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.