Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Best 40 hours in 4 Days of My Spring Break

This week is Mason City Community School District's spring break, which means it is spring break for me too!

While everyone is traveling, basking in the sun at a warm climate destination, sleeping in, taking naps, reading books, shopping, spending time with family and friends, etc. during spring break, I continued to further my education as a teacher-librarian.  At least, I can say I travelled "south."  Well, okay, I travelled "south" to Ankeny, Iowa, where I spent 40 hours in four days at Northview Middle School with an incredible teacher-librarian, Kate Lechtenberg.  Ms. Lechtenberg previously taught secondary English, but is now in her second year as a teacher-librarian.

By the way, Northview Middle School is located in the former Ankeny High School building, which allowed me to reminisce about many fond memories of my former Ames High School days, as an athlete, competing against Ankeny in volleyball, track, and softball.

8th-9th Grade Teacher-Librarian Ms. Kate Lechtenberg

I am working through Minnesota State University Mankato (MNSU) to earn my K-12 library media education master's degree.  I am wrapping up my K-12 library media education endorsement this spring semester by completing a K-12 school library practicum.  I plan on completing two more classes, research methods and thesis, to earn my master's degree in library media education, this summer.

MNSU's school library practicum class requires three different experiences at three different grade levels; one 120 hour placement and two 40 hour placements.  I am fulfilling 120 hours at my school library at Harding Elementary.  So, obviously that leaves two 40 hour placements at the secondary level (one at middle school and one at high school) to complete.

In January, when I started my school library practicum class, and found out about the expectations of hours required, I admit that I initially panicked.  My initial panic was, "how exactly am I going to complete the two 40 hour placments, when I work full-time, take care of my two sons, be a wife, take care of a household, and the list goes on?!"

Thanks to an Iowa teacher-librarian email list serv (SLIK-12) I belong to, I sent out an email asking if anyone was available and willing to allow me to visit their school library to complete a 40 hour practicum at the secondary level, either in a middle school or high school, during the week of March 10.  Teacher-librarians Christine Sturgeon (Manson Northwest Webster Community), Kenya Arrant (Madrid), Kelly Reinhold (Waukee), and Kate Lechtenberg (Ankeny Northview Middle School) were all kind enough to respond and eagerly welcome me into their libraries!  I was extremely excited about these teacher-librarians' offers, as they are all "rock-star" teacher-librarians, and they teach in progressive and forward-thinking school districts.  Another huge commonality among all of us stuck out; we are all presenting at the Iowa Assocation School Library conference on April 13-14, 2014.  While, initially I wanted to respond with an eager "yes" to one of these teacher-librarians, I also had to consider my family and home life, so, I asked these teacher-librarians if I could consider them as an option, and see if I could find something closer to home so I can continue to be mommy to my two sons.  I had a practicum lined up at the secondary level, located closer to my home, but it fell through last week.  Now I was down to the wire, and despite being last minute, I decided to send out an email to these amazing teacher-librarians again to see if I could still come to their school library, which all three responded with a warm welcome.  Now, the hard part was, "who would I say 'yes' to, as I didn't want to hurt, offend, or frustrate any of these ladies."

I accepted Ankeny Northview Middle School Teacher-Librarian Kate Lechtenberg's offer.  There were two factors that I considered, location and how much I would gain from the experience.  I have been staying with my sister and brother-in-law this entire week in Ankeny, so of course, convenience played a factor in my decision.  More importantly, I knew I would learn a lot from the Ankeny Community School District.  Between my husband, in-laws, and parents, my two sons have been well taken care of, and extremely spoiled.

As of today, I have now completed 40 hours in four days for one of my required secondary practicums.  I am eager to declare that these last 40 hours in four days at a school, during my spring break, were the best 40 hours of my spring break!

What exactly did I do in those 40 hours?!

  • I learned how to use Destiny, a library circulation system.
    • Now I can return to Mason City CSD to further persuade my colleagues why we need to update to Destiny circulation system.
      • I have done research on it based upon previous graduate classes, so I was already sold on Destiny before I even used it this week!
      • Now that I have actually worked with the software and see how amazing it is, now I can fully support Destiny with both research and actual experience.
  • I recommended and located books for students.
    • Of course, I had to switch my mode of thinking from picture books to teen and young adult literature.
      • Thank goodness for completing three different young adult lit college classes (elementary education undergraduate degree, reading endorsement, and library media education master's degree). Clearly those three classes tuned me into the latest, greatest books!
        • This week allowed me to review some awesome books at this age level.
  • I created, located, and displayed books to promote reading.
    • Thanks to inspiration from Ms. Lechtenberg and her displays, I can't wait to go back to Harding and improve my book displays!
  • I attended several meetings.  It was a wide variety, but it diversifies Ms. Lechtenberg and helps her reach out to staff as a resource and valuable member of the academic community.
    • I attended 8th-9th grade teacher-librarian PLC meeting
      • 8/9 Ankeny South Middle School teacher-librarian Ms. Katy Kauffman and Ms. Lechtenberg meet every other monday to work and collaborate together.
        • On the opposite weeks, the entire Ankeny teacher-librarian department meets to a district teacher-librarian PLC.
      • They used this time to continue work and discussion on LibGuides and Google Docs.
      • They use this time to discuss Common Core, the school library, and upcoming content subject area units of study planned between the two 8/9 middle school buildings.
    • I attended Instructional Learning Team meeting Monday from 3:45-5:15pm
      • This is otherwise known as Building Leadership Team in Mason City CSD.
    • I attended two grade level Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings
      • Science Department meets every day during their 3rd period, and Ms. Lechtenberg only met with the team on Monday of this week.
      • English Department meets every day during their 4th period, and Ms. Lechtenberg only met with the team on Tuesday of this week.
    • I attended Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) Meeting Thursday morning.
      • I am a huge advocate for PBIS and fully support Harding Elementary's PBIS, so I was eager to attend this meeting.
  • I read "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.
    • This is a book I have always wanted to read, and finally got the chance to read!
    • I have eagerly promoted this book this school year, even without reading it, thanks to blogs, Twitter, and amazing educators who promote this book!
    • I was also able to observe Ms. Lechtenberg read aloud this book to Ms. Lynaman's special education students.
    • Ms. Lechtenberg applied for a district foundation grant to purchase 100 copies of Wonder for the school building to not only promote reading but also the inspirational message behind this book.
  • Ms. Lechtenberg and I had the opportunity to collaborate and co-teach with Science Teacher Mr. Charlie Knight.
    • We helped students locate and review research sources
    • We guided students on how to evaluate website sources and recognize the difference between a credible and non-credible resource.
    • We shared possible project and product ideas with Mr. Knight and his students.
      • While every moment was rewarding this week, I put this at the top of the most rewarding experiences ever of the week!
  • I observed Ms. Lechtenberg play different roles as a teacher-librarian. She clearly puts herself at the forefront of activity and reaches out as a valuable resource and amazing service to staff and students.
    • She gave book talks to different English classes.
      • I was completely awed when Ms. Lechtenberg pulled out her phone to check out books to students from her phone, another amazing feature of Destiny!
    • Ms. Lechtenberg covered other colleagues' study halls.
    • Ms. Lechtenberg met and followed up with students.
      • She followed up on books they read, are reading, or want to read.
        • This proved to me that she clearly promotes and fosters a love for reading.
          • Her circulation system indicates that the number of student checkouts have continued to increase, more than ever, in the two years she has served as a teacher-librarian.
      • She followed up on upcoming projects and homework assignments due.
        • Clearly, Ms. Lechtenberg is helping assist students who might be considered "at-risk."
  • I met staff members, who were welcoming and eager to share and converse about the educator profession.
  • I firmly believe that an educator cannot teach students content, until he/she gets to the heart of the students.  Therefore, I strived to get to know students on their level.
    • By the fourth day, there were a few that I felt I had formed positive working relationships.
    • Despite the age group of these students was an area of concern for me, previous to this experience, but I can now say that I could handle teaching at this grade level, even though I am truly an elementary school teacher-librarian at heart!
  • I taught Web 2.0 tools to three different science class sections under the supervision of Ms. Lechtenberg and Mr. Charlie Knight.
    • Students were given an assignment to research a topic and create a project about "Plate Tectonics."
    • The following are the Web 2.0 tools I shared with Mr. Knight and his students.
    • It takes on a whole new level of excitement and meaning to actually see these tools implemented and used.
      • It would take me two, maybe even three days or more, to model, explain, and teach elementary school students how to use just one of these Web 2.0 tools.
      • To be able to show and explain a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools, in a small amount of time, and to see students quickly learn how to use these tools, was quite pleasing and fulfilling to observe and experience.
    • The reactions from students who used these tools was priceless!
      • Students LOVED Smore, Powtoon, Prezi, and Telegami the most.
  • I created Symbaloo webmixes for Ms. Lechtenberg's school library website.
  • I participated in the climate and culture of the school building!
    • On Thursday, March 13, it is a tradition at Northview Middle School to celebrate "Decades Day" on the last day before spring break!
      • While "Book Character Day" at Harding Elementary on Friday, March 7 was completely fun, I would rank Decades Day right up there as one of my favorite celebration days in a school building!
    • It was awesome to see staff and students get wrapped up into wearing clothes from a certain decade, given it is at the secondary level.
    • I rolled up my jeans, and seemed to fit right into the day's events.
      • If I would have known about Decades Day ahead of time, it might have been fun to pull out my vintage Ames High gear and wear it, right?!  Nah, I might have not made it through the front doors of the school wearing my vintage Ames High gear!
        • I learned it is definitely worth it to keep my Ames High letter jacket, as my own kids might possibly wear it for a Decades Day in their futures!
  • I learned about the management of a secondary level school library.
    • While I have experience with budgets as a practicing teacher-librarian myself, I was intrigued with how Ms. Lechtenberg puts in a request for a budget for the following school year, and pretty much gets almost at least 80% of her request fulfilled!
    • I have researched the possible flexible, fixed, and mixed scheduling in a school library.  It is one thing to experience fixed scheduling myself, at the elementary level, but it is a whole new experience to experience flexible scheduling at the middle school level.
      • Prior to this week, I had an inkling that a flexible schedule can easily be filled up and there is no "down time."
      • Ms. Lechtenberg proved that a flexible schedule is just as busy as a fixed schedule, which is what I operate under at the elementary level.
      • Ms. Lechtenberg filled up her time with meetings, collaboration, resource sharing, technology troubleshooting, and so much more.
        • I LOVED how she uses Google Calendar to block out times, record her time being spent as a teacher-librarian, and her overall organization of her Google Calendar.
    • After researching and actually experiencing fixed and flexible schedules, I have concluded that I would prefer a mixed schedule, consists of a mixture of fix and flex schedules.

I could keep on going and going about my amazing practicum experience at Northview Middle School.  It is quite obvious there was never a dull moment in those 40 hours within four days!  Some days it felt like student teaching all over again, as I reflected a lot on theory, actual practice, and on what I saw in a middle school setting versus what I am currently experiencing as an elementary teacher-librarian in my school library.  Thank goodness for modern technology, Google Docs, email, and internet access, as major time savers, compared to the amount of paper and pencil I used during my student teaching experience ten years ago!

So, when I return to school on Monday, and everyone talks about his/her spring breaks, I am sure I will  be jealous of the trips, sleeping in, no alarm clocks, free time, etc. that my colleagues and students indulged in, but there is no doubt that I will proudly and eagerly share how I spent the best 40 hours in four days of my spring break ever!

Stay tuned for more specific details in a future blog post about my experience of teaching Web 2.0 tools to students at the secondary level from this week!  You will get to learn about the tools that students discovered how much fun they are and are eager to use and apply in other subject content areas!