Thing 33: Taking the Lead

I really like Jennifer LaGarde‘s idea to schedule time devoted to data collection. As someone who uses the app Tody to keep her house clean, it should have been obvious to me that I need to schedule specific tasks into my calendar so that they will get done. This tip couldn’t be more timely since it was announced this week that all district library clerks are being laid off. My library clerk is so much more than someone who sits at the desk and checks out books. Not only does she act as a TA and disciplinarian but she also makes it possible for me to focus on teaching and not the administrative aspects of running a library. Taking the time to create a schedule for the tasks that she currently does will ensure that at least the most important tasks are completed.

Losing my clerk has also given me the incentive to create a club for library helpers so that they can do basic tasks and free me of more mundane, boring work. I currently have a student who runs the circulation desk during morning check out but every year, I have many students asking if they can help but because of my clerk’s competence (and OCD tendencies), I don’t really have anything for them to do. Come September, I will have more work on my hands and will relish providing students with a skill and maybe someday when they are looking for their first “real” job, they will remember helping in the library and look for a job there.

When I first heard that I was losing my clerk, my thoughts went to what I would no longer be able to do — Battle of the Books, the Spelling Bee, open library. But after looking at the various readings, I think this would be the wrong tact to take not only with my principal but also with my fellow teachers and students. The loss of the clerk will no doubt make my job that much harder and I struggle with the thought of letting things lapse to prove how important the clerks are to the every day smooth running of the library. But at the same time, I don’t want my students (or teachers) to suffer any more than they already will so with that in mind, I know that I need to look at how to better structure and organize myself so that I can continue to provide library instruction and services at the highest possible level. A Library Helpers Club and scheduling time for everyday tasks will help me achieve this goal.I will continue to advocate for a clerk but until my efforts are reward, I will do my best to be the best librarian and teacher that I can be.

My “Elevator Speech”

When you enter the library, please don’t expect silence. The school library is place for active learning, collaboration, positive socialization, and creative exploration. Depending upon when you visit, you will see students completing research, playing with robots, looking for that just right book, or creating something using all of the manipulatives in the library makerspace. These activities support the district goal of providing students with the skills they will need to be college and career ready.

Students creating monsters using salt dough, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.


What do you think of my elevator speech? I struggle with being pithy while also providing the information needed and I’m not sure I got it right.

Advocacy and Marketing

Another idea from the readings was about providing professional development to my teachers. This year, I have provided a little bit of instruction to my teachers on vocabulary and some of the library databases but I know that I haven’t done enough. At the district level, I am not comfortable teaching a class to people I don’t know but I also know again, that I need to step out of my comfort zone and offer to teach a class. I attend a lot of great professional development and I need to be better about sharing what I have learned with my fellow teachers.

So how can I do this? In the readings, I liked the idea of a schedule of offerings to teachers with a short description of what will be taught. There are so many resources paid for by the district that aren’t being used probably because either the teachers don’t know about them or they don’t understand how they can be used in a classroom. I can begin with these resources and provide my teachers with a  quick introduction on how to use the resource but also with links, lesson plans, etc… to show how these technologies can be used by them and/or their students.

Currently I try to put notes about the library in the school newsletter at least 3 times a year. I know this isn’t enough and will work on increasing this to every issue but this is something that I struggle with every year. I also liked the idea of providing parents with an app or website that they may find helpful. With the prevalence of smart phones and tablets even in the poorest of homes, I think my parents would find this helpful and I know that I could easily find one app or website a month.

As a department, we put out a newsletter twice a year and I am the one who puts it all together. I like the idea of using Smore to keep track of how many people actually look at the newsletter but the newsletter as it currently stands has almost too much information and lends itself to not being read completely. Over the past year or so, I have encouraged my fellow librarians to include quotes from students and to make everything more students centered because that is where we have the greatest impact and what the administrators care about the most. This is relatively easy for my fellow elementary librarians because of our scheduled classes but is difficult for the middle and high school librarians who have a flexible schedule. I will continue to encourage newsletters that are student centered.

I have never done a year end report because I haven’t quite grasped how to collect the statistics necessary to include in the report. I am really bad about writing I don’t write down quick notes to remind myself about the different conversations, collaborations, technology troubleshooting, and other activities that I do that aren’t directly related to instruction. I also don’t keep track of how the library is being used by other people within the building. I can, however, gather evidence to show the direct impact my teaching has had on my students. I teach every grade level at least one research project every year and the research projects get more difficult with each grade level. Upper elementary classes conduct research that requires them to complete different tasks and culminate with some kind of overarching, synthesis question. With a little bit lot of hard work on my part, I will find the evidence to back my belief that I truly do make a difference in my students’ lives. Now I just need to share this definitive proof with the right people.


Thing 31: EBP – Getting Started

Evidence Based Practice and how to measure my program’s effectiveness has eluded me up to now.

I was excited to see Evidence Based Practice (EBP) as one of the topics for this year’s class because I have been looking for ways to show that the skills I teach during my library classes are skills that will help my students succeed not only in school but later on in their life when they are in college or working at their first job. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out a way to prove this using data. After filling out the SLMPE Rubric this year and my principal’s question, “How are you going to improve your score?”, I realized that I needed to create a long term plan for the library and in this long term plan, I needed to address student achievement.

After attending several sessions on EBP at AASL this year, I still didn’t really have a clear idea of how exactly to measure the impact of my classes on my students’ achievement. With further reflection, I began to realize that one of my weaknesses is in getting closure with my students because I don’t give out grades and therefore don’t always follow through on assessing their projects. This is something I need to work on in the future and EBP gives me the incentive to figure it out. But where do I start?

Since I attended Ross Todd’s AASL workshop, The 4th E = Evidence!, I decided to look again at the EBP Action Plan Template and use it as a starting point. One of the areas that I think I am strongest is in formulating a question that requires students to use what they have learned into a synthesized answer. But how do I measure this? Looking over the workshop’s slides, I found on slide 38, “Students’ final products showed improved ability to analyze and synthesize information.” This is what I would like to measure but how do I measure that they have improved? Is this from the beginning of the year to the end of the year? Is it from one project to the next project? Is it from the beginning of one project to the end of the project? I still have so many more questions than answers at this point.

And then after discussing my mental block with another teacher, I had an aha! moment where I realized that I am overthinking it all. If I am looking for evidence to prove that my students have improved their ability to synthesize information, then I just need to look at the answers that the students have provided to my deeper thinking question. If students successfully answered the question using information they have learned through their research project, then they have improved their ability to synthesize information. So if 18 out of 20 students complete this task successfully, then I have evidence that 90% of students have improved their ability to synthesize information. With this in mind, now all I need to do is go collect that evidence and continue to create questions that make my students think harder.

The past few years my school has struggled on standardized tests. In an attempt to increase scores, my building is focusing on increasing the complexity of our questions and also working on the student’s writing process. For the past several years, I have helped teachers move their projects away from just regurgitating facts to having the students create something new with their learning. I have used deeper thinking questions as well as other strategies to help increase my students’ achievement related to question complexity.

This year I have focused more of my efforts on the writing process with my students in grades 1 through 6. I have required more writing in general just by having them write down what they have learned but I have also started to work on the review and edit process as well which I have never done in the past. I have even introduced some of my young students to Google Docs which gives me the power to look at the different stages of their writing and how it specifically changed from a rough draft into a final, mostly perfect copy.

I really liked Joyce Valenza’s idea of an end of the year focus group and learning from students what they feel they learned and what could be improved. This is something I will be doing this year and hopefully many years to come.

With the clearer vision of where to look for data, I will pursue additional ways to gather including reintroducing an exit ticket that I used for part of the year last year but stopped when the research projects began. I now realize that I should have continued to ask students to reflect on what they accomplished that class. If nothing else, this would have been a good way for the students to reflect on how well (or not) they worked that day.

I am a long way from feeling confident with EBP but also feel that I am on the right path and just need to remember to find it when I get distracted by the proverbial squirrel.