Saturday, August 12, 2017

3 Things Every Educator Should Remember

As I'm preparing to start another school year, I've been reflecting on all the conference sessions and inspirational speakers I've heard over the past several weeks. These sessions have made me think about teachers I've had in the past and what made them stand out. It has also been good to think back to things I could have done better in my education career. Whether you are a teacher, teacher librarian, or an administrator, you can still have a huge impact in the entire school learning community. I want to share three things that should be a focus for all of us each and every day we encounter students.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

Some of my favorite educators are always enthusiastic about their work. I have worked with principals, superintendents, and teachers that love what they do. You don't have to ask them; it shows in their daily approach to work and life. These people usually draw others to them naturally. They have the gift of making everyone feel special that comes into contact with them. One thing I have noticed about this special type of personality is that their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I want to be like them and so do most people that come into contact with them.

Being an educator demands high energy since we are charged with motivating our learners to excellence. This year, what if we remembered that the energy we project is contagious? Does this mean we can go in each and every day with the intensity of the first weeks of school? Of course not. We are human and imperfect! We can approach each day knowing that people (students, teachers, administrators, and parents) are watching us and can feed off our enthusiasm. If I'm excited about the school library, others will also be excited because I am. They may not be as enthusiastic about the library as I am, but they will recognize I love what I do.

If I consistently stand at the door with a smile on my face and greet students (even on a Friday before spring break), it makes the atmosphere better for everyone. We set the tone in our classroom which can impact the entire school. I want to remember this each day I go to work. My enthusiasm could change the course of someone's day and maybe even their life. We never know what impact we may have! Enthusiam is contagious!

Relationships Matter

This week, I was reminded by a session speaker that a growing number of our students do not have the parental support system that many of us had as young people. My parents are still there for me, and I talk to them numerous times during the week. I can't even imagine what it must be like for a young person to not have someone at home supporting them with encouragement. Some of our students may be totally without parents. While this is a tragedy, it is also an opportunity for educators.

You don't have to look hard for these students in the hallways of a public school. In our school library, we seek them out. I love finding students that walk in the hallway staring at the floor and surprising them with  a genuine compliment. Something as simple as "I like your shirt" or "Nice shoes!" can brighten a student's day. It is entirely possible that such a compliment might be the only one they hear all day or all week. Try this each day, and watch what happens. It always opens doors for the kids that need it. This practice has drawn many students to the school library and provided them with a safe haven. It has also provided them with a support network, which is our library staff. Frequently, these students will start telling us about their interests. When they do this, we make time to listen. This is an opportunity to help a kid find books they may want to read. We may also be able to connect them to a makerspace tool or skill. Sometimes the opportunity comes to put such a student in front of the crowd and allow them to show off their talent. (Yes, this can happen in the library and/ or your classroom!)

My fondest memories from public school and college are of the positive relationships I had with my favorite teachers. The ones that stand out the most are the ones that showed me they cared. They listened to my dreams and encouraged me to reach for the stars. What memories are you creating for your learners? What will they remember about your library or classroom? What will they recall twenty years from now about you? Are you leaving a legacy of positive relationships? What if we considered this each day we went to work? Relationhips matter.

Each Day is an Opportunity

We never know what opportunity we may have to impact change in our students' lives each day. Education is a magical career because we are influencing both the present and the future. Each time a student codes something with one of our library makerspace robots, they could be taking those early steps to be the next successful programmer. When you encourage a student to keep trying at that skill they haven't yet mastered, your words could motivate them to a path to become an expert years from now. By connecting your students to the outside world through a tool like Skype, you may shatter their perception of distant countries and the people that live there. They may even forge lifelong friendships with future international colleagues through such continued classroom connections. The possiblities are truly endless.

Like anything in life, the education profession is what we make of it. What adventures will you take your students on this year in your library or classroom? Each day is an opportunity. Educators change lives. 

I can't wait to see what happens at school this year. Be sure to share the things you are enthusiastic about in the comments below. Remember... you make a difference!

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

What can a library be?

My table of contents for the blog is here!

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

What Can A Library Be?

Do you ever stop and think about what the school library can be for your learning community? It is easy to get caught up in the daily activities and forget about the endless possibilities that exist for our learners. As I prepare to begin my tenth year as a school librarian, I've been thinking about how the library spaces and resources can transform our students' lives. I would like to share some recent happenings that have illustrated this to me.

A Safe Place

We loved seeing new students discover the library!
Recently we hosted an 8th grade school wide orientation. It was a busy day of meeting countless new students. As these young people arrived at the high school as new 8th graders for the first time, I thought about how intimidating this transition must be for them. It was also easy to see which students were new to our district since they were usually standing by themselves. How uncomfortable this must be for new students. I enjoyed seeking these students out and introducing myself and our library staff to them. Such connections will undoubtedly direct some of them to find us again in the library. In years past, the library has been a safe haven for many of our students in all grades. It is fulfilling to know that we can accomplish this by being friendly and showing interest in the students that visit. Most of the time, all it takes is a simple "Good morning", "How are you?", or "I'm glad you are here". As I reflect back through the events of the day, I'm glad I took the time to visit with so many new students. This was an investment that will bring new customers to the library when school starts. The library is an important safe place in the school.

A Place of Inquiry and Innovation

We started our brief orientation sessions in the fiction room portion of the library. My teacher librarian colleague, Mrs. Kaitlyn Price, enjoyed telling the newcomers about her genrefication project of all fiction titles. (You can learn more about how she accomplished this here). I imagine many students were curious about the titles they would find in the nine different categories she established in the space. I feel certain many will return to browse their favorite genres. In fact, one student proclaimed he would read every one of our science fiction/ fantasy titles! 

After this, we moved next door to the non-fiction room for a brief tour. Then we allowed them to explore the makerspace resources. We had Viewmaster Virtual Reality devices, Ozobots, Little Bits, Legos, coloring pages, jewelry making resources, and our Ollie robot out for everyone to try. Each group was very engaged with all the resources. As we interacted with all the students, I began to wonder how many of them might become proficient with our makerspace resources. Consider the numerous possibilities for these students. By having access to such resources at age 13, what progress might be possible between grades 8 to 12? Learners could begin designing and building projects using the 3D Printer. learning the basics of coding, and designing video games. Such activities may change their lives forever. The library is an important place of inquiry and innovation in the school. 

A Place of Connections

In the past, we have used Skype and Google Hangouts to connect students all over the country and world. We are already planning to continue this practice in the coming school year. Today I asked our new student visitors if they had ever Skyped with another place at school. Some hands went up, but most had not enjoyed the experience. I wonder if those students are looking forward to the places we will connect with in the coming year. Will they associate the library as a place that connects them all over the world? Will they tell their parents and grandparents about the places they connect in the library? How will this change the perception of the library and school? 

We enjoy having guest speakers in the library. In previous years we have had Veterans, local politicians, librarians from the county library, guest authors, local community musicians perform, and more. Many students have connected with such presenters during our brief lunch programs. I can't help but wonder what many connections await us this coming school year. What lives might be changed as a result of such programming? The library is an important place of connections. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you will join me in pondering these things as the school year starts and progresses. I want to stay focused on what the library can be for our learners. We can make a difference in our school and community. Anything is possible in the school library! It's going to be a great year.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Makerspace resources we are adding to our libraries.

My table of contents for the blog is here!

I have a monthly email newsletter for the subscribers of the Library Media Tech Talk blog. If you are interested in exclusive content not appearing on the blog, be sure to subscribe by submitting your email address! Subscribe here!

Contact Me/ Follow Me

Are you on Twitter?

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