Absence, or Resolutions

I’ve just finished my Spring 2016 Teachers’ Booklist and when I came to add it to my blog, I discovered, much to my dismay, that the Summer/Fall 2015 Teachers’ Booklist is the last thing I posted about 7 months ago. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say or think about; honestly, I think I have too much to say and think about. It’s finding the time to make myself do it.

But I do find that being able to think organically about what I am doing and working on is extremely helpful and I really ought to do it more.

To help myself accomplish that, and some other librarian things, I’m going to make a list of some of the goals I have for this year.

  1. Post on the blog  at least once a month. I have a ton of drafts with a title that I created when I had an idea or thought about something that I wanted to write about; all I really need to do is write them and schedule them
  2. Participate in more and “more better” twitter chats. What I mean is that I don’t want to overdo the chats by just saying participate in more. I want to make sure they are actually on topics I am interested in. I don’t have to participate in #nctlchat every week. To help myself accomplish this, I’m actually going to pay attention to the schedules for the ones I like and ones I might be interested in so that I can plan ahead and actually participate when the topic is something I want to participate in.
  3. Be better about not overloading my to-read shelf on Goodreads. I have such a habit of marking a book to-read and then literally never getting back to it because I want to read so many. I have a shelf called “just shelving” and I need to take better advantage of it. Ideally, I will have a better understanding of how many books should be on my to-read shelf by the end of this year.
  4. Post some of my other ongoing projects on this blog, specifically my favorites website and my booklists and read-a-like lists.

To a new year! With many new changes and adventures!

 

Advertisements

Hour of Code

NPR aired a really interesting story from All Tech Considered this morning while I was driving to school, and it reminded me that I had a post about Hour of Code that I had been putting off writing about because I feel like I failed so miserably at the whole thing. You can find the NPR story here.

The NPR story is about the lack of computer science classes in our public schools and the seeming lack of connection between the drive for STEM and the overlooking of computer science. Here’s a really interesting infographic pushing for the inclusion of computer science. Until fairly recently, I would not have been the type of educator to say that our students are missing something when it comes to computer education. But when I went to grad school, I realized how woefully little I knew about computers and what I can do with them, and I’m pretty much a tech native, with a lot of the basic know-how I need, and all of the ability to find help I might need. As I thought about my own ignorance, I realized how shockingly little my students really did know. I mean, I had a student tell me once they didn’t know what the back button on the browser window was. I have students now who don’t understand what Chrome vs Firefox vs Explorer means.

No, these examples are not computer science. (That misconception is addressed in the article, too. A principal is dreadfully wrong about what computer science actually is.) But imagine how much less I would have to be concerned about things like that if we start addressing understanding the “behind the scenes” of computers at younger ages.

Anyway, all of this reminded me about Hour of Code and my lame attempt to get something started with it at my school. I really can’t think of a nice way to say that I failed. Nothing happened and no teachers wanted to partake. I got started late and didn’t have enough to give them to make it seem awesome.

I am sure they thought things to themselves like “I can’t possibly fit this in,” “I don’t see how this is aligned to CCSS,” and “That’s not my area.” I can’t blame them. I didn’t do what I should have done.

But at a school/system where computer science isn’t even offered (I don’t think it is anyway… I know it’s not required), how do I begin to get entry-level support for something? What could I have done differently than to just announce that it’s a thing I’d like to do and does anyone want to work with me?

I think I probably could have gone ahead and made lesson plans for an Hour of Code activity in a classroom and gone to a specific teacher to show them and ask if they want to be involved or give it a go. I probably could also have had a brief presentation ready to give at a staff meeting or in department meetings ahead of time. I will admit that I waited until the last minute to get started on trying to make Hour of Code happen in my school.

One thing I’m definitely not sure how I could have done differently is dealing with teachers thinking they can’t fit things like this in. My school serves mostly low-performing, low-level students in a Title I setting. And our test scores reflect that. I can’t blame teachers for thinking that if only 8% of their students passed the Common Core Math 1 exam last semester, then they’ve really got to focus on basics. Coding doesn’t really fall under basics. There’s no proof that a couple of lessons on coding will help them figure out how to find the slope.

Doing a school wide coding activity is something I would want to do as my Media Center becomes a Learning Commons. I need ideas for how to embed that into our school culture.

Buying on a Budget

I feel like budget is a topic that many people try to steer clear of. And I totally get why now.

I only had $441.60 to spend on my library this school year.

I mean, I knew that we got money based on student enrollment, and I know that I’m at a very small school, but I didn’t realize it was going to be that small. Most vendors who called me on the phone to try to sell me something didn’t even have packages that fit within my budget. I made the mistake at the very beginning of not explaining how small my budget was to one caller; he sent me a couple of boxes of fantastic books to look through that would have cost me 4x my budget. It was my fault, but I just wasn’t sure what I was doing at first.

I had a lot of trouble really narrowing down what we needed, even though there were some parameters dictated to me. Because of the transition my school is in, I was told to hold off on anything non-fiction as we will be trying to go strictly electronic resources for that as a part of the move to Learning Commons instead of Media Center.

Once that was decided, I had to consider what fiction we really needed. And with my student population, what I really needed were high-interest, low-level titles. And I had to do that without ignoring the need to include some award winners from the last couple of years.

I got lucky enough to have a vendor call me one day and actually have something he could offer me for way less than my budget and was nothing but graphic novels. Our graphics collection was abysmal, so it needed some work, but aside from that, graphics offer low level readers some place to turn. On top of that, I was given a handful of books to choose for free simply for giving their program a try. I found a bunch of high-interest, low-level readers, often suggested by ALA’s Quick Picks list, and got to choose from those.

Beyond that, I bought the NCSLMA award winners from the last two years, and added on a few extras because I was told to (apparently, that ‘Do Not Exceed’ line is extremely useful).

Also, my Department of Media Services sends everyone additional books based on a popular list and what we already have or do not have. I feel good about what I did, but it truly was a struggle to look at such a small number, knowing all of the work this Media Center needs. Of course, I probably would have been totally overwhelmed if I’d been given way more money than that.

Learning Commons

The information, professional development, and movement coming from the Department of (Virtual Learning) and Media Services in my school system is all about the transition from Media Centers to Learning Commons.

I am in a really unique position because my school is also in the middle of a transition, so I get to combine the two things; my Media Center will be the first official Learning Commons in the school system at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Our school building will be renovated and redesigned during the 2014-2015 school year with the new model in mind. I don’t have to do much, though I do get some say in furniture and design, but I will come in to an entirely new Learning Commons in 2015.

Buffy Hamilton, a former school librarian, recently posted about this transformation of spaces, on her blog. The VLMS department in my school system has been watching the Hunt Library at NC State closely to see what they’re doing and how it’s going.

Basically, this is a huge movement for the school library world, and I’m very excited to be a part of it. I’ve seen the plans for the new Learning Commons and can’t wait to be its leader.

But it is a big change, so I’ve been working on some things to help teachers prepare. Unfortunately, doing anything with my physical space is pretty silly given that I will be out of here at the end of this school year and everything will be totally different upon our return. I’ve been focusing on mental changes. Here are a few things I have done.

  • Got rid of the reference section and let students check out anything and everything for up to two weeks.
  • No late fees.
  • Push for using free electronic resources (like NCWiseOwl, Britannica.com, Google Scholar, etc. depending on topics).
  • Host events (World Cup Draw party, Hour of Code).
  • Push for using iPads instead of desktop computers or laptops.
  • Opened the Media Center to individual students rather than just whole classes.
  • Push for using the Media Center as a work area, even if you don’t need internet access or computers for the work.

It’s gone fairly well, but I have encountered one major issue. I was told not to send the entire staff emails, so much of my communication occurs via the Media Center website, which I’m sure no one checks regularly for anything. I’m stuck at a point where, within what I feel I can do (it’s too early in the process to have a Twitter or Facebook account for the Learning Commons), I can’t communicate things to the staff in the most effective and efficient way.

Dinosaurs

I’ve been running into educators in my building who seem scared of trying new technology recently. We’ve got a set of iPads that are just starting to be used, my school district is pushing for the use of Google Drive (finally!), and I have confirmation that our tech department will no longer be buying desktops. As my school gets renovated over the next year and a half, we will be transforming our space into what I can only hope will be a school of the future.

But I have a few educators who are not afraid to react to technology like these with wide eyes and the word “no,” as well as others who become extremely frustrated at the drop of a dime.

I truly believe these educators can move forward, but how do I help them be willing to try so that they can?

My mantra about technology is BE FEARLESS! and I try to remind them of that every time we work on something by both saying it out loud and being it myself. If there’s something I don’t know, I will show them how I try to figure things out so that I learn it.

I had one awesome moment recently where one teacher figured out how to comment on a Google document all on her own just by messing around. She was one of the “no” teachers to begin with.

But for the most part, I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. We do have a new tech facilitator in our building for eight hours a week, so maybe that will translate into helping. But I feel like our default is to just offer professional development on things, and I’m not sure that taking up more of teachers’ time is a solution. Actually, in some cases, I’m sure that just adds to their frustration.

I don’t want these good educators to be unable to evolve and adapt! What else can I be doing or trying?

 

My first bulletin board/display…

…feels like an unmitigated disaster.

I created a bulletin board and display for Teen Read Week as well as a display for Banned Books Week.

Here are some pictures of the TRW bulletin board and the display.

IMG_3252 IMG_3258

 

And the BBW display.

 

IMG_3257

IMG_3256

 

I felt like there were a number of challenges to this whole thing.

  • I have one large bulletin board and one small bulletin board on opposite sides of the library. That upper right picture in the collage is the smaller bulletin board. There is no table or bookshelf without anything on the top near the smaller bulletin board, so I had to think of something to do with it.
  • Neither of my bulletin boards are in a very logical place to be put to use in conjuction with displays.
  • The bookshelves that don’t have anything on top of them (and are short enough to be used as displays) aren’t in very good places for having displays. You’ll notice the Censorship poster is on an office window.
  • There is no better place to move any of the things that are mobile, which is actually only one of the bookshelves.
  • The large bulletin board was actually way larger than I was expecting.
  • My collection is in serious need of a major update. We didn’t have any of the books nominated for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten or any of the Top Ten Challenged Books from last year.

And here is what I ended up doing about each of those things.

  • I put a quote on the small bulletin board that I felt related to the theme of the book display on the large bulletin board. Positives: love the quote; it’s from a book; it’s totally related. Negatives: we don’t have that book, although we do have a couple of random ones from the series.
  • I used them anyway because they needed to be covered ASAP. I was originally thinking I could put always put a related quote on the little bulletin board and put the book that the quote is from on the shelf next to it. I may still try that, but it’s really limiting since my collection could use some help. Still like that idea though.
  • I used them anyway. I had no other choice at the time. It will be different next time.
  • Yeah, I’m not moving them. Not even the mobile one. Oh wait. Stream of consciousness here, but I just had an idea I might try out before doing the next display. We’ll see.
  • I filled it with things I’m not too proud of. Dots and squares for one. I thought the QR codes were a good idea (they link to the voting page for Teens’ Top Ten and the local public library to find the books), but I will print them larger next time to take up more room. Negative to that: my kids don’t actually know what they are because they mostly don’t have the devices to use them.
  • I had to get creative. The TRW display is all previous Top Ten and other award recent award winners, are things like The Giver, whose “sequel” Son is nominated this year, or are other books by authors who are nominated this year. The BBW display is a bunch of books that have been challenged over the years.

I do think I had some small success in using tissue paper to line the board and in finding those colors for the bulletin board letters in the back room.

I’m going to change a bunch of things, hopefully before I switch over to the next displays. Most importantly, I’m moving a bunch of the sections in my collection. That may open up some better shelf space for displays. However, that space won’t be near the bulletin boards, so I will have to do some thinking about that. My stream of consciousness idea may solve that issue, too.

Sorry for the length of this post. I really needed to reflect and figure out how I was going to make this better. I don’t deal well with feeling like something I attempted turned out awfully.

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!