Prompt: Describe relationships with those you taught this year.
This year I truly felt the impact of relationships on my day-to-day teacher-librarian duties. Upon reflection, relationships with students and teachers was the only reason I showed up to work!
At my rural K-12 school we were face-to-face all of 2020-2021 (yeah!); however, I lost my K-12 school library space as it became middle school & high school classrooms (boo!). So as the K – 6th grade media teacher, I had to go to where my students were – in their classrooms bringing my 10,000 books with me. So I jerry-rigged a book cart and began the journey of remote media teacher – librarian work.
Moving from classroom to classroom wheeling books to students resulted in the following:
- HUGE motivation for me. Sure the loading/unloading of books and time spent moving from classroom to classroom could have been a drag, but for students my arrival was like Christmas! Kids were so excited to see my cart in the hall and then coming into their rooms with books for checkout. How could I not be happy/motivated when my book cart inspires that much excitement?!
- Extra time finding that “just right” book. Without having immediate access to the 10,000 books in the library, I found I listened better to what kids wanted and liked to do so I could make connections to books that I would bring to them later in the day There was so much information to track, I would take notes daily for example:
- “John – minecraft & get #3 in Wings series”
- “Kayla – loves cats and wants to be a veterinarian – try Kitty Vet series”
- “Justin – reluctant reader, likes fishing – try Jake Maddox/Kevin Lovegreen books”
- “Una – loves to draw!”
- “Lily – avid reader – likes mystery and thrillers”, etc…
- Huge increase in my reader advisory research. I used TeachingBooks and Novelist to fit kids with “just right” books. Both the active listening to students and research for them really built my relationships with students. We always had shared the “in the library, let me get you a book” relationship, but this year I went deeper and really got to know students in their classrooms, meeting them where they were at, remembering their requests and following through on finding the books they need. I think the time I took to research and find matches for kids really impressed upon my students how much I care about them and their reading life. This trust we built and my acts of service for students strengthened our connection.
- More teaching time spent on finding digital reading resources. Kids had 1:1 devices (first time ever for our school) and the student motivation to learn how to put books on hold and use eBooks to get the books they needed was very high. Results: more time spent learning how to access Destiny catalog, Sora eBooks, and other digital resources (PebbleGo, Brittanica, KidsDiscover, Brainpop, etc.).
- More Library Programming – My desire to provide joy for students in this time of stress resulted in my actively setting up inter-classroom Kahoot games, Battle of the Books competitions, You’ve Been Book’D program, finding virtual authors that would zoom with classrooms, and coordinating March Madness Typing Contest, etc. All this programming was geared to engage and connect more with students.
- Interestingly, this extra time and effort with library programming resulted in collaborations with teachers! BEST year I’ve ever had with teacher collaborations! Maybe we need the stress to say – Hey, let’s work together?
- Started 6th Grade Tech Squad. To support the explosion of technology use (and misuse) by students, I collaborated with 6th grade teachers to start and facilitate a technology club for students to learn and use their devices more powerfully. (These devices are about active creation not passive consumption!) Students decided the focus for their club which resulted in members’ building their marketing website, solving and/or working on teacher technology requests, and creating the first ever Shell Laker News show. The trust, growth mindset, and safe-place-to-take-risks environment of the Tech Squad Club was a reflection of my growing relationship with students and the resultant impact on student learning.
We’ve all heard that to make a diamond, you need heat and pressure. While I can’t say I’d ever chose to do a year like 2020-2021, the fact is the pressure of Covid resulted in a beautiful result of deeper and more meaningful relationships with my students. My concern for the mental health of students and my belief in book therapy resulted in personalizing my book recommendations for all students. The fruition of this extra time and attention was amazing. It also extended to fellow staff as we pulled together to support our students in this trying time. I can honestly say this has been the most meaningful school year in my 15 plus years of teaching. Who would have thought it?!