Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting Acquainted with a New School

This year I’ll be starting my third year as an elementary librarian at a school new to me.  My first two years were awesome!  I had free reign to dream and do anything I wanted, and I learned so much about how to develop and manage a library program, and I really developed a style that I felt good about.
 I got my new position when a well-loved and well-respected librarian decided it was time to retire.  Needless to say, being the new girl on the block is going to be a challenge.  Not only am I unsure of exactly how my predecessor ran the library day-to-day, I’m unsure about what expectations the administrators, teachers and students will have for our daily activities.  Do they want me to read to their classes every day, coordinate the administration of AR tests, conduct specific research projects, continue traditional programs, and if I should continue traditional programs, what are they?
In the 21st Century, the role of librarian, and especially the role of school librarian, is evolving. Personally, it is extremely important to me to support instruction.  If supporting instruction means helping to reinforce skills, that’s what I’ll do; if it means developing reading programs, that’s what I’ll do.  I also see plenty of room to teach digital citizenship, multimedia and visual skills as related to the Common Core Initiative, and let’s not forget communicating just a love for reading.
I know I’ll do things that people aren’t sure about – especially since they were used to a certain style.  And while I want to protect traditions that are important, I also want to bring in new things if I can. 
I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to introduce myself and how I will figure out what is important to people.  To do that, I need to make connections with faculty/staff, students and parents.
To begin getting to know the staff, I’ve tried to reach out some first.  Shortly after being offered the job, I attended two days of professional development, and did my best to talk to the teachers who were in attendance and listen to things that they thought they would need. On the first day I was able to get into the library, (which by the way is under major construction) I made an effort to meet the custodians.  Since I am really terrible with names, I dug out a copy of the most recent yearbook to flip through and study up on…it’s sitting on my desk waiting for more review.  Finally, I typed up an introductory faculty newsletter to email out.  In the newsletter, I introduced myself, shared some of the policies I thought teachers would be most curious about and shared my favorite resources.  As soon as I get a new printer and my copy code, I’ll copy it and put it in their mailboxes as a backup.  In the email I sent, I also directed faculty to a teacher resource web page I created.  Some of the links are a bit old, but if I get a lot of feedback about it, I’ll make a greater effort to update it.
For students I want them to get to know me, as much as I get to know them. At Back to School Night, I created a Pinterest inspired give- away.  On my handout I included a QR Codes that led students (and parents) to my website where I included an avatar challenge that will encourage students to explore the website and create an avatar that will help me to get to know a little about them.

My Back to School giveaway - Blow Pops and a learning challenge.

I was lucky enough to be able to have my teacher website from my previous school transferred to my new school, so, I’ve already worked a little to update links and content, just in case someone happens to stop by the school web page and see it.  Although school isn’t in session yet, I also created a PowToon presentation about myself (I’ll do a write up of PowToon in the future!).  I added a link to the website – just in case, and I’m also going to forward the link to teachers and parents of students I know go to the school so they can share it with their students.  Getting to know all the kids, for me, will be a bit of a challenge.  I think the yearbook will help with this a bit, but my greatest tool will be making seating charts ahead of time. In the past I have also printed library cards with names and barcodes.  Students wear the cards in a plastic name badge on their shirts or around their necks on a lanyard, and I can quickly reference their name (and scan them for checkout).  I have really loved this in the past, but I’m not sure if this will work at my new school.  I need to give this a bit more thought I think.
Getting to know parents will be a challenge since I won’t see them very often.  I want to make sure I parents feel welcome to visit the library or to contact me.  I have already written up my first checkout letter and have added a QR Code for easy website access. Additionally, as soon as I have my new teacher training, I plan to develop a Facebook fan page to use to promote activities in the library (Update - it's all up and running!).  At my last school, this was a very successful way tp sending out quick communication and sharing fun pictures of activities.  I’ll link the fan page on my web page and also send out additional communication with QR codes to parents to spread the word about the page.
What are some of the ideas you have to get acquainted with a new school community?
Updated 8/17/2012