Sunday, July 28, 2019

New Year, New School, New Job

It is nearly August, and I'm wondering where the summer has gone! You may have noticed that I've been struggling to get out blog articles and newsletters in 2019. I decided to re-enlist into the Arkansas Army National Guard back in February. From 2002 to 2014 I served as a saxophonist in the 106th Army Band. My 12-month high school library job had become so time-consuming by 2014, I decided to not stay in the military unit when my enlistment ended that year. After investing that much time in the Army, I wanted to return to the unit to complete my career. In addition, one of my parents has become very ill this past school year. In the spring, I had an opportunity to take a new library job at Bethel Middle School in Bryant, Arkansas. This new position gives me my summers off so I can focus on my Army career and assist my parents as needed during the summer months. I am excited to have a new challenge at this job. With this change brings opportunities to serve new students and teachers in different ways. I haven't taught 6th and 7th grades for several years. I look forward to re-connecting to this age group with literacy and technology.


Change is intimidating. When we transition to something new, there is so much to learn that it can be overwhelming. Change takes us away from what is comfortable and helps us grow. Every time I have experienced a change in my career, it has helped me be a stronger leader and educator. When we improve, those we serve get a better experience. Everyone wins when we keep that mindset, especially students. In this blog article, I want to describe my process of transitioning as I prepare for a new school year at Bethel Middle School!

Survey of the Facility

The first thing I've done this summer is to survey the facility. It is a beautiful and modern library space that is located in the heart of the building. The library is right across from the main entrance to the building. There are comfortable spaces for students, multiple instructional areas, a makerspace, and endless potential for the future. I took my teacher-librarian wife, Cindy, each time I visited this summer. We are already brainstorming a theme to get the students excited about the library (more on this later).

There is a projector and screen on this wall. Perfect for instruction!
The circulation desk area and entrances.

I love the high ceilings in this facility.

To-Do List

I'm notorious for making to-do lists so I can keep up with things that need to happen. Since I'm new to the school, there is so much I don't know about the learning community. I plan to proceed carefully during this first year. I want to learn more about what great practices and programs the last teacher-librarian had. The students and teachers will want to keep many of these activities and services, so I need to find out what they are and continue them! I've already started a list of questions to ask administrators, teachers, and students. Some of these are:

  • How did teachers reserve the library?
  • What did students love to do in the library? (Makerspace, book club, book fair, browsing, etc.)
  • Who are the teachers that will be most likely to try a new collaboration in the library?
  • Which teachers would want to Skype to a distant place with their students if I support them?
  • Which students might lead a book club discussion with me?
  • What books have been popular? (The previous teacher-librarian left me a report from Follett Destiny!)

Goals for the Year

My short term goals are to get things in order after the summer cleaning in the building. Everything smells so clean after this happened during the recent weeks. Open house will be my first chance to make connections with students and parents. In addition, this will be my chance to make a good first impression to the learning community! I'm working on a theme that will make students both interested and welcome in the space. After getting things ready for open house and the beginning of school, the next goals will be to find and keep those programs that are loved by the learning community. Finally, I would like to introduce a few things I love to do in the library to students and teachers:

  • Student book clubs
  • Immersive collaborations to bring books to life (starting with ELA classes that read class novels)
  • Skype in the Classroom (Mystery Skype and Virtual Field Trips)

I'm super excited to see what happens when school starts. I have a lot of work to do and much to learn about the new people I serve. It's going to be a good year, and I look forward to sharing the stories from the library media center of Bethel Middle School in the coming months! If you have a new job, be sure to share how you are starting off in the comments below.

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  1. Hi Stony, lovely to see you writing again! Good luck, my friend, in your new role. I was worried that all I was going to see of you was army stuff! so glad to see the Stony I recognise back on his blog :). I hope to be reading about lots of new and exciting initiatives that other school librarians can steal...

    Keep in touch!

    1. Hey there! I’ve missed blogging for sure! It looks like I may be moving into a leadership role in the Army unit- so that is why you have seen an increase in Army social media posts. Now that school is starting, I’ll be sharing the new journey at Bethel Middle School and less Army lol I hope we can connect this year! Miss you!

  2. Stony, I'm so happy for you. I know you will bring a new dimension to this school's library experience. Just remember that middle school kids are a lot like toddlers...trying out new things with their minds and bodies, which is often not really what is appropriate!

    Looking forward to your new blog posts!

    1. I started my career as a middle school band director (from 1996-2008). It was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to doing the immersive collabs with station rotations in the library with 6th and 7th graders. I think they will really get a lot from these programs! I'll keep you posted!

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