Recommendations for Black History Month

               I’m usually pretty bad about remembering the different themes for each month. When I was in high school, I don’t think we celebrated April as Poetry Month or March as Women’s History Month. Even though National Hispanic Heritage Month was approved by LBJ and expanded to a 30 day celebration by Reagan in 1988, I never heard of it when I was a student. As a librarian, though, I’m supposed to keep a track of such things and find useful resources to share with staff and students. Here then, are some recommendations for Black History Month.

  • Library of Congress:  The nation’s library is always a great place to start whenever you’re looking for information and resources about our own past. The first thing I noticed is that it is no longer called Black History Month. It is now the clunkier, but more PC, African-American History Month. One of the more interesting (and deeply saddening) links on the LOC website takes you to a database that catalogs more than 35,000 Trans-Atlantic slave trips. Worth examining to contemplate the sheer numbers involved, not just in terms of time, but in terms of lives. Also worth noting on the site, is the For Teachers section, which includes ready to use lesson plans and student activities. 
  • Unfortunately, this website and its accompanying television station are obviously geared towards profiling celebrities who are famous as actors, singers, and entertainers. Besides profiling the inspiring and timeless stories of Samuel L. Jackson and Will Smith this month, Biography will also feature Barack Obama and Frederick Douglass, among others. Check local listings for other specials running this month. The Biography Classroom link also provides some school appropriate materials. 
  • Gale Free Resources: Here you’ll find about 70 short biographies for an interesting list of African Americans, both past and present. Included are familiar names like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshall, as well as such contemporary celebrities such as Kanye West, Jamie Foxx and Queen Latifah. 
  • website. This website is hosted and organized by Verizon, a private telecommunications corporation, but its content providers are such non-profit, government agencies as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Among the events it recommends are a National Youth Summit webcast which will happen live on February 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm Eastern. Registration for the event is FREE. 
  • Poetry Foundation’s Poems to celebrate Black History Month. Having just been one of the judges for the Poetry Out Loud contest here at our school, I was reminded again of the power of a good poem. At this site you’ll find a small but good selection of writers, past and present. 


BONUS: Mini Movie Review: Red Tails

 You would think that a story about the Tuskegee Airmen, Black World War II fighter pilots, would be just the kind of thing tailored for someone like George Lucas. Not many people after all are more qualified to shoot airborne fight scenes than the maker of the Star Wars franchise. Despite supposedly working on it for more than twenty years, what ends up on the screen is a mess of a movie, unsure if it wants to be a period piece, a war movie or a romance. What I imagine ended up on the cutting room floor (the stories about the families stateside, the struggles against racism in the military and back home, the history of Tuskegee itself, the role that black women played during the time) are all left tragically untold. Surely, Lucas and his financial backers must have believed they could sell more tickets by taking the story in the direction they took it. What they lost, however, was a greater opportunity to tell stories that needed to be told and that people would return to over and over again.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something worth sharing.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

Thank you for another great semester

              I love being a high school librarian not just because I am surrounded by great reads, but because I get to interact with so many teachers and students. While I may not have a classroom setting to work in daily, I am privileged to be invited to participate in a variety of classes in big and small ways, and I am always happy to help as I can.

               Thank you to Ms. Medvetz and Ms. Sullivan for asking for assistance for their classes’ English research papers. Both teachers require students to have print and electronic sources. Rather than having students rummaging through the library stacks, however, they have the LMC prepare a cart with the best, most current books and magazines in our collection. Students are still free to look for themselves through our shelves, but with so many good online resources available, most students don’t.

               One thing teachers might not know, is that once a cart is prepared for a particular topic, we scan the books into our Follet’s software where we create a category, such as PRO/ CON Topics or Novels About Math. This can be printed out as a reading list for students, and can be amended as new titles are added.

               In checking on a link for E-Library, Ms. Medvetz discovered that it was broken, and we had to turn to other databases. Ms. Sicard (my trusted aide) found a good alternative in Gale Student Resources, a database I never mention. We also reminded Ms. Medvetz of Pro/, a site run by a non-profit organization whose mission statement says, “”Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format.” 

               Ms. Sullivan’s class was rewarded by Ms. Sicard’s persistence when she checked the E-Library link again and found that it was now working. In order to access these subscription databases, students need a library card from the Haverhill Public Library, so we always remind students to apply for one. (All you need is an ID and proof of residence). 

               Another way I got to participate with a class this past week was by being invited (along with History teacher, Ms. Jones) to debate one of Mr. Levine’s classes. Wednesday through Friday during 4th period, groups of three, four and five students did a wonderful job presenting opening statements, rebutting counter points and examining tough questions that we confront as a society. Among the topics we covered were, “should children’s beauty pageants be banned” and “should Columbus Day be recognized in the United States”? To prepare for the debates, the students used many online resources including a site recommended by Mr. Levine himself, and hosted by the international debate education association. Needless to say, we will be adding it to our blogroll. 

               I also want to thank Ms. Nunez-Donnelly for her recent visit and for helping us recycle our People in Espanol magazines by repurposing them as authentic examples of Spanish language in print. When her classes recently visited the LMC to do research, she noticed that People in Espanol was among the periodicals which we receive. Since we no longer archive print periodicals, Ms. Nunez-Donnelly asked that we pass along the magazines for classroom use. The articles in the magazine are perfect for practicing Spanish as they tend to be short, high interest and non-technical in nature.

               We do keep a few back issues of other magazines, as space allows, and classes often use these for art projects and/or presentations. Ms. Nieves in F22 (aka, in-house) also gets a bi-weekly delivery of older magazines for students to read. When they claim to have no homework or classwork to make up, she encourages them to find something interesting to read. Considering that we pass along back issues of magazines such as Mad, Motor Trend, Seventeen, Hot Rod, Entertainment Weekly, Discover, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and ESPN, they should be able to find something to spark their interests. 

               Whenever possible, I try to copy and share interesting articles with teachers, especially those who frequent the LMC and discuss their classroom interests with me. Among the articles that I passed along recently are:

    • Elite Athletes Have a Brain for the Game (Science News Magazine): Studies show that what separates the best athletes from the rest of the pack is usually a case of mind over matter. Practice, focus and attention are all variables for how an athlete performs, and in the end it really is in their minds.
    • Self Control Pays Off Says Study (Science News Magazine): According to this article, patient children can be identified as early as age three. Turns out the quiet, aloof ones might be on to the secret of success.
    • 50 Best Restaurants in Boston (Boston Magazine): While the print article is pretty good, the online equivalent has great pictures of delicious food with the restaurant information (I know, your smartphone also has it). What a great list to have the next time your field trip just happens to be in Boston.
    • Friending Atticus Finch: English Teachers’ Perspectives on MySpace as a Contemporary Framework for Literary Analysis (Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy). What better demonstrates the quick pace that technology is moving at than having an article published in 2011 talking about MySpace? By the time the JAAL starts writing articles about using Twitter at school, it’ll be so yesterday. 

                In closing, I’d like to again thank everyone that uses the LMC and its many resources, especially the two humans who staff the place. Nothing makes us happier than seeing the place being well used and feeling like we could help you all in your academic pursuits. Thank you for stopping by. Have a great day and a great new semester.

 Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.

Happy New Year, One Week In

……………A very belated Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that you had a great break and that you found yourself surrounded by delicious food, raucous cheer and friendly faces during the holidays. I had a chance to visit my family in New York and it was a great time indeed.

……………As usual, the idea of New Year’s resolutions came up and we made a game of it and laughed about it. While it was a light-hearted discussion, I think New Year’s resolutions are a great way to jump start a personal challenge, make a positive change and/or develop a skill you’ve always wanted. This blog started for me as a New Year’s resolution back in 2007, for the following year. I simply wanted a place to practice writing regularly and a forum that would allow me to communicate my interests (both professional and some personal) with an audience.

……………This post marks the beginning of my fifth year writing this blog. I have written 165 posts and shared over one thousand links to websites from everywhere around the web. Conservatively estimating that each post is about 500 words long, I’ve written over 80,000 words and I am probably closer to 100,000 words or the length of a 400 page book. I am not listing these numbers as a self-congratulatory exercise, but as a demonstration of how accumulating a little work over time can add up to something you didn’t even envision.

……………My mother used to say to me, “the thing to remember about life, is that one day follows the other”. She used this line in bad times as a way of saying, tomorrow you get to try again. She also used this line in good times as a warning, that without practice or a plan, you end up without direction.

……………New Year’s resolutions are something most of us take lightly, but they serve as a yearly reminder to take inventory of ourselves and of our lives. Planning to do something is just the beginning though. The harder part, as we all know, is doing it … and continuing to do it.

……………Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something worthy of a resolution.

Quick Hits: As usual, there are some finds I’d like to share.

  • Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions: In the spirit of making changes, this infographic from shows what most people promise to work on for the new year.
  • The Big Waste: The Food Network is not the first place I think of when I think of educational television, but they do have some delicious (and ridiculous) ideas for what to do with food. This program is advertised as something with a conscience, as the Food Network takes a look at how much food we waste on purpose. We throw away lots of food (surprise, surprise) because it just doesn’t “look good”.  (Sunday night, 1/08/12 at 10 pm)
  • A.J. Jacobs: How healthy living nearly killed me. In the spirit of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 day documentaries, Jacobs gives his short talk revealing how following all the best advice about how to live a healthy life led to some small changes that really matter.
  • Sebastian Wernicke: 1000 TEDTalks, 6 words: This statistician has given other TED Talks, and in this one he tackles the job of trying to distill the meaningful content of one thousand presentations to just six words. I could tell you what those words are, but that would rob you of the chance to wonder what they could be.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2011. All rights reserved.