Thing 34: Annual Reports

This is going to sound like an excuse but I haven’t been collecting data since the beginning of the year so a true annual report will not be possible. That said, I will begin to gather information that will be helpful starting today.

One of my busiest times for interactions with other teachers is before my day contractually starts so I would like to keep track of exactly how I am spending this time. Frequently, I am checking out equipment, providing book suggestions, troubleshooting technology, and quickly collaborating all before my day officially starts. But right now, I don’t keep track of any of this so I really need to start documenting. I know this isn’t information that is strictly directly related to student achievement but in the end, these “distractions” do take away from my time to prepare for students thus indirectly related to students.

One of the changes in annual reports over the last few years is that there are a lot of good options that allow you to include different types of media. I try to incorporate student quotes in my newsletters but the idea of a video clip stating this same information has so much more impact on the viewer.

I also wonder if the newsletters are even read or just thrown in a pile with everything else. Smore is a website that can be used to create newsletters which can then be shared via different platforms. The website it pretty easy to use and provides options to add different types of media including videos and links to outside websites. The biggest advantage to using Smore is that it captures analytics and therefore you know how many times it has been viewed. The only problem is that in order to have this feature, you need to either upgrade to a paid account or have over 30 people view your newsletter. If you only want to share with your principal, then you won’t be getting the views that you need and would need to upgrade. Now I know what some of you are thinking — why not share it with everyone? I agree that newsletters should be readily available to all stakeholders, not just the principal but this still doesn’t guarantee that 30 people will actually open it.

I decided to go to my standard platform — Canva. I like the ease with which I can create almost anything and have even used it to create pretty cool worksheets for my students. It is like PowerPoint on steroids. You can add links to other websites but you can’t include videos which is definitely a downgrade from Smore. Still, I find that I prefer this platform despite the lack of analytics. Below is what I have for April so far although it isn’t yet complete.

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For my report this year, I would like to include feedback from the 6th grade interviews that I will be doing in the next few weeks. I will also include information on the various projects completed with and without collaboration. I will highlight different projects with student quotes and standards that were addressed. Pictures will help break up the text and provide exemplary examples of the work that was completed. Of course, I will also provide the standard statistics on circulation, classes taught, professional development provided, and social media updates. One thing I do know is that I need to make it visually appealing first so that it actually gets read. Otherwise, it will be lost in the pile of ‘things to read when I have time’ and that would be a waste of a lot of hard work and time on my part. Additionally, the stakeholders would be clueless about all of the learning that is taking place in the library and that is something that I can’t afford to let happen!

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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.

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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.