This column includes two questions from members. The first addresses a challenging situation with a paraeducator and the second, the struggle to get kids reading.
I have a new paraeducator in the library this year. This is her first year working in education and while she is GREAT at supporting the academic needs of our students, she is struggling with the classroom management aspects of the job, especially enforcing student behavior expectations. She's young and close in age to my high school students, and because she started mid year, there has been limited opportunities for hands on training. How do I support her developing those classroom management skills so that she can help keep the library running smoothly while I'm teaching?
Here are some pointers for empowering her to be more successful and for your expectations to be met:
- A gentle discussion can go a long way. She should also not have to “guess” what you expect from her and what your observations of her skills have been.
- Make sure that she has read and absorbed the staff and student handbooks at your school, particularly the sections on managing behavior and consequences. Being on the same page with the rest of the school is important.
- If your para is young looking and close in age to the students, that may, or may not, be problematic. More important is her ability to watch you and observe your skills with classroom management.
- As time allows, have her observe you teach. Let her sit in on a particularly difficult class and focus on how you maintain control of the class and deal with unruly behavior. The same can be true of general library periods, where just keeping crowd control can be a challenge.
- Often students who are in need of additional “corrections” need to be reminded that respect is key; that the library is a place of mutual respect, teacher for students and vice versa. This goes a long way in making students feel welcome and safe.
- Share these resources (and of course there are many others)
"Classroom Management" (from ASCD)
- Lastly, if you have the time to observe her with the students, pointers and advice from you would most certainly be helpful.
Is it too much to ask kids to actually read during their library time? I have so many kids that have no desire to check out books. I don't require them to check out books as I figure it's their choice. But, I'm thinking of changing that. We have magazines they can look at too. If given a choice, they would much rather be on the computer or drawing.
Create a survey for the students, asking them about their reading interests. If you are a Google school, the survey can be created using a Google form. If not, perhaps your district has access to another type of survey tool. Include a question asking them to talk about what it is, if they aren’t checking books, that they cannot find in the library. Do they want more graphic novels? Adventure? Mystery? And more. Keep a suggestion box at the circulation desk, using old-fashioned paper and pencil. Perhaps students, or even staff members, will drop a suggestion into the box. Use this information to inform future purchases.
What types of items, other than books, can your students check out? Magazines? Comics books? Newspapers? Do you have eBooks that might be of interest? They certainly count as books checked out. Using the Commonwealth Collection, offered through the Massachusetts Library System, gives you a huge advantage here. Think about your magazine collection, and try new and different selections. And you might want to consider circulating all but the most current copy.
Technology is a huge part of student’s lives. Of course many of them would rather be on the computer, but that is because they haven’t found that special something to read. Ask students about the last book that they read. Use Novelist, even if you have to grab the link from your public library’s website, and show your students how to find “if you liked this book, here is a list of books you might want to consider reading next.” Using Novelist to find those “next best books” may spur their interest and help them make that leap.
Start library class with a five or ten minute booktalk. Introduce new titles this way, or books that don’t jump off of the shelves. Hopefully, by incorporating some of these strategies, you can boost circulation and encourage those reluctant readers. Forcing students to check out books is never an answer, but doing what you can to promote reading and enrich your collection might make all the difference.