Connecting with authors via Twitter

I have attended quite a few of our Melbourne TeachMeets where I enjoy meeting and talking with other like-minded educators and I always come away inspired by the presenters. Until today I have never presented as I didn’t think I had anything really interesting to share. However, Celia Coffa (@ccoffa) encouraged me to simply ‘share my story’. So today I finally did…

As a teacher librarian, one of my favourite things about Twitter is that it has allowed me to connect with authors. I love reading about their latest books, following their book tours or what they might be writing about through #amwriting or simply enjoy reading their tweets. Some authors I follow and glean bits of information from their tweets and admire them from afar, but over the past couple of years I have connected with a few authors and even enjoy regular comments or chats with them. This naturally flows into my library classes and to our LRC Blog where I share tidbits of information with my students that in turn allows them to connect further with their favourite authors.

After connecting with Felice Arena (@fleech) on Twitter and hearing him talk at a Professional Development evening earlier this year I was inspired to use my Twitter account to tweet comments from each of our Year One classes to him about his new Sporty Kids series. The students loved the fact that Felice tweeted back almost immediately and I think Felice was thrilled to hear from his readers! We have continued to tweet with Felice as he has released new books in this series and the students feel as though they know him and love borrowing his books. 

Little did I know that this Twitter connection with Felice (and my love of AFL football) would also lead to connecting with authors Michael Wagner (@wagstheauthor) and Adrian Beck (@adrianjbeck) and being asked if they could trial their brand new show ‘Kicking Goals For Readers’  at our school! This fabulous performance in our hall filled with 530 excited students from P-6 was a highlight of our year with footy, books and reading sharing the limelight!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Adrian Beck returned the last week of term two to present me with a 2015 Indigenous football and suggested I might like to use it for a reading challenge. Before I knew it, Adrian had whipped out his phone to film a promo video for the “Yeo-low Medal”. This was to be our equivalent of the Brownlow Medal, but for the Best and Fairest Reader. I designed a Reading Scavenger Hunt based on a football field and the Yeo-low Medal was off and running with 205 students signing up. Adrian supported, encouraged and entertained us with videos along the way. Yesterday he came to school to draw the name of the winner and present our Yeo-low Medal. There were 57 students who had shown wonderful reading stamina over the term, hoping their name would be selected. Once again reading was the winner!

I am extremely grateful for the totally unexpected and amazing experiences that Twitter has brought our way and how it is a conduit that enables me as a teacher librarian to bring students, books and authors together…

This is my presentation for the TeachMeet with links to blog posts about ways we have connected with authors via Twitter…

Planting seeds and making connections

In January, 1985 I began my teaching career.  It was 6 months before I turned 21 and I was a newly minted teacher of 35 eager Year 3 students, (three sets of twins, two sets were identical!).  I won’t ever forget that mixture of nervousness  and excitement as I stood in front of my class, my new “family” for the first time.  For me, like many teachers, our students become our family for the year they are in our care.  As a teacher librarian my student family is much larger and our relationship extends over seven years.  On occasions when I’m asked how many children I have, I delight in saying 520 and watching the look of horror, amazement and disbelief on people’s faces until the penny drops!  However, it is true – my students are family to me.

Planting seeds of knowledge via CIMMYT

Teachers plant many seeds and don’t always have an opportunity to see how those seeds grow and flourish when their students leave their care.  As teacher librarians, over the seven years we teach students at primary school we too plant many seeds and make strong connections. After taking my Gap Year in 2014, and disconnecting from our students I wasn’t quite sure what the first day back at school for students would hold for me…

Before school started Riley now in Year 2, burst in to give me a hug and in his deep little voice said “Welcome back Miss Y!”.  He had been in Prep when I was last in the LRC. Riley comes from a ‘book family” and we connected through our love of books and our shared sense of humour.  He was regularly in the LRC and it became his haven as he settled into school life. Molly, his little sister who is starting Prep on Monday (and is no stranger to out LRC) came to say hello too.  Riley proudly told me he had now read all of Andy Griffiths’ Treehouse series and we were both excited that each of us had met Andy last year! Before they left, Riley’s mum whispered to me “I thought you’d like to hear this…when we in the car this morning Riley said “You’re so lucky to be on Prep this year Molly because you will have the best librarian in the world!”  As my eyes filled up it was a powerful reminder of the connections you make, the effect you can have as a teacher and the responsibility you carry with you…as well as lots of pressure to live up to Riley’s words!

Next visitor mid morning was Jack who is now in Year 8 and was in helping our PE teacher. He came through the door with a huge smile and a ready hug. “I heard you were back Miss Y and I came to say hi”. For the next 15 minutes we had a great chat about what he enjoyed most in Year 7 last year, his favourite subjects and teachers. Jack is a “Specky Magee” type of boy so we talked about the footy that we both love and his basketball and laughed that some of the older boys at school had according to Jack “more hair on their legs than he did on his head”. We also talked about  books he had read including “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” and I asked if he now understood why I didn’t buy the book for our LRC and left it for them to read in secondary school.  It was as though time hadn’t passed and it was wonderful to see how one of the seeds was growing and flourishing at secondary school.

At recess there was a knock on the door and Joshua, a quiet and gentle Year 5 boy came in with a new class mate he was showing around.  “I wanted to show Louis our LRC and for him to meet you Miss Y”. After a little chat it was a revelation as Joshua showed Louis around and I could overhear his explanation of parts of the LRC including the Story Chair and Story Keeper, showing Louis different books and authors and explaining how we do things in our library and some of the things we had done to celebrate reading. As I listened quietly to Joshua, I could hear the reading culture of our LRC being passed on…more seeds I had planted were growing.

At lunchtime Oscar who is now in Year 6 came to give me a welcome back hug and said “Miss Y, I’ve come to ask for your help.” Oscar can be a serious boy and he is a real thinker. He explained now that Miss K had left there was no one to help with Chess Club and Oscar had obviously been thinking about this. “You were the first person I thought of who could help.”  I said was very honoured to be asked, but I couldn’t play chess! Not a problem for Oscar who explained all they needed was a place to play chess and a teacher to supervise and he would organise the tournaments. We had a chat about some possibilities and Oscar left looking relieved. Our many chats over the years often before school in the LRC about various books and topics of interest to Oscar have earned me his trust and respect and I value that.

After school I could see a small group of Year Three girls huddled at the LRC door and then I heard them reading in unison the ‘When you enter our library..’ sign on the door followed by a comment, “That is so beautiful!”  They then excitedly popped in to give me a welcome back group hug. Again another great chat about books, holidays and everyone getting taller but me! They were excited for library to begin next week. The connections we had made were still there.

Connecting with my students has always been a priority for me as both a classroom teacher and a teacher librarian. If there is no connection there will be no real learning. It can be a challenge to get to know each student when you teach 520 students, but after 12 months away from the LRC, these moments on the first day reinforced for me the importance and power of making those connections and they also gave me a wonderful glimpse into how some of the seeds I’ve helped plant are growing. 

This week lessons in the LRC begin for our 21 classes. Time to plant seeds and make connections for another year…but this week there’s no formal lesson because we need to reconnect first before we can begin our year of learning!