Reflections and Celebrations 2015
Every year as the school year winds down (or crashes, rather), I start thinking about what I want to change for next year. Though I’ve made notes on my grade-level lesson plans all year long, it’s good to look back and remember not only what I want to change, but how far I’ve come since last school year. After a long school year, some reflecting and celebrating never fails to reignite my passion for teaching, and I recommend the practice to any teacher-librarian or educator!
One thing that helps me to do that is keeping a binder of all my lesson materials that I print or copy throughout the year. After I make copies, I just slip the original into a plastic page protector, and clip into the 3-ring binder. Voila! Everything is super-easy to find when I’m putting together evidence for my “Danielson model” evaluation meeting with my principal. It’s also nice to keep the old ones from last year so I can see that I am making progress.
What Worked and Progress I’ve Made This Year:
Parent Communication – I did a complete overhaul of my K-2 newsletters, but didn’t get to the 3rd-5th grade ones. I love how colorful they are, and I’m grateful for color copying at our school. I also started a Facebook and Twitter page, which I am loving because I can schedule posts all summer long! I used to think I should send home more newsletters, but now I think I’m just going to do the start-of-school one and point parents to the Facebook/Twitter pages for future announcements and news.
Library Class Instruction – This was my 2nd year of library centers and using tracking booklets with those centers. I did a revision from last year to add sticker badges, and I liked the results overall. There are three sections students must complete: Research Skills, Reading Promotion, and Creation & Technology. I also added more variety of choices for the research centers, something that was lacking last year.
The revised format still allowed students to choose how they earned those badges and to see their progress, and thanks to QR code check-ins, I could track their centers more easily. More tweaks and center choices are coming for next year (see below).
This was also the 2nd year of our makerspace centers, and I added marble maze building, paper circuits, electric sewing, and coding. I’d love to add cardboard construction, LEGOs, the new Makey Makey Go, and some more circulating kits. Funding- and time-dependent, of course. A lunchtime maker club would be excellent, but I’ll have to wait to see what the “specials” schedule looks like between classes, 3 grades of RtII groups, and the school news crew.
Professional Learning – I made lots of new friends on Twitter, and presented my first solo presentation at PSLA to a packed room of librarians interested in makerspaces in elementary and middle schools. Definitely one of the professional highlights of my year! Not sure if I’ll have it in me to do more presentations next year though. It definitely took its toll, and I didn’t even have to travel far.
What I Want to Change:
Library Centers – First, I’m changing the “Creation & Technology” centers name to “Makerspace.” I’m also thinking of keeping Research Skills as a required section that must be completed before “unlocking” the other 2 sections. It’s definitely more gamification, which I have mixed feelings about, but it’s hard to motivate students to learn to research when many of them just want to a) read and lounge around the library, and/or b) spend every library class making. It’s a good problem to have, no doubt. Reading Promotion and Makerspace would be options students could choose, but not required to “finish.” Still not sure if that’s the right move, though.
Reading Challenge – Though I don’t love school-wide reading challenges that use minutes and/or reading logs to track progress, the fact is that they are very popular. I’m hoping to pilot a school-wide read-aloud program next year with the reading specialists instead. If we have to have reading logs though, I’m going to set up online logging for the minutes, or pages, or books read, or whatever metric is being used. Paper logs are just so tedious.
Parent/student Permission Forms – Two or 3 years ago, I started requiring a signed permission form before students could check out materials. Next year, I think I’ll let every student check out 2 books, but if a student wants to check out audiobooks, maker kits, Nooks, or more than 2 books, they’ll need to get the form signed by a parent. You can download the FREE editable Word document of the permission form I use (adapted from my wonderful colleague, Kori). Just click the image on the right.
Enjoy summer first!
Make no mistake, I know I need to turn off my “teacher mode” and I won’t be making all of those changes in the 6 weeks before I go back to prepare the library. As tempting as it is to focus on preparing for the 2015-16 school year all summer, Vicki Davis cautions against this and describes the fallacy of “summer vacation” best,
[E]veryone in the world is “jealous” of teachers but they don’t understand that we are hurting, exhausted, and often wounded by this time. We don’t fault new Moms for staying at home for 6 or 8 weeks after having a child. They’re not “getting time off.” We aren’t either.
So I’m taking some time off and won’t be posting as much, and I hope any teachers reading this are taking some much-needed rest and relaxation time. Have a safe and happy summer!