Monday, January 2, 2017

Taking Half Chances for Our Students

     The English Premier League (EPL) is the best soccer/futbol league on earth.  It pits the best defenders against the finest attacking players from around the world.  Because the stakes are so high, players are forced to take "half chances" at the goal.  At any moment, even a brief opening can lead to a goal.  I believe we have to approach our jobs as Media Specialists like we are EPL strikers to seek out and take these half chances for our students and teachers to benefit their instruction and learning.

     This year, the Lakeside Book Club (L.B.C) opened during lunch.  Students sign a voluntary contract to read a section of a popular YA novel each week and discuss the novel during lunch time.  In return, students get to keep a copy of the book for their own to build their personal library or share with friends/family. Our goal this year is to read 4 novels in this fashion.

     Before the L.B.C. reads a novel, we visit with a guest expert to get steeped in the vocabulary and terminology related to the topics discussed in the novel.  Sometimes, we visit with a local expert, and sometimes we meet with an expert through a Skype visit, or Google Hangout.
     To line up a guest expert for our first novel, I took one of those half chances.  The first novel we are reading for book club this year called the Rule of Three by Eric Walters.  I was listening to National Public Radio's show called Fresh Air.  The speaker that night happened to be an anthropology professor from McGill University in Canada named Dr. Gretchen Bakke.

     Although her background is anthropology, she was being interviewed on the program about her new book about the power grid issues/crisis. The content of the Rule of Three was a perfect match for Dr. Bakke's area of expertise! It is a dystopian thriller where the power grid fails all the power goes out across the global causing all sorts of unthinkable disasters to arise.

     So I took a half chance and emailed Dr. Bakke to see if she would video conference with us. Conveniently, she has her Wednesdays free from teaching obligations.  We just so happened to be meeting for book club on ....Wednesdays.  So because I took a half chance, 40 students in the book club got to become steeped in the issues of our current power grid and are now better prepared to discuss and read the Rule of Three, a novel about when the power grid is no more!

     I have been looking for ways to make library programming more student centered. Meeting with Dr. Bakke via Skype helped to make this a reality.   During our first book club meeting the week before, I asked students to post questions on a Padlet that they had about the power grid and its issues.  These questions were sent to Dr. Bakke ahead of our Skype visit and were used to drive the discussion.

     Taking this half chance and contacting Dr. Bakke turned into a golden opportunity for my students.  Not only did they learn the vocabulary and terminology related to the electrical power grid failing,  they also were empowered to share and have their questions answered by a world renowned expert on the topic.

     They also got to see the Growth Mindset in action.  What if as media specialists this year we made it our goal to consistently model/embrace taking these "half chances" for our students and asking important "what ifs" about instruction and delivering our content?  What kinds of incredible opportunities it could lead to for our students!

May that be our goal as this new year of 2017 begins!

Please share with me about how you are taking half chances for your students in 2017 and beyond!

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