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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Connecting Programs & People

Hidden tasks for today's school library media specialist include arranging programs, seeking speakers, and linking the wide world out there to our students. Many districts have SOP's (standard operating procedures) in place to guide the selection, hiring (or reimbursement), and marketing of programs. Some districts have nothing. There are several web sites available that link authors and their visits to schools, but we typically schedule far more than simply author visits. They may not have included training for this in your MLA program.

Over the past ten years we have hosted a wide variety of programs at my school. Sometimes I would arrange for a speaker, sometimes other teachers such as the P.E./Guidance/Nurse would schedule someone. Often after the first year, someone else takes on the role of scheduling their favorite programs. We have had the:

Tooth Fairy
Fire Truck
Bomb-Sniffing Dogs (since the SWAT team has a station on our campus)
Jerry from Subway
Ronald McDonald's Reading program
the Nashville Sounds (baseball team) and their mascot Ozzie to kick off their reading program
Kids on the Block
TV weathermen/weatherwomen
Scarritt-Bennett Museum representatives and their programs on other countries
Internet Safety
Benjamin Franklin (see photo at right by Michael Tyler) and notes below
Authors: Ronda Todd, Mike Shoulders, Tim Ross, Steve Isham, medieval authors

Whenever I discuss visits and their coordination with other librarians, they suggest new ideas and speakers at all ranges of costs. For example, I haven't called Abraham Lincoln to come to our school this year. Rumor has it he is alive and doing well in the Nashville area. For a modest fee, he will visit my school. Sounds intriguing and worth investigating.

We are still seeking funding to bring storyteller Donald Davis to our school May 8th. Somehow I need to still find $1000 and then I'll be able to offer students storytelling in the day and the families a storytelling program at night. I have long wanted to develop this program. It will happen. I'm not sure when. If we don't make our goal, we'll simply adjust the date not give up on the goal.

I wish we had an effective list of possible speakers.  Who do you coordinate visits from and which topics are you yearly expected to plan for and  host? Can you recall special programs from your childhood? Doug Johnson was reminiscing about the speaker Al Bell and his wife who toured the midwest when I was young. I can remember getting out of the hospital to go to school just to hear Al Bell's program one year. He traveled to a different country each year, developed a program complete with costumes, music, and a slide show(!!!) in our gym. I believe Al's programs are responsible for my intense wanderlust and love of travel. I fondly remember many of the details of his program on Spain and someday I will go there, too.

Can you say that you have provided programs that will remain in the minds of your students when they grow to your current age?

Benjamin Franklin!
Dr. Rich Davis visited Hickman Elementary School March 7, 2007. His program The Magic of Reading inspired the students, allowed them to participate and show off what they had already learned about Benjamin Franklin. All grade levels participated and proclaimed it a great success. They loved their scientific experiment. I asked first graders today over a month later if they could recall any facts about Ben Franklin while we walked out to the buses. They were proud to share what they remembered and were still calling facts out the window as the bus drove away.  After Dr. Davis' program, the principal sent all teachers an email encouraging them to incorporate his methods to actively involve students in learning.

One of my favorite parts of the program was preparing fourth graders prior to the visit. I read from a Picture Window Book biography Benjamin Franklin: Writer, Inventor, Statesman. Each teacher participated as I interwove facts from their reading series, science unit on electricity, and social studies unit on the forming of our nation into a story of one of the most fascinating men of that time. I was even able to incorporate some of the negatives of his life from Cokie Roberts' book Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. After hearing her disparaging Ben during the ALA Annual 2006 in New Orleans, I had to read more. Two of the fourth grade girls were aware that he had a reputation with the ladies but I whispered they'd have to wait for middle school and the advanced program.

I hope that you can name one program this year that you enjoyed arranging for your students this year. Perhaps sharing stories online in comments and on your own blog will help you realize the positive impact you are having on your students. Sometimes blogs where other people share "how I did it well" are necessary to start the conversation so you can say, "Sure, but here is how I did it better."