December 3

Developing the Library’s French Collection

This year I am taking the time to evaluate our French collection and I am trying to fill in some curriculum gaps in order to help our French teachers give students at the school the best possible French language education.  Over the years there have been some beautiful books ordered, but were they the ones that the teachers wanted and needed?  That was the question I needed answered.

As I sat with each teacher, it was wonderful to hear about their specific curriculum needs.  English language arts teachers are often the first to tell me what books they need or want to help teach their topics.  But it is not something done as frequently with French language or Hebrew language teachers, probably because what was missing weren’t really topical books, but books that simply help teach French reading and comprehension.  These books are most often levelled readers that allow students to tackle reading one step at a time.  And this was by far the most requested type of resource that came up in these conversations.

Our teachers want to be able to have tangible evidence of our students progress by how well they can move from book A to B to C.  What’s more, having a hard copy of a book gives teachers the peace of  mind that students are staying on task… which isn’t always possible when work is assigned on a device.

There are numerous companies that have designed fantastic French readers that allow teachers to follow student progress.  But at the OJCS we need to streamline what system the team would want to use for assessment purposes.  For this reason a meeting with the team as a whole was required.  The November PD day was an opportunity for the French team to sit down and discuss their options.

I think going into this PGP it hadn’t occured to me how much this project could grow.  This became a really important conversationa about streamlining French language education at the OJCS.

It also illustrates to me the value of having these kinds of conversations more frequently with teachers outside of English Language Arts.  It is my hope that faculty in other departments will see the value of letting me know their needs so that we can together build the best possible collection of resources in the OJCS library.

Another big area that needs to be filled for our French department is French language Jewish holiday books.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if PJ Library published select titles in French for their big Canadian Jewish community!  That is exactly what I reached out to them to let them know.  I am sure there are many families in many of our French forward provinces who would love to have access to PJ Library titles in French.  If you agree I encourage you to also reach out to them and share your request.  Phone: 413-276-0800   Some of our staff who regularly travel to Montreal will also be keeping their eyes peeled for these special and rare books!

My next step in this project is to evaluate and reorganize the French collection we currently have and find out what we do have that meets specific teacher requirements.  I have worked to grow the French collection little by little each year and I know there are definitely curriculum matches there and I want to ensure that I get those books into the teachers hands who need them.  I also want to reorganize that collection in a way that makes it easy for French language teachers to come in and find what they need right away.

This has been a very positive undertaking and I look forward to continuing my work on this project as the year progresses.

November 13

My Wonderful Experience with Student-Led Conferences

(This article was written a few years ago and is being re-posted here to share as a part of a twitter chat #2ndchat on Wednesday November 13th at 8 pm.)

What a Grade 1 Student-Led Conference Might Look Like

My daughter’s school holds student-led conferences once a year for all grades.  Last night, my husband and I attended my daughter’s conference and it was such a great experience I wanted to share about it with teachers who may be in need of some inspiration.  

Parents signed up for a 30 minute time slot, and in that time slot, five children consecutively got to have their conference at different tables with their own parents.  My daughter grabbed her portfolio and chose a table for us to sit down at.                                                                           

This is the portfolio she made for her best work.







Each student has a checklist to work through of their school subjects and the work that they have chosen to share with their parents.

My daughter read us passages from her favourite book, spelled words using a “Boggle” game, demonstrated an exercise with fractions, and showed us her best art piece.

She also presented us with a research project she did on penguins which really impressed us!

She was very proud of her work and moved on to telling us about her favourite activities in subjects where she couldn’t necessarily show us her work… her favourite game in gym (Vegetable Soup), her favourite song in music (Something Just Like This) her favourite activity in French (none apparently.)

I had an opportunity to ask her teacher about her take on these conferences. She said she had never done them before but really liked them. They were so easy to organize… the kids do all the work!

Setting Goals

Eleanor was able to set a goal at the end of our conference and think about what steps she would need to take to get there.  That was great because she got to choose an area she felt she needed improvement and her teacher then read through the goal with her and let her know it was good one to work on.  

The last word…

Overall it was such a great experience to be a parent and have your child share what they do all day because the typical response when I ask her is always the classic response; “nothing.”  She is certainly doing a lot more than nothing and it’s great to see it for myself. We were floored at some of the things she had learned. We had no idea she could do some of this stuff.  

When we were walking out I said “Mom and Dad are so proud of you Eleanor.”  

“Yeah,” she said, “you should be.”


November 5

Critical Pedagogy and Our North Stars

Over the past month I have been taking a course on a wonderful philosophy of education called Critical Pedagogy.  Critical pedagogy’s most influential theorist, Paolo Freire, compared the education system to banking.  In this banking model, teachers make deposits of knowledge which students bank for future use.  Because of this, students often approach their education as consumers and passive receivers of knowledge rather than active agents shaping their own lives.

And yet, this is how UNESCO and the IFLA define information literacy, and it is a far cry from passivity;

Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks
of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal,
social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world
and promotes social inclusion of all nations.

Lifelong learning enables individuals, communities and nations to attain their goals and
to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the evolving global environment for
shared benefit. It assists them and their institutions to meet technological, economic and
social challenges, to redress disadvantage and to advance the well being of all.

This definition of information literacy means that the banking model to teaching is not going to cut it.  Students need to learn how to use information for more than financial gain.  They need to use it to make this world a better place for everyone.  At the OJCS one of our North Stars is ‘Each Person is Responsible for the Other.’  This is at the core of critical pedagogy.

The OJCS is already very active in empowering our students to be active agents in their own education.  ‘Genius Hour’ is one example of how our teachers are living these ideals and allowing students the opportunity to pursue their passions and become creators of knowledge.  Many of these projects have the goal of changing the world for the better too.

Another facet of critical pedagogy is that each student has unique perspectives and experiences to share, which is a way they can teach the teachers and their classmates.  This concept connects to the North Star ‘We are always on inspiring Jewish journeys.’  The unique perspective at our school is the Jewish perspective.  That perspective will make the experiences of our students different from those of students at non-Jewish schools.  For that reason, it is important for teachers to see through that lense.

Another key aspect of critical pedagogy is that teaching shouldn’t be the domain of the teacher alone.  Allowing students self-directed learning and discussion time during lessons is one way empower students to think for themselves and find ways to apply the lesson to their own personal experiences.  One OJCS North Star is that “We own our own learning.  We own our own story”.  Each student has so much to share and so much to teach us.  But to do so, they need lots of teacher-created opportunities to share.

One of the things we hear a lot at staff meetings is that at OJCS we are all lifelong learners.  Teachers and students are always challenging themselves and learning all the time.  This is another North Star “We Learn Better Together.”  So this course presented an opportunity for me to learn and grow.  Learning about critical pedagogy will directly impact the way that I design workshop curriculum and will change what I expect as outcomes.  Right now I mainly educate about information literacy, but to me critical pedagogy is about empowering students to take that knowledge and become ethical, active, global citizens.


Accardi, Maria T.  Critical Library Instruction: Theories & Methods.  Duluth: Library Juice Press.  2010
Elmborg, James.  Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 32, Number 2.  2006.
Delpit, Lisa.  Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom.  New York: New Press, 1995.