Day 25

2/27/12

This is my last journal entry! While I’ve enjoyed the writing and REALLY enjoyed the reflecting on how all of the posts fit together, I’m glad I’m done. It was another big task and, as the content of the journal reflects, librarians have enough big tasks for two people!

This week we’ll have our spring break and only have school on Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday. The district technology director is upgrading our server and we’ll be getting a newer version of our Destiny software. I’m really excited! The work will begin tomorrow and so I had to ask the students and staff to not check out or return books on Tuesday or Wednesday. This meant that today was BUSY!!! Usually I only allow children to check out 2 books at a time but today I allowed them 4 if needed so they’d have enough to read over the break. I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll have some kids come and ask to check out and I’ll have to break their little hearts. Many of our students come to the library everyday or two to get new books. I’m really glad to have a system that is so open. I’ve worked at schools where kids can only checkout books on their assigned library day and I really dislike that.

 

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Day 24

Today I want to share the post I wrote for http://www.weteachwelearn.org

It deals with the new role of the specialist. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. The text book we got for our class is the BEST I’ve used since starting the LIS program. I think it “gets” what it is to be a school librarian better than any other I’ve seen. Reading the book, doing this journal, and reflecting on some of the work I do consulting with school districts (this year I’m doing a new teacher cohort for new ESL teachers) has lead me to share the thoughts below.

Beyond the Kidney-Shaped Table: The New Role of the Specialist

By Rita Platt

Most people think of leadership as a position and therefore don’t see themselves as leaders.
~Stephen R. Covey

When I first began as a reading specialist my job was simple and clear. I followed a “pull-out” model. I pulled small groups of students at like reading levels out of their classrooms and worked with them on reading skills. My small groups were well-run, the students enjoyed them, and parents felt that their children were getting the extra support they needed. But, in reality the students did not do much better on standardized tests than they likely would have without my intervention and they did not “graduate” from the pull-out sessions. That is to say that if a child was in a pull-out group one year, she was likely in a pull-out group the next year as well.

Several years later my school changed its model of collaboration to a “push-in” philosophy. Now, my job required me to go into the classroom and work with students in their regular classroom setting. I sometimes pulled small groups to the back of the room for reteaching but often wandered from desk to desk helping when needed. For several months I felt at sea. I couldn’t clearly articulate my new role and began to feel like a glorified classroom aid. As time passed I was able to parlay my work into a combination of co-teaching and pulling targeted students aside to help them master content. But, again the data wasn’t showing great results.

By the time I left the school, my role was more multi-faceted than I could have imagined. I continued to do a limited amount of pull-out and push-in teaching but the larger focus of my work was to make my specialized knowledge and experiences available to my mainstream colleagues in service of their efforts to meet all students’ learning needs in the context of regular classroom teaching. I had become a “collaborative consultant”.

This same shift in roles is occurring in schools all over the nation. Reading Specialists. Literacy Coaches. Special Education Teachers, Content Leads, ESL Teachers. Library Media Specialists. Behavior Interventionists. Each of these titles holds an expectation of highly specialized knowledge about teaching and learning. Frequently specialists are asked to do more than just provide direct instruction. They are tasked, as I was, with being be co-teachers, consultants, and advocates. And, they are asked to do so with limited training, mentoring, or other help.

In an effort to usher success in this new role below you will find resources and information to help facilitate your plunge into your new role as a co-teacher, consultant, and advocate. As always your feedback is encouraged! Please share your thoughts! Add to the We Teach We Learn conversation by sharing your experiences, advice and questions! I look forward to hearing from you!

Co-teaching:
Co-teaching was pioneered in special education programs. The goal was to get students with IEP’s more time in the regular classroom while same time providing continuing IEP support for students. There are generally 6 models of co-teaching. The results of the effectiveness of are mixed with some models being stronger than others. Check out the sites below to learn about each model.

Greenbrier School District Co-Teaching Handbook (pdf)
This booklet offers great basic information about co-teaching and the different models of co-teaching.

Co Teaching Strategies
A great YouTube video of actual co-teachers in an actual classroom implementing each of the models.

Co-Teaching in the Classroom (Prince George’s County Public Schools Region IV) (pdf)
PowerPoint presentation with terrific graphic representations of each of the models.

Consultant:
Consulting is often the specialist’s most challenging role. Consulting can broadly be defined as being the go-to person for help, ideas, and strategies that teachers can use with students in their classrooms. Consultants also offer professional development, assessment strategies, and data analysis support. Often consultants are referred to as “coaches”.

Top Ten Behavioral Consulting Tips; (pdf) Diana Browning Wright
Brief overview of strategies that effective consultants apply to their work with classroom teachers.

Do’s and Don’ts for Literacy Coaches: Advice from the Field; Bean & DeFord
Wonderful article with practical advice for coaches and consultants. Though it speaks directly to literacy coaches the information can easily be applied across specialist roles.

Coaches Help Mine the Data (pdf)
Looking at data with classroom teachers is an essential component of effective coaching. This paper provides a primer for helping teachers look at assessment data.

Advocate:
Advocating for students is another role of the specialist. This means that specialists should work closely with school and district leadership to ensure that the needs of the students and teachers they work with are being met.

ACSD Advocacy Guide (pdf)
ACSD offers this PDF booklet of ideas, suggestions, and strategies for successfully advocating. Most of the suggestions and scenarios are focused on the national level but can easily be used at the school/district level as well.

Fighting the Good Fight: How to Advocate for Your Students without Losing Your Job; Rick Lavoie
Outstanding article that combines a how-to for being an advocate and great advice for consulting as well.

 

Rita Platt is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls SD in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts.

Related posts:

  1. The Future: Where “winging it” becomes best practice

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2 Comments

Rebecca S

Wow, what a resource! I’m going to share this with all the teachers I know. The comment/question I have is, when and how does a classroom or district know that they need to move to a co-teacher model? I can see where it would be extremely valuable for any teacher to have any number of specialists they could turn to (as consultant, helper, etc.), but I know not all teachers would be comfortable utilizing a resource like this. Change and collaboration can be hard sometimes. I can also imagine there are funding issues in hiring specialists. Lots of questions…love reading about this stuff!

Rita Platt

Rebecca, this was mostly written as a resources for specialists who are working in schools today. One thing I’ve heard from them is that they want to help other teachers but that they don’t know how to approach them. My hope was that this would provide some guidance about how to do that. One of the things that I always try to do as a specialist is to offer myself to teachers as a servant…a nonjudgmental partner in their classroom. Mostly it works… Does that begin to answer your question?

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Day 23

2/23/12

Today I got ready for a substitute. I am taking a personal day tomorrow. Writing lesson plans for a guest librarian is challenging. There are so many passwords, procedures, unforeseeable needs, and directions to be issued and dealt with.

One time I left a sub with my beloved library for half a day. In that time she checked out EVERY single book that passed under her scanning wand to the SAME child! Oh my! What a mess. I don’t blame her, my job is complicated!

To help with this, I keep standard instructions handy. A sheet with passwords, a booklet that explains how to reshelve books, and information on how to print AR tests. I then write plans for each 30 minute period of the day. Tomorrow that means sharing plans for 3 classes (grades 1, 3, & 4), 4 checkout sessions, and 3 intervention groups.

These days I feel blessed to have the same sub every time I’m gone. She is WONDERFUL! She spent a day with me in the library to learn and in return I promised that I would call her each time I needed to be out. This has worked beautifully. Today, as I left, I did so without the usual pang of fear that I experience when I know I’ll be gone.

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Day 22

2/21/12

One of the things I like about how I run my library is the way students are asked to help keep it neat, clean, and organized.

Books are put away in one of 4 places:

1. The hardback browser (by AR color)

2. The paperback browser (by AR color)

3. The “spinny rack” (by series)

4. The shelves (by Dewey)

ALL students know how to put books away in the browsers and spinny rack. In 2nd grade students learn how to find and put away fiction books (novel section & picture book section) on the shelves. In 3rd grade students learn how to find and put away nonfiction books on the shelves.

Almost all reshelving is done by students. When a child comes in to return a book I check it back in and ask her/him to put it away for me. Each morning, recess, and afternoon I have 4th graders reshelving.

They students love to help, they learn library skills, they take ownership in their library, and they help me a ton!

 

 

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Day 21

2/17/12

Back to the kindergarten today! YAHOO! I love working with my little readers. We’ll start the “book club” today. Last week I assessed the students. It’s great to be a librarian with a reading specialist certification. I actually think that ALL elementary school librarians should have advanced training in teaching children to read.

The assessment results showed that out of 87 kids, 29 are already reading. Of those 29, 9 are reading at a mid-first grade level, 11 at an early first grade level, and 9 at the word-level. Today I will work with the 20 readers (the first 2 groups). I will give each a reading journal and show them how to pick books at their “just-right” level. They will do a page in the journal each week. Work will happen in the classrooms and we will meet once a week to share it.

Instead of regular lessons, I will go to students’ classrooms and we’ll look at the books in teacher’s libraries so I have teach them the “Goldilox Method” and the “Five Finger Rule” for picking “just-right” books.

_____________________________

The day is done! The work with the kinders was WONDERFUL! They are all very excited and it was sooooo fun to teach them in their own rooms. The teachers all watched the lesson and I think they now have a better idea of how to help children pick “just-right” books.

 

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Day 20

2/16/12

Today I just felt grumpy! Doesn’t happen that often, but occasionally I get frustrated by the sheer amount of work that I cram into each day. The endless barrage of little problems and questions and needs for attention. I am not complaining, just telling how I felt today. I think that being an elementary school librarian is the best job in the world, but today I felt grumpy. It’s a normal part of anyone’s life, right?

My wonderful husband wrote this poem for me after we had a few laughs about my day. It pretty much sums up how I felt today.

Ode on an Irritated Librarian

By John Wolfe

It’s 2:15; you’ve been running like a sprinter

mean streets of dusty shelves – more a marathon —

and you still haven’t replaced the toner in the printer

 

unshelved returns heap round, a permabound winter,

to be shelved at lunchtime – but that time has come and gone –

so when? you don’t feel compelled to even wonder.

 

In the repairs pile Harry Potter lies in splinters

or whatever wizards collapse into when their bindings gone

an angry insistent beeping rises from the printer

 

It was you who made this place the school’s center,

with reading buddies, buddies reading, voices on and on,

you love the buzz, but even the most seasoned sprinter

 

dreams of lolling lazy on a convenient manicured lawn

but in three minutes you’ll be helping 30 3rd-graders enter

passwords so complex they’d boggle the Pentagon.

 

And you’ll listen as first-graders read in halting sing song

some Dr. Seuss book you’d rather see a cinder

but your chance to hide the book has long since gone

And you still haven’t replaced the toner in the printer.

 

 

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Day 19

2/15/12

When I first read the assignment for this portion of the class, I laughed out loud. “Write down everything you do.” I still think it’s funny. Any working library-media-specialist knows that this would not only be next to impossible, it would be an awesome task to write about or read.

Today, like all days, I was busy almost every minute. My focus for this reflection will be on my collaboration with my wonderful principal.

To start the day we visited about a few issues on the burner:

1. Continuing to support the kindergarten teachers as they begin to differentiate up for their advanced learners. We will ask the 4k teachers to visit the k classrooms. I will meet with the k classes again on Friday I will teach the children to choose “just-right” books. Then, I will work with the teachers on getting differentiated groups going in their own classes.

2. In conjunction with the goals I wrote for this class, we will have a Library Night at the end of the year to kick-off our summer-reading goals. Students will wear PJs and we’ll get high school volunteers to read with the children. Jeff & I will meet with the adults to talk with them about the summer reading program and share various resources they can use at home over the summer.

3. Jeff will come to the after school PLC meeting to discuss our groups work to this point and to talk about moving forward with Positive Behavior Intervention Supports in the coming weeks. He approved and our PLC is happy that we can help lead the school!

One thing I know for sure is that in ANY school-related job it is critical to have the principal’s support. The best way to get that support is to respect the boss’ authority, to do a good job, and to keep him/her informed of what’s happening.

I’m lucky, I have a GREAT principal. I work everyday to nurture that relationship.

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