Saturday, September 13, 2014

Celebrating International Dot Day All Year

A new school year begins full of possibility and promise. It feels like a fresh page in an unwritten book, a chance to start over with optimism and excitement.  We decided to dream big this year and try something innovative and just a little crazy. Each year my library staff and I choose a theme for our school’s bulletin boards and add a little signage to liven up the college. This year we’re going all out. This is the year for us to make our mark.

After this past spring’s inspiring Peter Reynolds Author Study and Skype visit, I decided that all of my students could benefit from his powerful message to make a difference in their own way. Our theme for the year is “Make Your Mark – and See Where it Takes You!” I introduced the theme to my new students during freshman orientation when I read The Dot to a wonderfully engaged audience.  We will be using The Dot as a framework for our college to think about the ways we make our mark, not just in our academic work, but in our personal and emotional lives.  A graffiti wall has been set up for everyone to share their own thoughts on how they will make the most of their time this year.  This was inspired by Monica Harris’s keynote address during the ILA Youth Services UnConference where she discussed participatory culture in libraries. Her library started an Idea Box where patrons could interact with the space that changed every month from chalk walls to maps to green screens. I may not have a room that I can use, but I do have a bulletin board. We all start somewhere...

In addition to our Dot-themed bulletin boards (See how they resemble Vashti's framed picture?), I've also blanketed the walls of the college with Dot Day Precepts, inspired by Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  Dot Day is the perfect time to think about the principles we live by - and create new ones.

Our celebration of creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking starts on International Dot Day this Monday.  I have raided the art room (and my own craft nook) for materials of all shapes and sizes for students, faculty, and support staff to join together to create unique, beautiful dots. So much time in college is spent running from work to class to homework, so it’s vital to provide time to play and create. In the process of creating dots, I hope to get to know my students better and for them to get to know each other better. Dot Day should be a community-building experience where the divisions between teacher and student blur and we become just people. 

I have also reached out to my faculty to create their own “Celebridots” to model creativity and risk taking. During our Skype visit with Peter, he discussed the importance of creating art along with our students to “create a culture that supports creativity and sharing ideas.” We have taken this challenge to heart as we work to make the library a safe place for all kinds of creative expression. During lunch every day this coming week I will provide programs for students to unleash their creativity from dot making to found poetry to cardboard challenges. At the end of the week, I hope to host a gallery of their artistic creations and work on a collaborative mural we can showcase in the library.  I hope that students will share their interests and preferences during our programs so I can customize events especially for them. I want to provide all kinds of programs for the rest of the year to help students continue to make their mark. At the same time, I hope that students will rise to the occasion and take the initiative to offer programs based on what they know.  I want to switch the expected roles and let them be the teachers. We’re going to spend the year creating and learning from each other. 

I recognize that I have absolutely no control on how our ambitious plans will go.  Unlike a regularly scheduled class, our Dot Day events are completely voluntary, and take place during lunch. But Dot Day is about planting seeds, about trying new, frightening ventures – and signing our names to them. And no matter the result, if one student is inspired to take chances of her own, then we have made our mark. 

This is my ALA Annual 2014 Dot. I've been trying to find a way to express the joy of my experience. Words failed. But I think a dot better shows the whirlwind wonder of this summer's conference.

Dot Day Resources 

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