Monthly Archives: April 2014

Professional Development

This week we had three readings on professional development from Coatney Chapter 8, Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers Chapter 1, and Teachers and Librarians Collaborate in Lesson Study by Linda Bilyeu.

In Coatney’s chapter, the author discusses how the librarian can be a leader in professional development due to their unique positioning of being both a teacher, and slightly an administrator. She also talks about Professional Learning Communities (PLC) where teachers can meet with a group of other teachers during the week, almost of what reminds me of a salon. They can discuss how things are going for students and teachers, along with any new knowledge gathered from others’ experiences. I am very interested in this idea, especially because I think it would help veteran teachers and new teachers alike. A salon is all about trying to increase your knowledge, and talk about something that really interests you. As the librarian, I can see how being leaders of these communities would make sense. We’re good at connecting people to resources, or people to people. We have more variety in our schedule typically, which would allow us to bounce around to different communities to see how they are doing. One thing that sticks out to me in this however is, could the librarian be a leader, but also apart of one of these learning communities? If I see myself as a teacher, shouldn’t I also be able to partake in the sharing of experiences and knowledge? Is the librarians role only to arrange and lead the various groups without partaking? Not that I mind either way… but as we’ve been talking about this whole wanting to be viewed as a teacher too, I’ve started to ask questions like these…

Chapter 1 of Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers struck a chord with me. The Exploratorum! Yes! Play with technology! Yes! Learn something new! Yes! Time made in the day for all of that! Yes!! I loved this idea of letting teachers play. Teachers are learners after all, and learners should play. I loved that the author and her colleague’s recognized the need of the teachers, and how they like to learn new technology and worked with that. It gave everyone choice, time, and I think deeper authenticity to their PD. Personally, I love learning this way. I don’t really absorb a whole lot if someone is talking at me. I get more out of hands on, tinkering experiences.

Lastly, Bilyeu discusses the idea of Lesson Study which is from a Japanese practice in schools where the teachers are given a day to plan a lesson, teach it, and then reflect on how it went after. From there the lesson can be tweaked and retaught. Bilyeau talks about how this type of professional development practice has become common in a district in Oregon. Teachers and librarians work collaboratively to build a lesson plan. This type of professional development has helped teachers see how the school librarian can help, and also has created richer reflection on lessons than what was previously done. This idea reminded me a lot of co-teaching, and how we were discussing what “collaboration” really means. The librarian and teacher are there together from start to finish helping each other. I think it’s a great example of collaborative work.

P.S. Our last blog post together for this class…I can’t believe it! Thank you so much for giving me a safe and welcoming space to express my thoughts, questions, and musings. Learning is hard, and sharing your current thoughts before they’re fully formed is hard too, but you all made it a tiny bit easier. You’ll all be wonderful librarians and teacher-librarians no matter where you end up. Thanks so much for a wonderful semester of learning!

Transmedia Storytelling

In class last week we were able to talk to Laura Fleming about transmedia literacy and how she uses it at school. Wow! This is something I am totally starting to get more and more fascinated with. I loved the one project she did with 2nd graders with Glenda the Goose from Elliott’s Park by Patrick Carmen. Using the show “Dog with a Blog” as inspiration and a way to connect a transmedia practice by having her students create a blog by Glenda. That kind of swept me off my feet. I’m sold. It reminded me a lot of what I loved to do when I was little. I would write movie scripts based on characters from movies, or I’d make up newsletters, advertisements, etc that helped me extend the universe of stories I loved so much. I didn’t realize that was an actual thing. What I loved most about what Laura was talking about was the idea that kids need to be able to have fun and play with words and stories. Play. Yes. We need lots and lots more play. For everyone, all ages. I’m really appreciative of being able to listen to Laura (thanks Sarah for requesting it!). I’ve refound an old hobby, and new interest to bring to my students.

Apart from transmedia storytelling wonderfulness, we also discussed reports and looked at several examples. There was this question of length: short vs. long, and style: professional vs. casual. I think it comes down to your audience and what your audience is expecting of you. If your principal wants short and sweet, give it to them. Be clear, be direct, and be on point. I think that summarizes my current feelings about it.

Assessment

I really felt this week’s readings on assessment tie in well with our last week’s readings. These readings also showed me how assessment can happen in a variety of ways to help with a variety of reasons. Overall, I feel that assessment, and collecting evidence is like going to your doctor’s for a yearly check-up. You’re making sure everything is in order, and seeing if you need to change. As you grow, and as your library grows and users change, you have to change. But in order to do so, you need to know what is going on.

I use to be afraid of assessment, seeing as some sort of nebulous beast that I will have to tackle. But reading Woolls, and Authentic Assessment in the Classroom, along with thinking about assessment in education classes, it’s not so scary. It’ll take a lot of work, but as long as it is authentic (which I love this idea of authenticity. If we’re asking our students to take their work seriously, then we need to take their work seriously too.) and I know what question I am trying to answer, it will be worth it.

There is also this idea of data, data, data! The power of data. It can tell us so much, that is if we collect the right stuff. Both Better data…better decisions, and School Libraries Evidence: Seize the Day, discuss this.  One thing that I do wonder is, how realistic is it to ask one school librarian to conduct all this research by themselves? People have jobs where all they do is research. Teacher-librarians however, have a lot on their plate. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t collect data, being a trained biologist, I love data but I’m just curious as to what extent it is possible.

There was a line from Better data … better decisions that stuck out to me: “Can teachers and students find information and answers outside the library media center through ILL, networks, public libraries, consortiums, and databases? Is information in the “evening news” readily available for further investigation?” This reminded me of the power, and necessity to create partnerships in the community, to make sure students and teachers have access.

Overall, I have a positive outlook on assessment, and see it as being a tool to monitor the health of the school’s library, and allocate funds appropriately.

budgets, personnel, and professional associations

I found the weeks readings for this week to be particularly practical. Not so loosey goosey theoretical, but more hard tacts this is how you do it. Both the Woolls’ chapters were insightful on both personnel and budgets. For instances, I didn’t know how personnel were hired, nor did I think about how to manage volunteers and the strange position they might put you in. I also did not know how a budget is setup, or how the money is distributed throughout the school, although I had an inkling. What I took away most from Woolls’ chapter was butter up your principal, and learn to get along with them. The principal and you can make either a beautiful relationship, or a very messy one that doesn’t end in your favor.

From Doug Johnson’s blog, I read Budgeting for Mean, Lean Times. I was drawn by the title I think because not only am I big DIYer, but as a young married graduate student, this kind of budgeting rang pretty close to home. Doug offers some budgeting tips that worked for him, noting that he doesn’t remember a time when funding wasn’t an issue. One of my favorite quotes from him was: “As much as I hate sounding like a conservative pundit, I have to say more money is not always the answer to better services to staff and students. A good budget requires planning, prioritizing, and accountability. ” This reminded me a lot of Woolls’ chapter as well, that you must plan in order to avoid mistakes in purchases as to not waste money. It also reminded me of discussions in Ed Reform, where many times the consensus to helping reform was not just about money, but more about people.

I also read Doug Johnson’s post on Effective Library Budgeting, where he gives a break down of how to be an effective library budgeter. While right now, this seems fairly ambiguous, I know it is helping to plant a seed in me to help me grow into managing budgets. He’s kind of like my Suze Orman for library finance. I’m actually kind of excited about this part of the job, maybe it’s my accountant parents coming through.

Lastly, the Coatney chapter discussed how professional associations can help you in remaining a lifelong learner, and the importance of connecting and finding a mentor with others. They also point out the ideas of taking leadership roles in these associations to help be a change agent. I don’t know. I like professional organizations, and have belonged to a couple, but I never got a huge amount out of them. I got the most out of having mentors, and also being a mentor. I prefer one on one interactions over anything else… I often find being apart of a large group can be very hard for me. How do I overcome these personal traits? How do I make connections? Is it really necessary I do? Or can I still be a change agent?

 

Not my circus, not my monkeys

There’s a Polish proverb that translates to, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”, in other words, it’s not my problem. Why do I start my recap post with this saying? Well, for one, I’ve come to find it a comforting reminder as I sit working reference, and am confronted with a situation that is beyond my capabilities, or even outside of my legal jurisdiction, that people still want me to fix their problems. I often walk away, feeling a mixed set of emotions. Upset that the person couldn’t get exactly what they needed, but also upset that they would put their problems onto me, as if I am the one who ultimately must fix it. I breathe, and think, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”, breathe again, calmed. Our line of work can be emotionally taxing some days. At least for me.

This mentality was one that reminded me of our parents’ vs. schools’ responsibility in a child’s upbringing. Where is the line, and when do schools say, “Hey, this is not our problem.” I was actually surprised at first to see how our conversation quickly turned into a discussion on American parenting. When it comes to intellectual freedom, and teaching online skills, I see myself as responsible for helping. As a teacher-librarian, I have had a large amount of learning about the Internet, privacy, intellectual freedom issues, etc. More so then your average person. So, I think it makes sense that as part of my job, it would be to help students make sense of their online presence. But where is the line to that? When there are issues of cyberbullying occurring outside of school, on iphones given to them by their parents, is that a school problem that should involve a teacher? Or is that a parent problem?

What I think is even more interesting about these questions, is when we begin to talk about school reform. There is a lot of talk about how the community needs to be included, and teachers and administrators should visit families outside of school. It seems this way would not only be a paradigm shift in how we do school, but maybe even how people do parenting. Is this a good thing? I’m still working through how I feel about all of this, so I apologize if my thoughts are little less eloquently put.

Outside of that, I enjoyed being able to brainstorm what a class on online life management would look like! I really hope one day I can not only propose such a class, but also carryout. I also like our conversations about new tech. What’s the point of buying something if it does not solve a problem (and maybe even creates some new issues) or enhance learning? Wow! What a great question to ask. I also liked this idea of getting good at a couple different tools, rather than always trying to teach a new tool. It makes sense. How can we expect our students to keep up and create meaningful work, when we’re always changing their tools on them? What if we let students choose their tools to become experts in? What would that look like?