Saturday, March 25, 2017

Part Two: Influences on my Focus for the Library Program (2016-2017)

In a previous post, I shared information regarding the ways my course work and a summer institute helped to provide me with a new focus for the library program.  In part two, I would like to the ways a conference in Denver, Colorado was another catalyst for my revised vision of the library program.

The International Society for Technology (ISTE) conference is one of my favorites;  I compare it to Disneyland for Tech and Education Enthusiasts (Geeks).  Last summer, my joy was quadrupled by chance encounters, inspiring key note speeches, and connecting with other excited educators. Not only did I have a chance to have my picture taken with R2D2, I had a chance to interact with innovators and gurus within the edutech community. I also had a chance to meet Mr. Lavar Burton in an elevator and share with him the positive influence his work had on me and others.

Being able to hear Ruha Benjamin's powerful discussion about the ways educators can "set phasers to love" and create a learning environment that helps students and teachers thrive was another inspiring moment for me.  Listening to her speak, I thought about the ways I could extend my love of reading and learning outside the library's walls.  I wondered, what if I give students more independence?  What if I shared various ways of reading with the students?  What if the library wasn't seen as just a place to store books but a fun environment where kids could be kids? What if did all of those things and more and was able to see the library as place for the students to gain what they needed rather than what I thought they needed?  These questions were a bit scary to consider but they led me to think of different ways to promote the library and forgo the prescribed book talks and library check-out system.

As a result, I developed a book matching service for my reluctant readers.  I also strived to create a variety of lessons that met the related to the needs and requests of collaborating teachers, as well as lessons that would show students the various resources (print, e-books, etc.) that were available to them inside and outside of the library.  More students were also given Lunch Bunch Crew (LBC) privileges.  LBC members were given a chance to play games, enjoy Salsa Tuesday/Wednesday (a time to dance and listen to Salsa music), and time where they could just hang-out with their friends.  The results were unexpected.

The number of students who checked out e-books increased.  In the previous year, only 3 e-books were checked out. This school year, over one hundred e-books have been checked-out.  More and more students wanted to become part of the LBC.  The number of independent users increased and students were asking for opinions a variety of things (books, magnet schools, etc.).  By relaxing the reigns a bit more and being a bit more creative with my idea of a library and a librarian,  I was able to have different conversations with students.  I saw myself as a guide on the side for more things than just books (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Being at ISTE and participating in various environments where seeking knowledge was revered and sharing ideas for success was encouraged, I was motivated to try a few techniques and place my primary focus on building relationships with my students in a new way. I see this paradigm shift as a catalyst for the continued growth in the library program at Windsor Mill Middle School.  A shift I hope to continue as I grow as a library media specialist.

*Take a moment to view a segment regarding the work of the S.T.A.R.S. Book Club with author, Ronald L. Smith.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Part One: Influences on my Focus for the Library Program (2016-2017)

This year, I have tried to focus on creating opportunities for my students to learn. Whether, it is through student inquiry or the soft skills associated with burgeoning relationships with their peers and/or teachers, I want my students to have the opportunity to grow.  The idea of growth was especially highlighted in my mind when I completed a philosophy course last summer, as well as my experience with a sustainability project, and my time at the ISTE Conference.

Through a philosophy course, I gained insight about various educational philosophies of Socrates, Horace Mann and John Dewey (to name a few).  It was once I reacquainted with the educational philosophy of John Dewey that I made a few realizations of the changes I wanted to make in my school library program.  The idea that young people should be given the chance to learn through hands-on activities, as well as the prospect that students who have a voice in their education have a deeper level of understanding for lessons in school resonated with me. I was able to see the moments when students truly blossomed before my eyes and I wanted to make sure I gave my students more opportunities to grow.

The idea of growth was also sustained (pardon the pun) when I took part in the Teacher Sustainability Project at Arizona State University.  A wonderful opportunity, my time in Phoenix, Arizona allowed me the chance to experience the hands-on opportunities that I wanted to create for my students. By receiving information from various experts about sustainability and its connection to the economy, community and environment, I was able to acquire knowledge that made me more excited to learn more and eager to create a project with my project partner, Mrs. Bajpai.  By the time we completed the week long course, we had devised a project that would enhance our school environment and give our students a chance to learn through action.

The Sustainabilit Project went well.  A local Home Depot was able to donate plants and flowers that teachers could place in the classrooms.  Teachers who elected to take part in the project were given a plant/flower with the knoweldge that students from our project would water the plants every other day.  At one point,, we had more helpers than plants.  Based on the unexpected amout of student interest, students were placed on a schedule.  When we experiencd a few issues with wilting or dryness, helpers elected to research and gain knowledge about various ways to revive the plants.  The project was a eye-opener for the ways the information skills learned in the library could be used to help our students gain independence while helping the school environment but the project based learning opportunities didn't end there.

Working with Ms. Adams and her students, we were able to complete a series of lessons from muralist, McKinley Wallace.  The students were able to conduct interviews of their peers regaridng bullying.  With their insights from the interviews and basic information related to art techniques, the students, the artist, and the classroom teacher member were able to work on a series of panels for murals that could be displayed in the library.  Watching the students work together to create the art, as well as witnessing the amount of teamwork necessary for such a creation was wonderful.  I truly enjoyed having th library soace used as a place for creating a piece of art that could be enjoyed by others.

I'll share Part Two of this post tomorrow.