Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reflecting on the School Year

I've just returned from a working vacation in the country's capital city, and I'm taking inventory. Tomorrow is the last day of the 2009-10 school year, and Thursday, July 1 is the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. In a year-round school, there is not the same down time to reorganize and adjust from one school year to the next, but the self-reflection and inventory are still necessary, though somewhat compressed, in order to start the new year with plans and directions for improving teaching and learning.

Here are some of what I learned about myself, my career, my students and staff, and the profession this year and where I'm headed for the new year:
  1. Being the school's test coordinator is incredibly HARD. So the last two months of my school year have been spent organizing, training, administering, scoring, and disseminating testing materials, information, and score reports. While I know that I did a super, fabulous job (thank you for the kind words, dear colleagues), it is not a position that I ever want again. It kept me from the real work that needs to be done.
  2. Our students and teachers need MORE instruction on basic information literacy (i.e. ethical use of resources, evaluation of online resources, the research process). The teaching of the Big6 process in the fall was energizing and exciting, but when it came to assessing the process, my teachers and I did not do a good job of measuring student success. The product instead of the process became the focus and really diluted the whole research instruction.
  3. I need my professional learning teams! My LearningTeam Middle and other PLTs keep me focused on the issues of teaching students in the 21st century. If we did not have each other and the PLT's, I would dare to say that it would be the students who would suffer the most from not having this collective insight of school librarian teachers.
  4. I need to read more young adult literature. I joined my mom's group's 100 Book Challenge in hopes of pushing myself to keep up with YA lit and read 100 books in the calendar year. While I've logged almost 20 books, I'll not make it to 100 by December. I do not have the time or energy to read every night, but I will share with my students and staff what I have learned.
  5. School librarians have a hard time teaching and leading effectively without the support of administration and the assistance of competent clerical assistants. As long as the principal and administration at my school continues to support library media and instructional technology and as long as I continue to have a very capable, enthusiastic, competent media assistant, then the media facility and programs will be well-maintained and well-managed so that I can focus on information and technology instruction with students and professional development with teachers.
  6. My leadership in my state organization makes me feel accomplished. It's an incredible feeling to think that my leadership in NCSLMA can make a difference across our state with school libraries and school librarians. Just the sheer energy that is generated when Kelly Brannock and the other board members discuss our organization and its members and professional development for our members keeps me enthusiastic about the profession and my colleagues.
  7. It's important that we remember that we are teachers FIRST. Even though there is a huge management piece to working as a school librarian (managing the collection, budget, facility, programs, staff), it is the TEACHING that should come first. We must be teaching students and working with teachers to help them teach students. If we are not teaching, we are indispensable.

Goodbye, 2009-10. Hello, 2010-11!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keeping Up with Professional Development

I met with my "sanity group" today, one of my professional learning teams, a group of school librarians from all three grade levels who share a common goal of advocacy and activism and teacher librarian leadership to promote teaching and learning in school libraries.

I call them my sanity group because we began meeting about the first of May when testing season really got going. As my school's test coordinator, I've been drowning in end of grade and end of course testing for six weeks. As an educator at a year round school, this means yet one more week of testing to go. It also means that I've done next to nothing media and technology related, let alone teaching and learning related, for my students and staff.

And goodness knows, I've done very little to keep up with my own professional growth over the last six weeks.....except for meeting with my sanity group.

As a self-proclaimed professional development junkie, I'll admit that I'm having withdrawals. Of course, that's coupled with the high levels of stress and anxiety and sleepless nights that have accompanied the title of test coordinator.

As I have begun to check in with my colleagues on Facebook and my friends at some of my favorite blogs and my fellow teacher leaders over at the TLN, I'm feeling a little jealous. These traditional school educators are posting summer plans, summer trips, summer excursions, and summer adventures. Most folks might think I'm just a little jealous that my friends are having a summer, time to do what they want to do, which most would think includes fun in the sun.

Nope, what I'm jealous of are all the great workshops and conferences and educational trips that everyone's planning! Some of my fellow school librarians attended Big6 workshops this week, learning how to implement this six step research process. Another friend and colleague jetted off to Des Moines (exciting, right?) to attend the P21 Institute. Others are headed to D.C. next week for ALA national conference. Still others are crossing the country to Seattle for the National Staff Development Council summer institute. And others in my own district will attend week long workshops on reading strategies, technology integration, and literacy.

I'm also jealous of all the books and professional journals and blogs my colleagues will have time to catch up on -- reading young adult literature late into the night and surfing Doug Johnson's and Joyce Valenza's blogs to glean ideas and strategies for planning the new school year.

I'm starting to question how I can manage it all while continuing to work in a year-round school, or maybe I'm just starting to question how any professional worth her salt manages to keep up with professional development period. With so many incredible educational leaders out there sharing their insights, how can I not afford to read their articles, check their blogs, keep up with their publications?

With the changing culture of education and the tightening purse strings and the evolution of information and processes to gather, evaluate, and create new knowledge, how can I not afford to keep up with professional development?

What have you done for your professional growth lately?