Sunday, November 11, 2012

This week, like last week, was very strange.  Monday had a two hour delay due to snow and road conditions, and then we had to scramble balancing getting the kids to do their wish lists for the book fair and making sure they got to see the fire safety presentation in the gym.  The kids were ecstatic.

The fire safety play was mostly the local fire department and a few volunteers dressing up as Shreik characters and putting on a sort of interactive play about fire safety.  I say interactive because they got the kids to stand up and dance and sing.  It was really quite clever and fun, and I have to say the whole day was really  not an all out school day.

The whole week was a strange one.  Friday the kids had off but we began the book fair on Wednesday and the whole time we were bouncing around taking care of that, talking to parents about their kid's wish lists and calling Scholastic angrily because they continued to not send us the books we needed.  A pity really, I think we just had a bad rep but every time they sent us books it wasn't what we asked for or it wasn't nearly enough.  Still, I think we might make the minimum we need to make overall.

There was little teaching, but I did manage to finish up reading the ladybug picture books to a few classes and then we had a voting session!  We used the SmartBoard for voting, the kids got to go up and mark the book they liked best from the Ladybug Picture books.  There was much discussion among friends as to what they were going to vote for and why.  I found myself having a discussion with one class about the importance of voting for yourself and not for what everyone else wants you to vote for, which was quite educational.  The kids seemed to get it, once I pointed out that their chanting their favorite book was influencing their classmates opinions and began to discuss other ways people tend to make you want to vote one way or another.  The election was a key example, of course.

Friday was a great experience conversing with parents, recommending alternate books to parents who were not as pleased with their children's selections, and trying to read handwriting that has not yet reached the maturity of legible.  It was an overall fun day (despite my feet killing me afterwards) and I had a nice break where I went into the library and caught myself up on reading pieces of the more popular series that were selling.

Next week I have two days, Tuesday and Wednesday (since Monday is a holiday) and then I pack up and move to St. Louis, Missouri!  My first practicum will be done, though I will have to put together my portfolio, a task that will probably take a few weeks due to the move and organization.  I have been putting things together as I go but, you know how life can be.  I'm still unsure which video of me teaching I want to use.  I don't think either is a really good example, but we didn't think to record me in other lessons and we ran out of time for another lesson I had planned.  Oh well, hindsight and all that, I'll make sure my next practicum is different.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The hurricane sure messed up our schedule.  After having 2 days off the week sure didn't feel like a week.  For the kids it was like having a holiday, so their focus was rather low and Wednesday was sort of a practice in patience, which was fine.  I did need practice in keeping the kids together and focused.

Since the book fair starts this week, we showed the promotional video to the kids last week.  For the 3rd and 4th graders I decided to turn this into a small lesson on advertising.  I asked them what they noticed about the commercials: what did they try to make them feel?  What were they saying about the books?  When I asked for other examples every class brought up the election ads.  For the whole year New Hampshire has been bombarded with political ads and the kids were very eager to see them GO AWAY.  The whole thing led to some great discussions, which sadly had to be cut short since the video was long and the students had to have time to pick and check out books.

For the 2nd and 1st grades, if there was time (some were late due to the hurricane "jitters") I would read to them a book called "Perfect Square" by Michael Hall, which was about a square that kept getting torn up, so it would turn itself into different things.  My goal was to lead them to an exercise where they could cut and rip apart their own squares and make something out of them.  Unfortunately only one class had time, but they showed great enthusiasm for the exercise and enjoyed it very much. 

As for kindergarten, I showed them the book fair video, read to them Perfect Square, and then showed them another video.  It was a reading of Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin and James Dean, where they would sing the song from the book.  The kids got up and danced and sang, which was quite exciting and in some cases we showed it again. 

Other than classes I attended two meetings.  One was a curriculum meeting with all of the Dover schools.  We listened to a presentation by the language department and discussed common core and how to fit it better into everyone's schedules.  They also brainstormed ideas for collaboration with the language department.  The other meeting was with the Horne Street staff.  They were discussing the Responsive Classroom discipline I've mentioned before and how it was working and what they needed to work on more.  It was all very interesting to see how school politics worked and how everyone works together.

I'm afraid that is all though.  Nothing too exciting happened, but it was all valuable experience.  This week is my last full week though I will be here on Tuesday and Wednesday next week to help finish with the book fair, and I will be sure to make a last entry for that.  Then Friday I move to St. Louis, MO where my husband has just received a full time job!  It's going to be a busy couple of weeks, but at least the holidays will be quiet.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I was absolutely right when I mentioned I'd be getting a lot of teaching experience!  It is really a good thing too since my background was not in teaching, it was in creative writing.  But for several classes Mrs. Smart wanted to read out loud the Ladybug Picture Books (a NH award for best picture books) so that the kids can vote on their favorite later.  She admitted she was just trying to get though the books due to time restraints, and advised me that this is NOT a good way to do lessons, but allowed me to take over those classes and add my own spin to them if I felt I had time.  I've been trying to ask the kids questions about the book that involve literary formula and observation as a way to tie it into literacy since the school has a lot of struggling readers.  Overall there was not a lot of time to do anything substantial though.

I did get to take over one lesson with the 4th graders on how to use the online catalogue.   Though these are lessons Mrs. Smart has planned she encouraged me to take my own spin on it.  It is difficult though to think on the fly.  I end up finding it easier to just copy what she does and the more lessons I do the more of my own spin I find I put into it.  Next week though is a golden opportunity for me.  Friday Mrs. Smart is going to be absent, and though she has arranged for a substitute (one of our regular volunteers, a wonderful retired school librarian named Nancy) she asked me if I would like to take over lessons that day.  I of course agreed, and this week Mrs. Smart has advised that this could be my week where I make my own lessons (for just a couple grades) and do my recording of me teaching.

I've been doing other things, of course.  I have been helping Mrs. Smart with her lesson on research with the second graders (no easy task) and helping set up the system for the school's new iPads.  We want them deployed as fast as possible, and Tuesday is the day all the tech professionals and librarians are going to meet and work with them (which means that my last week we might be doing lessons on the iPads!).  I also helped Mrs. Smart figure out what ebook bundles to buy after the book fair in a couple of weeks.  I have also been learning a bit about budget balancing with all of this and I have been learning more and more about the library's online catalogue which is connected to all Dover schools and the public library.
It has been a very busy, and exhausting week which ended in the students dressing up in their Halloween costumes and parading around the playground at the end of school for their parents.  There were some great unique costumes: a stick of broccoli, "Iron" man (he had an iron as a hat and an ironing board as a cape), the left sock monster, the five fingers (the second grade teachers all did this), a jelly fish, a birthday present, and one kid was dressed entirely in bubble wrap.  Me, I put on my top hat with rabbit ears and tried to dress a little classy and told everyone I was the March Hare, though a lot of kids asked if I was the Easter Bunny.  It was fun, and tomorrow a new week begins!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It begins Monday, I hope.  I have just turned in my paperwork to my practicum advisor, and I have gone over it several times to ensure everything is in place.  Most of the proposed activities were things Mrs. Smart (my supervisor, how cool is that a librarian named smart?) and I talked about doing when I was finishing my fieldwork.  For those who do not know, the end of my fieldwork and the beginning of my practicum both take place in the same location:  Horne Street Elementary School in Dover, NH with school media specialist Linda Smart.  My Niece and Nephew attend this school, and since I will be moving to St. Louis, Missouri come November 16th this is a fantastic opportunity to spend time with them before I leave.

Horne Street is a good school that just came into a better situation (more funding).  Though I would have preferred a more high needs school, every other school librarian in the area turned me down saying they were far too busy to have a graduate student around.  Mrs. Smart sort of felt the same way but since I worked with her on my fieldwork she knows what my work habits are like and is sure I will get the most of my experience despite how busy she is.

The school is a bit overcrowded.  They just renovated and extended the building but more and more families want to send their children there so it is rather difficult.  The teachers and faculty practice a form of discipline known as "responsive classroom" where using terms like "I am noticing" and using chimes or raising your hand to get the classes attention is used in order to teach the students when they need to pay attention.  last year the school had a lot of discipline problems, major ones from what I have been told.  So this year they are trying Responsive Classroom and to me it looks like it is working.  I am even getting the hang of it myself.

Mrs. Smart has several projects she wants to do in the library, but is unsure if she can or will have time.  So I will be taking it upon myself to see how feasible they are and calculate the costs, time, and so on needed to complete them.  One is a major move of the beginner readers books and half of the non-fiction section.  Right now the shelves for non-fiction leave too many of the books on their side, not with the spine out and the beginner readers bookshelves are taller while the books there are shorter.  Another project is the process of getting rid of Dewey.  It is a new concept Mrs. Smart is simply unsure of, but she does want to change the fiction section around.  She wants to go with the Barns and Noble approach and label books by genre as well as author.  It's a large task since their fiction section is extensive, but I will begin working on what books should be labeled which right away.

Then there is the book fair.  Most of Mrs. Smart's library funds come from the book fair and I will be helping extensively with that.  Afterwards we'll get together and she will show me how she budgets and decides what to buy.  I will also be doing some book talks and taking over lessons when Mrs. Smart has a very busy day.  I don't know if I will be making my own lessons, but I will be doing a lot of teaching if my fieldwork was any indication of that.

I can't wait to begin!  I know it is going to go by fast bu the experience will be invaluable and fantastic.

Friday, October 12, 2012

There are many things to take away from this.  First of all is being a school librarian is very busy, but rewarding work.  I didn't even do half the work Mrs. Smart did and yet I would return home exhausted but full of fun stories.  I introduced several kids to new book series that they then continued to read.  I managed to remembered a book for one kindergartner who really wanted to check it out as his first book, but unfortunately it had disappeared within a week.  He got a book on pirates instead and was quite thrilled.  I scoured the library with two other 2nd graders for a "Bad Kitty" book but unfortunately they were all checked out.  And I brought a book and a Clifford stuffed animal to a scared kid who had an accident and was hiding in embarrassment under a table.

I also, on a more mundane note, weeded all the outer space books, checked in new books on faeries, created a display for Responsive Classroom at the request of the science teacher, and made sure Mrs. Smart ate relatively on time for lunch.  Overall I feel it was a great and full experience.  I really got a sense as to what working an elementary school classroom was like.  I know there is more to it of course, and time management plays heavily into it, but this was a great taste.

So, I believe I promised a list of take-aways?  Here they are:

  • It's rewarding work
  • You're always busy
  • You do something slightly different every day
  • Kids like to interrupt each other so be firm in telling them to wait
  • ALWAYS remember to get back to a kid you told to wait
  • Acknowledge their choices and they will react more positively to reading
  • Band Aids magically fix any kind of pain
  • Non Fiction is MUCH more interesting when you're reading at elementary school level
  • Telling a kid "I don't know" doesn't cut it, you have to give them something
  • Working with the other faculty and helping out with things like recess or waiting for kids to get picked up by parents helps create bonds
  • Projectors are a pain
  • Always be clear in your explanations
Thanks for reading!  Next I will be going more in depth with my practicum work!

This post was saved in my files but not actually posted.  I must be more aware when I write on my tablet.  This entry was actually made on the 29th.

If there is anything I will be taking away from this experience is that being an elementary school librarian leaves you extremely busy.  Especially if you are Mrs. Smart.  There have been several times today in which she has disappeared from the library mysteriously to go help someone.  I've been telling people that she is out being a super hero when they come looking for her.

Earlier however, a whole class came.  She went out to help a classroom with a projector issue and before I knew it, the next class was walking into the library.  So I began to remind the kids of how they are supposed to act in the library and where they are supposed to sit, just like Mrs. Smart did.  It flowed from there, I went through the whole lesson (Mrs. Smart DID return but she let me do the whole thing).  The kids were great, though they liked to ask questions and Mrs. Smart had to interject because they got too off topic.  We talked about Hopes and Dreams, made their wordle, and that was it.

I've been rather nervous about taking over the class, which makes me think maybe, just maybe she did it on purpose, which is fine.  It was a great experience, and it really helped my conference in being able to take over a class.

Later I'm going to write an entry summing up my take-aways from my time here, but until then, be well!

(This was on the 28th, unfortunately my computer failed to publish it on time and I never caught it until now!)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Overall the lesson went alright.  I read to them and guided them through the thought process of thinking of their own hopes and dreams for the library.  Though I must admit, reading to them about Jane Goodall and telling them about the work she's done kind of pales in comparison.  I remember one class the other day, two students were so excited by the story and about Jane that they decided to ask their parents if they could volunteer for the Humane Society.  Still, a lot of hopes and dreams for the library were about things they wanted to learn from books or series they wanted to complete, which was great.

The Wordle was a big hit too.  I had them call out what colors they wanted and layouts and text.  Some asked me if they could have a copy of their own but unfortunately we couldn't do that.  I still need to work on my classroom control.  There were three kids in the back who were acting up a bit and I don't think I handled it as well as I could.  I just tend to freeze up when I have to do something and they look like they are about to cry.  All the methods I've learned about just fill my head and I never know which one is right.  Do I go with my instinct?  What would the school want me to do?  What would the librarian want me to do?  And then after I just second guess myself and think well I shouldn't have done that for X, Y, Z reasons.  But the good news is overall everyone did enjoy the lesson, especially the YouTube video from the Jane Goodall Institute.

Everyone loves a good monkey.