tulip fields this weekend and was intrigued by how stunning they are in these giant fields. As in the photo above, I don’t know if the project will be numerous teachers coming together to create something wonderful, or the empty trough dry and barren. I was so nervous at one point, that I had to reach out to some fellow teachers to get feedback on whether this idea had any merit at all. Thankfully they all encouraged me to take the leap.

Other Side of FearCreative Commons License Aaron Davis via Compfight

This Jamie Foxx quote is so appropriate. My greatest fear is that the project will be a complete flop and nobody will participate. And…the fear is all in my head. If this project flops, then so what? Nobody will be hurt. Also, if I am going to ask my students to take risks in their learning, then I need to make sure I take some big ones myself and remember what it feels like.  If the project succeeds, then a community of teachers and students will have a new way to share their love of writing and poetry.

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The Global Poetry Unites Project is a group project where teachers can publish their student poems. In the US, April is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. I would love to see the celebration of poetry be a worldwide movement, hence the reason for launching this project in April. I understand that sometimes students and teachers are intimidated by writing poetry, so I have included some sample lessons for you to try in your own classroom. We are not analyzing anything. We are creating and sharing new ways to communicate through verse and technology.

Please join in the project. Spread the word. My goal is to have teachers from every continent participate! Access the Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote Notebook here. Teach some poetry lessons in April and share your student work in our OneNote Online Notebook. Give your students a voice and let us all celebrate! The Global Poetry Unites Project link will take you to our crowd sourced notebook.

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I have designed the project to be primarily for teachers within the Microsoft Educator Community because I am very involved with the group. However, if you are reading this post and wish to participate, feel free to do so. The project is built with OneNote Online and is cloud based. Anyone with internet can access the notebook with any device. All I ask is that you take care and respect one another’s work. The instructions are in the beginning of the notebook. If you have any questions, please ask them on the Feedback page. I’ve also created a #gpup16 hashtag to follow on social media.

Maybe when you see the work of students and teachers around the world, you will be inspired to join the Microsoft Educator Community. Click on this link to see how you can connect and collaborate around the world and gain easy access to lessons created by educators for educators.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to participate and give your students a voice? As Angela Maiers says, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!” I hope you will give your students the opportunity to share their genius with us in our poetry project.

 

 

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A 2016 Facelift for Dewey

“Mrs. Hembree, can you help me find the wolf (substitute any animal) books?”

“Did you look on the poster to find the number?”

“Yes, but I can’t find the number on the shelf, can you help me?

Sound familiar?  I moved to a different school this fall. The library has a big collection and is very well organized. We have a big poster with all the important animal Dewey numbers listed in alphabetical order. Yet questions about how to find books happen daily in my library and I’m willing to bet it’s happened in yours.

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We have signs with numbers on the edge of the shelf.  However, when you are 8 or 9 years old, trying to find a book with Dewey numbers extending two and three numbers past the decimal point is….well….pointless.

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They can’t find the numbers on the spine and give up. Even our parent volunteers find it difficult to shelve the books sometimes.

 Student frustration with finding the books they want to read is the major reason I switched to genre shelving in my fiction area.

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It’s also the reason why last year in my former library I switched to a subject/theme organizational system in the picture books.

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I plan to do it again in my new library, but that’s a project for next year. When I do, it will be modeled after the method the King County Library System is now using with their picture books in the 48 public libraries in the system. Their changes came after research with parent focus groups to determine how parents think books should be organized. After analyzing the results, the picture books are now arranged by categories and have as many face out books as possible.

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 If it works for the largest library system in the country, I think it can work in my elementary library. While this bird walk into the KCLS shift may seem irrelevant, seeing the books on the shelf this way actually helped me take action on doing something about the non-fiction problem.

Back to the non-fiction books. I’ve never touched or messed with the non-fiction books.

Until now.

I’ve read countless blog posts and articles about librarians who ditched Dewey completely. I may not like Dewey 100%, but I do like the basic organizational system. In many ways it really works.  I wasn’t ready to destroy a system that had its merits. I just wanted to re-vamp it, but I didn’t know how. 

Then this fall I read a blog post on the Wrinkle in Tech blog by Mrs. J who simplified Dewey with a whole number dewey system. No more decimal points! She’s made terrific signs to use to lead students to the area they are looking for. We exchanged a few emails as I asked some more clarifying questions. I thought I had an answer to my dilemma. I bought the signs on TpT and started adopting this method in certain sections. Yet, I still had the animal problem.

When students go to the shelf to find books on panda bears for example, they expect that all the panda bear books will be together, as in next to each other. Not some here and some more 5 books away farther down the shelf. After all, isn’t that the point of the numbering system? It’s what the kids think. Of course, that’s not how it works in reality. I still needed to figure out how to keep the animals together on the shelf. I went back to the drawing board and dug deeper in my research.

To my absolute delight, I found a 2013 blog post Mammals: A Dewey “Do-over” by Sarah Ducharme on her Try Curiosity library blog. She figured out the solution, that is so obvious. Hallelujah! She organized her land mammals by animal and changed the call number to reflect the area and subject of the book.

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Generalized books on multiple mammals are 599, but all land mammals are 599.1 plus the animal name. For example, 599.1 ELE (elephant) All the elephant books have the same call number and are placed on the shelf next to each. Instead of having to remember an author’s last name, a student can search for a book on the shelf in alphabetical order by animal. You can read a more detailed explanation of Sarah’s system here. It’s simple. It makes sense. It meets my objective of making it easier for kids to find books on the shelves independently.

Winter break gave me some time to think about how I could interweave these two systems in our library. It’s also when I walked into the KCLS library and saw their complete changes. In addition I was reading Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students by Pernille Ripp for a book study group.  In chapter 2, I read this:

“Once again, reflection is where we begin. Ask yourself, would you like being a student in your own room.”

I want our school library to be a place where students can successfully and easily find the books they want. It’s not a book depository that must uphold the merits of an organizational system developed in 1876. My students are frustrated by our system. That part is obvious. If I was an elementary aged student, I wouldn’t like how complicated it is to find a book in the library when it’s so easy at a bookstore. Pernille’s two sentences cemented my belief that change was not only important, it was necessary for students to be successful library users.

There’s nothing like a new year to begin a new system. Not to be overwhelmed by the vastness of animals, I started small with the pet books. All the cat, dog, horse and other small pet books are together in 636 with a whole number dewey system. I typed up new call numbers, changed the numbers in the catalog and got to work re-labeling and shelving books.

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Furthermore, I decided that pigs, sheep and cows would be removed from this section and shelved with the other land mammals.

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Yes, they are farm animals, but it’s 2016. We live in a suburb near a large metropolitan city. My students don’t think of cows, pigs and sheep as being anything other than a mammal. I doubt more than a few have ever seen a farm, let alone know what animals live on a farm. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen quizzical looks from students when they see cows near the pet section. The farm animals were moving.

Here is the final result of stage one of our revamped Dewey project. I’m not sure if the sign at the top is what exactly what students will find useful, but it’s a start.

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Now I can’t wait to see what the students say! Check back in the next few weeks. As I move through other areas, I will publish more photos and share student reaction to the changes.

 

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Edublogs Finalist

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Woo-hoo! What great news I received this week when I found out this blog was not only nominated, but also is a finalist in the Best Library Blog in the 2015 Edublog Awards. To be nominated and given the boost of confidence that there are indeed people who read this blog and value it means the world to me. To those who nominated this blog, please know that I really appreciate your support. Blogging makes me a better teacher, writer and learner. It also pushes me beyond the walls of my classroom to learn from other terrific bloggers in my PLN. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us.

The purpose of the Edublog Awards is to draw attention to the educational value of social media. Secondly, it provides an invaluable resource list of blogs for teachers to read and learn from.  That’s the part I love the most. I love to read what others are writing and see their classroom ideas. When we learn from each other the world becomes our classroom. Can it get any better than that?

If you would like to vote for this blog, you can go here.  Voting closes on Wednesday, December 11th at 11:59pm EST (8:59 PST).

 

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Chop, Chop, Chop!

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How are you at using Chopsticks? We got some great practice last week after we read the book Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. This book about how two chopsticks learn about independence  when one chopstick breaks his “stick” and then can’t do everything with his partner while he’s resting and healing. It’s a book about chopsticks, friendship, independence and learning new skills.

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Chopsticks is book one in our six week Amy Krouse Rosenthal author study. Amy was chosen as the featured author in the 2015 Global Read Aloud program. This project started October 5th and will run for approximately 6 weeks.  The idea behind it is very simple; teachers around the world read the same book aloud to their students and then use technology to share the reading experience with these other classrooms.  It is a free project and it fits perfectly into the standards we have to cover.

During the project, our class will be reading and connecting with students around the world who are reading the same book.  We will use technology tools such as Twitter and this blog to facilitate these connections and conversations.

The founder, Permille Ripp, a teacher in Wisconsin, started “GRA” in 2010 with one goal in mind: Connect the world with one book. Now it’s grown to over 500,000 children in 60+ countries around the world.  This project will allow for our students to use technology tools in a meaningful way, as well as learn about other cultures, all while listening to a fantastic read aloud.
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Our school is one of the red markers hovering over Washington. There is only 1 marker per state or country. Each week we will be reading one of the selected picture books and then connecting with other classrooms around the world via Twitter. Students will get an authentic global experience by talking about books with other librarians and students.

Speaking of connections – we have a new school Twitter account! This account is only for our library classroom use only. If you are a family member,  teacher or librarian with a designated library/classroom account, please follow us. Search for @CRidgeLibrary and you will see our #GRA15 updates live from our library.

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Families who would like to participate at home can also join the GRA movement. I highly suggest you visit the Global Read Aloud website. You will find the books chosen per grade level and connections you can make with the books and sometimes the authors.

Happy Reading!

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All endings are beginnings

 

It never fails to be true. Life happens. Not always the way you planned.

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Most of you know I spent three weeks in South Africa this summer visiting the schools where we send books for our Books to Africa project. The trip was life-changing for me. In both of the impoverished schools I visited, the only books the children had to read were the ones we have sent. The impact our students are making on the education of these children is real.

If you would like to read more, I published a post on the Bulldog Reader Blog The principal at Pula Madibogo Primary School  also published a video on YouTube about our experience there together.  I left South Africa inspired to do more for these children.

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On the way home however, my life took an unexpected turn. I received an invitation to come back to teach in the Issaquah School district. When you are squished like a sardine in the back of a plane for 14 hours, you have a lot of time to think. I love teaching at Bell. I love the students. I love the staff. I love the parents and Bell community. Sadly, one thing stands in the way – my commute. Driving to school from Sammamish has been taking up to 1 hour each way. The day after I returned home, I applied for the position.

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Last week I accepted the offer to be the new librarian at Cougar Ride Elementary School. They are looking forward to adopting the Books to Africa program into their school activities as well. As sad as I am to leave Bell, the decision to teach in my home district feels right. If circumstances were different, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog post.

Working with all of you at Bell has made the days and years fly by. You have always supported my ideas to make the library a great place for kids to learn. Bell has a fantastic community of readers. I learned the ropes of librarianship at Bell and will cherish the memories from my years there.

I know another librarian will come to Bell who is the perfect match for the school. This person will be your new beginning. After all, all stories have a beginning, middle and an end. I hope the Books to Africa will continue at Bell as well.

Thank you for being part of my story. Check back to this blog too. It may make some kind of transition, but it’s not ending.

Mrs. Hembree

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Love Your Library Month

 

Who says February in Seattle is cold, rainy, and dreary. Not in our library!

We are celebrating Love Your Library Month with a little fun!

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Go on a Blind Date with a Book – Everyday I put out 5-8 Blind Date books for students to check out. Each book is wrapped and has hints on the outside. Inside, there is a rating sheet where students can read the book and then rate their reading date. They make comments on the cover and how they liked or didn’t like the book. Return rating sheets are eligible for a daily prize.

Candy Guessing Jar – How many candies are in the jar? Combine the library and math and you get a fun guessing contest. Each day I pull a random guess slip from the container and that student wins one of the daily prizes. The Big Prize goes to the student who has the closest guess, without going over. The prize winner will be announced on March 2nd, Dr. Seuss’ birthday!

Why I love My Library – We also have a comment sheet where students can share why they love our library. Again, students who participate may win one of the daily prizes.

Love Your Library Bookmarks – We partnered with Mrs. Camp, the librarian at Benfer Elementary School in Klein, Texas for this activity. Her second grade classes made our students bookmarks and we did the same. Now they are in the mail and traveling to their new homes. This is the second time we have partnered with Mrs. Camp’s classes. Last year we shared poems during Poetry Month. Check out the acrostic poems on their blog.

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Lollygrams – The Books to Africa club is also selling lollygrams next week. All proceeds will go to purchase postage to send books to our partner schools in Africa.

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If you are looking for ideas you can use in your library check out the dozens of ideas on Pinterest. Nearly every student who has come to the library to participate in one of our contests has also left with a book! It’s a win-win Reading Month!

 

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