Sunday, August 31, 2014

Library Make-Over

Our school was freshened up over the summer. This meant that EVERYTHING had to be packed up and moved to the gym at the end of last school year. The library is upstairs and the gym is downstairs. You can imagine that this was quite the ordeal. Eventually, EVERYTHING would have to be moved back upstairs! Books, equipment, technology, and more books! May was a hard month, and August was going to be just as hard! The only difference was that in August, I would be moving everything in to a brighter space with new carpet & fresh paint! Honestly, NOW I am so excited about our new library learning space, I just smile whenever I walk around in it! I can't say that I was as excited when I first saw our library on August 15th. It looked like this:

We have over 20 different shelving units in the library, 9 heavy wooden tables, 60 heavy wooden chairs, and all of this was stacked in the middle of the library! I was overwhelmed to say the least! I couldn't even reach the top chair to begin taking apart our mountain of furniture. So I did what any normal person would: I left and went to buy fabric to cover some old benches! 

They turned out really cute, and I was able to stay sane while our district maintenance department pulled some of the furniture mountain down. On Monday, I had a few librarians come over to help and we moved all of the shelves into place. Thank goodness for those handy moving pads! I can't even begin to thank Debbie for all of her help on this day!! It was a long, hard day!  When I left that day, the library looked like this:

Keep in mind that at this point, no boxes or books had been brought up from the gym. We had packed a lot of the books on library book carts, so Monday night we started bringing those up. Thankfully, on Tuesday, my dear librarian colleagues from the district came to my rescue! By the end of the day, all the Everybody & Non-Fiction sections were put on shelves! They were also instrumental in helping with the flow of the library! We rearranged shelves & sections until it felt right! I could not have done this without them!!   Tuesday night, all of the boxes were brought up by our maintenance department and some volunteers. 

By Wednesday, the library was again a complete disaster! And again, I had some wonderful volunteers, including one of our sweet 5th graders and some previous Curtis students, come to my rescue! At one point, I even had a school board member knocking off items on my to-do list! It takes a village to put a library back together! Thank you to Denise, Kari Ann, Jaylee, Kelly, Emily & Dalyn for all of your help!

Thanks to WISD school board member, Jeff Geyer, my desk was fixed, as well as my new mobile checkout station!
There is no need to give you day by day pictures from this point because it was a slow process. Since I had requested my huge circulation desk be removed, I had to figure out where to put all of the things I stored in there! I also had removed part of my office desk, so I again lost storage. What I was trying to do was create more usable space for our students. By removing the circulation desk, I was able to free up some space which allowed us to set up our green screen permanently. Teachers & students are already dreaming of ways to use this new tool! 

With our redesigned space, we also now have some reading & meeting areas for student use.

There is a whole group story area for our young readers and a whole group instructional area for our older students. Both of these areas have a large screen with a computer for Skypes, GHOs and project shares.

And the makerspace is still there! We are making some improvements in there also, with some Donors Choose projects that were funded recently, but I'll post that later. 

My hope for this year is that this new and improved environment is constantly in use by teachers, classes, small groups, and individual visitors to our library & learning center! I want students to come in to collaborate, create & connect with others as often as possible! With this in mind, we will offer green screen and makerspace orientation for classes, so that students are able to come to the library when there is a project to complete or time for exploration, and know exactly how to use these spaces. 

Stay tuned for how our students use their new space! And please share if you are a librarian and have a great space for your students! I searched many blogs, websites, etc to try to find ideas and would love to see what others have done, with limited funds & older furniture. :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

International Dot Day 2014- Planning

Many of my educator friends have gone back to school, and alas, here I sit. Our school has undergone  some renovations this summer and the building is not quite ready. A positive to this is it is giving me time to get a head start on planning. 

One of my most favorite celebrations in the library happens very early in the school year.  It is International Dot Day on September 15thish. The "ish" because you can celebrate it at anytime around that day. The celebration centers around the book, THE DOT by Peter Reynolds and shares the idea that we should  be brave and make our mark! Thanks to my friends, Matthew Winner (The Busy Librarian) and Shannon Miller (The Library Voice) I have had the opportunity to connect my students before and can't wait for this year! 

Our students have celebrated Dot Day for the past couple of years and look forward to the opportunity to create & connect with others. You can read about how we celebrated Dot Day 2013, which always ends up being a week long celebration. We have colored dots, Skyped, shared our ideas of how we could make our mark, used technology to create & share dots, and much more! It is always a crazy, busy week but one that sets the tone for the whole year. A year that is full of creating, collaborating, and connecting!

There are great ideas for ways to celebrate on the International Dot Day website and on Pinterest, of course! But truly, no Dot Day is complete with out connections. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect your students with other students around the country and possibly the world. Matthew Winner has a Skype in the Classroom International Dot Day lesson that will help you get connected. There is also a Dot Day Google Doc to help you make connections with other educators. Many teachers and librarians have already listed their information on the Google doc, so be sure to add yours! You might not know your schedule yet, but you can always add that later!

So go ahead! What are you waiting for? Go make your mark and get your students connected this school year!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Modeling Life Long Learning

You know how we encourage our students to be life long learners? How we worry about our students experiencing summer slide? This made me start thinking about whether we, the adults in the process, are walking the walk, or just talking the talk. How often do we as educators practice what we preach? Do we "take the summer off" from learning and growing as a professional, or do we seek opportunities to learn, beyond our required hours of staff development?

I would say that if you are a connected educator, active on Twitter and/or Google+, and participate in chats and webinars, then you are certainly modeling what we want for our students. Every single time I log on to Twitter, I learn something or am inspired to try something. Because of this, I share the power of Twitter as often as possible.

This summer I have had the opportunity to share about the impact Twitter can make on someone's professional life on several different occasions. During our district summer professional development, I taught four different sessions. Each time, I would see a few people who really got it! They could see what Twitter had to offer, and then they would begin to get excited about the potential. As I was walking out at the end of one of the sessions, I thought about this part of a song from my childhood...

It really does just take a spark. I've seen it happen just this summer with our school counselor. Lindsay Fuller followed a conference hashtag and saw what you can learn without ever leaving your home. She now has a professional Twitter account, follows hashtags specific to school counselors and is working on her online presence through her blog post at Curtis Counselor. Lindsay had to experience it to "get it" and is now learning each time she gets on Twitter or reads a blog. Being a connected educator = life long learning.

Last week, during one of my sessions, a high school biology teacher started to get it. We got her all signed up and the beginnings of a PLN formed. As we were going through all of this, the wheels started turning, and you could see that spark. During our conversation, she said, "You know, we always end the year with dissecting in biology and the kids love it. Then we send them home for the summer. Why can't I START the year with dissecting and get them all fired up?" I had an extra copy of Dave Burgess's Teach Like a Pirate in my bag, and quickly grabbed it and handed it to her. Being willing to change your thinking = life long learning.

Later that night, I saw this same teacher had posed a question on Twitter and was waiting for someone to offer help. I shared her tweet with people I thought would be able to help her, and boy did they help! Thanks to Charles Cooper and others, she saw the true benefit of Twitter, a support network ready to help out. 

During the summer, my assistant principal, Lorie Bratcher talked with me about started a blog. I shared with her two books I had read this summer by Austin Kleon. These books were recommended to me by a teacher-librarian friend, Andy Plemmons.   We talked about how a blog can be an ongoing resume, and that we should share our stories with others. Lorie was Teacher of the Year for our campus, district and even our region several years ago... She is passionate about what she does and has a lot that she can share about teaching and continuous improvement. With all that she has to offer, it is still scary to put that first blog post out there for others to read, but she did it! You can read her post here. Being a risk-taker = life long learning.

This week, I also had the opportunity to speak to our district administrators about the power of Twitter and developing a personal learning network (PLN). To say I was nervous would be an understatement. It felt like I was preparing closing arguments for a big trial... that I had one hour to convince them to try Twitter as a way to grow professionally. I have Twitter presentations for teacher-librarians and teachers, but I knew this one would have to be different. Thanks to insight and resources from my own PLN, I created a Smore that I thought would convey all I wanted to share with them.

Before I got there, my principal, Racheal Rife, had everyone create an account so they were ready to go. A hashtag had also been created for this group, which showed them a way to share information with each other. I was able to see tweets being posted before I even started the presentation, so that was exciting. As I looked out at the crowd of administrators, I saw a room full of educators, many with years and years of experience, who were still excited and willing to try a new way to learn and grow. Being willing to try something new = life-long learning.

And one more thought, a little unrelated... connected educators retweet things on Twitter about how being a connected educator makes a huge difference for people professionally. What I realize though is we still need to reach the non-tweeters. Every time we post a tweet or share a blog post on Twitter, we are preaching to the choir, so to speak. The people we want to see those tweets might not have discovered the benefit of Twitter yet, so they never see them. Instead,  we should share how developing a PLN on Twitter can make you a better teacher, librarian, counselor, principal or superintendent, and make sure we are reaching out to those people where they are, which often times isn't on Twitter yet. We need to meet them in the library, in the hallways or at a conference. And then  make sure that we support them on Twitter, so that they feel its power when they reach out.

These are just some ways we model life long learning for our students. As we begin a new school year of encouraging our students to be life long learners, we must ask ourselves, " Am I walking the walk?" How do you model life long learning?