As a professional, one of my deepest fears is losing my professional center. I make it a point to talk to other librarians constantly to stay connected and avoid getting bogged down by the day to day drama. More recently, I’ve also been going to trainings that are specifically geared toward teachers. One that I really enjoy is the Association for Middle Level Educators (AMLE).
The more I interact with public librarians, the more I realize what a specific skill set teachers have. Getting to see teachers who are at the top of their game is incredible and allows me to brainstorm ways to embed their strategies, activities, and content into my own lessons. As a school librarian, I am always trying to take my students to the next level. Sometimes getting away from people who think the same way, can lead to some great reflection on my program.
This was a conference I attended with several colleagues. I love that I can attend a session, and then instantly talk to someone who is incredibly excited about trying to take their program and our school to the next level. As we attended sessions, I could catch certain teachers and say, “hey, I think _______ would fit well with your kids!” Having several teachers on the same wavelength is incredible when designing new activities and trying new things.
It’s also great to touch base with professionals that you only see a few times a year. I had the chance to talk with a friend who is a former middle school librarian about issues that relate to us, bounce ideas, and geek out about library stuff.
Librarians stick together! (with Heather Lister)
One big thing in our district has been “trauma informed teaching.” As educators, we are working to keep open dialogues with guidance and school based services, learning as much as we can about our students, and try to be understanding of whatever trauma our students may be going through in their lives. We have a fantastic team in our building, and they inspire me to try and learn more about how to be thoughtful when interacting with my students. I loved seeing different ways to approach issues to help best serve my students.
Dr. Debbie Silver made a simple comparison about a hand model for explaining the brain. When trying to double check her analogy to make sure that I could explain it best, I found this summary of it. Your hand is your brain. The wrist is the part of the brain that focuses on the basic survival functions (breathing, eating, balance). If we tuck our thumb in, it represents our amygdala and mid brain. This is the part of our brain that handles our reactions. Then close the fingers over your thumb to make a fist. The represents the cortex, which is our logic and decision making. If you wiggle the thumb, it makes it harder for the fingers to keep the hand in the fist. (so it’s like a student flipping their lid). Dr. Silver called the amygdala the hot part of the brain, and cortex the cool part of the brain. We make smart decisions when we are in the cool part of our brain. I loved this analogy to explain intense emotions, and I’m hoping that it will be useful when I redirect behavior.
Kim Campbell was provided a great session on “If you can’t manage them, you can’t teach them.” When we think about discipline, we know that certain personalities respond to people they respect or have a positive relationship first. Because of this, a lot of energy is focused on building relationships with our students. But, on the other end of the spectrum, if the students don’t know your expectations, it’s hard for them to meet your expectations. She reminded us that it’s a balance of clear expectations and making the effort to build relationships with our students. In addition, she provided us with an assortment of strategies to keep kids moving, while keeping students controlled.
The Power of Failure
In another session, Dr. Debbie Silver talked about the importance of failure (which is covered more in her book Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8). As we know, failure is something that happens in life, and if it happens we get back up and try again. If students fail, we are able to guide them to try again and build resilience. At the end of our school day, we have a personalized learning period. This allows me to take my maker club to the next level, and I’m able to watch kids puzzle through problems. Going to sessions at AMLE reminded me that when students succeed or fail, to be thoughtful in how we praise/encourage our students. When giving feedback, we should only focus on what our students have control over (effort, ways to approach the problem, etc.).
Public Libraries Represent!
YALSA also had a few librarians from their Future Ready Program focusing on college and career readiness in middle school. The majority of these programs were in public libraries, and I’m so excited to see public librarians showcase collaboration opportunities. My favorite program was from Scottsboro Public Library in Alabama. This was a public library that had a fantastic dialogue with the school, well planned activities that taught career skills, allowed students to reflect, and had students working together. The more I talk to other librarians, the more I realize that we sometimes end up in a niche. The fact that there are some excellent public-school relationships that force public librarians to see problems that school librarians face, and forces school librarians to see what public librarians face. When we see the big picture, we are able to better serve our communities.