and a former President of MSLA
Ahh, the quintessential annual report! The document most dreaded in May/June when we know we should be creating and delivering this to our principals and other administrators or boards. It doesn’t have to be this way. Think of an annual report as the recording of a year-long journey that both you and the students in your school embarked on in September. Does an annual report garner any attention? Is it even read by anyone, you might ask? Well, if it is in Word, with bullet points and some pictures thrown in, you can guarantee that it will most likely be “filed away” with just a cursory glance.
So why bother? An annual report is one of the best advocacy tools you can create. Done right, it should be a chronicle of your school year, and as interactive as possible. Your library program deserves to be noticed. As Deb Kachel so aptly states: “A well-crafted annual report ... can be an effective advocacy tool not just for school administrators, but also as a vehicle to showcase the unique contributions of the school library program to parents, community members, teachers, and students.” Use the annual report to not only showcase your library program, but also as a self-evaluation tool. Have I accomplished my goals this school year? If not, then why not, and what could I have done better? Share the report widely, include statistics, but more importantly, include students, parents, teachers and other school community members learning, creating and sharing exciting new milestones.
Breath new life into your annual report with a variety of tools (too numerous here to mention them all) such as Piktochart (for making an infographic), ISSU for publishing your report as a book, Prezi, Slideshare, Animoto, or a myriad other publishing and communication tools. Your report can include a variety of paths to get your message across: text, links, videos, photos and more. Keep it as concise as possible while offering a glimpse into all that you do for students and staff in the school.
What if your principal doesn’t ask for an annual report? That should never be a reason to not produce one. Wow your administrator by putting together a report that surprises, educates, and entertains. You won’t regret it.
“How do we get teachers to stop assuming students know how to effectively research online?”
This question can be translated to: How can we get teachers to start collaborating with us? The age-old question that has many different answers and no one right answer. Students turn to Google and pass in assignments with a variety of sources cited (if they are required to cite at all by their teachers.) Many of the citations include Wikipedia, and generally the top few Google hits.
Is this always bad? No. Is this generally good practice? No again. Students need to know what they don’t know, and they really don’t know what they don’t know. The same holds true for many teachers, but telling them this is a bit of a sticky wicket. So what does a school librarian do?
Following some of the sage advice of how to collaborate with staff always helps. We should all know what that advice might be: reach out to one staff member at a time; showcase successful collaboration; attend meetings of all kinds; get to know the curriculum, the frameworks, and where support is needed; curate your collection to support the needs of students and teachers; and generally make yourself and your program visible. But what if this isn’t enough? What if teachers say “my students know where to find xyz information?”
This is where some ingenuity has to come into play. Ask to see works cited lists whenever you can and if you can grade them, even better, and look to see what students are citing. Send around an article or two of statistics on how students look for information and what they are (and aren’t) finding. Share resources with teachers even if you are not asked. Using many of the online tools available to us, gathering and showcasing reliable information is not hard. It is getting teachers to pay attention to what you are doing that is the real challenge. I have often found that sharing a link to a project page can bring some positive comments and some gratitude.
This discussion would be incomplete with mention of promoting other sources of information such as the databases we have access to, as well as teaching good search strategies and the use of resources such as the National Archives and the Library of Congress. As leaders in our buildings, taking steps to earn the trust of the teaching staff to begin to teach these important topics is inherent in our role as school librarians. It may not be that there are many “takers” at first, but one teacher at a time will usually get the ball rolling. As AASL has articulated in our role as Information Specialist we are tasked with modeling strategies for “...finding, assessing and using information.” (ALA 2017) It can be difficult, but we have to fight the good fight!!