Connected Librarians: Eyes Wide Open & America Recycles Day

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One of my goals this year in our library is to foster global thinking and global collaboration.  To connect with these types of opportunities for our students, I seek out connections on Twitter as well as in Google Plus communities such as GlobalTL and Connected Classrooms.  I also offer opportunities within the projects taking place in my own school for other people around the world to join in.

This summer, I became involved in a conversation with Joyce Valenza, Shannon Miller, and Paul Fleischman about how books could live beyond the closing of the cover.  What if a book inspired us to take action in the world?  What would those actions look like around the globe?  How could they be documented?  How could they be shared? What would it look like if the author engaged in conversations about the actions being inspired by the book?

This September, Paul Fleischman’s book Eyes Wide Open: Going Beyond the Environmental Headlines was published.  It’s a different kind of book because it doesn’t give our young people a prescriptive list of answers to solve the environmental problems of the world but instead to take an inquiry stance.  It inspires our young people to listen closely to the environmental stories being shared about our world and to uncover stories of their own.  It calls our young people to take action on those world problems and realize that even at a young age they can make a difference in our world.

Joyce Valenza wrote a great post about the book.  In it, she included Paul’s voice about his book.

About Eyes WIDE Open:

Paul Fleischman 300x225 Eyes Wide Open: A proof of concept for sustaining the conversation around booksWe’re living in an Ah-Ha moment. Take 250 years of human ingenuity. Add abundant fossil fuels. The result: a population and lifestyle never before seen. The downsides weren’t visible for centuries, but now they are. Suddenly everything needs rethinking–suburbs, cars, fast food, cheap prices. It’s a changed world.

Eyes Wide Open explains it. Not with isolated facts, but the principles driving attitudes and events, from vested interests to denial to big-country syndrome. Because money and human behavior are as important as molecules in the environment, science is joined with politics, history, and psychology to give altitude on this unprecedented turning point. It’s a time of bold advances and shameful retreats, apathy and stunning innovation.

What better time to have our eyes wide open?

An Eyes Wide Open Google Plus Community has been established to make connections for global collaboration around the book.  Paul Fleischman has also created a site to house headlines, projects, and conversations about the book.  He wants this to be more than a book that you read and close, but instead for it to be a book that inspires action in the world.

Also from Joyce’s blog, there’s a great list of ideas of how you might use Paul’s book with students.

What sort of reports might students contribute?
  • Take photos (and create a gallery) that document population rise or consumption levels or innovations being used to address these challenges.  Attempt to document how your eggs, milk, farmed fish, and meat are made.
  • Make a video describing a local citizen science project.  Document a plastic bag banning campaign, a local pollution issue, or your own attempt to go vegan for 30 days.
  • Interview someone in city government connected with water, transit, city planning, or emergency services.  Or a biologist, park ranger, or science teacher.  Or a religious leader whose church has taken a stand on the environment.  Or your state senator, state assembly representative, or an aide to your congressperson.  Or fellow students or neighbors to get a sense of how average citizens view the situation.  Google+ Hangouts might be a perfect venue for archiving these interviews!
  • Write a description of one of your area’s key issues and how it’s being dealt with.  Join with one or two others, each tackling one part of the project: research, interviewing, editing.  Would your local newspaper be interested in the result?
  • Do a survey of your city, finding out where your water comes from, how your electricity is made, where your trash goes.  Prepare to make many phone calls and to ask follow-up questions.  More fun with a friend.
  • Annotate local newspaper stories, adding commentary that lets us see how the global trends and mental habits described in the book are playing out locally.  Feel free to refine my thinking.
  • Remix media and create digital stories around an area of local interest.
  • Inspire a meme to invite continual, global reinterpretation around an environmental prompt
  • Submit a field report. Work prepared for school assignment is fine.  Take time to review and revise.  Once you’ve posted it on Google Docs, YouTube, or another platform that all can access, send a description to fieldreports@eyeswideopenupdates.com.  Include a bit about yourself, how you came to the topic, and a photo of yourself or something connected to the report.  If Paul finds it well done, he will add it to the roster, put a pin in the map, and maybe even give it a shout out in his blog.

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Connected librarians have a huge opportunity with this book and the many communities that are available to us.  We are the people within our buildings who work with every student, teacher, and family member within our school.  If we collaborate, then we connect our entire school communities with one another.

November 15 is America Recycles Day.  The week of November 10-14 would be a great week for us to begin to connect our voices with one another around an issue that really affects us globally.  Paul’s amazing book Eyes Wide Open could be a piece that we could use to spark conversations around the globe.  It could also be paired with a plethora of other picture books and informational texts on environmental action.  More than a conversation, our connections could push our young students to take action in our world, and those initial connections could lead to a continued connection between schools around the world in the name of environmental action.

Here’s what I hope to do:

  • Connect with schools throughout the week of November 10-14 via Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Read an environmental text together
  • Have each school identify and explain an environmental issue in our school or community.  For us, it will most likely be the amount of waste being thrown away in our classrooms.
  • Have each school exchange their issue and brainstorm possible next steps for one another.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hand your problem over to someone for a few minutes to see the problem through their eyes?  That perspective might be the very thing you need in order to take a next step in your problem.
  • Share our brainstorming with one another and document suggestions in a digital format such as a Google doc or Padlet.
  • Commit to reconnect at some point to share what actions we have taken, what has been successful, or what new problems have surfaced.

I invite you to connect with my students and also to post your own schedules and find your own connections via this Google Doc.

http://bit.ly/americarecycles14

Let’s do more than just connect our students for a day.  Let’s connect our students to work on an issue that has an impact on our world.  As part of Connected Educators Month, let’s start thinking of how we can connect our students in meaningful ways throughout the year and begin planning those connections now.

As you make connections, create action steps, and make an impact on your world, share it!

Eyes Wide Open hashtag: #ewopf

America Recycles hashtag: #americarecyclesday

GlobalTL hashtag: #globalTL

and don’t forget #tlchat

2014 SLJ School Librarian of the Year Finalist

An incredible honor happened this week.  I was named a finalist for the 2014 School Library Journal & Scholastic School Librarian of the Year.  My Twitter and Facebook feeds have been flooded with congratulations and I’ve received numerous emails and phone calls as well.  Being recognized is such an honor, but more importantly to me, recognitions like this highlight the powerful work that takes place in school libraries around the world who have librarians who are connected educators constantly staying on the cutting edge of innovation, advocating for students, and sharing their work for the good of libraries worldwide.  I stand tall with Michelle Colte, School Librarian of the Year, and Colleen Graves, co-finalist.

You can read the full SLJ story here.

Read about Michelle Colt.

Read about Colleen Graves.

Read about me.

Here’s the official press release.

School Library Journal and Scholastic Announce Winners of the Inaugural School Librarian of the Year Award Library Media Specialist Michelle Colte is recognized for her innovative use of technology and exceptional

NEW YORK, NY – September 3, 2014 – School Library Journal today announced the winners of the first annual School Librarian of the Year Award, which honors K–12 school library professionals for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of 21st- century tools and services to engage students toward fostering multiple literacies. Michelle Colte of Hale Kula Elementary School in Wahiawa, HI, was named the winner and will receive a $2,500 cash award and $2,500 worth of materials of her choosing from Scholastic Library Publishing, the award’s founding sponsor. Additionally, Andy Plemmons of David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, GA and Colleen Graves of Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, TX, were both recognized as finalists and will each receive $500 in Scholastic materials of their choice. All three school librarians are currently featured in the September 2014 issue of School Library Journal, available now with winner Michelle Colte as the cover story, and on SLJ.com.

A panel of school librarians, School Library Journal editors and other industry professionals from Scholastic and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) determined the winners of the award. All nominations were judged based on several criteria, including creativity in programming, exemplary use of technology and integration of library resources with curricula.

To learn more about the School Librarian of the Year Award and its honorees, visit http://www.slj.com/librarianoftheyear.

Quotes about the School Librarian of the Year Award:

Michelle Colte, 2014 School Librarian of the Year, stated, “I believe that being a librarian is about so much more than providing access to information and promoting literacy – it’s about helping people make connections and share knowledge within the community and beyond. I am honored to be named School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year, and I hope that my passion for learning will inspire others in my field to push themselves, their fellow educators and students in their schools creatively.”

Kathy Ishizuka, Executive Editor of School Library Journal, said, “This inaugural award is a unique opportunity to highlight the work of school librarians who help K–12 students gain critical literacy skills, discover great literature, and engage personal, creative expression, using technology. School Library Journal is pleased to honor these exemplars of the profession, underscoring the important role of librarians and media specialists in fostering future generations and bettering the greater community.

Allison Henderson, Vice President and General Manager of Scholastic Library Publishing, shared, “It’s an honor to recognize and celebrate the innovative and dedicated work school librarians are doing to engage students, foster literacy and encourage lifelong learners through technology. Scholastic is thrilled to sponsor the School Librarian of the Year Award and we look forward to seeing how the winners, all of whom creatively and passionately have implemented exciting ideas in their schools, continue to inspire their students as well as their fellow school librarians.”

About the 2014 School Librarian of the Year Winner and Finalists:

2014 School Librarian of the Year Michelle Colte, who has served as the library media specialist at Hale Kula Elementary School in Wahiawa, HI for nine years, is a passionate advocate of integrating technology into instruction as well as building community. Her efforts and accomplishments have included:

  • Emphasizing the importance of playful learning through initiatives such as Hour of Code, where students learn the fundamentals of computer programming;
  • enhancing her library’s technological capacity by actively seeking out grants for netbooks and tablets;
  • working hand-in-hand with teachers to incorporate technology into instruction through the use of student-developed websites and fostering collaboration through Google Apps;
  • developing a sense of “ohana,” or family, in the library by regularly coordinating school events to bring together students, staff and parents;
  • understanding her school’s community, which predominantly serves military families and providing resources specific to their needs, both in the library and through its online portals; and
  • sharing best practices with other educators throughout Hawaii and nationally through social media and as a frequent presenter at tech and education conferences.

Finalist Andy Plemmons of David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, GA, aims to enrich classroom instruction with lessons and activities from his school’s media center program, focused on empowering students to experiment with new technologies. He continuously encourages students to use various apps and social media channels, not only to create content, but to share their creations with fellow classmates and the community. As a lifelong learner himself, Plemmons understands the importance of professional collaboration and often presents at conferences or webinars.

Finalist Colleen Graves of Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, TX, established a Makerspace and introduced a series of Maker Monday workshops at her school where students have the opportunity to design and create during activities such as app-making. An early adapter of new technologies and programs, Graves shares her knowledge by organizing “lunch and learn” sessions where students and staff discover innovative strategies using programs such as GarageBand, Google Sites and more.

Each of the honorees provides a unique look into what a modern-day school librarian’s role is in today’s schools. To learn more about the winners and their accomplishments, visit http://www.slj.com/librarianoftheyear.

 

World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge #2 (Part 2): Student Voices

World-Read-Aloud-Day-2014

For the next 3 weeks, I’m participating in the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge.  Each week, I will respond to a question along with many other bloggers participating in this global celebration of reading aloud.  Our students, teachers, and families will also be involved with these questions each week as I invite them to respond through Flipgrids, Thinglinks, and more.

The challenge for Week 2 is to have conversations between adults and children.  To give my students, teachers, and families a voice, I created a Google Form to respond to this week’s question.  Each Barrow student who fills out the form will have a chance to win a new book to read aloud to someone!

My students and teachers have been responding to these questions throughout this week, so I wanted to share some of their voices with you.

Blogging Challenge (2)Lucy R., 3rd grade

I think everyone should read….Love Stargirl

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…Frederick Douglass

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Ramona from the Ramona books

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…realistic fiction

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…not being able to stop reading

Blogging Challenge (4)

Savannah M., 5th grade

I think everyone should read….The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…George Washington

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…the victim in the story

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…Lemony Snicket

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…you can sound like someone else, not just who you really are. Ex: I never thought I would say “I got a booboo!”, when I was in fifth grade, but when I was reading, I did!

Blogging Challenge (5)

Isabella B. J., 4th grade

I think everyone should read….Big Nate just because it has something for everyone in it it’s not my favorite book though

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…a librarian

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Loralie from smells like dog

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…fiction adventures and fantasy

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…I get to hear how people really say it like with passion and expressions

Blogging Challenge (7)

Michael R., 4th grade

I think everyone should read….Harry Potter

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…J K Rowling

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Ron Weasley

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…J K Rowling

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…the voices.

Blogging Challenge (6)

Treasa M., 4th grade

I think everyone should read….books about helping the Earth and making it a better place.

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…My Mom / anyone in my family

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Yoko (Yoko’s Paper Cranes) or Kitten (from Kitten’s first Full Moon)

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…Animal books and fictional books.

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…Listening to all of the characters doing things, fitting pieces of the story together, and spending time with whoever is reading to me.

Blogging Challenge (1)

Lily M. 4th grade

I think everyone should read….Wonder

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…my mom

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…the mean guys

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…Bonnie Briant

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…

Blogging Challenge (3)

Marie Boyle, Barrow Kindergarten Teacher

I think everyone should read….The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…Maya Angelou

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…any animal character

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…Mystery or Fiction

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…Sounding like the characters

 

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Jan Mullins, Barrow Spectrum Teacher

I think everyone should read….The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…Ms. Cross

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Kenny (Watson)

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…history or biography

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…bringing characters to life and seeing kids’ eyes light up with real literature

 

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Beth Selleck, Barrow 5th Grade Teacher

I think everyone should read….Absolutely!

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…My daughter

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…The bear from Jamberry

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…historical fiction

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…sharing the time with others

 

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Alanna J, 2nd grade

I think everyone should read….Jazz baby

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…Mom

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…My dad

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…Eric Carle

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…I get to talk.

 

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Yerahm H., 4th grade

I think everyone should read….Owly

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…Great!

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Owly

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…I guess it’s Andy Runton.

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…when you just listen

 

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Tamara S., 4th grade

I think everyone should read….chapter books

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…my mom

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…me and the charcter

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…chapter books

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…the books

 

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Bo S., 2nd grade

I think everyone should read….Diary of a wimpy kid

If I could listen to anyone in the world read to me it would be…My mom

When I read aloud, my favorite character to sound like is…Greg Heffly

The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…Horrible Harry

My favorite part about reading aloud or being read aloud to is…Getting to read and listen to fun books

 

For more information on World Read Aloud Day visit http://litworld.org/worldreadaloudday 

To connect with other libraries and classrooms, visit our shared Google Doc.

World Read Aloud Day Blogging Challenge #2: Adult & Child

World-Read-Aloud-Day-2014For the next 3 weeks, I’m participating in the World Read Aloud Day blogging challenge.  Each week, I will respond to a question along with many other bloggers participating in this global celebration of reading aloud.  Our students, teachers, and families will also be involved with these questions each week as I invite them to respond through Flipgrids, Thinglinks, and more.

Last week, the students and I, along with students from Van Meter Iowa & Okle Miller in Tampla FL, added to a Flipgrid to share our favorite read aloud memories.  You can watch and listen to those here:  http://flipgrid.com/#ae0e8232

The challenge for Week 2 is to have conversations between adults and children.  To give my students, teachers, and families a voice, I created a Google Form to respond to this week’s question.  Each Barrow student who fills out the form will have a chance to win a new book to read aloud to someone!

Because of the icy week we had last week, I spent a lot of time at home.  I took time to have a conversation about these questions with my 4 year old daughter, Alora.  I’ve expanded on my answers a bit in this post, but these are the topics that Alora and I discussed together.

daddy daughter

Daddy & Daughter

1. I think everyone in the world should read…

Me:  books that speak to their hearts.  I think that we all have common connections to why we all read, but I love that we all enjoy different kinds of books.  We don’t all have to love Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Harry Potter or Princess books, but each of those books speaks to different readers in different ways.  It’s no secret that my favorite author is Kate DiCamillo, but the reason she is my favorite author is that there’s something about her voice in her writing that connects with my heart.  From a little girl befriending a dog and hearing the stories of a community to a rabbit trying to find his way home to a tiny mouse looking for the light in the world to a miraculous superhero squirrel, Kate DiCamillo’s books are filled with words that seem like magic on a page to me.

Child:  Peter Pan and princesses because I like those.  I like princesses and Tinker Bell.  Everybody likes princess books.

2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be…

Me:  It’s hard to pick just one!  My second grade teacher Mrs. DeLoach (whose name has changed to Mrs. McKinney) would be one.  She brought the characters of the Uncle Remus stories to life and a beautiful southern accent.  Those voices were ones that I wanted to imitate in my own reading.  Now, I love to hear Carmen Agra Deedy read stories and tell stories.  The tones, rhythms, movements, and volumes of her voice keep me hooked into every detail of the story.  I think I could listen to her tell stories for hours.

Child:  Mommy and Daddy because I don’t know how to read until I get bigger.

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is…

Me:  So many people love to hear me read southern stories and create the voices for those characters.  I love to make the voices for the characters in Epossumondas.  Both Mama and Eppossumondas are such fun to bring to life.  I also love to hear how the voices that I create are different that the voices that other readers create for those same characters.

Child:  Tinker Bell because she just rings a bell and doesn’t say anything.

4. The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is…

Me:  Books by Kate DiCamillo.  I have every book that she has written and most of them are signed.  Of course now they aren’t all in one place on the bookshelf because they are spread between the living room and both kids’ rooms.  That’s a good sign of being well-loved.

Child:  Fairytales like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio….Dora went to a fairytale one time too.

5. My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to is…

Me:  It allows me to escape into the story in a different way than if I was reading it myself.  When a story is read aloud, the words seem to transform the space around everyone listening to the story.  For just a few moments, the busy world disappears and I get to step into a time machine that allows me to escape and experience the world through different eyes.  When I’m read aloud to, I don’t have to think about saying the words just right.  I can just listen and imagine.

Child:  hearing the different voices that you and Mommy make.

For more information on World Read Aloud Day visit http://litworld.org/worldreadaloudday 

To connect with other libraries and classrooms, visit our shared Google Doc.

Save Our Paraprofessionals

In the current CCSD budget that was tentatively approved in April 2012, all first grade and media paraprofessionals are going to be eliminated in the 2012-13 school year.  All paraprofessionals serve a vital role in the education of our students.  Tough economic times have forced our district to cut millions of dollars from the budget, but it has resulted in critical supports for student learning to be cut.  These cuts will greatly impact the kinds of instruction that teachers and media specialists will be able to offer as attempt to move into the Common Core Standards and 21st Century Learning.  Below, I am sharing the letter that I sent to all district leaders and our board of education.  I invite you to talk to the media specialists and teachers in the district to learn more about the role of the paraprofessional in the lives of our students and programs.  I also invite you to attend one of the public hearings and express your concerns and solutions to the board.  Our community has amazing ideas for how the budget cuts can be met without cutting the meaningful, 21st century instruction for our students, but it takes speaking up to create change.

Board Hearings are as follows:

Tuesday – May 15, 2012 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm at Alps Road Elementary

Tuesday – May 22, 2012 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm at Gaines Elementary

Thursday – May 24, 2012 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm at BOE office on Mitchell Bridge Rd

 

Dear CCSD Board Members, District Leaders, and Families:

For just a few moments, I invite you to suspend any stereotypes that you might have about libraries, those where libraries are very quiet spaces closely guarded by a shushing librarian with a bun and glasses.

Instead, I invite you to think of a library as a productively, buzzing place with multiple lessons taking place simultaneously as individual students come to research, checkout books, read, and meet with mentors.  It’s a space where multiple kinds of adults lead lessons from the media specialist to classroom teachers to the media paraprofessional.  It’s a space where students become creators of information and story rather than just consumers.  It looks something like this:
http://www.schooltube.com/video/29b463bcb37c4365ba49/ & http://www.schooltube.com/video/10fe2a659eea4ea6b727

Our media center is the hub of the school.  We serve all students, teachers, and families in PreK-5th grade.  In the current school year, we have seen in excess of 45,000 students, checked out more than 24,000 books, and engaged in collaborative, innovative projects with every grade level in the school multiple times.  Here’s just a snippet of the standards-based projects we have offered this year:

  • PreK students used studio equipment to write and film their own weather forecasts
  • Kindergarten (and other early grades) used the PebbleGo database to research various topics and write informational reports.
  • First grade created movies about the four seasons through a collaboration with the art teacher and media specialist
  • Third grade used databases and pathfinders to research plants and animals of Georgia before designing a new state park inhabited by native plants and animals.
  • Fourth grade students worked in collaborative groups to study the works of specific authors.  They used Glogster and Animoto to create interactive posters and book trailers advertising their authors to rising fourth graders.
  • In collaborative groups, fifth grade students used databases and pathfinders to explore standards from 3 massive social studies units.  They created Glogster interactive posters to teach the other fifth grade students the social studies standards.
  • A group of second-fifth graders used a budget and goals to purchase new books for the media center.


In the upcoming years, our district has plans to move toward having 1 to 1 technology as well as becoming a model for 21st century learning.  These plans do not include additional support for technology infrastructure, professional learning, or professional support.  On top of this, our state is rolling out the Common Core Curriculum, which our current budget does not support.  Our media center programs could be one of the primary leaders of this new endeavor if they are nurtured with trained media specialists and media paraprofessionals who engage in professional dialogue and collaboration with one another and other teachers.

As the library media specialist, teaching is one of my major roles.   I rarely shelve, catalog, or checkout books.  Instead, I collaborate, teach, enrich, and support.  I offer professional learning to teachers on the latest technology.  I attend district meetings to contribute to the discussion of 21st century learning.  I know every grade’s curriculum.  Even though our district has instructional technology specialists and technology technicians, they are spread between multiple buildings making it difficult to support the amount of technology related projects needed at each school.  I am the primary person who models and works alongside teachers in using technology with students.  Because of these things, our school is recognized as being an exemplar for 21st century learning.

At Barrow, our library media program has received the top honor in the state of Georgia:  Exemplary Elementary Library Media Program.  As the media specialist, I have received Library Media Specialist of the Year for Northeast Georgia, the Foundation for Excellence Instructional Leadership Award, and was named a district finalist for Teacher of the Year.  In the past year, I’ve presented at the American Association for School Librarians National Conference and the School Library Journal Leadership Summit in Washington DC. Our media center blog (http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com) is internationally read.  The GA DOE has invited us to use their 21st Century Model Classroom to teach and film an exemplar lesson that can be used in professional learning. My library is not the only one in the district to receive prestigious honors.  Clarke Middle has also been named an Exemplary Library Program and Burney Harris will very likely be named Exemplary soon after being named Exceptional two years ago.

CCSD has some of the best library programs in the state.  21st Century instruction is already being modeled in our libraries throughout many of the schools in the district.  Instead of celebrating these programs and asking “what can we do to help you excel?”, our district recognizes our programs by cutting one of the most vital pieces, our media paraprofessionals.  Cutting paraprofessionals will leave a gaping wound in our library programs that cannot simply be fixed with the band-aid of parent volunteers.  Relying on parent volunteers to fulfill a paraprofessional’s role is asking them to assist students in locating materials and research, pull resources for teachers based on standards, lead instructional centers during lessons, shelve hundreds of books per day, assist students with self checkout, catalog all books, run multiple kinds of reports, run the media center each time the librarian is at a collaborative meeting or fixing technology, weed outdated materials, reorganize the library for better patron use, and more.  What’s also disturbing, is that even though our paraprofessionals work with students, teachers, and families everyday in a variety of ways, they are not considered the same as classroom paraprofessionals and have no opportunity to find another job within the district if they are indeed cut.

Cutting paraprofessionals forces every library in our district to make difficult decisions about our programs.  Do we quit collaborating with teachers on standards-based, innovative lessons incorporating technology?  Do we quit fixing broken technology?  Do we tell students that they can only checkout books during certain hours of the day?  Do we quit offering professional learning for teachers and parents on 21st century tools and skills?  Do we quit offering reading incentives and special programs?  Do we close the media center every time we have to be away for planning, meetings, and events?  The list goes on and on.  We can’t realistically continue to offer the programs that we currently offer.  I fear that our libraries will slip into some of the stereotypes that we have worked so hard to break.

I know that we are in extremely tough budget times, but how can you justify cutting a program that has done so much for our students, our teachers, our families, and our district?  How can you cut a program that serves every stakeholder in the school?

I hope you will look at the many suggestions offered through the forums, Myra Blackmon’s collection, and other letters to closely consider alternatives to cutting paraprofessionals.  Even though Dr. Lanoue has said that professional learning will not be cut, I ask you to closely look at how much our district spends on professional learning.  Do we really need to spend thousands of dollars to hire outside consultants to offer professional learning?  Why don’t we look at the exemplary work taking place within our own district and learn from one another for free?  Why not harness the power of social media and teach our teachers how to develop their own professional learning network tailored to what they actually need to learn about?  Rather than have instructional technology specialists that are spread between multiple schools, could we look to our media specialists as leaders in technology within each building and support them each with a full-time paraprofessional?  Could our current technology specialists be a primary source of professional learning for our district rather than bringing in technology consultants such as the UGA ETC? Could our instructional coaches be the primary professional learning for common core?

If you make this cut, I fear that next year, the district will continue to cut our library programs until there’s nothing left but a room full of books and computer checkout stations. Students will enter the room without the support of a trained professional who can help them navigate and evaluate the overwhelming abyss of digital and print information.  I fear that we will have a plethora of technology for our students to use but no true model or support in how to use it.  We will have lost the heart of the school.  Please save our paraprofessionals and our school libraries.

Sincerely,

Andy Plemmons

Media Specialist

David C. Barrow Elementary

 

Simultaneous Learning in an Elementary Library Media Center

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.schooltube.com/embed/29b463bcb37c4365ba49

 

After seeing a video posted by Buffy Hamilton showing the buzz of energy as multiple classes worked simultaneously in the library, I decided to take a moment to capture a snapshot of the Barrow Media Center.  In this video clip, you will see simultaneous classes doing very separate things.  Our space and collaboration allow for multiple lessons to happen at different times taught by the media specialist, teachers, and paraprofessionals.  While all of this learning is taking place, students are also still able to come to the library to checkout books by themselves.