and a former President of MSLA.
Questions for this column may be submitted using the confidential link at the bottom of this post.
The beginning of every school year is frightening and anxiety-provoking, even for veteran school librarians. This anxiety can be heightened when you know you are teaching a full schedule and have little, if any, time to plan and get acclimated to the school, the students and staff in that school, and to plan what exactly you will be teaching! One very important thing to remember is that it will take two to three years to really build relationships, establish trust, and develop leadership skills tailored to your new position. There is no rushing the process, only knowing that slow and steady wins the race!
Here is a brief list of how to begin to feel comfortable in a new position at the beginning of a new school year:
- Find a yearbook or directory of staff members with pictures, if possible. This will help you to navigate the sea of new names and faces you will encounter in your new school. Getting to know people, ie. fellow staff members, students, parents, administrators, etc. will take time. But you will need to start somewhere.
- Befriend your fellow staff members and never be afraid to ask questions. Always be a good listener and avoid gossip of any form. Have lunch in the teacher’s room if at all possible.
- Check out where and when the team or department meetings are held and attend them, if possible. Every school has a unique structure. Learn how your school is organized. Using the team leaders, grade level leaders, department chairs or other such staff members as points of contact, invite yourself to sit in and listen to what is happening and how to find out what topics are being covered and when, major projects being conducted, and even what students need to know about the library.
- Schedule classes into the library for orientation, or if you are on a fixed schedule, determine when and how to conduct orientations. Avoid being boring. Make the orientations interactive and student-driven. They will remember more that way as well as find you very interesting.
- Make lists. Organize your space making use of a variety of organizers, both physical and virtual. If you know where things are your day will flow better and you will keep frustrations at a minimum.
- Know what you are teaching. Starting from scratch is difficult, but planning will make your entire school year that much better. Start with the end in mind. What do you want your first graders to know by June? Using this strategy, work backward by month and then by week. It will all come together and you can be flexible as you move through the school year.
- Make your library interesting to be in and create eye-catching displays. Personalize your space! People will want to be where you are!
- Make friends with your custodian. They can be a huge source of support.
- Reach out and solicit parent volunteers. It may seem like “one more thing to do” right now, but in the end, having parents help is a lifesaver. Go to the first PTO meeting, put out a notice soliciting volunteers in the principal’s newsletter, and use the first school-wide open house to place sign-up sheets in strategic locations. A strong cadre of volunteers will help you get through each day being able to focus more on teaching and learning!
- And lastly, Knowledge Quest, from the American Association of School Librarians, posted this article just last week.
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