Because Some Days are Awesome.

I began a blog post earlier (which will be posted…early next week I think) but as I was writing it, something in my heart (and brain) was telling me I needed to write about this instead. So here goes:

Yesterday was one of those days that I get occasionally where I felt like I truly made a difference in not just my school, but in my library community and continuing to hone my own…perspective? Ideas? I’m not really sure how to end that sentence. Do you get that feeling of making a difference often? At least, somewhat frequently? Let me explain.

In my county, Thursday marked the end of the quarter and so yesterday was a teacher workday, in order to work on grades. One of the perks of being a librarian, as you well know, is not having to do grades. Being a former teacher, receiving the emails “don’t forget about the timeline for entering/submitting/verifying grades!” never fails to make me smile as I gleefully delete it. Not having to do grades means that on teacher workdays, I get to play catch up on all the other things I don’t usually have time to do during the regular school day. Ordering. Processing new books. Working on our library website. But I didn’t do any of these things today.

I spent most of my day doing professional development. In the morning, I facilitated a PD session for some teachers, and in the afternoon, I participated in a meeting with fellow librarians. I don’t know about you, friends, but I THRIVE on professional development. I love learning about new things, sharing my knowledge, and getting to know my colleagues better. Now, I will say that I didn’t love PD as much when I was a teacher. Many of the sessions I went to were mandatory, and either covered things that 1) didn’t apply to me or 2) I already knew. Basically, it was a waste of time, and I most often left with a headache.

Because of this, I frame any interaction I have with my staff with: What I didn’t know my library could offer me when I was a teacher, and at least 1 or 2 specific ways many departments could immediately use what I’m advertising/suggesting. One of the ways I am reaching out this year to my staff is through professional development. (Be on the lookout for a later post about all the details of how it came to be and its outcomes.)

Today’s session focused on different literacies. I have teachers from different content areas in my sessions (including art!), so I chose literacies that would cross subjects and would apply to all. We discussed visual, technological, digital, and informational literacies, and I prefaced the entire session with an explanation of how I didn’t want this to seem like “one more thing” to do/deal with/plan, but I wanted it to just be a different way of thinking. I also freely admitted that I wasn’t crazy about the content of this session, but I was hoping for the best. Thankfully, it turned out extremely well. Great discussions took place about the different literacies, people’s comfort levels with them (some are not as technologically literate as they would like to be), the grim reality of our students’ illiteracy in most of these areas, and how not only they could work on them in their classes, but how the library could help develop those literacies, too. We finished the session with talking about how infographics can help develop all of the literacies we discussed, as well as looking at lots of examples of infographics. I took some time the last few days to be sure I had some content-specific examples, like Holocaust/Vietnam War stats, effects of plagiarism, and looking at different ecosystems. On top of everything else, I created a list for each content area and how they could specifically apply these literacies in their classrooms. Not only was the staff engaged the entire time, the discussions were incredibly productive and staff left the session with immediate, practical ways to apply what they had just learned. It was amazing to hear the positive feedback and know that what I had spent days creating and planning was implementable (?) and made a difference. Friends, in my opinion, THIS is what we are supposed to be doing as school librarians. If our focus is truly on students, it really needs to be equally focused on developing our staff to also have an impact on the students. PS: Here’s the link to Slideshare to look at the presentation I gave.

I know this is a really long post, but hang in there. 🙂

One of the things I appreciate most about teacher workdays is being able to meet with other librarians. It’s not mandated, which I think makes our get-togethers more relaxed and fluid, and we have an awesome group of librarians. Basically, all the librarians who attend are from schools that feed into each other, so we have elementary, middle, and high school librarians who all serve the same general area & population get together and talk about all sorts of things. We take turns playing host so we get to see other libraries, look at how they are doing things, and ask questions. We also have an agenda every meeting, which everyone can contribute to and the topics change each meeting. I. Love. It. Not only do we get to talk to other librarians (sometimes it’s a lonely job – especially by yourself!) but we discuss policies/procedures across the levels, like how we deal with book returns at the end of the year, what we do during the ever-exciting testing season, and programs/events/initiatives. It’s really helpful for us to keep consistency with what we teach (which citation sites? Research methods?) and for us to prepare our students for what to expect when they go to the next level’s library (fines for overdues? book limits?). It seems straightforward, but I’ll tell you, I come out of every meeting feeling like I’ve learned something new and contributed to the learning of others. There’s something about having an in-person meeting that is relaxed, focused on matters that pertain to your work, and results in new learning. This is what professional development should be.

All of this to say, I almost didn’t want to go home. I enjoyed my job, and constantly discover new things I love about it everyday. I learned new things, and I helped others learn new things, too. And I really didn’t want it to end. However, I did have a book waiting for me at home, so I got in the car and reluctantly left. 🙂

How do people go to work everyday and not feel like this? Because it really is awesome.

What about you? What’s your story with professional development? Do you do PD for your staff? Is it worthwhile? Are you part of a group of librarians where you can learn and grow your skills as a librarian?

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