Seventeen Weeks in Review

Since I started my job in August, I have wanted to blog about my first year as a librarian. I have not kept up with that goal. Time got in the way, with professional and personal situations. After all, educators say the first year as a teacher is the hardest. And, boy, are they right. Life got in the way, but I’m here now.

I had all these ambitious goals for my library the first few months. I wanted memorize the new Common Core curriculum and formulate collaborations and lessons. I wanted to develop more library programs and tech ideas. I wanted to research a Dewey-free library and write a research plan to implement in the next few years. Let’s just say that reality brought me back down to Earth. I have put some of my ideas on the back-burner because other tasks have taken precedence.

Renovated Library, But 20,000 Books To Unpack

I was fortunate to have a renovated library when school started. New tiled floor, new paint colors, new tables, new chairs and a new circulation desk. That also meant unpacking more than 20,000 books and digital materials, plus setting up my library in less than four weeks. With enthusiasm and lots of coffee, I went into my library that first Monday in August. Only the shelves were in the library. Hundreds of boxes of books and materials were in the hall outside.

Somehow I managed to change the physical space of the library and unload every box. I still have two storage areas to de-clutter, but I had to learn to prioritize. I completed a weeding project within my first month of school. I want to complete a bigger weeding project in the next year or two, but that first month of unpacking boxes helped me become familiar with my collection. Though it was hard labor in 90 degrees, it was worth it.

New-Hire Orientation

In mid-August, I took a two-day break for new-hire orientation. Around 30 new teachers in the district came together to learn policies. This was information overload. I never really had to deal with W-2 forms, health insurance, beneficiaries, flex-spendings, etc. I learned the difference between 401 and 403b. We had a boatload of paperwork to fill-out. I was so nervous I would make a mistake on the paperwork, so I went line-by-line to fill out the information. Luckily, my mother and sister are teachers, so I went over paperwork with them.  

The speakers at orientation told us we would have a roller-coaster of emotions the first year. Each few months would have a new feeling: anticipation, survival, rejuvenation. Right now, I’m entering the rejuvenation phase.

I also had other questions. Where do we submit time cards? Where is the mailroom? Where is the copy machine? Where is the faculty bathroom? What is my email? How do I submit grades? What is the WiFi password? Where do we park? Where do I get an ID badge?So many little questions. In my district, we are assigned a mentor to help with these questions. My mentor has been so helpful this year. She is kind and knowledgeable, as well as part of the special-area team.

Students/Classroom Management

I see more than 600 students a week, from PreK to sixth grade, with three to four sections per grade level. Students come in for 40 minutes per special. We have about a 30-minute lesson, with a 10-minute book exchange. Each class is different, each student is different. I have about 2/3 of names memorized, but still working on the rest. I’m still learning the personalities of students and classes. Some grade levels are more outgoing, while others are extremely laid back. Classroom management is a work-in-progress. I’m still learning techniques, but 90 percent of classes are excellent. I’m lucky in that aspect. We have a community that does care about its students.

Meetings

Holy, cow. I have never attended more meetings in my life than these past few months. Besides faculty meetings bi-weekly, there are PBIS, SIT, special-area, library department and data-driven study group meetings. Not to mention meetings with teachers on a daily basis.

Testing

One part of my job I did not anticipate was testing falling into my department. We do STAR reading, math and early literacy every five weeks for K-6 and SRI during library special three times a year. I’m taking the lead at my school for scheduling, administering tests for specific grade levels, pulling parent home letters, completing test makeups, compiling data for my administrator and providing tech solutions if something isn’t working during a test. I had to learn two content management systems quickly. Our school has been selected to pilot another assessment in the spring, and that has fallen under my department, as well. Though this is work I did not expect, I’m excited to learn the ins and outs of assessments as we complete more data-driven instruction strategies.

Common Core and APPR

My district has fully implemented the CC for K-6 and a new evaluation system for the 2013-14 school year. I didn’t have anything to compare these two situations to, but there are some days I feel like I’m barely floating. There is so much information for both systems. I’m finally developing a library curriculum and collaborating with teachers for CC, and still learning the fine details of APPR (which has so much paperwork). I’m looking forward to my second year as I will have a full year under my belt of experience with CC and APPR.

Acronyms

Let me put it straight: Graduate school did not prepare me for all the acronyms I learned the first few months:

  • APPR
  • SLO
  • PLN
  • DDI
  • STAR
  • DRA
  • PARCC
  • AR
  • IRL
  • F & P
  • SRI
  • CCLS or CCS
  • and many more

Random

I’ve learned to convert lexile levels, DRA scores, F & P guided reading levels, AR levels and IRL levels. That is one of my personal accomplishments this so far.

So, there is my update for the past 17 weeks. I’m going to make a point to blog more. When I started my job in August, I felt like I was barely swimming, but now I’m floating with swimmies. There is so much testing, a new curriculum and new evaluation system, but I’m learning. I realized I can’t accomplish all I want to in the first year. I need to get to know my school, community and students. I need to focus on one day at a time. But, I have the foundation strongly built for what I want to see my library become in the next few years. It’s going to be an excellent and exciting journey.

Thing 3: Photo Sharing

For this post, I’ve decided to explore Pinterest as a possible tool to use in my library. Before, I’ve only used Pinterest as a personal social network, not as a professional network. But why can’t it be both?

After thinking and searching with the search word “library” on Pinterest, so many great pins popped up. Ideas for book recommendations, bulletin-board displays and ways to use the physical space in the library more effectively. I’m always looking for fresh ideas, and Pinterest can now provide me with a new forum to gather ideas.

I started thinking if I wanted to create a Pinterest account for my school’s community. I’m thinking of starting small with student projects and new books that come into the library. The community is slowly becoming accustomed to a new library website and online scheduling. This could be an idea to incorporate for summer reading programs, as well.

With around 600 students, I’m always in search for ways to connect and become better acquainted with them. During the start of the school year, why not have older grades create a Pinterest board of things that interest them or books they like to read? Or interview a partner and pin his or her interests?

Thing 2: Online Communities & Personal Learning Networks

It’s been about three years since I’ve joined Twitter, but only about two years since I have had an active presence on the social network. At first, I wasn’t sure of whether to use Twitter as a professional or personal network. In the past two years, it has morphed into a mixture of both.

Using Twitter during conferences or workshops has proven to be a wonderful tool. During a conference earlier this November in CNY, I connected with past classmates and new faces. Using the hash tag for the conference, it was beneficial to look back that week for highlights and key take-away points from the conference. Looking through the tweets gave me new ideas to implement into lessons and programs at the LMC.

For this exercise, I looked through the Twitter advanced search and the #tlchat tweets. Putting aside a few minutes every few days to do this has provided me with more resources to show my students and ideas to eventually implement. This exercise provided me with different people to follow, communicate and learn. That is what I love about Twitter; it provides us the opportunity to engage in two-way conversation to create, communicate, share, collaborate and innovate with teacher-librarians in similar and/or different types of libraries.

Another tool I use actively is TweetDeck. It provides the opportunity to see my conversations, tweets from those I follow and searches by hash tag simultaneously. It’s funny, though I have a Twitter account, I rarely tweet from Twitter, but TweetDeck. The organization of this site wonderful, and helps me keep track of searches and ideas to follow.

This exercise made me think how I’ve implemented more social media and tech into my library. Being my first year, we have a brand-new website and a blog. Students submit comments, and resources from links/databases are available 24/7. We have a Shelfari account, and students use Google Forms to submit book requests to add to the library’s collection. Teachers use an Outlook Calendar for computer lab and laptop cart signups, switching from print calendars that were used last year. It has been a change in culture for staff, teachers and students.

I wanted to dive head-first into digital, media and technology changes in August, but I have had to take a step back and really look at the audience and implement a few new ideas at a time, not all at once. Using Twitter has helped me gain ideas to implement changes in the library at a realistic and effective pace though gaining advice from veterans or looking at best practice.