Monday, December 5, 2016

Stakeholder Advocacy: James Babb

The Devil's Backbone author and Arkansan, James Babb, has shared his story of being a reluctant reader at a few conferences around our state. During the Arkansas Association of School Librarians Summer Conference in July 2016, James shared his story and insight with school librarians. Many left in tears, inspired by heartfelt struggle with reading and how he came to fall in love with books. As conference chair, I cannot count the number of people who approached me after his session telling me how wonderful and inspiring he was (many with mascara streaked faces). 

Right now, school librarians are on the cusp of not knowing what will happen to our programs. School libraries are losing certified school library media specialists to state-granted waivers for the position. With ESSA on the brink of being fully implemented, now is the time to advocate hard for our students and our programs. 

I asked James to share his story with me so that I could share it with you! 
The library/media center is the heart of all schools and a qualified media specialist keeps that heart beating in a steady rhythm. They create programs that encourage students to read, train kids how to research correctly, collaborate with teachers, and schedule important events. While there are many more things that media specialist do, one of the most important things is putting books in the student’s hands, not just any books, the correct books!
Media specialist interact with nearly every kid in school, they learn the likes and dislikes of each student. They know which are reluctant readers, which are struggling with grades, which are suffering from peer pressure or problems at home, and they find the appropriate books at the right time and get them in front of the student’s eyes. 
I was a reluctant reader as a child, until the right book was given to me at the correct time. As an author, I’ve worked with many media specialist. They cannot be replaced with unqualified help who would rather play games on their phone than make a difference in a child’s life. They are invaluable. They are irreplaceable.

Please, speak to your stakeholders about how important having a certified school librarian at each campus is to your students. Ask your students to share why they love the library, what they have learned, or even what they would do without one!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

School Library Advocacy: My Soapbox

So, today I'm attending a Professional Development session to give an overview of #ESSA and #ESSAlibraries. If you are not familiar with the new ESSA, please go to the U.S. Department of Education website and read about it. Seriously. Each state has a steering committee that will be making recommendations in which way their state will support the law. Here is Arkansas's Steering Committee

At the moment, each state will be making their own statements about how they will be supporting ESSA. It states that an effective school library program is "allowable". ALLOWABLE. Not mandatory. Not necessary. ALLOWABLE.

Our programs are more than ALLOWABLE!

In my opinion, every school librarian needs to take a moment to contact the steering committees to discuss how an effective school library program can meet and improve the needs of students. NOT what it does for you? What does it do for your students?

Prepare an "elevator speech"; a 2-minute speech that you can give to any stakeholder willing to listen. Be able to share your impact on student achievement. It needs to show growth and achievement. How does your learning community use and share your space? What do you want to show? Share a story and key data. Share information, such as:

  • circulation stats
  • who uses your library daily; # of students during free flow or flex schedule times
  • meetings in the library; showers; PTO; special classes & events
  • lessons
  • digital & print resources
  • budgets (are they adequate?)
  • collaboration
  • professional development specialized for school librarians
The American Association of School Librarians has compiled official position statements for school librarians. 

As a school librarian, your advocacy should involve:
  • knowing your stakeholders
  • form local and state coalitions 
  • think outside the box (asset map)
  • be able to connect school libraries to ESSA & student achievement
Basically, in order to advocate for your school library program, you need to be familiar with ESSA and LOUD about what your school library does to benefit your learning community. Advocacy isn't bragging or whining. It is providing information about your program to your stakeholders. 

Who are your stakeholders?
  • Governor
  • State legislature
  • State boards of education
  • Local educational agencies
  • Representatives of Indian Tribes located in your state
  • Teachers
  • Principals and other school leaders
  • Specialized instructional support personnel
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Administration and other staff
  • Parents
  • School Board members
  • Local and public libraries
  • Businesses
  • Vendors
  • Universities and University Department Heads
  • Boys and Girls' Clubs, school clubs
  • Local groups (i.e. Kiwanis, Lions Club, etc.)
  • Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce Educational branch

Be an advocate! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lesson Plan Format

When we find that one amazing lesson plan template we love, we find it hard to use anything else. Our district utilized the 5-part lesson plan template. I really liked it, but we started a new curriculum, and the template fell to the wayside. I had a hard time letting go. I even updated it to include the 2013 standards for K-6 Arkansas Library Media.

During one of our faculty/staff weekly meetings, my principal fell in love with the way the standards are in view immediately. She shared the template with the rest of our faculty/staff. Our Dance Teacher has modified it to include her standards!

Since I co-teach with the fabulous Denise in the computer lab, I added a place to put the subject of her lessons. I also highlight the standards I teach  in yellow and the standards she teaches in green.

Please feel free to utilize the templates, with credit to the author (of course).

Ashley's Lesson Plan Template Folder

*Thanks to for the Lesson Plans .png!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ask and Ye Shall Receive...Sometimes

This summer while working on our library remodel/redesign, I completed a word cloud in a large picture frame that is attached to the wall with the worlds strongest glue.* Since the frame isn't going anywhere until the apocalypse, I decided I might as well make use of the space. I've always wanted to create a word cloud graphic, but never had the resources or time to do it. I made some social media pleads with a few friends, and Michelle (kindergarten teacher) volunteered her time and Silhouette machine to help me cut the vinyl and stick it to the walls. She cut, I stuck.

It ended up taking about 6 hours total. I did the design using Google Drawings. If you've never used Google Drawings for posters...or anything...seriously, you're missing out. Easiest quick design program EVER. Our 4th graders used it last year for their Famous Scientist Posters.**

The Silhouette machine doesn't have the exact fonts that I used, but we were able to come close. Beggars can't be choosy after all.

Left: frame with random squares that were glued with industrial glue forged from the fires of hell...except that one rogue square that fell off every 2 days.

Right: Frame without random squares. I ended up painting the inside of the frame with white Kilz since we were priming all of the painting surfaces that color. The walls are an off-white/ecru/eggshell color, so the white makes the words really POP!

While working, several teachers made their way through to the laminator, just to stop in and say hi, to grab books for their classroom. Each commented how cool it would be to have one for various things. Many of our teachers have personal cutting & crafting machines like Silhouettes or Cricuts.

As you can see, the word cloud isn't exactly like my drawing, but I think it turned out great! We also ended up adding "connect" and "share" into the frame to fill in some spaces we thought were a little to open. "Connect" is in yellow above the word "Books".

I proposed that we purchase one for the library for teachers to use for their classrooms. My principal asked that I justify the purchase. Below are 12 Ways a Silhouette Can Be Used at School. Trust me, there are way more possibilities that just 12.

I also included this little note along with my 12 reasons: Silhouette machines can be used to cut paper, card stock, material, vinyl, and more. It does require an online program, which makes the features and designs truly unlimited, especially with the scan and cut feature which allows the operator to scan any printed design into the machine to be manipulated and cut. It can run on a computer in the library or computer lab. Teachers would be required to supply their own materials to be cut. Several teachers that own a personal silhouette have stated that they would be happy to show us the “tricks” of making it more efficient and easier to use. The only materials that will need to be replaced on the machine regularly are the cutting blades and cutting mats.

My request was approved, and my Silhouetted starter kit bundle was delivered last week. Software has been installed, and I've been playing with the program some. I have two super awesome teachers who have agreed to stay late one day after school to show me some tips and tricks to get started. The P.E. teacher has already ordered vinyl and has a list of some things she would like for the gym! I'm so excited to get started helping our teachers better organize their space and create fun displays, work areas, and more for our students!

If you have a Silhouette or Cricut in your library, I'd love to know how you and your teachers use the machine. Leave me a comment! Great minds think alike. Greater minds share their ideas! (quote by me)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's Time for a Change: Follow-up Part 3

I am very lucky to work at a school campus that feels like family. One where I can ask almost any teacher for help and they will willingly agree, no questions asked...well, very few questions asked. We have such a talented art teacher who is willing to go out on limbs with me when it comes to collaboration and making spaces feel fun and inviting for students.

Outdated, boring, primary-looking wall

When I asked her to help me paint, she agreed. When she saw the designs I wanted, she seemed skeptical, but cheerfully when to Home Depot to look at paint swatches with me. When I choose colors, brushes, and grabbed a gallon of primer, she pushed the cart through the store.

No more animals. Framed future word collage.

So, this is the part where dreams become reality. No turning back. The paint hit the wall, and it was done! We had several moments of doubt.

  • Are you sure you had permission to paint?
  • Is this really what you want?
  • Are you SURE?
  • Do you think Mrs. Allen (the principal) is going to freak out?
  • Like seriously, she said it was ok to paint?*
Day one of painting was spent mainly priming the walls and making sure the book shelves were completely covered. We decided to add some color to the space behind the TV. It's on the opposite wall, and it adds a lot of color to the room and really ties everything together. 

Prep & primer

Day two, we were able to get the media lab wall and main library wall started. My daughter loves to paint and helped me work in the media lab while the fabulous Kate tackled the main library wall.

Day two painting

On the third day, we finished out the main wall and did some touch-up work around the edges. It turned out amazing, and we all love it. Kate informed me part of the way through today that she had never done a wall mural before. This was her first one. None of the teachers or students have seen it, so I'm *patiently* waiting to hear their opinions. 

In the words of Stevie Wonder...Isn't she lovely? Isn't she beautiful? Isn't she precious? We still have to tackle the framed word collage and vinyl lettering above the bookshelves. Computers are in the lab...but not wired, yet. Denise will be working on that next week while I'm in PD sessions and at the ArASL Conference. I can't wait to see everything completed and kiddos enjoying hanging out in the Library Media Center!

*Painting the walls is prohibited in our district without permission!*

Friday, July 8, 2016

It's Time for a Change: Follow-up Part 2

Have you ever watched H&G TV shows like The Property Brothers? Ya know how they kick people out mid-remodel telling them that owners often get stressed during the remodel because everything looks so not-finished. The owners freak out at how un-done everything actually looks. I grew up in a family of men who did some type of home remodel/construction work. I'm used to the not-done look....on other people's property. Apparently, on my own property, I'll freak out and have a mini panic attack.

I went to the Media Center earlier this week to check on the progress. I'd been gone to Colorado for a week, so in my mind things should be almost finished and ready for me to start painting. Here's where the mini panic attack comes.

Missing ceiling tiles.
Furniture not removed.

I have very faith and all confidence in our maintenance department. Our awesome Media Center will be done soon!

Next up: Kate and I start painting walls next week! I've pinned some ideas of what I'm hoping to accomplish. I am by no means an artist, but luckily I have the best art teacher in the world willing to help! More updates soon!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's Time for a Change: Follow-up Part 1

The last few days of each school year are always spent in a flurry of packing, moving, trashing, sorting, and basically running around like a chicken with your head cut off. That's such a pretty picture. You've heard the saying, "There's no tired like end-of-the-year-teacher-tired.". Let me tell you, this year was particularly rough on me.

It was decided early on in the school year that we were definitely going to be moving the computer lab into part of the library that was utilized as a storage space, making it a true LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER. So, those last few days of headless-chicken-teacher-tiredness were coupled with removing and entire room of shelving, storage items (many were so out-dated that the dumpster gobbled them up), and rearranging.

We had planned to remodel the library when I decided the old decor needed to go last summer. I put some students to work (with supervision, I assure you) taking down the wall decor and scraping the glue away from the cinder block. They asked to do it, it was in no way, shape or form, punishment!



I have some ideas rolling around on a Pinterest Board of what I hope and dream for the wall repaint. Luckily, I have my amazing Art Teacher and super talented daughter gnawing at the bit to get their hands on some paint brushes and a gallon or two of paint.

Now for the fun moving of the lab. I visited earlier this week and again today to see the progress. I'm a very hands-on kind of person, so when the electricians and cable guys are telling me they have it all under control, I worry. Plus, Denise and I really wanted to have a say in how the lab turned out. I mean, we are the ones going to be using it after all.

So far, it's a blank canvas! We had the cable guy come sketch a mock-up of what we wanted, and it seems to all be right on track.

View from the left side front (entrance to Guided Reading book room)

View from the back. The shelving along the wall has been removed. The projector and screen will be on the front wall where the shelf and green/purple crates are. Sadly, the shelf has to go, but we will be replacing it with an identical one that is shorter. You can't see it, but it's on the wall right behind those shelves.

View from the doorway behind my circulation desk. The middle marker board has been removed to accommodate a monitor. Please ignore the art supplies hanging out in the back! For some reason we also have the pottery kiln in the library back there.

I'm very excited to have this opportunity to remodel and redesign our space a bit. I know that it won't all be brand new or 100% what we envision. But it's a start! I'm hoping to see circulation and library usage increase with the redesign of the space. Large grade-level groups utilized the library for presentations last year, and I'm hoping to draw more into the area this year with a more fun, funkier feel!

I'll keep you posted on the progress!