An Interview with Diana Maliszewski

Diana Maliszewski is an educator with the Toronto District School Board and our paths have crossed online and off so many times over the years.  I did want to dig a little deeper so I was very happy that she agreed to the interview.

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Doug:  First question always – I remember the first time we met face to face – do you?

Diana: I think I do. I cheated a bit and peeked on my blog for confirmation. It was in 2011 at the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference when we participated in the “Web 2.0 Face Off” together. I was a little star struck by you and I found it hard when we did the Face Off then and at the ECOO conference to “trash talk” you like we were supposed to as part of the performance aspect of the presentation. I actually rely on my blog and my scrapbooks to help my shaky memory. You are preserved in there, so you will never be forgotten!

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(L-R Mark, Carol, Doug, Colleen, Rick, Roger, Diana, Zoe, Anita at OLA 2011)

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Doug:  That’s a great memory.  I’d forgotten that we had those little hockey sticks.

I’ll start with a confession.  I don’t know how to reliably spell your last name so, when I feature your blog in This Week in Ontario Edublogs, I always go to your Twitter profile and copy/paste!  Did it take you long to learn how to spell it?

Diana: Yes, but I had help. I met my future husband online back in the early days of the Internet (1994) – we were e-pals on a BBS. No real names, no photos! There were all sorts of scary warnings back then about using aliases online, so I did. I knew “James492” was a keeper because he never pestered me for my actual name, actually understood my thinking process, and had correctly guessed my real name based on my screen name. Then we became pen pals for several months because he went back home to the US and didn’t have reliable Internet back then. We exchanged handwritten / typed letters to each other frequently so I had a lot of practice writing Maliszewski (pronounced Moll-uh-shev-skee).

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(James and Diana on their honeymoon, July 1997)

Doug: Thanks for the phonics lesson! I’ll practice and get it right if I ever get a chance to speak your name out loud.

What really interested me about you, in the beginning, was that you had so many interests and were involved in so many conversations – I just knew that you had to be a teacher-librarian. I think everyone should follow a few teacher-librarians to help break out of any mindset bubble they might have.

Diana: You are too kind, Doug! The world is just such an interesting place that it’s hard not to get excited about multiple things. I definitely don’t fit the stereotype of a teacher-librarian, but few TLs that I know are bun-wearing shushers. Being a teacher-librarian is the best job in the school! You can see the most students, often have the largest classroom (with plenty of books and technology), and can have quite a bit of flexibility and freedom with the way you and your fellow teachers can deliver curriculum together. Teacher-librarians are literally life savers too! I have an allergy to peanuts and pine nuts and both times that I had a serious anaphylactic attack that required intervention, I was rescued by teacher-librarians! Thanks Peggy Thomas and Francis Ngo!

Doug:  Long before you and I met, you had connections with Greater Essex County.  Here’s your chance to give your friends a shout-out.

Diana: This is quite timely, as I just finished attending the 2017 OLA SuperConference and I was lucky enough to have dinner and spend time with a few of them. There’s Martha Martin, a dear friend who used to be on the editorial board of The Teaching Librarian magazine with me. She’s the person who introduced me to the book Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, and for a while, I was quite obsessed. Martha herself is now an author – her first fiction title, River Traffic, has been released by Orca Book Publishers. I’m lucky enough to spend time on OSLA Council with Johanna Lawler, who has been doing phenomenal work advocating for teacher-librarians through ETFO. Sharon Seslija recently retired from the GECDSB and she was extremely influential.

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(L-R Liz, Martha and Diana at OLA Super Con in 2011 trying on weeding protection gear)

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(L-R Alanna, Johanna, Diana, Sharon, and Martha at dinner at OLA Super Con 2016)

I’m very fortunate that, because of tweeting and due to my involvement with OSLA, I’ve had the chance to make a lot of friends from different boards. Maybe on my own blog, I’ll devote a few posts to “saluting my colleagues from school board X”! Thanks for the idea, Doug!

Doug:  I had the honour of working with all these wonderful ladies. You chose your friends wisely. It’s neat to see Alanna photobombing the Greater Essex people. I like the saluting idea for blog posts. It reinforces the notion that we’re not limited to those in the immediate proximity.

Speaking of blogs, yours is titled “Monday Molly Musings”. It’s one of my favourites and I check it weekly. There’s a great story behind your blog and your commitment to it.

Diana: I was asked to contribute a blog as part of a project called the Library Network Group, which aimed to create a virtual community for library professionals. My first post was March 30, 2009. My husband was at that time already a prolific blogger who had a big following as part of his niche area and I asked him for advice. He told me to maintain the blog and post regularly. This is why it’s called Monday Molly Musings – one, I’m preoccupied with alliteration, and two, it was (and still is) my goal to post every Monday. The Library Network Group eventually folded, but I moved my blog over to Blogger in 2010. Some weeks are easy to create content. Other weeks are hard. Sometimes I’ll ask my son and daughter (now 14 and 17) what I should write about and they usually prompt me to describe something that happened at school that stuck in my mind as amusing, or memorable, or thought-provoking. I’m often surprised by which posts resonate with people. I always get excited if a post gets featured on your Friday reviews. What I like about those, Doug, is your commentary. It isn’t just a list; it demonstrates that you’ve read and thought about what you’ve seen. I make a point of getting annual hard copies of my blog through Blog2Print and I like re-reading what I’ve recorded over the year and noticing any recurring themes.

Doug: Similarly, your Twitter handle is MzMollyTL. There has to be a story behind that too.

Diana: Everything has a story! My students are adept at saying my name correctly, but it just happens that one of the teachers I worked with, Michael Bossi, who is long retired and had a passion for music, used to greet me in the halls with a very loud “Good Golly Miss Molly!” and the nickname stuck. I get a variety of spelling variations but for some reasons I chose to “brand” my Twitter, blog, and wiki with “Molly”. I added the TL portion to Twitter because someone had already claimed @MzMolly as their handle. Sometimes I question that decision – @MzMaliTL is one character shorter and a little closer to my actual name. The only difficulty with changing now would be all the various places that I’d have to alter.

Doug: Every teacher-librarian that I know has a great success story about a student or two who turned things around because of the library. Can you share yours? (No names, of course)

Diana: The first story that pops in my head is of “B”. The school library didn’t turn his life around; the school library was part of his life raft. He was passionate about the Forest of Reading and at the Festival of Trees one year, my intermediate division students had the opportunity to be interviewed by CBC. Many of them were sign carriers and speakers during the awards ceremony. They also hung out with Sabrina Jalees, the celebrity MC. This was significant and super important, because B’s mother died of cancer mere weeks before. Attending the Festival was the bright spot in a stressful and sorrowful time in his life.

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(The group being filmed by CBC at the 2011 Festival of Trees Red Maple Award ceremony)

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(Being interviewed by CBC)

Doug:  We live in times of “Alternative Facts” and “Fake News”.  Your thoughts?

Diana: Teacher-librarians, school library professionals, public librarians, … really, librarians of all stripes and types are needed more than ever. It can be easy to be duped (and that includes “educated” people) so it is important for everyone to triangulate their data, examine with a critical eye what they see, read, or hear, and to use their media literacy skills. That includes all sides of the political spectrum. My husband’s been rewatching the X Files and Mulder’s poster stated “I want to believe”. People want to believe, either that the rogue American government twitter accounts are real or that the person responsible for the Quebec City mosque shooting was a Moroccan foreigner. If the information fits our internal narrative, we might be more eager to accept it as real, instead of dealing with cognitive dissonance this knowledge may expose. The most popular button at OLA Super Conference this year was this one.

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Doug: Just last week, you attended the OLA Superconference. Every Ontario educator needs to attend it at least once. “Super” doesn’t do it justice. I have had the honour of speaking there a couple of times and have attended three times. Can you share a couple of takeaways from this year? I understand that you presented and had an interesting co-presenter.

Diana: This year’s OLA Super Conference was special because my daughter presented with me in a session called Cosplay MakerSpaces. Mary first went to Super Conference when she was a few weeks old in 2000 when I gave my very first OLA talk there, on Many Voices: Multi-Cultural and Multi-Lingual Perspectives on School Libraries. I was so proud to see her at the front of the room, leading discussion and sharing her experiences. I also did a talk called See How To Help, on what I’ve learned working with vision itinerants, orientation and mobility specialists, and students with vision impairments.

I attended sessions by Sunni Brown, Jessamyn West and friends like Melanie Mulcaster, Alanna King, and Katina Papulkas. Melanie’s Making Gone Virtual with GAFE was so practical and inspiring. Between Melanie’s modeling and the encouragement from Larissa Aradj (@MrsGeekChic) and Arianna Lambert (@MsALambert) in the #tdsbEd Twitter chat, I’ve finally ditched my paper library visit sign in binder with a Google form. About time! You can read more about my Super Conference reflections on my blog.

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(Melanie Mulcaster at her amazing session, 2017)

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(Katina Papulkas, 2017)

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(Alanna King, 2017)

Doug:  You’re well known by the costumes that you wear to such events.  Anything memorable this year?

Diana: You know me a little too well, Doug! For my Cosplay MakerSpace session, I was Ralph from Wreck It Ralph,  Anna from Frozen, and Jessie from Pokemon. My daughter (who is more of an introvert, despite her love of cosplaying) was Chell from Portal and April from the 2012 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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(Wreck It Ralph and April O’Neil, OLA 2017)

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(Diana as Anna from Frozen at OLA Super Conference 2017
– thanks Jen Brown for taking the photo!)

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(Chell and Pokemon’s Jessie, OLA 2017)

Doug:  Those are awesome photos.  I’m sure that the two of you had a great time.  Look out province, there’s another Maliszewski presenter on the horizon.

I also know that you’re a huge Minecraft fan.  What got you interested in this?

Diana: I blame Liam O’Donnell. Liam and I met at TCAF (the Toronto Comic Arts Festival) and bonded over our love of comics, which branched out to include video games. I already had a small, unofficial gaming PLN with my dear friend Denise Colby; the two of us had used games like Webkinz with our classes before we met Liam. Liam played Minecraft in Beta form in 2011 and he encouraged us to play. There was something quite exhilarating about those early times exploring. I had no idea what I was doing half of the time. The sixth time I played, I climbed into a boat and I couldn’t get out. (See http://familygamingxp.blogspot.ca/2012/02/minecraft-journal-5-6.html for my journaling). I also got stuck in a hole underground and was trapped for ages (see http://familygamingxp.blogspot.ca/2012/02/minecraft-journal-7-8.html ) – yet despite all those disasters at the beginning, it was a lot of fun. I think playing and learning alongside my own children made a big difference.

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(L-R Liam O’Donnell, Denise Colby, Jen Apgar, Diana Maliszewski – missing = Andrew Forgrave taken at ECOO in 2014)

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(L-R Prax [Liam], Phisa [my son], Lira [Diana], Gumby [Andy], Terra [my daughter] in Minecraft in game on December 31, 2015 to ring in 2016)

Doug:  What is your current level of interest?

Diana: I’ve backed away from doing talks specifically on Minecraft for conferences. I vowed that 2016 was my last year to do those. I’ve wrestled with that choice but I think it’s in my best interest. There are new things to learn about and share. However, we still maintain the GamingEdus website (I’m the webmistress – find it at www.gamingedus.org ) and I still run my school’s Minecraft Clubs and play with my students. I’m glad I do. Students who are in Minecraft Club are required to document their adventures on a public wiki (http://minecraftclubhub.pbworks.com) and one of the students recently wrote

“This was the best DAY of my life it was the day i got to play minecraft”  

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(My student getting interviewed by CBC Spark during a Minecraft Club session, 2013)

Doug: At one point, you expressed concern with the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft. Do you still hold those views?

Diana: I still do. The corporatization of education technology makes me uneasy, and it’s not just Microsoft. I’m uncertain how much folks who have been hired by Minecraft Education Edition are permitted to be critical or skeptical of the product they are hired to promote. Peter Skillen has taught me so much about this area and opened my eyes to how much I still don’t know.

Doug: A topic near and dear to most in education is the future of the school library. They’re often easy topics in these days of budget cuts. Your thoughts?

Diana: So many more articulate people than I have tried to remind people that school libraries should be appropriately funded and staffed because education needs what school libraries and their staff offer. Instead of revising and editing a passionate, persuasive speech, I’ll give the final word to some of my students. Ms. Chiu’s Grade 1 class at my school, Agnes Macphail Public School, modified their “What Is Media” video to create their “Our School Library Is Important and Special”. I helped them with stitching together the images but the ideas were all theirs. They entered this video in the OSLA School Libraries Multimedia Contest and they won in the elementary school category! Check out their video.

Their words and pictures are much more powerful than mine might be. They are the future and they want their future to contain school libraries.

Doug: Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview, Diana. I really enjoyed your thoughts and look forward to your continuing contributions towards Ontario education. You’ve also raised the bar for future interviews with all of the photos you contributed.

As you read this interview, I’m sure that you realize that Diana is incredibly active on social media.  Here’s where to find her.

You can check out all the interviews I’ve done for this blog here.

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2 thoughts on “An Interview with Diana Maliszewski

  1. Yippee! i am very definitely part of the Diana Maliszewski fan club. I’m so glad to see her featured here. I think, Doug that you were one of the people who helped Diana and I find each other, and I am extremely grateful for that, since she has become an extremely good friend and a colleague whose point of view I rely on immensely. She dives into her learning wholeheartedly, and that is such a gift!

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  2. This is such a comprehensive interview and I’m sorry I’m late to the party! Diana has been so influential in my career. She and Ruth Hall were the first two t-ls to introduce me to the idea of a learning commons while I attended their OTF summer institute. Then later Diana told me about the fabulous M.Ed. TLDL program at the University of Alberta that she had completed and then I started too! We are so fortunate to have her leading the way in Ontario. She might need to start 3D printing clones of herself.

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