Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I've learned about you teachers as a librarian, or Notes from the fringe

To start, let me say that I have always been what I call a "fringe" educator.  I was a special education teacher, tutor, ARD (IEP meeting) facilitator, and now, a librarian.  You know--those folks on the fringe of general education, offering support from the sidelines, not teaching in a general ed classroom.

But that doesn't mean I don't get to see or know what goes on in those rooms.  Even now, when I rarely have time to venture from my library, I  hear about my students' classes.  So I know what you're doing, teachers.

You are...

...reading books to your students.  I know this because they make connections between what I read during storytime and what you've read to them.  The older students come to me asking for a copy of your read-aloud book so they can read ahead, or the next in a series that you got them hooked on.

...supporting your students' reading life by bringing them to the library.  I am so lucky to have every grade level, preK through fifth, receive library time every week.  It makes me feel validated as your librarian and proud of my colleagues for recognizing the value of strong library programs in schools.

...working on those writing skills, as evidenced by projects I get to display, thank you notes from students...and the occasional "I'm sorry" note after an unruly library visit.

...teaching them cool stuff in your science and social studies units--I get asked for books about those, too.  You get them excited about cheetahs, George Washington, volcanoes, bugs, and the Civil War.

...making connections through music, art, and PE.  I was reading a book about motion today to kindergarteners, and when I asked them what word can describe going fast or slow, one said, "It's tempo!".  I was looking for "speed", but had to smile and agree that it was absolutely correct in the musical sense.

Whenever a teacher comes to the library, I get some mini-collaboration time with him or her.  My colleagues are great about offering book suggestions, asking for support with concepts and skills we can cover in the library, and brainstorming new ways to use technology.

And I get invited to visit their classrooms, too, for book talks and story times and presentations.  

So maybe I'm not on the fringe as much as I thought.  Maybe I get to be at the center of this wonderful learning environment.  It's not a bad gig, if you can get it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Oh, do I have a lot of books spinning at once this week!

In the Book Nook of my library, we are reading Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall.  Dog and Cat are  adopted by the Button couple on the same day, only to find out they will have to share a room.  Their different personalities (think "Odd Couple") make it a difficult situation--until they face a common threat.  It's been great fun reading this aloud to my K-2 students, and I know they'll enjoy it even more when it hits the shelf and they can pore over the funny details Gall has included in his illustrations.

I have four fifth grade Lunch Bunch book clubs this year--two meet to discuss what they are reading as individual choices, and the other two opted for group books.  I am finishing up Crow by Barbara Wright to discuss with my historical fiction-loving group this week.  Stories dealing with the topic of racial injustice are hard for me to read, just because it tears at my heart so much.  It will be interesting to hear what my fifth graders think of this depiction of the life of an African-American boy living in North Carolina in 1898.

My adventure- and fantasy-loving book club just met, and couldn't decide on a single book, so three of them are reading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, and the other two chose Trapped in Death Cave by Bill Wallace.  I seem to remember reading Ember  awhile ago, but it's worth the re-read so I can discuss it in detail. Good thing I have a month to finish both books! 

My grown-up reading these days has centered on self-discovery and self-help; must be that big 5-0 birthday this spring prompting change and growth.  I have two going at once--Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley, which offers health guidance to live strong into your retirement years; and Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman's Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve by Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney, a fun, uplifting read to celebrate the mature woman.  I highly recommend both!

It's Monday--what are you reading?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Professional resolutions for the New Year

Ten days into 2016; how are your New Year's resolutions coming along?  
I looked at my last post and realized it's been two and a half months since I've written anything.  It's no wonder that my "One Word" for the year is "Consistent", to include a goal of writing a post at least once a week.  
A colleague of mine (who just happens to be the 2016 Texas State Teacher of the Year) and I were talking in the library this past week about the perks and perils of social media for educators.  We both agreed that it is a wonderful thing that teachers can share ideas and get support as fast as a Tweet can be posted.  We also agreed that the amount of information out there can be overwhelming and produce unnecessary pressure for teachers to be all and do all.  

With every list of "Ten Ways to _______ in the Classroom" (fill in the blank with "Connect with Students," "Redecorate for Learning", and my favorite, "Prevent Burnout"), there is the suggestion that we should do more, be more.  Don't we do enough?  Aren't we "enough" as educators doing our jobs?  Every time I succumb to the doubt and read another list, I feel further and further behind in my job, even as I receive kudos from my colleagues on my mid-year survey.

Don't get me wrong--I'm all about improving myself professionally, and always welcome the tips that will help me organize my library better, serve my learning community more efficiently, and keep up with new trends in children's literature and educational technology.  But I am tired of feeling guilty for not having the cutest....whatever.  Tired of feeling guilty for not going in on weekends and choosing to take care of my home, my family, and myself instead.  Tired of comparing myself to other educators, and worrying about whether my lessons measure up to theirs.

So here are my professional resolutions for 2016:

  • Celebrate my successful lessons in the library, knowing they may or may not work with the next group of students.
  • Seek assistance when I need it, using only what fits and not feeling bad about ditching the rest.  This includes being honest with myself about skills I need to grow (for me, program management), and not being afraid to share that with my colleagues. 
  • It's okay if I only implement one idea from a helpful professional development session--or if I decide to put it in the plans for next year. There is no sense throwing out perfectly good lessons that resonate with my students and produce positive results just because something new is out there.  
  • I will have lessons that bomb, and that's okay, too. 
  • I will check in on my Pinterest boards now and then, but I will not feel badly if my library isn't as cute or modern or ________ as a "pin".  If they inspire me to action, then great.  If not, then that idea can just simmer until another day.
  • My focus is clear--my job is to promote literacy and provide educational support.  Everything else is just icing on the cake, fluffy stuff, fun but not absolutely worth losing sleep/ health/ time with my family.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the "perfection" that seems to be perpetuated in posts and pins and lists about education?  How do you handle the expectations and emotions that stem from social media?

(Image attribution: © Nevit Dilmen [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons)