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#TLstrong: Is the our moment?

Check-in Slides and Polls

A small group of friends and colleagues thought it might be good to gather colleagues around the country for a little check-in. On March 26, we brought around 85 folks together for some sharing and learning–a bit of a check-in.

Melissa Thom of Connecticut and Craig Seasholes of Washington stepped up to co-host. Others–Michelle Luhtala, Brenda Boyer, Jenny Lussier, Barbara Johnson, and Shannon Miller, helped plan the event.

TLStrong video

We took time to check-in emotionally, to see how everyone was coping personally and professionally. But what was most powerful was the sharing around the many ways we are currently contributing to and leading our communities and the opportunities we have to contribute moving forward.

Using Slido for Slides as a strategy to create a highly interactive session, we asked several questions of our community participants. (Feel free to make a copy if you find it useful.)

I am sharing some of the responses that seemed to be recurrent and some that just seemed powerful. As you read through these responses, I think you’ll be struck by the number of ways librarians are stepping up to support entire communities.

Here is a sample page from the open-ended question session.

And here are some raw, ungeneralized highlights.

The first questions served as emotional icebreakers. We asked: What would you add to this version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

From Australian Toilet Paper Crisis

Among the basic needs expressed most often were:

  • dependable high-speed internet
  • ways to capture those capstone moments for senior students
  • social isolation for those who live alone
  • tolerance for my own teenagers
  • fresh fruit
  • the health of my 87-year-old father
  • How long will this last????

To inspire some creativity as we checked-in, we asked participants to respond to this hashtag prompt: #MyQuarantineInSixWords (or fewer) 🙂 ala Jimmy Fallon. Some of those that personally resonated most:

  • loneliness encroaching, but fighting it valiantly
  • please keep my husband working
  • Hey mommy mommy mommy mommy MOMMY
  • no excuses for not playing ukelele
  • solving tech problems teaching teachers
  • brainstorming ways to level digital access
  • am I doing enough during this?

What do you wish you had created or set up before to prepare before the crisis hit? What are you learning?

  • easy access to ebooks (came up so often!)
  • how we serve all students: struggling readers, ELLs, students with learning challenges etc.
  • good data on student internet access and at home computer use.
  • I’ve been asking my district for hotspots for 1.5 years and now they see how necessary they really are . . . but it’s too late now.
  • video tutorials “in the can”
  • e-book access Google classroom for K-2
  • regular means to share resources with teachers that they were used to checking
  • Watch COPPA, CIPA and FERPA when using free. What are they taking from students?
  • wifi hotspots to give out to students and staff
  • copyright training
  • Trained teachers more to use curated resources
  • I wish I had a spreadsheet of each grade level’s focus chart – though I reached out at the beginning of the year and only one grade level got back to me- good question
  • I am learning Google Classroom, screencasting, creating Padlets, while curating resources and teaching content online.
  • Better organization/awareness of all our database offerings and their login info!
  • Our district does not do eLearning yet (not even for snow days). I wish we had worked through some of the preliminary steps as a district before being thrown in the deep end.
  • I’m so thankful to be part of MackinVIA!
  • I wish I had worked with K-2 students on ebooks more!
  • Made more screencast tutorials
  • Been going back and forth with IT about setting up student sign-ons to our library program. It hasn’t happened yet, and now they can’t access ebooks I’ve purchased.
  • tutorials for best practice. Getting more kids into the library – we had four hours when we heard
  • given out more books to students
  • collections in Sora
  • that book vending machine
  • a little free library outside of the building
  • I wish we had given K-5 students more opportunities to practice accessing the technical tools they need now.
  • being able to speak with staff without overwhelming them on copyright – would have been good
  • I wish I had let my kiddos take all the books! It happened so fast… We didn’t close until 10:30 on a Sunday night!
  • I think we are well prepared. The district is 1:1 and librarians, for the most part, are well prepared to troubleshoot. I think some could have more practice in our LMS – Canvas or Seesaw, but there are so many great resources out there. I just continue to add to a curation list.

What issues have emerged since the crisis began?

  • Internet inequity. The Internet has become as important as power and phone
  • How unprepared many schools were.
  • Teachers not knowing how to teach online
  • Helping deliver food boxes
  • Lack of digital resources
  • I want to curate the best free resources but the inbox is flooding
  • Will we see our graduating students again?
  • staff members overwhelmed by teaching and managing their own children’s education
  • Burn out can happen quickly
  • We expect a lot from parents. Who are now teachers
  • Teachers doing same old thing instead of making learning interactive
  • Districts that cut librarians and now need them desperately
  • I REALLY wonder how all those districts that released their librarians are managing!!!
  • Equity. Equity. Equity (times EVERYONE!)

What best resources or best practices have you discovered? In addition to several tools that came up repeatedly: Zoom, Screencastify, Google Meet, Google Classroom, Webex, Facebook Groups, Wakelet, Storyline Online, folks shared:

  • My library colleagues and Twitter pals
  • Entire school staff made an inspirational video to share with students and families
  • Generous colleagues across the state and country sharing their favorites.
  • Cherishing the photos I took while we were in session so I can share them with students now!
  • Trying to share mindfully, in small chunks, with a video on how to use something. Rather than throw a whole bunch of things at teachers.
  • Just checking in with teachers & students. Created TikTok to connect with students
  • Focused support that recognizes the broader impact of this experience
  • Collaboration with fellow librarians. Work smarter not harder. Time for yourself to refresh.
  • Setting up a conference schedule for every student to work with them one-on-one. Keeping the virtual library open all day every day
  • the power of the simple connection to kids (phone, chat, etc)
  • publisher info from SLJ
  • office hours to help teachers who are nervous.

Perhaps the most important question: What role are you playing in your school community right now? What strengths have you newly discovered in yourself? The responses varied. While some folks pointed to the notion of being underappreciated, others pointed to feeling like a true leader making true contributions.

Among the expressions of frustration:

  • Sometimes I feel like I’m waving my hand shouting, “I’m here ask me!”
  • Oblivious, nonresponsive administration
  • My role is not very defined. The instructional tech resource teacher and I have overlapping duties. This makes both of us feel a little threatened!
  • We have no direction on what to do in a large district with over 100 school librarians . . . We are sitting and waiting and doing what we can. I’ve recorded a few read-alouds, updated my Symbaloo, and helped teachers as requested. My heart was broken that we couldn’t get kids more books because we were on spring break when everything shut down in our state.
  • So far, tech support. I want to continue providing library instruction.
  • I would like to be more involved in helping with planning
  • Teachers are NOT turning to me for support because they are too busy trying to keep up with their classes. It is frustrating.

And from those librarians who see opportunities to step up and contribute:

  • I am getting a lot of positive appreciation from teachers.
  • Learning how to assess students’ skills from afar and adjust my teaching to address the gaps in knowledge.
  • Show up, stay flexible, support the team by making it easier to do their work with library support and visibility.
  • Getting more comfortable with making decisions rather than waiting for admin since things are happening so quickly
  • Helping teachers with technology troubles. Chatting with students about what they are reading. Sharing resources with students, teachers, and parents. Leadership role in my school and collab role with other media specialists in my district.
  • Virtual Field Trip builder
  • Since the teachers are focusing on how to teach online, I’ve been thinking about ways to support them, like taking classes to improve my creating video making skills. Most can’t think about that right now, but to be ready for those who are ready and for the others once the dust settles. Offering to help staff anyway that I can.
  • I feel I have more opportunities to get into classrooms and reach students because the tight structure and schedule of the regular day has been modified. Several teachers aren’t comfortable with online resources and are more open to collaborating.
  • Curating ebook collections for our students to access – infographic with hyperlinks
  • At the table. Included in admin meetings. I ask to help and the admin team loves it.
  • I now have uncontested instructional time with kids. It’s a dream! When not pulled in as many directions, I have more patience than I realized.
  • The ability to put this in historical perspective and recall and find comfort in my grandparents’ wisdom (survivors of Great Depression and WWII sacrifices) This WILL be our moment as a society to pivot and care for each other more, at school and beyond.
  • Learning to lead, follow, or get out of the way. All are important.
  • Advocate for student needs
  • My network on Twitter has been so helpful!
  • Leader in technology help, tutorial creator, resources.
  • I am a good digital resource curator! I wish I would be looked to more for guidance. I do keep reaching out and when someone asks me for something, I try to be really fast in my response so they know I am willing and able to help.
  • Challenges always present opportunities, especially to collaborate. I succeed when teachers succeed.
  • Creating tutorials for students, curating resources to be used, troubleshooting tech problems.
  • Just being there. That’s all. Limiting info overload
  • Sharing resources with teachers while simultaneously learning new platforms and preparing my own lessons for eight grade levels.
  • I have sent out materials to staff reminding them of our Overdrive/Sora collection, and other online materials. It is difficult because I work in an urban district and have been assigned 4 buildings – K-8.
  • Working behind the scenes to help what shows to students is seamless and user friendly. I am getting more comfortable and confident in front of a camera.
  • Library book & Chromebook distribution at a district-level
  • Helping teachers connect with their students. Renewed faith in how my teachers see me (so many reaching out when they have questions)!
  • The importance of curating resources and sharing broadly
  • Community organizer! Flexibility, adaptability and out of the box thinking
  • Tech support and lots more PD than ever before
  • Tech support for teachers and students … (and also helping teachers who may not have ever tried using something like Google Classroom before this pandemic).
  • Curating resources and tech support
  • Running professional development sessions, curating ebook and audiobook collections for content area teachers…
  • I am on the phone with parents, guiding parents through Google Classroom. I am also there to calm the nerves of the teachers and parents. We will figure it out together!
  • Creating lots of tutorials (for staff) for Google Classroom at the moment!
  • Learning in public, helping teachers move successfully to online meetings.
  • Tech troubleshooter
  • Building and continuity community — still hosting our programs but digitally

The theme of seeing this crisis as an opportunity to step up, translate service and practice, and to recognize this crisis as our moment to make a difference came up frequently in the question and answer session that followed our more formal interactivities.

Look for another check-in in about a month should we continue to be in quarantine. In the meantime, consider sharing your own experience in one of these two ways.

We hope you will choose to join the #TLStrong Flipgrid conversation that tells the story of how school librarians are stepping up to translate practice and service. Some of the voices include:

Tommy Martinez
Beth Raff
Serena Waldron

Please join in on this Padlet share about your best resources and strategies as you pivot to fulltime digital teaching and learning.

Co-host Melissa Thom shared her own takeaways from the session:

I am so happy to have such a dynamic group of dedicated librarians all over the country who want to come together to figure out how we as a profession can best serve the students the teachers the families and the world in general! Together we are such a powerful and innovative group and I can’t wait to continue to work with everyone. We need to lead with positive energy and attitudes as we continue to work our way into the different levels of education and make sure that those in positions of power know our skill set and what we can do to help.

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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