Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Unfinished Business: Curriculum Creation for MNPS librarians

Library Services in MNPS has continued to evolve from year to year, this year being no exception. The expectations set forth by the district and our Library Lead have encouraged us to raise our standards and level of instruction. To help facilitate this change the establishment of a curriculum committee arose. This committee was charged with creating a “working document” to be used by librarians as a means to strengthen instruction and increase collaboration with classroom teachers.  Sounds easy, right? Read below to find out more.

Our process: 

1.       Establish a committee with key stakeholders: This included a librarian from each tier level,   an instructional designer, and input from our Library Lead. 

2.       Build upon what’s already there: The American Association of School Library Standards (AASL) already created a curriculum crosswalk; however we needed a personalized document that correlated to our own district. Thus, we took the AASL crosswalk and fashioned a new crosswalk that correlated AASL standards with MNPS reading and writing standards. 

3.       Determine immediate needs: We knew that we needed to produce a document that other librarians would find value in and want to use right away. So we started with reading and research as this is the area we felt where most librarians had the greatest comfort level. The document also includes Social Studies and Science plans for grades K-8 along with writing a researcher paper and digital citizenship for 9th-12 graders. 

4.       Divide and conquer: Each librarian was assigned two grades levels to which they would be that “grade level expert”. Throughout the entire process each librarian created the lesson plans/ideas for their grade; which would provide for continuity and increased rigor. 

5.       Write it out: After all the planning the rubber must meet the road, thus the writing began. We established a “uniformed template” for each grade level. The template was divided into nine weeks’ periods. Each nine weeks focused on a content area and used the same standards that MNPS teachers were expected to cover those nine weeks. Each lesson plan is comprised of: Media specialist/teacher connection, Journey's (our district wide Reading textbook series) or exemplar text correlations, and web resources.  

6.       Establish ownership: We wanted a way for all librarians to feel a part of the process. So each librarian was asked to contribute a lesson they are currently using in instruction. This process established a sense of community and provided opportunities for librarians to share with one another. 

7.       Edit and distribute: With help from other librarians the plans will be reviewed for clarity. Then, comes the excitement with the unveiling of the completed document.  

8.       Revise, reflect, and redo:  The anticipated roll-out of this curriculum is late summer 2015; following the roll-out we anticipate many new ideas, areas for improvement, and suggestions on how the framework can be revised or enhanced. 

Stay tuned to hear more about how the implementation went and to hear testimonials from other librarians on how the induction of a library framework enhanced their teaching and learning. 
L. Brinson
MNPS Librarian

Curriculum Committee Chair 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Learning to Let "It" Go

      When I began working in a middle school library, I was still half- way through my MLIS program, but I had experience as a classroom teacher. While this was probably my saving grace walking into a school library as a “not quite” librarian, it also held me back in many ways.  I had my routines, my lists, and my rules and was firmly in my box, my classroom; notice all the “mys” in this sentence! It took me awhile to adapt to the environment of the library and all its demands.  For months I felt like I wasn’t working as hard as I should be,  just based on the fact that I rarely ever checked anything off my Daily To Do List on the day I made it or sometimes, even the week. Flexibility was definitely the new name of the game. After  years, I felt like I just wasn’t getting it. I struggled to collaborate with teachers, felt like I wasn’t connecting with the kids, and was stressing out about almost every aspect of being a librarian.           

     So I decided to take a step back and really look at what was going on in the library, in the school, in the district. I stopped doing for a while, I watched, I listened, and I thought a lot! What I discovered about me was that I had a crazy need to control everything, which I couldn’t do, and then would waste time trying to figure out what couldn’t be done; back to all those “mys” above. So this is what I did….

1.       Moved my desk from the back office to the library itself.

2.       Solicited feedback from the students in every way.

3.       Started making collections decisions based more on student needs and wants instead of standards and weeded the collection (like seriously).

4.       Began to address the issues in the library design.

5.       Accepted some time out of the regular school day would need to be invested in order to create some deeper connections with students.

     After addressing the above list I learned that I needed to let go of my vision and make it a vision that works for the students. I needed to let go of my want to control every situation and just let some things happen by providing the right environment for it to happen in. And once I did this, I discovered…

1.       By putting myself in the library, I put myself in the lives of my students.

2.       Being with the kids all the time instead of separated from them, I got a better sense of what they wanted and needed.

3.       I provided materials that students were interested in, and I started to pay closer attention to the materials that were in the collection when I arrived …serious weeding, but the details of that are certainly another post.

4.       I rethought the furniture and how it was put together and why it was where it was and then took it apart and moved it, which has turned into a yearly thing, but I’m getting really close to what works.

5.       Library Wednesday was created!!! Every Wednesday from 4-6, the kids can stay (with permission) and do pretty much anything they want, allowing me to learn about what they really want.

By learning to Let “It” Go, HG Hill got a great space with awesome materials with better access to them and a librarian that doesn’t think about what always works in “her world,” but what works for students.


MNPS Librarian

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Meeting Students Where They Are

Finding creative ways to engage students is a challenge that I love.  I’ve discovered along the way that sometimes I must take a step back to assess a situation in order to meet my students where they are. 

I discovered my first semester at my new school that library fines were a problem.  A BIG problem.  My philosophy used to be that students needed to be held accountable for the library books they checked out and pay the fines they owed.  Period.  It’s called being responsible.  A life lesson.  But it also felt like beating my head against a wall.  So, I decided to work with the situation.  Compromise.  Meet the students where they were.  I wasn’t going to simply waive students’ fines.  That was too easy.  I was going to make them work for it. 

I have been taking volunteer groups to the Nashville Rescue Mission to serve dinner since 2007.  It has always been rewarding to watch the students serve their community and work hard doing it, all with happy hearts.  I instantly knew this was the answer to my school’s library fine problem.  So many of our students are recipients of services and charity that they need opportunities like this to give back, say thank you, pay it forward.  Giving their time volunteering to this worthy organization was the solution to my BIG problem.  My students were going to “volunteer off” their library fines at the Nashville Rescue Mission.  My principal and district lead librarian happily gave me the green light. 

I’ve done this enough times that I know to keep it simple: 1 car, 4 students, 3 hours, 3-4 times per year.  My formula is $10 waived per hour worked.  By the end of the evening, a student can work off $30.  It’s a win-win situation.  If you are interested, visit the Nashville Rescue Mission and reserve volunteer spaces online: http://www.nashvillerescuemission.org/volunteer/

over $70 waived on this visit 12/2/2014

As a librarian the ultimate goal is to promote literacy to patrons in all kinds of shapes, forms, and fashions.  One unique program I am very proud of is one I’ve spent this year developing.  I was new to the high school tier the spring of 2014, and I was brainstorming ideas for the upcoming school year.  It occurred to me that my school had a very small but overlooked subgroup of patrons who weren’t being served—teen parents!  I instantly knew I had to meet these students where they were.  In the beginning I didn’t think much of it: I would spend a little of my allocated funds on some children’s books and meet with these students to educate them on the importance of early childhood literacy. I mentioned this to my district lead librarian whose excitement led to the snowballing of this program.  The next thing I knew Limitless Libraries was going to fund the project and Bringing Books to Life was going to provide me a list of children’s books AND create “reading tips” book plates for many of the titles.  I provided lunch for these students and showed them the new children’s collection created especially for them, presented information on early childhood literacy, gave them children’s books from Book ‘em to start a personal library for their children at home, and showed them how to enroll their children in Books from Birth.  The collaboration among community resources has been amazing!  Seamless.  The biggest challenge of this program has been getting buy in from teen parents, so I continue to think of ways to engage these students. 

A collection for teen parents may not suit your demographic, but you can ask the question: “Who are my overlooked patrons?”  You may even discover that this group might be parents!

Another idea I’m working on to “meet my students where they are” is to literally meet them where they are.  I want to set up a bookmobile of sorts—a cart loaded down with great reads (and DVDs, too).  Travel to the cafeteria during lunches.  Camp out in the hallways between classes.  Visit classrooms.  Be in the students’ faces. J If you don’t have time to go to the library, the library will come to you!

Every library has its own unique situations and challenges.  Consider how you can meet your students where they are.
R. Coutras
MNPS Librarian