Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Heart Wants What it Wants...

          Recently, I attended a Professional Development session that focused on Interactive read-alouds. At the training Mara Rockliff's book My Heart Will not Sit Down was shared and caused me to ponder that very phrase. As I begin this year at a new school there are many things that won’t let my heart sit down such as: establishing a rich literature collection, creating procedures that set the foundation for the year, and creating a student-centered environment. The list could go on and on however, what’s pulling my heart at this moment is the need to build and maintain collaborative relationships with both students and teachers. Not too hard, right?

Jerry Porras states “when you put together deep knowledge about a subject that intensely matters to you, charisma happens. You gain courage to share your passion, and when you do that, folks follow. This powerful, yet complex quote, articulates what I will aim to do each day as I begin to define and establish myself this school year.

I am convinced that librarians are some of the most passionate educators around. We believe in the power of reading, we hold on to the hope that all children will leave our schools finding a genre of books that interest them, we take great care to select high-quality resources, we understand and apply instructional design principals when creating lessons, and much more.

Nonetheless, the second part of Porras quote is one that excites, humbles, and challenges me. I desire my passion to cause teachers to follow me. I want my teachers to trust, witness, and share in my quest to bring not just books but learning to life.

                  So how will I make this happen?

  • Changing my title from librarian to teacher- librarian; causing teachers and students to recognize that I am not just a librarian, but I’m a librarian who teaches.
  • Communicate frequently, by writing a weekly newsletter, digital announcements, and/or class visits.
  • Ease-dropping, listen to what peeks students interest then surprising them with items in the library.
  • Volunteer, find opportunities teach a lesson in their classroom or with small groups.
  • Be courageous and make suggestions on how to enhance a lesson.
  • Most importantly I will share my passion, knowledge, and love for teaching and learning.

In closing, I pose the very question that tugged my heart: What is it that won’t let your heart sit down? How will you make it happen?

Scholastic & School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year finalist
MNPS Librarian

Monday, August 24, 2015

Introducing the Library to Kindergarten

At my school, we don’t have kindergarten teachers, we have kindergarten whisperers. Seriously. You should see them! I continually marvel at the magical transformation they make in the lives of our students from August to May. In fact, on more than one occasion, I have told a kindergarten whisperer: “I wish I had a five-year-old right now so they could be in your class.”

On the flipside – I need to make a true confession: I’m a bit intimidated by kindergarteners. My first year as a librarian, the “Green Giant” stature I possess caused many tears. Being unfamiliar with talking to twenty kindergarteners at once was another hurdle in my path. The world of elementary school is so new to them, brimming with possibilities, and I want to make sure that my impression on them leads to a love of our library. Knowledge of intermediate students represents both my classroom experience days and my strength, so meeting the needs of the “kindy friends” has been an important focus for growth throughout my librarianship. I hope you’ll enjoy a few ideas I’ve discovered along the way.

K – Know your audience and plan accordingly. They always wiggle – a lot! Many often refer to the art of kindergarten teaching as herding cats. At first, I always tried to cram too much into our first kindergarten visit. Now, we keep the first story time short. And we don’t check out books that day. We say hello and make important connections. (I’m sure you’ve found out, many kindergarteners LOVE to talk.) We read a story about an endearing character visiting the library for the first time. Then we move a bit: a short tour, a time to look INSIDE the book return (this really wins at my school), and a peek into the fish tank. We end with a silly story so everyone can laugh a little before they leave.

I – Improvise because the plan won’t go how you planned. Each of our 5 different kindy classes has its own personality. Sometimes a few pieces of my well-oiled machine completely flop. Our school is learning more and more about Responsive Classroom –teaching the “whole child.” Kids need times to just stand up and shake the wiggles out. And let’s be honest, I’ve got the wiggles sometimes, too.

N – Never underestimate the opponent students. When you give them the chance to chat more than you do – that’s when the magic happens. Just last week, we introduced ourselves and expressed favorite things to read. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my kindergarteners were more aware of genre than I would’ve expected. Plus it usually gives me something fun to remind me why I love my job. My favorite moment last week: “My name is Mark. I like everything awesome, and I like mysteries!”

D – Dare to think outside the box. Some of my favorite kindy experiences have stemmed from leaving the library for a while that day and pushing into the classrooms. The last two years, I’ve held a standing appointment as an August “reading center” for a couple of days in each kindy classroom. In that role, I walk the students in small groups to the library. Open check out routines are modeled and practiced. Though tedious, those precious moments of time shared with those students empowers them to be self-sufficient library patrons. This also opened the door for other experiments in my collaboration with that team as well as other teams. What new thing are you hoping to try?

Y – Be Yourself! Find what works for you. Our youngest library friends respond the best to adults who are genuine. Just as we teach students times when they might choose to abandon a book they’re reading, remember it’s ok to re-evaluate and find your next best plan for a lesson. I have not achieved kindergarten whisperer status, but I’m growing a little each year!

Any readers who have ideas to share, I definitely welcome them – covet them even. Please, oh, please send some my way! Best wishes and happy reading!

S. Parnell
MNPS Librarian@smlibrarygirl

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Library Orientation in Middle School

This is my second year as a middle school Teacher-Librarian.  During my time in this position, I have learned that library orientation for middle school students is most successful when there is less talking and more doing.  Kids also love it when the “doing” can incorporate some kind of technology.  So, I designed and used a QR Code Scavenger Hunt to teach my students about the most important parts of the library.  Last year, I presented a Power Point before the students began the QR code hunt.  This year, however, as I thought about less talking, more doing, I decided that the majority of orientation would involve students learning about the library through the scavenger hunt.  So, I scrapped the PowerPoint and incorporated some of the items from that presentation into the hunt. 

How does a QR code scavenger hunt work?  First, students need to have access to smart devices with cameras and a QR scan app.  We used iPads.  As I created the scavenger hunt, I turned websites, pictures, and videos into QR codes using a QR code generator site such as http://qrcode.kaywa.com/.  I designed my hunt to cover a variety of the areas in the library while also trying to expose students to the most important things I thought they needed to know as library users.  Students shared an iPad and worked in pairs, but each student turned in a completed hunt.  They used the clues on the scavenger hunt handout (Follow this link to see the handout). to find items and QR codes in the library.  Then, whatever they found or scanned (some items did not have a QR code) was used to answer the questions on the hunt.  For the tasks with a code, I hung large, printed QR codes in the appropriate areas of the library and labeled them with their number from the hunt.  After finishing (overall, the hunt took about 30 minutes for this year’s 5th graders), we talked about some of the answers, and I added details when necessary.  At the very end, students had about 15 minutes for check-out. 

Both this year and last, I worried about whether or not this type of orientation would crash and burn or be successful and fun.  I experienced a few technical difficulties with codes that wouldn’t scan, but I was able to make some changes at the last minute that worked and kept the tasks on the hunt basically the same.  Just in case, I also created a back-up scavenger hunt that didn’t involve QR code scanning.  Plus, I spent at least 5 minutes demonstrating how to scan QR codes and handle the iPads before the students began the hunt.  Despite my worries, both years of doing this type of orientation resulted in happy, productive kids, who scored really well when I graded their hunts (I always offer to grade the scavenger hunts for teachers).  More than once, I heard “This is so much fun!” and was excited to see that students didn’t have any trouble staying on task.  Even though I might not always use QR codes in library orientation, I will always try to design an orientation activity that allows students to be active learners.    

J.T. Moore Middle

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Transitioning to a New School

Transitioning to a new school offers an exciting fresh start! This is the time to think about exciting book challenges and activities you want to try in your new school. In my career, I have transitioned to a new school a few times. When you transition, it is important to keep the following in mind:

     Go to the new school a couple of weeks before we officially have to be there.
I cannot stress how important this is! This will help you see what you have in the library before the first few days of school. By going in a couple of weeks before, you are able to get the library organized and decorated to kick off the new year in a new school. Also, you might have a chance to meet new teachers before all the meetings start, which will help build relationships in the building.

         Meet with your principal.
Setting up a meeting time with the principal of your new school is very important. By speaking with your principal, you will understand his goals for the library program. Make sure to discuss the budget as well. Sharing your thoughts about the programs and activities you want to offer in the library during this meeting is a good time to get your principal’s feedback.
Get to know your bookkeeper.
Your bookkeeper will be your friend. You will be working with your bookkeeper for purchase orders and items for machinery in the library (such as laminating film, print cartridges, toner, and more). Additionally, you will turn in your leave requests for  PD days to the bookkeeper. :)

          Build relationships.
Building relationships is the best way to begin marketing the library program. Get to know the teachers. Ask for their input on the collection. Ask what they are doing each week and, if possible, attend the grade level meetings/subject meetings in order to be able to provide the best resources for their lessons and to have materials on hand when students make requests. It’s also important to mingle with the students. Get to know their likes and interests. (Book interests vary from school to school. Make sure to tailor the collection to fit this school’s needs.)

          Ask for help when needed.
It is easy to get overwhelmed when transitioning to a new school. A different protocol, different teachers, different students, different collection needs, and much more. As much as possible, try to stay positive and ask for help/guidance when needed. This will help you to not become overwhelmed and will help you to keep your sanity :)

C. Thomas
MNPS Librarian

Friday, August 7, 2015

Starting a New Library (as a New Librarian)

I’m a brand new school librarian starting a library in a brand new school. “Dream job” is what many librarians say that I have (and I agree!), but the beginning of this process has definitely been an overwhelming one.  If anything, my motto during this time has been:

New Librarian + New School Library = BE FLEXIBLE

Here are a few guidelines I’ve tried to keep to:

1. Let go of the need to plan, control & know how everything will work.

              We had our first day of school yesterday and construction on our building, including the library, isn’t even finished. My principal has been so busy with the logistics of opening a new school that we haven’t had a chance to meet about what my role will look like this year. Most of our library books are here and shelved, but we still have many yet to come in. I don’t even have my login information for my computer and email yet! Starting a new library means I get to decide all the library procedures that are usually already set in place in existing libraries. Being a new librarian means I’m not exactly sure HOW I want to run the library!

I love a good plan and I like to be “in the know” for everything going on around me, but I quickly learned that I had to let that go for now until things around the school settle down. And that’s OK!

2. Focus on what you CAN do.

              Now that I’ve bummed everyone out about all the things that can’t be decided right now, I’ve realized that there ARE things that can be done right now.

First, get to know my collection. My fabulous books are (mostly) in and on the shelves! I’ve had to do some shifting and realized this was a great opportunity to actually see what we have in our collection.  There is really no better way to know your collection that to just start reading the shelves.

Second, I’ve focused on building relationships with my teachers. I haven’t been able to do a lot of prep work in the library, but teachers have been busy decorating their rooms and no one really says no to an extra helping hand.  This has been a great time to get to know teachers personally, and I think having that base relationship will pay off as we work together professionally this year.

3. Plan LOOSELY.

              There are a lot of “maybes” and “let’s see how this works” when trying to plan for library procedures and scheduling with teachers for the year. Even though I don’t have a definite idea of what things will look like, I sat down with each grade level for about 30 minutes to give them an overview of my roles as the librarian and how they can use me and the library (on a flex schedule) this year. Being a new school and librarian means there was a lot of open-endedness & vagueness to what I shared with teachers (we will figure out what works best for everyone as we go along), but gave them a chance to ask questions and get ideas rolling for the year.

4. Get a little help from my friends.

              I am so lucky to be in a school district that has a fabulous library program and even better librarians! Being new and creating everything from scratch for my library means I have a lot of little decisions to make…meaning I ask other people a TON of questions about what has worked for them. Fellow MNPS librarians have been so helpful to hash out ideas with me, open their libraries for me to observe & even re-shelve books that are out of order. Ultimately, decisions that will be made for the library will be up to me, but it sure does help having input and feedback from those more experienced!

So, if you ever find yourself having the wonderful opportunity to open a new school library (seriously, dream job!), remember to “be flexible”!

L. Hartley
MNPS Librarian