What I Tell Students at Freshman Orientation

          Every year, since I arrived at Haverhill High School in 2003, I’ve been inviting the Freshman English classes down to the library for what I call a general orientation. It’s my way of welcoming the new class of fresh faces to our school and giving them a preview of what they can expect when they come into the HHS Library Media Center (LMC).

          The talk can last anywhere from twenty minutes to the whole period, depending on the teachers’ request. Sometimes the students are there to also check out books, so I abbreviate my introduction. Other times, I have the whole period to interact with the students. Either way, I find the opportunity to meet and greet that incoming class exciting and, sometimes, scary.

          Most of what I have to say is just run of the mill stuff. I introduce myself and Ms. Sicard, our fantastically awesome and phenomenally reliable LMC assistant. I give the students a general tour of how the library is set up; show them where the fiction, biography and non-fiction sections can be found. Let them know how to sign up for studies and what hours the library is open for students (7 am to 2:45 pm). I also make them aware that we have one of the largest collections of books for a high school library (over 35,000 titles) and that we subscribe to over 40 magazine titles.

          I point out that four directed study classes and the Jobs for Bay State program are also physically connected to the LMC, and that VHS students have an area dedicated to their online classes. I tell them how and when they can use any of the nearly seventy computers we have in the library, and that there is absolutely no food or drink, including H20, allowed in the LMC. I also remind them that any and all rules that apply to the rest of the school about phones, headphones, hats, hoods, low rider pants, inappropriate shirts, and such, apply as well in the library.

          Then comes the part of my speech that can’t be found anywhere in the handbook. It is the portion of my orientation that deals more with my educational philosophy and my personal approach to dealing with the everyday details that we will encounter throughout the year(s). It is my opportunity to make a real first impression about who I am, and what I am about. It gives me a chance to distill what I have learned about teaching and being a teacher in seventeen years of trying my hand at this noble profession. Every time that I do it, it is slightly different, but what I am trying to express boils down to a few simple, easy to comprehend ideas, that go something like this:

  •  I am a teacher first and foremost, and I am here to help every student that wants to learn.
  • Haverhill High is every students’ school, but it is my workplace, and I will not permit anyone to interfere with my job.

  • I view the LMC as the heart and soul of the academic life of our school, and no one is allowed to disrupt the important work that has to be done.

  • Nothing that I do in my office, is as important as anything I do to help a student or teacher.

  • Everyone is responsible for their own behaviors, and there are consequences for disrupting others pursuing their education, and finally,

  • We are a community, and everything we do as individuals affects who we are as a whole.

          After that, I tell them how excited I am to have them join our family, and that I hope that in four years time, we will all be better off for having known each other. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you all tomorrow.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.  

Science Blogs

           Oh how quickly eleven days can pass by when you’re busy cataloging new books, checking in supplies, updating the student database, making sure the copy room isn’t melting down and scheduling classes to come down for their library orientations. I’ve still been trolling around the Internet, looking for great finds to share, but my discoveries are a little uneven. Thus, I’ve decided to revisit and reintroduce one of my favorite places on the vast web of information.

            While some people still don’t fully appreciate or recognize the importance of blogging, it is an emerging sector of the Internet that has transformed the way we communicate with and inform one another. Most well known bloggers are professional writers from the news and entertainment industries who have simply transferred their skills over to the electronic medium. For me, this is the least exciting sector of this new wave of thinkers available to the general public because it is mostly the same commercial stuff that is already disseminated through television, radio and advertising. (Memes are real).

            One of my favorite “watering holes” on the Internet is ScienceBlogs, precisely because it is about a subject that I feel the public is generally under-informed, and unfortunately uninterested, about. Unlike E-blogger or wordpress (host of this blog) where anyone can sign up for an account and start posting, ScienceBlogs seems to have standards, for it is home to only seventy one (71) blogs. Written by science professors, teachers and graduate students, the blogs found at this clearinghouse are divided into eleven sections including life science, the environment, education, physical science, politics and a half dozen other categories. I would be lying if I said that I have checked them all out, but I am certain that everyone with even a burgeoning interest in the wonders of science will find something worth reading here.

            I invite you to peruse their offerings and please let me know if you find anything worth sharing, since I have stopped looking because I am happy with the sites I already frequent regularly. After all, even though the Internet is ubiquitous and open 24/7, there are only so many hours in the day for us mortals. Here then are my recommended reads:

  •  Pharyngula: Written by PZ Myers, associate professor and biologist at the University of Minnesota, this site focuses mostly on the battle between science and religion in our schools and culture. Myers does not mince words when it comes to expressing his distaste and distress over the politics of belief that impede the progress of true science education in this country. I only wish there were more people, especially educators, willing to take his position.
  • The Frontal Cortex: So maybe there isn’t a brain region (that I could find) called the frontal cortex; though there is a pre-frontal cortex that is associated with memory tasks and risk taking activities. Still, this blog, written by Jonah Lehrer (a Wired contributing editor and author of Proust was a Neuorscientist), is interesting in its scope and topics. If you like to wonder about how brains work, Lehrer is up to the challenge of making you think about common things, in uncommon ways.
  •  Not Exactly Rocket Science: Despite the self-deprecatory title, this blog’s mission seems to be to get the masses to appreciate “rocket science” or at least, general science. Written by award winning writer, Ed Yong, the posts are “his attempt to make the latest scientific discoveries interesting to everyone by beating jargon, confusion and elitism with the stick of good writing.” Cool graphics don’t hurt.

           Maybe three recommendations doesn’t seem like enough to you, but remember that each of these blogs has got at least one year’s worth of reading and entries in its archives. That should give anyone enough to read and consider for a while. Still, I would love to hear that you have found something that piques your interest enough to make it part of your daily reading. Please post your feedback in the comments section below, so that other visitors of this blog know what you’re thinking.

            Thank you for stopping by, and I will see you all tomorrow.

 Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

Welcome Back 2009-2010

One of the nice things about a blog like this is that I get to recycle certain posts from time to time (with modifications, of course). One such post is last year’s welcome back entry at the beginning of the year where I outline important dates and LMC policies. This is especially good if you are new to our school or if you have forgotten how we operate. Please read carefully and let me know if there is anything confusing:

Welcome back for the 2009-2010 school year! As always, we at the HHS LMC are here to try to make your days as teachers, administrators and students better and more rewarding. Already we are getting many questions and requests, so I thought I’d use this opportunity to address some of these.

Important Library dates

  •  9/08, Tues: Teachers can begin scheduling for class visits to check out books
  • 9/08, Tues: English teachers can bring down classes to pick up portfolios
  • 9/09, Wed: Freshman English teachers can begin scheduling for library orientation
  • 9/16, Wed: Study students can sign up for library study

For all your AV and media concerns, call at once (xt. 1143) if you need

  • a bulb for your overhead projector, and you should have it in minutes
  • help connecting your tv, vcr or dvd player, and it should be ok in moments
  • a vcr, cassette player, CD player, or radio, for we have plenty of those
  • a dvd player or video projector and screen, but I’d prefer to know two days before … and I can’t promise to get you one right away

Review of basic library rules

  1. Students may sign up for the library (if they have a scheduled study), only before homeroom starts or after school, after 2:05.
  2. Students may not get a pass from their study or directed study teachers to the library. Subject teachers may send students with a pass (up to 3) to complete class work or take a test. (Please call to advise us if you are sending students out of a class)
  3. Hats, hoods, cell phones, are not allowed. And every other rule in the student handbook also especially applies in the library.
  4. The library is a large common space, available and welcoming to all who wish to convene (after making arrangements or getting a pass), thus anyone who disrupts or interferes with the WORK being done, will be asked to leave – and may be banned for some time, depending on the wishes of the Oracle.
  5. Remember to leave the library the way you found it. If you moved a chair, put it back. If your students moved chairs, have your students put them back. Better still … don’t move the chairs.
  6. Food and drink are not allowed in the library. Food includes anything you put in your mouth that you intend to swallow or chew on. Drink includes water. I can’t make this any clearer.
  7. Students are to remain seated until the bell rings to mark the end of each class period. This is doubly true for the dismissal bell at 2:05. Visiting teachers are asked to please help keep their students seated.
  8. We are here to help anyone and everyone who asks for help, especially when they ask with a smile. (Although a smile is not a prerequisite because that would mean we would only serve about 10% of our population).  🙂

I think that’s it for now. I hope it’s clear and easy to comprehend.

I love our LMC and believe that we can provide the best quality education for anyone who really aspires to learn, but I NEED YOUR HELP. The library is not a holding pen, hangout, extension of connected classrooms or anything else. In my mind it is the central temple of information and a repository of learning. Let’s WORK, to keep it that way.

Thank you for stopping by and I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.