Making Connections and Finding My Why
This post is week 2 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. One thing that really changed in 2020-2021 for me, was making connections through collaboration with my peers. Since I didn't have the constraint of needing to remain in the physical space of my library, I was able to collaborate and participate in my campus's daily activities. It changed my whole outlook on how I could improve my role as librarian. I was able to reignite my passion for instructional technology and working directly with teachers on technology integration. Finally, I felt that connection; I was a pivotal part of my campus. As an ally and an asset to my team, I secured my role on campus. I pushed myself to grow beyond the role of librarian that I had always known.
Role Improvement #1: Attending Weekly Teacher Meetings
During our time of virtual learning, I was able to attended our weekly Teacher CLCs (collaborative learning communities.) These sessions were led by my colleague who is the CLL (collaborative learning leader), think of it like an instructional coach. This was very valuable to me in multiple ways. I was able to see first hand what the expectations were for the teachers and in the moment of need provide support. Teachers began to see me as being in the "same boat" as they were. As a school librarian, once you graduate with your master's degree and you begin your career as a librarian you often are like a lone ranger. In my personal experience, instructional coaching really is not provided for librarians. Attending the CLCs at my campus, provided just what I was needing: support, reassurance, best practices, and it created connections.
The bond between my CLL and myself grew significantly this year are we attended weekly meetings together and learned from each other. We are very blessed to have such a knowledgeable instructional coach at my campus, who has received specialized training to share out with our staff. In the past it was difficult to attend weekly meetings during school hours, because I am the only person managing the library. In order to participate I'd either have to close the library or find someone to cover me while I attend. Luckily, having all virtual meetings meant I could attend every weekly session my schedule allowed for.
Role Improvement #2: Librarian as Teacher Support
I started out the year attending one CLC session each week. As I did so, I tried to rotate between difference conference periods so that I could see what all the teachers were working on and needing support in. I quickly realized tow things: 1. that our teachers are amazingly hard workers and 2. they needed technology integration support. I approached my principal and asked if she would allow me to start Tech Tuesdays. I proposed meeting weekly with our staff for 30 minutes to cover how to integrate technology in meaningful and impactful ways. I surveyed our staff to see what their needs and interests were and immediately jumped into this new role. As a school librarian, I have experience first as a classroom teacher, so I ensured every time I presented for Tech Tuesday that I approached this from a teacher perspective. How would teachers actually use the tool in their classroom? What roadblocks might they encounter when they use the tool/ strategy? How do they support their special populations and struggling learners? I modeled how to use the tool or strategy and also real classroom applications.
Role Improvement #3: Personal/ Professional Growth
Getting ready for Tech Tuesdays with the goal of supporting my teachers really pushed me to grow professionally. I had been thinking about how best to support my campus with technology integration since the pandemic hit in March 2020. I began working on my Google Trainer certification that summer. It was one of the best choices I made during the pandemic. The Google Trainer certification program boosted my confidence and provided the pedagogy and best practices to utilize while training others. I was so excited to embrace this new role and opportunity. I started by brainstorming a list of the tools I was familiar with and I created a document that I shared with my staff. It listed the tool, the tutorial video and additional information about the tool (cost, badges if available, and other notes.) I also looked at my teachers' survey feedback and I made a list of tools I needed to get familiar with so that I could provide that support to my staff. It was exciting to build up my "professional toolbelt." The more I worked with my staff the more passionate I became about instructional technology and technology integration. I knew this was a niche that I enjoyed and felt successful at.
Role Improvement #4: Rethinking What Collaboration Means
In the past, pre-pandemic, I always thought of collaboration as the teacher coming to the library (remember I couldn't leave the physical space) and I would work with them on whatever topic they were teaching to provide resource support. Now there is nothing wrong with this model, but working virtually removed some barriers for me. I was now able to go to the classroom virtually. I could go in with the intention of supporting the teacher's lesson by providing resources, but also to model technology tools and best practices. For those teachers, not quite sure how a tool would look in real life with real students, I was able to go in and walk students through how to set up accounts, use tool features, and model best practices for using the tools. This put my teachers at ease, knowing they didn't have to be technology experts from day one, I could help them introduce tools to students and model what to do if any roadblocks popped up along the way.
I was able to work with teachers I had never worked with before. As I was providing weekly Tech Tuesday sessions, my teachers began to see me as an asset and an ally. I was there to help them with their instructional technology questions, to provide resource suggestions and to model integration. My staff they had never had time to collaborate found the time.
Role Improvement #5: Finding My Why
My career goals have evolved as I have grown as an educator. In college, I thought I wanted to work as an early childhood teacher, but I quickly realized I was best suited for secondary education. I taught 8 years in the classroom, both elementary and then middle school. I realized I was most passionate about hooking my students as readers and supporting that life long love of literacy. So I became a school librarian. I started in elementary as a librarian and worked my way up to high school librarian. All along the way, I have pushed the envelope on technology integration and literacy. I like to think of myself as a game changer. Ready to try out robotics in the library, augmented reality, iPads and new resources as they became available. This school year, I realized that I'm passionate about empowering others to use technology. I loved working directly with teachers and providing support and modeling for them. Honestly, their feedback has really pushed me to want to pursue a career in technology integration.
When I first approached my principal about starting weekly Tech Tuesday training sessions, I was worried my staff might feel like this was another "thing they had to do." Using their survey results, and targeting what they were most interesting in learning or needing support on really garnered that buy in I was hoping for. I started getting comments like, "I love Tech Tuesdays! I can't wait to see what you share next week." I also made it appoint to be available for teachers outside of Tech Tuesday. I met with teachers to trouble shoot, lesson plan and jump in a model. I ensured that teachers knew I was there for them. The bond that formed changed the trajectory for our campus. My principal saw me as a leader and provided me the opportunities to present at more staff development sessions. My teachers saw me as an asset they could go to for lesson planning. My CLL embraced me and attended my Tech Tuesday sessions and then used what I presented in her CLC meetings each Thursday.
We were all on board with technology integration and supporting our students as a united front.