Monday, May 18, 2015

You've gotta put yourself out there...

About a month ago, I was riding in the car with Pam Harland -- she's hands-down the best mentor I could have ever wished for. I interned with Pam at Sanborn two years ago, and I had no idea what I was in for. She challenges me to bring my professionalism to the next level; even when she's not there, I always think, "What would Pam think of this? What would she do?"

In this car ride, Pam was asking me about my experience this school year at my new school. I told her plenty of things that were going well & she continued to ask leading questions, like she always does. I knew that there was something she was getting to. Then it happened. After I finished a short story about how I broke ground with some of my teachers, she asked me if I could write up what I just said, video tape it, & send it to her so that she can use it in a huge upcoming presentation that she has.



You want me to do WHAT!? Things like, "I've got nothing to add to the library conversation," or "I'm just doing what comes naturally to me," popped into my head. I didn't feel qualified or reputable.

After a bit more explanation & pep talk, I jumped on board with Pam's request. Sometimes in school libraries, there is no one else in the building who knows what you're capable of and the skills you have. But they only way that they are going to know is if you put yourself out there & show them what you've got.

After 5 or takes, this video resulted:

Here's the transcript of what I said:

As a librarian, you've got to put yourself out there.  This school year, I started at a new job at Londonderry Middle School.  There are approximately 1,000 students at LMS, and I’m fortunate to have a robust library program in the district as well.  However, I knew that I could not bank on this.  I knew I needed to foster my own professional relationships in the building.  I set my sights on two goals. One: learning students’ names & two: showing the faculty that I am a positive collaborator.  But this didn’t happen overnight.

Learning students’ name is something that I deal with daily, and I have found great success with it.  Every time students check out books, raise their hands in class, ask questions, etc. I ask their names if I don’t know it.  I admit directly to them that I have 1,000+ names to get a handle on this year, but at least they see me making the effort.  It’s caught on quite well.  Students will quiz me in the library, the hallways & the lunch room.  Knowing names has certainly helped me connect with students to foster positive relationships that are so crucial in the learning process.

My second goal, to be a positive collaborator wasn't something that could automatically happen.  This November, an eighth grade science teacher came to the library because he needed computer time.  After fulfilling scheduling needs, I made conversation with the teacher, and I said, "So, the library keeps stats on usage, what are you doing with your kids?"  He told me that he & the other teachers do a project every year in that students research about elements and their properties.  They'll select one element and research the properties & the final product was a PowerPoint presentation of all about the general properties of a certain element.  I had some suggestions for improving the project, but instead of coming right out and saying all of that, before they knew me or trusted my opinion, I simply suggested Google Slides to improve their instruction.  He agreed to meet with me.  Before I knew it, we met multiple times, bringing in the other eighth grade science teachers, overhauling the whole project, changing assessments, and improving student learning, while meeting the same standards.

My advice when working in a new school, or even with new people in your buildings, is to start small.  Foster relationships with your students & your teachers daily.  Get to know them.  Don't expect lesson plans or student learning to be perfect.  Listen to your collaborators and push them to improve their instruction, but still maintain their teaching style.  Offer lunch time or after school PD sessions or MakerSpace activities.  You'll see great success.

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