Setting Sail!

Tomorrow morning I set sail on my journey of being a Greenland Pirate. I have prepared my ship and set a course for a year full of technology and STEAM projects. I am, in my shy way, beginning to get to know the teachers in my school. I am greatly looking forward to getting to work with them! But tomorrow is the real challenge.

The days prior to raising my sails, the water has been a little on the choppy side. After much struggle and tons of contemplation, I prepared an interactive ‘Library Go’ game for my students during the first week that would have them exploring the library and watching videos whenever images I had uploaded to Augment were triggered. Things were working beautifully. With five days to go, I jumped on Amazon and ordered 30 sets of earbuds on Amazon Prime so that students wouldn’t be distracted by 20 other videos playing at the same time. I love Amazon Prime. I mean, who doesn’t adore free 2 shipping. Friday afternoon, since I hadn’t received a shipping update, I checked my account. My headphones were scheduled to arrive on Monday…the 22nd. A week after I was intending to use them!

Furious did not even come close to describing how I felt in that moment. What was I going to do? Three days before classes, I had nothing planned. Every negative thought I have had about my teaching career suddenly exploded in my brain and my mind was so clogged that I couldn’t focus on finding a new path. So I did the only thing I could do. I did nothing. Not a thing. I walked away from the situation and threw my attention on cleaning my house and went to the gym.

It was at the gym that it started to come together. While I focused on form, breathing, and tempo of my sets, a memory started to squirm its way forward. A few months ago, I attended a technology specialist session at the Dawson Co-op and we were looking at different ways to incorporate basic coding skills into lessons. One of the  projects we looked at included creating a double-sided ‘About me’ postcard. While playing with the builder, I commented to one of my colleagues how neat these would be as library cards.

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*Insert light bulb above my head*

Here it was. The plan I needed. we will design our own library cards using Haiku Deck. The younger students will be taught step-by-step with lots of modeling while the older students will be given more freedom. They will take selfies on the iPads and build a library card that reflects their interests and preferences.

There is no problem that can’t be resolved or overcome. Clarity comes when your mind is at peace. There are many motivational quotes I could post but the point of them all is simply this…do not give up! Keep going. Find a new path. It is not the end! So, onward I go. A new plan, a new path, and waters (aka nerves) that are much calmer.

Tomorrow will be my day.

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How do you library?

So, as the year gets into full swing and I am designing my lessons, one questions keeps echoing in my mind; how much time should I focus on basic library skills? In this era of Library Media, fewer than 1/4 of my standards support these skills – knowledge of the sections of the library, using the OPAC, text features, library procedures, understanding the difference between nonfiction and fiction, how the Dewey Decimal System works, and literature genres, just to name a few. In most curriculum maps I have seen, these items are taught, reinforced, and allegedly ‘mastered’ within the first few weeks and then aren’t looked at again until the next school year.

The reason this question keeps surfacing is I’m curious: am I doing my students a disservice by not properly teaching and reinforcing this throughout the year? I mean, we have a lot of standards to focus on and while some of these basic skills are supported in other areas, many do not and are instead considered ‘ongoing standards’. However, I am not necessarily retesting these skills throughout the year. I am nearing the end of my focus on library skills and ready to jump into new exciting STEAM projects and worry is creeping into my mind that I am not doing my job as a media specialist.

How often should I be refreshing students on these skills? Should I have mini-lessons throughout the year to spot check that students are keeping these skills sharpened? This last week, my lesson ended up being a skills check via Kahoot and I was shocked at how little had been retained already from the previous several weeks. How can I possibly feel that this has been a mastered subject?

I will admit, I have been trying a different approach in my lessons this year. I have been trying a more ‘self discovery’ method of teaching in which I provide tasks for students to complete by problem solving . Providing them with information that they have to apply. For example, when discussing parts of the book, after a self-guided introductory lesson on the iPads, students worked in teams to assemble a book from scratch with no guidance. All they had was the information they learned from the intro and discussion with each other.

The students have enjoyed the hands-on approach to things because I’m not ‘talking at them’ quite as much but I am concerned they are missing relevant pieces. In the ‘Build-a-Book’ lesson I referenced, very few of the end products looked the way they were supposed to. So, while fun, was it as effective as it should have been? I do think that the Kahoot skills check did provide me the opportunity to highlight the important information they may have missed but shouldn’t the actual lessons be providing that and not a follow up?

I am excited for the next chapter and phase in my year since I will be delving into STEAM for the first time, but I don’t want to fail my students on the basics. I want to balance everything and provide a thorough but not exhaustive education. So, as I end this post, I want to invite your opinions on the topic. How often do you teach and review these skills. How important do you feel they are in the grand scheme of things?

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Library Go!!

I can’t wait to share with you my awesome library orientation lesson. This might have been the best thing I have ever come up with and I don’t know that this is an exaggeration.

After seeing the instantaneous success of Pokemon Go!, I wanted to capitalize on that popularity and find a way to incorporate it into my library orientation. I started doing a little thinking and I remembered attending the AAIM 2015 conference and being introduced to a little app called Aurasma and the world of Augmented Reality. At the time, I thought “well isn’t that neat, but how will I ever be able to use it?”. Hello surfaced memory!

So, I started drafting my plan. I wanted to tag objects and sections in the library and overlay them with videos. I wanted to cover fiction, nonfiction, using shelfmarkers, how to find a ‘just right’ book, how to use the Follett Destiny app to check=in and out books, and, of course, an introduction video about the brand new Greenland Pirate librarian – me!

At first, I planned to use videos that I knew where readily available online. I found videos for everything except the how-to video and my introduction and started trying to upload the videos into the Aurasma studio. After watching through the videos a few times I realized the project was beginning to feel impersonal and disjointed. So, instead, I  started fresh and recorded myself. I recorded myself walking through our library and detailing how our fiction and nonfiction sections were arranged, I created my video tutorial on using the iPads for check-out procedures, and used Animoto and a voiceover app to make my intro.

So, once again, I logged into the Aurasma studio and followed the instructions to make my Auras. I created two and then gave them a test run. Nothing. Happened. It wouldn’t trigger. I researched the problem. I tried every trick I could find. Still nada. I was truly freaking out at this point. I wanted this to work so badly. I could see it beautifully in my mind but it was starting to become a huge headache.

Even though everything suggested that the Aurasma studio would be my best option, I gave it a shot on my iPad. I took a deep breath, prayed a small prayer, and gave it a test run. Voila! I had liftoff!

I quickly got to work uploading the videos via my device. And then my first class arrived for my orientation week (which was actually the second week of school). My students loved Library Go! They couldn’t get enough of it. They loved trying to find the videos and enjoyed the method of learning.

I started the week out using Kahoot! to do a check on learning but I found that I was having to cut the playing of Library Go too short and student weren’t being able to finish all the videos. I scrapped that and instead did a quick overview of each video. It wasn’t perfect, but it gave the students more time to participate in the lesson and left a positive experience with my new students and at the end of the day, you just can’t beat that!

 

Changes, changes, changes 

I know. It has been a long time. Nearly an entire year. I started my blog last year in hopes that I would be able to chronicle the amazing things I had planned to launch in my high school library throughout the 2015-2016 school year. I was excited, motivated, and enthusiastic after spending 3 amazing days immersed in planning with my cohorts in my district. However (isn’t that such an awful word? So full of disappointment! ), I found quite quickly that the year was not going to go as I had dreamt. Without divulging the ins and outs of the year, let it suffice for me to say that this school year nearly broke me as an educator. I lost my confidence in my capabilites and doubted my place in education. The year weighed on me in such a way that I couldn’t let myself step out of my comfort zone and push myself or my student population to grow. I closed in on myself and began just trying to keep my head above water instead of fighting the current and moving forward. I ended the year heartbroken and disappointed in myself and left with one resounding thought….I needed a change. 

So, I struck out and was blessed to be offered a position at Greenland Elementary School in Northwest Arkansas. I finally have a job in the area of Arkansas I have been wanting to be in, I am back in the Elementary, and I have a schedule that will allow me to have both fixed and flexible classes without sacrificing anything. While I am still shaken from the experience of the last year and I am working to banish the negative voice in my head that is telling me that I don’t have a voice worth listening to, I am going to cast my line and use this forum as a reflection point for myself. I hope I will be able to make new connections with educators everywhere, learn from these new voices, and maybe a kernal of something I write about will be used by someone somewhere. 

So, I have written a mission statement. Last week at a PD session with Cassandra Barnett,she challenged us to take our school mission and revamp it to reflect the specific challenges for the media center. I embraced this to create the following statement: 

I am ready to embrace more project based learning, STEAM education, makerspaces, and cultivating new relationships with the teachers of my district and follow in the footsteps of so many amazing media specialists. But more than that, I hope to carve out my own path; a path that runs parallel to my inspirations, crosses with my growing PLC and over, around, and through the challenges along the way! This is a year of change and growth. I am excited and nervous. But then again, who isn’t? 

OMG. I’m in High School…again. Help!

*FLASHBACK* Last summer. The beginning of the school year is rapidly approaching and it dawns on me…I’m going back to high school. I mean, yes, I am going back as a teacher, but that doesn’t quell me nerves. Honestly, it terrifies me even more. What if they don’t like me? How am I going to make the changes that my principal is hoping to see? Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh. Deep breath. Hold. And release.

Sure, my first four years of teaching were technically at the high school. But, I was a band director. As a band director, I automatically have something that bonds me to my students – music. Besides, I didn’t have to worry about the entire student body. Just the students who were enrolled in band. I got to be in my musically enhanced bubble and I rarely let my bubble intermingle with the rest of the campus. Going back to high school as the media specialist was a completely different ballgame.

My entire media specialist career up to that point had been spent at the elementary level. Everything I did made those little guys happy. I decorated with over-the-top themes and bright colors. We did lots of fun lessons. I read to them. I can’t do any of those things at the high school level. They would literally laugh in my face. They might even call me a…oh dear…dork. I really don’t need a repeat of my own high school days!

Okay, I might have been a little worried over nothing. The librarian who retired the previous year had been in her job for a long, long, long, long, long time. The library was an incredibly strict environment that actually discouraged students from coming in. Checking out books was a process similar to passing a bill in Congress. Talking within the walls of the library was quite the sin. People were actually scared to go in for fear of being yelled at.

I had a starting point. Don’t yell at students for coming in the library. Make book checkouts a much less painless process. Let students carry on conversations. Smile at students. Okay. That doesn’t seem so hard. But what else can I do?

So, I came up with a few changes to implement. I painted the walls. I ordered new cafe-style tables and chairs. Implemented self-checkouts with the iPads. And, of course, focused my book ordering on new YA fiction instead of continuing to cram in uncirculated nonfiction. Is it enough? Will I be able to get students to use the media center? Will these changes in environment and attitude be enough to bring them in the door and checking out the materials?

*FAST FORWARD* We are now at the end of the year. My library is always full of students. We tripled our circulation numbers. Students are working on Chromebooks all over the room and chatting happily with their friends. Music from my favorite Pandora stations are playing through the computer speakers. Oh, and the high school students do like my crazy decorations.

So, yes, I was overly worried about nothing. My first year as a media specialist at the high school rocked. And year two is going to be even greater. I’m not nervous this summer. I am excited. I cannot wait to embark on this journey. Just you wait.

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Lovely new furniture and freshly painted walls. Don’t we all love a good makeover?
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This was just the opening to some awesome ‘Banned Book’ week displays. Kids loved the “Walking Dead” reference.
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Christmas tree made of weeded books. Almost exclusively nonfiction. This monster tree was a huge hit.
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Historical Fiction display that featured some awesomely nerd-tastic elements. The TARDIS, the flux capacitor, and each shelf featured a backdrop from a different time period.

Who knew that a retreat could move you forward?

Well, first off, HELLO!!! Here I go with my premier blog post. I’m a little nervous but, apparently, I have great things to say. I’ll let you be the judge of that!!

So, a little introduction. I am Heather Peters and I am a library media specialist in the small town of Bauxite, AR. I am now the high school media specialist after spending three years at the elementary. I know – the babies to the big kids. But, its been a really great change! In August I will be starting my fifth year in the media center and my ninth year as a teacher. As of now, my family consists of me, my husband, and our sweet black kitty cat. We are a goofy crew but that just fuels my crazy fire. 🙂

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Here we are before checking out the new ‘Minion’ movie a few days ago. See. I told you we were goofy!!

Anyway, enough about that for now…let’s get on the important stuff! This retreat thing. Somehow, I managed to convince my curriculum coordinator to allow the three media specialists from my district to find a place in the middle of nowhere for a few days and completely immerse ourselves into the beautiful world of library and count it as part of our professional development requirements. For three days, we planned our entire year. Well, mostly. I guess it was really just a solid frame for the year and laying out the supplies we need to launch a phenomenal year. Like, really amazing. Battle of the Books, March Madness Book Brackets, Genre Bingo (to help students get used to the new genre-fied fiction section!!!), themes, and displays. We are super excited. And, we spoke to some really amazing people.

On the first day, we got to spend about an hour ‘hanging’ (and by that I mean we connected via Google Hangouts) with the mighty little librarian herself, Tiffany Whitehead! I have to admit, I was a bit starstruck. She is truly amazing at her job. I have no idea how she manages to keep so many balls in the air, but apparently she is a Ringling Brothers level juggler. apparently she is also a saint. She gave us so much great advice, particularly regarding Accelerated Reader, that I think we could actually have her canonized. Okay, maybe she needs just one more miracle, but its pretty close. We kicked off our first year with AR last year and it was, to say the least, an incredibly bumpy ride. No, she didn’t wave her magic wand (though I know it was tucked under her desk) but she did give us a lot of tools to help us fill the potholes in our AR road and keys to unlocking reading challenges that make reading, well, you know, FUN! At the end of the hour, Saint Tiffany left us with one piece of advice – Take one thing this year and be the best you can at that one thing. Throw yourself into that one element. Hmmm….good advice but, how do I choose just one thing?!?

So we started with a library national treasure so on the last day, we met with a local library hero – the amazing Stony Evans! Stony is my mentor. He is the reason I am a media specialist and lays the footsteps I try to follow. He is a collaboration machine and creates the most fabulous learning events. Like a good teacher, I am absolutely stealing everything I can from him. Why work harder, right? Ha!! Actually, his example is always pushing me to go a little further and work a little more and strive for that next level. He showed us the importance of a strong social media presence and encouraged us each to begin blogging. Well, Hello Blogging World! You can kindly thank Stony Evans for pushing me into your realm. 😉 After three and a half hours (!!!), we left Stony armed with a newfound respect for social media, ways to impress our admin through stats, and a metric ton of collaboration examples.

Wow! My head is officially so crammed with library plans and ideas I think it could possibly explode. Or maybe just create a slight trickle out the ears. But I am truly blessed to have been able to experience the last three days. I want to thank my district administrators for supporting this endeavour, my gorgeous cohorts for putting up with me for the last three days (because I know I talked incessantly), and Tiffany and Stony for providing us with inspiration and advice. This school year will absolutely rock because of them. One little retreat has got me so ahead of the game for this year I might not ever feel overwhelmed or have anything slip up on me at that last-minute. Wait. Uhh. That’s hilarious!! Maybe it just won’t happen as often as usual. I guess only time will tell!

Okay all  you lovely and amazing people, thank you for stopping by and reading my first blog post! I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing it! Until next time, keep calm and read on!!

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My lovely cohorts and I with the one and only Stony Evans!