I had a genius idea today!

I have been working on the new website for my Media Center for about three weeks now. It’s taking a while simply because I find it so difficult to stare at a computer screen for more than a couple of hours at a time. And there’s a lot to think about since I am starting from scratch on this project.

I am really close to being done, with only three sections/pages saying “Coming soon!,” and one of those legitimately can’t be updated yet because I still have a couple of battles to fight.

Part of the way through the day today, I looked at my schedule for tomorrow and realized that I am scheduled to teach the first 45 minutes of three classes for one teacher and give the students in another three classes at the same times a list of web resources for a research project on biomedical careers.

As I am only one Media Specialist, I can only be in one place at one time. I freaked for a minute while I was trying to figure out a way around this problem. That’s when I realized that something like a list of web resources – scholarly, credible places for students to start their research – is something that doesn’t necessarily require that I be present with the students.

And then I realized that students really need a copy of those web resources that they can get access to if they need it again later.

And I realized that, as a Media Specialist leading my school into learning and developing 21st century skills, I needed to find a way to do all of this digitally.

And then I remembered that even the most minor of collaborative efforts with teachers, such as a list of web resources, needs to be documented, for both me and the teacher.

The light bulb went off.

What I ended up creating is a blog page on my Media Center website called “Classes.” I was already using the blog function for news and happenings. On this new page, I can post class assignments by the teacher, title of assignment, and date it was assigned. The text of the blog, in the case of tomorrow’s assignment, is a list of the links I’m offering to help them get started. In other cases, it may be something different.

Each post can be categorized by the teacher, subject, and nature of the help I’m offering. Students can access this at any time, so if a student needs to make up the assignment, they don’t need to come see me as well as their classroom teacher. Best of all since this is by far the type of collaboration I do most often, I do not have to be present in order for it to help the students. I can be present, but it frees up that time, if necessary, for work in other areas.

I think that’s really important when your Media Center is a one-woman show. You have to find ways to make things work without you being present at all times. As one person, you can only do so much. But you can find ways to extend your reach using other resources.

Using YA lit in Classrooms

I went to my first department meeting as a librarian last week. I started with the English Department because I thought it would be the least shocking for my system since that is the department I’m most used to. Mostly, I was there to discuss how we want to handle cataloging the class sets of novels that are housed in the stacks in the Media Center and how handling of those books will help with reading across content areas and build literacy in the school. I will do a post about that later.

But I stayed for most of the meeting, as I should. The conversation lingered on teachers wondering how they are meant to find time and resources to allow students to read texts of their choice, while still holding them accountable for those.

The time issue is not necessarily a concern of the MS, but reading, in general, is, and defending students’ need to read literature that truly reflects their lives and experiences definitely is.

I’m definitely no expert or anything, but finding ways to let students choose their own novels to read was a really important and effective change I made in my classes in my third year of teaching. And after going through library school and studying the reading habits and psychology of teenagers, I feel even more strongly that YA lit should be a staple in high school English classes. Here are some research based facts as to why:

  • Teens are more likely to actually DO the reading, and thus, get better at reading, because YA lit will be more interesting to them.
  • Students learn best when they are able to make connections to what they like, know, and are familiar with. YA lit reflects their own lives.
  • Teens have a lot going on. YA lit is not childish; it deals with the issues that plague teenagers and can help them deal with those issues. Basically, they’re not all about handsome vampires who sparkle in the sunlight (swoon).
  • They will actually be able to make it through this book with only a minimal number of confusing moments. Yes; challenging our readers to think about symbolism and use context clues to define words is important. But so are simple things like questioning the text, drawing conclusions, and making inferences.

Essentially, I’m arguing for more use of modern YA lit for students, or mixing YA lit into classics. We can’t keep expecting students in 2013 to relate to a title written in 1950. The world has changed and it’s time for us to adapt to it.

There are LOT of resources out there explaining more about why we should be using YA lit. I’m working on finding more about HOW we should be using YA lit. I will post any free resources I find.

$9.17 an hour

This article from April 30, 2011 speaks to me on so many levels. It is titled “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries.”

First, the authors make an excellent point about blaming teachers for failing schools using a really good metaphor.

Then they hit you with numbers I am familiar with, but I know some members of society aren’t. “Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education…The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000.”

As I’ve started this school year, at a new school for me and one that is in the beginning stages of a huge transition, I can’t help but notice the amount of work the teachers around me are doing. It’s staggering. Absolutely, utterly staggering.

Once, when I was still a classroom teacher and not a librarian, I kept a spreadsheet of how much I worked for one month, what time I got to school, what time I left school, hours spent in actual teaching, hours spent in planning, how much of my planning time was taken away from me, hours spent grading at home… I kept track of everything I could think of. That spreadsheet turned out to be terrifying.

And, in the end, I only made $9.17 an hour that month.

That’s about the same as what I made when I worked part-time at a tanning salon after school my first three years of teaching.

Please. Support public education. Our future depends on it.

Start of the School Year

Phew.

Remember how excited I was before the school year started? Well, I am equally exhausted right now, one week and one day into the school year.

Let’s analyze for a minute. I was really excited about the year for a number of reasons. I hadn’t worked in a school, for real, on a full-time basis, in 2.5 years, and I really missed it. I also hadn’t worked in a collaborative environment in 2.5 years; I had been sitting in an office, doing a lot of staring at a computer screen. I’m an extrovert, truly and thoroughly; I need other people to do just about anything. I was also bored because, truth be told, I hadn’t actually done much of anything that involved being a real adult with many important things to do since probably mid-April. My brain actually desired and needed something to work on. And, because of my awesome MSLS program, I had gotten really, really excited about being a librarian in a school setting.

Now I’m also exhausted. I’m exhausted because I came into a program that hadn’t had a media specialist in a couple of years. There were no policies and procedures for the Media Center; there was no collection development policy. There was STUFF. EVERYWHERE. Things were not set up or connected. In fact, I discovered two more major things in the last two days that are still not ready to be used to students that I had assumed were ready to go because, well, why aren’t they ready to go exactly? Add to the challenges of coming into this program that I am in a school system I haven’t worked in before as a new hire and therefore have a bunch of paperwork things to accomplish and the not-so-small matter of having to be on campus by 6:45 am…

This girl is tired.

But. And I put a period there because there is a big, silver lining here. But I am both excited and exhausted. Really good things are happening at the school, in my program, and I’m creating a lot of opportunities and facing down a lot of challenges. I’m still so excited about the whole dang thing! It makes me so happy!