Sunday, March 6, 2016

Library Aides: An Essential Part of a Well Balanced School Library Program

Ms. Kimberly Johnson, Library Aide at James Clemens High School

It has been a trend among school districts across the country to either cut funding for school libraries, eliminate funding for library aides, replace certified librarians with a library aide, or completely do away with school libraries altogether. At the same time school districts are also working towards implementing 1:1 Digital Initiatives, providing differentiated technology professional development for teachers, establishing MakerSpace, and creating STEM programs and then flounder to find personnel to head up these programs and make them an intricate, viable part of the school culture.

The school librarian should be the person administration looks toward to spearhead these innovative programs  

What I think school administrators misunderstand is the roles of school librarians and library aides. School librarians in Alabama must have a teaching degree and classroom experience before seeking a Master's degree in Library Media.  As part of this degree school librarians are proficient in curriculum, common core, the latest in educational technology, and are prepared to be leaders in the school with regards to innovative educational programs.  

Library aides are essential support staff that, among other things, tend to clerical tasks that must be taken care of from checking books in and out, cataloging new and donated books, preparing overdue slips, to name just a few time consuming tasks. 

This year I have established a MakerSpace, ditched Dewey and genrefied our collection, taught classes ranging from Google basics to eportfolios and everything in between, and offer professional development.  It would simply be IMPOSSIBLE to have accomplished ANY of this without the support of my library aide, Ms. Kimberly Johnson.  Without her support I would be buried under clerical tasks with little to no time to devote to developing an innovative library program.

I have been fortunate in my 24 years as a school librarian to have some of the most amazingly talented library aides that have been the "wind beneath my wings" that has allowed me to excel, develop professionally, and most importantly, positively impact student learning and teacher instruction.  

Ms. Gabriella Dubose was my library aide the first year I was a librarian. Without her help and guidance I don't know that I would have survived that first year.  Years later Gabriella got her teaching degree and then her Library Media Degree and we ended up working together as co-librarians which was a great treat.  Later, when Gabriella moved off to her own school library I had the great honor of joining her and the inspiring Sharon Draper for a day.  

Me, Sharon Draper, & Gabriella Dubose

Ms. JoAnn Jones was the library aide for both myself and Ms. Dubose.  Ms. Jones was a seasoned veteran at the school and helped to orient us to the ins and outs of the school, teachers, students and administrators.  Ms. Jones was and is an inspiration to me and I am so proud of her and her amazing daughter, Juanita.  Ms. Jones demonstrated every day the value of hard work, personal sacrifice for the betterment of her child, and leading the way through her actions.  If I could even be 1/10th of the person she is I would be a better person.

JoAnn Jones & Juanita Jones

This year I have been fortunate to have yet another extraordinary library aide, Ms. Kimberly Johnson. Ms. Johnson couldn't have been more perfect for the changes we have implemented together in the James Clemens High School Library.   Her artistic talents have been invaluable as we have redesigned, repurposed and established a MakerSpace in the JCHS Library.  In fact, Ms. Johnson has an Esty site and sells her crafts on the weekends at art fairs and other venues.  

The past week Ms. Johnson taught Ms. Shamwell's Fashion Design students how to make jewelry from recycled items, items from nature, and items inspired from a hardware store.  The kids were excited about learning from Ms. Johnson and have already been creating some beautiful items!

Ms. Johnson also continuously creates examples of items students can create in the arts and crafts section of the JCHS Library MakerSpace.  Below is just one example of many.

I am grateful everyday that not only do I have an amazing library aide, but a true friend. 

Jewelry Making w/Ms. Johnson

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Read Across America 2016: 24 Years and Counting!

Read Across America Day this year was perhaps the best, most active and diverse day in my 24 years as an educator.  What made this year stand out from all the other years boils down to one word: CONNECTIONS.  

The day started with Ms. Crouch's students (JCHS Spanish 1 & 2) connecting with Harry Brake's students in Mexico City.  Mr. Brake's students read passages from both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman to generate conversation about how these passages relate to our current lives and topics like racism and power.  I really enjoyed the comparing and contrasting of the two stories by Harry Brake's students in regards to the portrayal of Atticus Finch.  Which was the more "true to life" Atticus?


After spending time with Ms. Crouch and Mr. Brake, I connecting using Google Hangouts on Air to read with students from Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont, Georgia, and Connecticut.  We read "The Day the Crayons Quit" by Drew Daywalt; by far the most popular book this day and all last week for World Read Aloud week.  I also got to connected with one of my very favorite library friends, Donna Macdonald! YAY!

As if that wasn't the best treat ever my next connection was with Emmanuel Faulkner's (Librarian at The Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School in Baltimore, MD) 4th Graders who I had connected with during World Read Aloud Week!  This time these wonderful students choose to read ME a story! They choose to read, "Peanut Butter and Cupcake" by Terry Border.  It was such a fun book and the pictures were delightful...but made me hungry! I can't thank Mr. Faulkner's students enough for such a lovely treat!

Later in that day two of our JCHS Debate Team students served as judges for the Somerville Middle School 7th Grade vs. South Orange Middle School 6th Grade Class debate along with Brad CurrieNicholas Diaz's 4th Grade class, and others from around the country through the magic of Google Hangouts arranged by my friend, Elissa Malespina and Melissa McEntee.  We were quite impressed with the 6th & 7th grade students as they debated a hotly contested topic of gun control.  

After the debate it was straight into the Harvard Room for our weekly story time with the JCHS Special Education Self Contained classes.  Mr. Watters presented the library with a copy of the book, "Last Stop on Market Street" by Matt de la Peña, a gift from the Alabama Education Association.  Then Mr. Watters read "My Many Colored Days".  It was an extra special treat to, for the second time that day, be read to! 


I can't wait to see what Read Across America 2017 will bring!