Ready to LAUNCH!

LAUNCH (1)A few days ago, I tweeted to John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, thanking both of them for  sharing their amazing book LAUNCH with the world.

Immediately, I was enamored with the ideas spilling off of the pages. I devoured the book, making highlight after highlight, and furiously typed notes into my Kindle. And the most empowering part of my reading was the feeling of validation I had with every new chapter – their truths are my truths.

I believe that all students are creative. I believe that all students have gifts. I believe that students’ passions should be valued. I believe that all students have questions. I believe that we, as educators, have to provide students the platform to question their world and give them opportunities to discover, create and share their truths. And I believe that all of this can still be done with countless state tests looming overhead.

What this book provides is a practical (albeit brilliant) road map to help educators create schools and classrooms that are more engaging, student-centered, empowering and fun. LAUNCH is full of examples, question stems, procedures, thinking processes and project ideas that helped me to clearly envision this in my library, as well as, in my collaborative work with teachers. Spencer and Juliani reframe the design thinking process in a way that allows students to take the lead in not only creating, but sharing what they create with the world. I cheered out loud at the authors’ assertion that research is more than just reading – it is anything we do to answer questions and learn new things and appreciate their position that in order to make student learning more meaningful, students must be allowed to take the lead and direct where they want to go.

I am so excited to return to school in August and share the Launch Cycle with my colleagues. I believe that this has the power to transform our schools, even if it happens one classroom at a time.



So, I did this thing…

This year marks my 12th year as an educator. During this time, I’ve grown in countless ways and learned so much about serving and teaching others. Since leaving the classroom and moving into the library, I’ve gained a different perspective on professional growth and I’ve come to realize that you can’t wait for opportunities to be provided for you – you have to create opportunities for yourself.

As a librarian, it’s easy to feel like a lone soldier within the school building. Even though much of our position revolves around collaborating with our colleagues, we are often left out of professional learning opportunities such as PLCs and professional development experiences. I’m not implying that leaving us out is ever intentional, it’s just hard to include someone who is the only person like them in the building.

But…I’m not someone who is okay with being left out. I thrive on collegial conversations and spending time collaborating with others, whether it’s librarians or classroom teachers. This is probably why I’ve become so enamoured with Twitter and my PLN over the years! My PLN, that I’ve built through Twitter and blogs, is my go-to place for inspiration, assistance, ideas, sharing…and the list goes on and on.

While my PLN certainly fills my bucket, recently I started thinking about how sad it is that I’m not getting more of this type of collegiality from people that I’m around everyday. After a bad experience in a PLC that I attended a few times in my building, I’ve really had no face to face professional outlet other than the handful of teachers that I collaborate with regularly.

This is not okay.

So, I did this thing…

And I’m completely hesitant to write about it, because it’s new and it’s precious and I don’t want to seem like I’m promoting exclusivity or leaving people out.

But I did this thing and I think people need to hear about it and know that it’s okay to provide opportunities for yourself and others if you’re not getting what you need.

So, what did I do? I decided to start my own PLC with a handful of trusted colleagues in my building. And I didn’t ask for permission because I know that my principal is in the business of growing leaders and if she ever reads this, she won’t be upset, she’ll be proud!

This PLC is different – we don’t focus on testing, data or numbers. We don’t use our time to complain about our school, students, or what we don’t like about our jobs. We don’t simply disseminate information or tackle things that could easily be communicated in a short email.

What WE do is focus on positivity. We brag about our students, celebrate our successes, share our ideas and desires, ask each other for help, work together to solve problems and lift each other up. In the end, this is what builds camaraderie, family.

Along with another colleague, we created a list of who we’d like to invite to be a part of this thing. We thought about who we felt needed this same type of experience. I created hand written invitations, made a dinner reservation and our first “meeting” happened. We spent hours just hanging out. We laughed and talked about what each of us needs, our vision of what something like this could be. We decided to have 2 gatherings a month, one on campus and one off campus, as well as create a virtual meeting space using Google Classroom. This way we can share inspiring things any time we feel like it.

Our 1st on campus meeting happens on our last required workday, June 10th. Our agenda – in 5 minutes or less, each person will share 1 thing he/she wants to explore, learn, discover, improve on, or read over the summer. We will listen and become each other’s accountability partners. I think this is a fabulous way to end our school year – being surrounded by people who accept and appreciate you.

So I did this thing, and it’s not just mine, but it belongs to all of us. And if you’re not happy or not getting what you need, you need to do a thing too!

Making the Evaluation Process Easier for Everyone

checklist-443126_960_720As a media specialist, the evaluation instrument can be daunting. It’s very long, dense and sometimes hard for administrators to understand. In the past, I feel like much of my evaluation conferencing has revolved around me explaining the standards/elements and breaking down what they look like for the person who observed me.

After my first year as a librarian, I learned that if I wanted to have better evaluations, I needed to make the process more user friendly for my administrators. Much of what we do as media specialists is behind the scenes and can’t be observed by following us around for 45 minutes at a time. It’s important to collect artifacts of what we do everyday. However, collecting evidence is only one part of making the evaluation process easier – we must also curate it into an easy to use format for principals and assistant principals.

To do this, I have kept a professional portfolio each year, for the last 7 years, showcasing my work with teachers, students and my extended PLN. I’ve used multiple platforms to organize and present this portfolio, including Google Sites and Weebly. I generally create a page for each major standard (1-5) with the elements (a, b, c, etc.) listed on each respective page. Then I post entries for each artifact I collect during the school year on the page(s) for the standard(s) it represents. Many of my artifacts are repeated throughout as they fall into more than one category.

Over the years, my portfolio system has proven extremely helpful for administrators. I can share the link with them at the beginning of the school year and they can follow it all year as I update it frequently. Then, when I sit down for an observation or evaluation conference, the administrator feels more prepared to discuss my strengths and areas for growth.

I recently sat down with one of my Assistant Principals and had my summative evaluation for this school year. She thanked me profusely for my portfolio site, commenting that it helped her to keep track of all that I do. It felt good to know that I had some control over my evaluation, since much of what is on the rubric can’t be seen in a 45 minute visit to the library while I’m co-teaching a class or running programming. As she and I talked, I shared with her an idea I had to make better use of my portfolio idea – a way to make it less work on me and geared more toward reflection and sharing. Next year, instead of having a separate portfolio site where I house evidence and artifacts of meeting my standards, I am going to use this blog!

I have created categories for each standard (1-5) and will simply use the blog to post and reflect on what I’m doing in my work with students, teachers and outside of the building. For each post, I can easily include pictures and videos. I will then mark the post with the appropriate category (Standard 1, 2, 3, etc.) so that when my administrator is working on an evaluation, she can search my blog using the standard she is looking for and pull a curated list of all of the posts that feature work meeting that standard. Up to now, I have been posting on both my portfolio site and then reposting on my blog, so this new system will mean I only have to post once, but I still get the same effect.

I’m so interested in how other media specialists curate and share what they’re doing with their administrators! I’d love to hear from you if you have great ideas on this!