Tag Archives: boston

The Library as Third Space

I’m always thinking about how the school library should function as part of a whole school. Often, public libraries are called “third spaces,” i.e., “where you go and spend time in addition to your home and workplace. … ‘Third places’ are
‘anchors’ of community life and facilities and foster broader, more creative interaction” (Library as the Third Place).

School libraries are a little different, sometimes. Classes are often brought to the library as an extension of the classroom. Students find books, research, use the computers, access databases, etc. This would classify the library as part of a student’s workplace (i.e., school), and not a place outside of it. Sometimes, students are given passes to the library, again, as an extension of classwork, and expected to return to class in a matter of minutes after completing a task, such as printing a paper. During class times, the library is expected to be relatively quiet, or at least as quiet as the teacher’s classroom would be.

However, other hallmarks of third space are integral parts of a school library:

  • free or inexpensive; check. In fact, many school libraries don’t even charge late fees for books, only replacement costs if a book is lost or damaged beyond repair; 
  • food and drink, while not essential, are important; some school libraries allow students to bring in food, some have snack bars. My library allows covered drinks away from the computers, and I occasionally turn a blind eye to cold snacks as long as students clean up after themselves;
  • highly accessible; check;
  • proximity for many; check;
  • involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; I have a dedicated morning and lunchtime group of students. At my old school, I had about 60 students who were my regular breakfast and lunchtime students, plus after school clubs.
  • welcoming and comfortable; we do our best.
  • both new friends and old should be found there. check; many times, I’ve had students just open the door looking for friends. 

Based on that list, the school library can easily fit into the third space ideal. Maybe we’re only third space during certain times, such as before school, during lunch, and after school. I’ve had students complain when I’ve told them the library is closing and I always remind them that the huge city branch is just down the street (in Springfield, it was a few blocks; in Boston, it is a mile walking or a quick bus ride). 

School libraries can also do programming similar to public libraries, if the school day allows for it. I ran yearbook this year during lunch, and that became a gathering time for some seniors. I plan to run a book club next year, hopefully bring back a monthly poetry slam, and maybe get an author to come and talk to students. Programming like this helps the space become less of an extension of the classroom and more of a community space.

I’m thinking a lot about this, since my school is talking to an architectural firm to plan a redesign. The library will be completely re-done in about four years. I need to think about what I want it to become. Do I want an academic space, a space reminiscent of a public library, or something completely different? I know I want some better soundproofing! As much as I love my talented students, many of them have operatic voices that do not have a quiet level.

Ideally, I’d have a space for everything. I’d love to be able to have more than one class in the library during class time, non-carpeted floors so food might be more allowable during lunchtime, space for students to collaborate (maybe soundproof glass study rooms), and comfortable seating for students to sit and read.

 

 

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Boston, the US, and phobia

Considering that this is a final push homework week, I have been getting most of my information of the world online over the past few days. I watched the Boston Globe site and followed Boston Police’s Twitter feed for my news during the city-wide voluntary lockdown (and stayed home!). Perfect example of using social media to learn about what is going on, as I taught my 11th graders this semester. They were learning about the Arab Spring.

Which brings me to a couple interesting points.

With the Boston Marathon bombing, social media went berserk. People found “suspects” who weren’t really suspects. A Saudi person here as a student was fingered as a suspect simply because he is Saudi and was injured in the bombing. Social media say there were Craft International operatives because they saw two guys with the skull logo on their hats (which, by the way, looks like the Punisher logo. And anyone can buy the hat). Social media fingered a missing Brown student as a suspect when this student has been missing for months. They pointed out a Boston student and the NY Post ran with the article based solely on social media. I think the International Business Times article sums it up well. Sites, like Reddit, are against d0xxing (hunting for and disseminating personal information) and still created so much havoc in the news in regards to this tragedy.

The Boston Marathon bombing suspect, who is now in custody, is an American citizen who came from Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders Chechnya, when he was younger. He went to Cambridge Ringe and Latin for high school. It is thought he recently became an anti-American extremist, but no one will know a motive for sure until after he can talk again.

This does not mean that every person from Russia is an extremist. This does not mean that every Muslim (because news is saying the brothers were/are Muslim) is an extremist. This is like saying that every Baptist is like Westboro Baptist Church.

I have friends across many nationalities, many backgrounds, and many religions. I cannot imagine if one of them were pointed out by social media as a terrorist suspect because they were racially profiled. Does this mean that every Irish person is part of the Irish Republican Army (Óglaigh na hÉireann)? Does this mean that every Italian person is part of the Mafia (cosa nostra)? Believe me, if that were true, I would have some serious connections, especially since I still have family in Sicily!

I think my points are this:

1) Social media is not always a reliable source. Sometimes, it can be downright dangerous. I’m not saying that social media is bad, far from it, but we need to be careful about what we share and believe online (which is exactly what I told my students);

2) Cite your sources. Evaluate your sources. Compare news. Just because the one source says something, doesn’t mean it is true;

3) Racial profiling is bad. Period.

 

That being said, I highly suggest that everyone read Little Brother and Homeland by Cory Doctorow. A little paranoia is a good thing, because not everything is always as it seems. However, that does not negate anything I said above. After all, CISPA passed in the house again.

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Patriot’s Day

Some of you may have heard of the tragedy that befell Boston yesterday. As far as I know, all my friends and family are safe. Boston Arts Academy had 16 students running in the race, and they are all safe.

I really don’t know what to say in regards to this. I didn’t even know something had happened (I was home doing homework) until my phone started buzzing with texts asking if I was OK. So instead, I have this to share via a gentleman named Peter Kelly on Facebook:

“Some thoughts for my Non-Bostonian friends.

As you probably know by now, Patriot’s Day is a holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Pretty much everyone’s off. And while many Bay Staters do call the day by its name, most of my friends called it Marathon Day.

And every year, on Marathon Day, the Red Sox play a home game at 11AM. (For those so inclined –and most are– the Cask ‘n Flagon, the classic sports bar in the shadow of the Green Monster, opens for business at 11. I hear there’s a line.) The game’s unusual start time is set to coincide with the Marathon, allowing fans to leave the game and wander into Kenmore Square to cheer on the marathoners. A typical game will get out around two PM; most people walk through the square, following the marathon route onto Boylston Street, and the finish line. They’ll arrive around 2:30.

They can’t help it; they’re drawn there. In all of New England, the center of gravity on Marathon Day is Boylston street.

IF the weather’s right (and, honestly, even if it isn’t), no place on earth, not Times Sqaure nor New Orleans, offers a better pub crawl than Boylston street on Marathon Day. My friends and I would start at Division 16 before moving down the street, stuffing our way into bar after crowded bar, grabbing a round in each before returning to the street to cheer the runners on. By journey’s end, it’d be close to six PM – just in time to cut through the Public Gardens, up the Commons, past the State House and down the backside of Beacon Hill to the Boston Garden, where either the Bruins or the Celtics always seemed to have a home game a home game at night.

For a visitor to the city, it’s a glorious way to spend a day and really understand what makes Boston the special place it is. To a sports fan, Marathon Day is a little bit of Heaven on Earth.

Bostonians bristle at the notion that theirs is not a world class city. (Truth be told, Bostonians bristle at a lot of things– but that’s another tale.). But they fail to see the affection in these jests, for the size of the city is at the heart of Boston’s charm. “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” has the romance, “New York, New York” is timeless, but “Dirty Water” is pure Boston– a low-tech, rowdy stomp of a song that seems to say: “this may be the deal here, but it’s ours. And in in our own way, we love it just the way it is.” To the rest of the world, it’s Monday. But it’s a Big Day in Boston, for it’s Marathon Day, and if the weather’s good (and even if it isn’t)… no matter what else is going on in your life, all is right with the world. You can’t even bounce a check that day (bank holiday, dontcha know).

Why am I telling you all this? Because Patriot’s Day is Boston’s day, God dammit. The city’s own Special Day, when Boston – not New York or LA or London or anywhere – is the best place on the planet to be.

And whichever coward did this stained this day. For years to come.

Like all deep stains, today’s ugliness will fade, but it will never really wash out. In addition to the sox game and the marathon, Patriot’s Day in Boston will have new rituals: Moments of silence, tributes, prayers. This is, of course, as it should be. But to this Calvinist New Englander (if not by home then by ancestry), this day is a sucker-punch reminder of The Way Of The World: if you have something simple, something unstained, something that’s just plain good– someone, somewhere, wants to ruin it.

I want to say that the best way to honor the day will be to dance. Go to the Flask, cheer the Sox, cheer the runners, do the pub crawl. Treasure the one carefree day.

But somehow, that doesn’t feel right. At least not now. But adding another day of mourning to our collective calendar feels wrong too.

I don’t know what to do. And that angers me that I even have to contemplate it.

Here on Boston’s Day. Patriot’s Day. Marathon Day.”

From Peter Kelly (https://www.facebook.com/peterkelley1/posts/10151612090706337)

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Who Controls Curriculum?

I’m having a discussion on Twitter with an acquaintance. We have drastically different views on a lot of things, but my favorite discussion topic is education.

This started with a video about the failure of No Child Left Behind.

I agree that NCLB failed. Standardized testing does not work.

The conversation is as follows:
Me: As of tomorrow, I’ll be going offline til Thursday. Text me.
MJ: Peep this quick video regarding all the “success” of NCLB before you go: tinyurl.com/7wfqltm
Me: I agree that NCLB is a massive failure. I dislike state tests. It’s important for students to know certain things, but learning for a TEST is stupid. My best teacher didn’t teach for the Advanced Placement tests in CT, but he made me learn.
MJ: The test needs to be good, if you will teach towards it. Federal meddling makes it all worse.
Me: Agreed. I’ve defended the core curriculum before BUT states need final say on what gets taught in their state, & what is tested
MJ: Easiest way to guarantee that is to shut down the Federal meddling.
Me: Or have a really minimal core, but that will never happen. State control is probably best.
MJ: Past State has been net negative, and I’m not sure how much value States add. INS citizenship mastery as core?
Me: Well, then who should decide curriculum?
MJ: Parents? Teachers? Principals? The mayor? Competing tests that the parents pay for, ACT/SAT, compare the counties’ fruits.
Me: Parents are useless, really. Many don’t even help with homework. Teachers, maybe, but at least on a county level. Principals have skewed views. The elementary school near me barely has a library because of the principal.
MJ: What about the local land owners? They are the ones footing the bill.
Me: Some people who pay taxes don’t want education funded anyway. That’s why when taxes get cut, education gets cut.
MJ: There is also the small bit about education soaking up more money for the same results. Makes you wonder what can go. Maybe parents shouldn’t be sending their kids to school with no $ in. Make ’em care.
Me: How so? Teachers need to get paid, supplies need to be purchased. Putting big costs on parents for education will only hurt it.
MJ: Bottom line up front: The current system is, by design, drek. 5 counties should be trying 7 methods. One size fits few.
Me: I think the difference county by county is small. State by state can vary with ease.
MJ: Putting skin the game will hurt? Doesn’t have to be a lot, just enough to make them know it is their problem.
Me: I don’t think parents can often afford to send their kids to a decent school. Have you seen “Waiting for Superman”?
MJ: Read of, haven’t watched. The skin in should be relative. These folks are willing to pay. If you won’t chip in for your kids, why the hell should you or I do all/any of the paying?
Me: I plan to be a school librarian, I don’t mind that my taxes go to education. I don’t want children, but I want my country to have smart children. Urban schools suffer, and it sucks.

Fascinating.

By the way, “Waiting for Superman” is a documentary about the lottery for charter schools. It’s rather sad.

I like the idea of a basic core curriculum, but not as detailed as it is currently.

I see the need for state curriculum. I have the MA Frameworks. They’re hard to read, but I see the need to have all schools in one state teach the same thing.

I think that standardized tests are a problem. I remember taking the Mastery Tests in school. I remember being “at risk” in my writing category when I took them in junior high (7th or 8th grade). “At risk” meant that my writing wasn’t up to par with what it should have been at that level. I took the SAT II in Writing in high school and scored rather high. Goes to show that the Mastery Test wasn’t exactly predictive of my skill potential.

I don’t know what the solution is.

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Musical Schools

What is good for one school, might mean death for another: The Votes Are In.

Boston Arts Academy / Fenway High School is the library I volunteer in currently. I plan to do my practicum there in Spring 2013. I’ve already Ok’ed it with their librarian and my head of department. This move could have squashed that idea. Technically, the school librarian there is BAA’s librarian. The space is shared and the resources are shared, yes. This vote will split the two schools. Yes, they will be have more space, which in theory is wonderful. Both are high-performing schools and this means they can accept more students.

However, I’ve seen the Mission Hill school building. I’ve only been as far as their library. The library is currently a one-room, multipurpose space without a proper check-out system or circulation desk. This is the school in my neighborhood. What this article doesn’t address is that not only is the K-8 housed in this three-story building, but New Mission High is ALSO in that building. New Mission High is not accredited, so I guess the Board doesn’t care about them.

The library space in Mission Hill school IS NOT BIG ENOUGH for a high school library.

I don’t know what they plan to do about that. Yes, the current BAA/Fenway shared library is a small space, but it is extremely functional and organized. The Mission Hill school’s current library space is very small and severely lacking in shelves and other permanent features. It would need a lot of work to become a functioning high school library and I don’t think that small room is going to cut it.

I like that BAA is getting more space. I think that arts are important.  I think they’ll need more funding to hire teachers and to rebuild their book collection, since half is owned by Fenway (oooo, collection opportunity, a librarian’s happy dream).

I like the theory that Fenway will be getting more space. I think the teachers and students I’ve met at Fenway are wonderful and they can continue on being high-performing, as long as they are given funding to hire new teachers to handle the influx of students and funding to create a new library space (and hire a new librarian… hmm… I wonder if this move can wait til late 2013).

I don’t like that Mission Hill K-8 has to move to JP. Many of the kid who go there currently can walk to school. Plus, Mission Hill is a really safe neighborhood. However, I think that if the building they are being moved to is cleaned and renovated, then they’ll be OK. I also think that they need more funding and more space. The attitude towards the library that Mission Hill seems to have makes me sad. I don’t think that a school can be high-performing without a good library.

Basically, I think the schools will be fine with lots of new funding and new hires and some (serious) renovations for the schools who are moving.

“Fenway High, in its future Mission Hill location, will also receive $3.8 million in facility improvements, including four new science labs, technology upgrades, and a $1.45 million elevator with chair lift.”
$3.8 million? That might just do it. Maybe some of that can go to collection development?

So, Counsilor Ross, stop complaining. “I am personally going to rally my colleagues on the City Council to not fund a penny of this,’’ he said. “I won’t be supporting the School Department’s budget in any way, shape, or form.” The SCHOOLS NEED MONEY, and you’re just being mean by not voting to fund them. I’m sorry your district only has one K-8 now, but the vote has passed. Being mean to the entire school district now will only hurt these high-performing schools, including Mission Hill K-8 (soon to be the Agassiz K-8). They still need funding. Support the kids, not just your neighborhood. You’ll love having the Fenway High students here. They’re smart and willing to learn.

Hey, why didn’t someone suggest moving the Mission Hill K-8 down the hill to the closed Farragut school? That one was just packed up last spring. It’s not too far (literally down the hill). Mission Hill K-8 could have fit there, I bet. No one thought of that, apparently. That may have solved some logistical issues.

My final word (for now):

  • BAA got lucky. They’ll be fine. A few new hires and some money for the library, and they’ll be good to go.
  • Fenway will be OK once the building is renovated and some new hires are made. Plus a complete rebuild of the library.
  • Mission Hill K-8… I agree with the principal: “Gavins said it would “make this feel like a gift’’ if the grounds, interior, and windows of the Agassiz were greatly improved.” Do it, Boston. Do it for the kids.
  • Councilor Ross needs to support the funding. His ideas got shot down, there’s no point in punishing the students.

Further reading:

http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/school/fenway-high-school

http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/school/boston-arts-academy

http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/school/mission-hill-k-8-school

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