First, if you are unfamiliar with the song, take a few minutes to listen and (maybe?) enjoy the music video I found. While listening note that this is cross-posted on SCASL.net in the online version of our SCASL Media Center Messenger.
I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake your ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now
I got the eye of the tiger, the fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar…..
As I sit and ponder the many challenges facing school library media programs, I realize we as librarians must step up and become the change we want to see. Often we are excluded from the thought processes of decision makers, essentially unheard, and I blame no one but ourselves. At the forefront of most South Carolina administrators’ minds is the focus of fully implementing the Common Core. Where have you been in the discussion taking place at your own school? Are you even at the table of this discussion? No longer can we rely on bygones such as defined minimum programs or state department initiatives to guarantee we are part of the overall school picture, program, and more importantly a slice of the school funding pie. In this post, I hope to provide some action items librarians should ROAR to get a prominent seat at the table of learning in your school. Katy Perry’s song “Roar” has been playing over and over in my head with its ever popularity and serving as a theme song to the Winter Olympics. Now every time you hear it, remember you have the ability to bring your library program roaring back to life. And here are some sound tips and sage advice to get that roar going.
Limited due to Fixed Schedules
Fixed Schedules. Yes, it is a reality, and many schools, dominantly elementary schools use such a scheduling design to ensure common planning time. If you have an assistant, train the assistant to do common library skills and reading advocacy activities (read alouds, teaching students Dewey or how to locate books, learning about the ALA and SCASL Book Award programs, games based on skills.) While these activities are taking place under the direction of an assistant or volunteer, you as librarian are FREE to plan, collaborate, lead professional development, work with other classes, or do library managerial tasks, like review and order print and digital resources for your library. Your entire day should not be tied up with back to back classes. But the reality is the powers that be don’t see it that way. So roar to life a new reality for yourself. You may not be able to get an entire day to do all the activities outlined here, but working with an assistant or volunteers, you may get some part of your day flexible enough to accomplish bits and pieces. Start small. If volunteers are a problem in your area, contact a local high school, and inquire about student mentoring programs or teacher cadets. Look at recently retired district teachers who may be looking for ways to fill their free time. But be careful not to overwhelm them. Instead train them to be your way to have flexibility in your library program. Accommodate their desires. Some retired teachers and retired teachers’ aides may only want to work with a certain age group–let them. If you have 50-minute classes, have collaborative meetings each period in your library, and invite your your teachers to the library for those meetings. Then make yourself available for a portion of that meeting. You may have to stop each block to give twenty minutes or so to the students who need help getting that just right book while your assistant or volunteer mans the circulation desk, but any time given is a good time to make an impact, so take advantage.
Take it Flipped
Some library tasks can be done flipped right in your library program. What is flipped, you may be asking yourself? Wikipedia defines Flip Teaching as follows:
Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom,reverse teaching, and the “Thayer Method.”
Why not invest some time exploring screencasting applications, and recording some of the standard library lessons for a flipped library experience with your learners. Surprisingly enough, this is another way to carve out some flexible time in your library program so you might be able to do some of the other facets of your job (planning, managing, promoting reading advocacy.) Best, they are ready to go for point of need. Have a new student? No problem, watch these! Need to know again how to access our databases from home? Here you go, watch these. We often teach lessons that fall on deaf ears, simply because they are not relevant to the library member at that point. Having an archive of ready to go lessons could be not only useful, but also resourceful!
Professional Development – Our Standards Call for it!
As part of the school library program, the school librarian provides leadership in the use of information technologies and instruction for both students and staff in how to use them constructively, ethically, and safely. The school librarian offers expertise in accessing and evaluating information, using information technologies, and collections of quality physical and virtual resources.
From AASL’s Position Statement on the
Role of the School Library Program
But when can the librarian meet this need? Juggling classes, teaching assistants and volunteers to take on some of the workload of a fixed schedule, working towards a more collaborative relationship with teachers and principals (all the school community) sometimes makes for a wickedly busy schedule. Many opt to let some part of our roles go. DANGEROUS! This sets a precedent to the decision makers. Do not let this role slide! Find a way to meet the needs for this responsibility in your job as well.
Professional Development Readiness – Are you ready?
Ask to be a source for staff development with your principal. Give a list of topics and technologies that you can introduce, and break it down into specific details. Provide the time frames as well, such as thirty minutes, one hour, half-day, or even whole day. You never know when your principal will decide there is value in something you want to lead. Try to tie it to ongoing school initiatives (i.e. Common Core, Bullying and Cyber Citizenship, Technology infusion, an author or guest speaker visit, etc.)
Get creative in the delivery
Plan some “during the school day” inservices, where teachers can opt in during their planning period. The International Society of Technology Educators Library Library Group (ISTE SIGLIB) provides a webinar series for librarians titled “One Tool at a Time.” Designing school level inservice in this format is the perfect way to introduce common, regularly used technologies or newer technologies to the teachers. Offer a series like this to your teachers, planning a day where you schedule the same 30 minute session throughout the day. Advertise to teachers and see who shows up. If a single day is impossible, spread them across the week to match grade levels and common planning time, and schedule the assistant or volunteer to cover the library’s scheduled class. Ask your principal for a substitute for a day of learning like this, or ask that any substitutes already in the building for other absent teachers help cover a single library class each day of the week. Get creative in figuring out ways to carve yourself some time to work with your teachers.
Why not Flipped PD?
What about flipping PD? One way to ensure you are providing leadership in technology instruction to your teachers is to take it “flipped” as well. Using screencasting programs, create a series of videos that can serve as introductory or fully developed instruction into the use of new or common technology tools you want your teachers to use. Advertise these with your teachers, and allow them to consume when they have time. Make them short enough so that your teachers will not dismiss them as too time consuming.
Kill Two Birds with One Stone
Try leading a collaborative lesson with a class, where you simultaneously teach the students and the teacher at the same time. The teacher in this case is assisting you, but more than likely unbeknownst to the students, learning a technology right along with the class. Invite administrators, program coordinators, and other administrative influencers to all of these types of lessons. Sometimes educating those key people can go a long way in helping decision-makers grow value and deepen respect for the program a current library offers the school community.
Don’t forget the data!
Find ways to show your decision-makers your data through numbers. How many classes did you teach last month? How many books circulated? How many teachers popped in for formal or informal training? How many resources circulated to professionals in your building? How many students did you serve before, during, and after the regular school day? What special library or school activities or events did you sponsor? What PD opportunities did you engage in to enhance your own skill set? How did you spend the library’s budget last month? These items make for a nice, informative monthly report to your administrator. Keeping the decision makers in the know of the continuous impact you have on a school program as a whole can have nothing but a positive impact. When is the last time you used a monthly report to make sure decision makers are informed? If monthly is too frequent for you, find an interval that makes sense in the context of your school, such as bi-monthly or maybe matching the grading cycle for the school year.
What are the benefits?
There are many challenges to providing a balanced library program, and among them winning the respect of the school community as a whole. Libraries support the curriculum, promote literacy development in students and teachers alike, and foster lifelong reading habits among children through the development of carefully selected print collections and the infusion of educational technology. If you do not already have a seat at the table where school decisions impact your program, using some of the strategies outlined here can be a beginning to gain that leverage. It may very well also be what saves your job. Now, let me hear you ROAR.
Katy Perry. Roar. Capitol Records, 2013. MP3.
“Position Statement on the Role of the School Library Program”, American Library Association, February 9, 2012. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/position-statements/program-role (Accessed January 26, 2014)