Looking at Poverty

I think one thing that has really hit home with me this semester is the demographic of this school.  I have to admit, I'm more of an armchair advocate...I think and say a lot to my close friends and family, but I'm not a woman of action.  Why?  Because most times, I just don't know how to get involved or make a difference.  One thing I realized about being a school librarian is that I have a built-in opportunity to make a difference everyday - even if it's just a little thing.

So where do I go w/ the aspect of poverty?  I'm not sure...the demographic this school serves is extremely poor.  Let me just lay out some data that I've researched:

  • In NC, poverty is classified as a family of 4 making a total yearly income of $23,000.  Over half the demographic of this school is AT or BELOW the poverty line.
  • 100% of the school receives either a free or reduced cost lunch.  That's huge! In my child's school, only 20% of the students need assistance.  There are 450 students at this school while there are almost 800 at my child's...incredible.  
  • Test scores in reading and math for 3rd-5th grade are 30-50% lower than the state average
What I've seen with my eyes are...

  • Children in 4th grade who read at a 2nd grade level or lower
  • Children who come to school with a myriad of emotional, behavioral and physical issues
  • Children who are not fed, bathed and taken care of on a daily basis

I've only been at this school for a few months, but in that time, I've realized that there is a huge problem.  I know what I read in the papers and hear on television - American schools are broken.  But I think it's more than that...and I think public education has become the scapegoat to fix all that is wrong in our society.  How can educators be expected to fix what they can't control?  How do we tackle poverty in our schools and our communities?  How do we give children a chance at life between the hours of 3:30pm-6:30am?  or in the summer? How do we get parents, who can't even take care of themselves, to take care of their children, let alone their child's educational needs?

I don't know the answers and I have a lot more questions.


"Character Welcome" in the library

I finally finished my goals assignment for my field experience course on Friday.  This probably isn't a difficult assignment for most school librarians.  Those of you who have been doing this for awhile might laugh at my lack of experience - I'm painfully slow at selecting materials and pulling things together!  I'm sure, over time, I'll get where I need to, but this was a very fun and somewhat labor intensive project for me.

I just posted my pictures on my tumblr account - the 'before' and 'after' of the shelves and display - so you can check out what I did.  (Bibliography of books from the school library - if you are interested!).

I chose to create a book display based on character development topics.  The reason for my project was 1) because it was required for my class but 2) because I wanted to do something that might have a subtle impact.  Kids come to the media center with the guidance counselor in the mornings and afternoons on alternate weeks.  They discuss topics, such as peer pressure and bullying, and then watch a video on how to handle certain situations.  I wanted to give them a chance to explore some of the topics they are discussing in this class through the language of books.

We've all had great books touch us in some way.  Maybe as a way of modeling responses, the book characters will give students a way to express themselves and protect themselves, more than watching the videos.  I've not done any hard and fast research studies on how book characters can affect actual behavior, for better or worse, but I do believe that if we find a character whom we admire for whatever character traits they portray (trust, loyalty, bravery, respect, leadership, etc.), don't we somehow want to emulate them and be viewed in the same way?  I remember wanting be seen as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird for years because of her attitude, chutzpah and courage. (In some ways, I think I still want to be Scout ; )

I'll be observing to see if any books from my display get check out over the next few weeks.  Fingers crossed...I'll keep you posted to learn what happens!


Testing the waters of teaching

I had the 4th and 5th graders in the afternoon this week and was able to teach a lesson on how to use the online catalog.  Since this was my first time teaching students, I was really excited.  It's one thing to watch, but it's another thing to create the lesson, plan out the objectives and then teach it!

My supervisor helped out so that I wouldn't have to do all the classroom mgmt alone.  That was great because my 4th graders were a bit wild.  However, they did fine and we made it through the lesson.  I'm beginning to learn how to be tough, but appropriately supportive and assertive.  I can see that respect is earned with these students.  

Overall, the lesson went well.  I used a space theme and gave the students a "mission".  My goal was to chunk the lesson into 3 distinct "tools" they would need to complete their mission:

  • Guide book = technology vocabulary
  • Directions = steps/strategies to finding materials
  • Vehicle = navigation the Destiny catalog interface

For the 4th graders, I assigned crew leaders and grouped students at the start of the lesson.  This was a mistake...I ended up grouping students who were a bit rowdy together instead of splitting them up.  When I grouped 5th graders, I waited until the end of my lesson.  This worked out better because I told them in the beginning of the lesson, I would be looking for good listeners to be crew leaders.  Wow!  What a difference in attentiveness!  It was hard to choose my 5 crew leaders. I can see where the benefit of knowing the students helps, too.  I grouped 2 EC students in the same crew in 5th grade and that didn't work out great. 

During the lesson, I allowed students to check their knowledge by coming up front and use the eBeam pen to select an answer.  I had come up front, tell the class what they thought the pictured icon was (IE, Recycle Bin, etc.) and then they could touch the board w/ the pen to reveal the answer.  They really liked that!
After the lesson, I had them work in their groups for practice and conduct a scavenger hunt for terms.  After I checked each group, I had them work independently at the computers doing the same steps: use the Destiny icon from the desktop, identify the catalog tab, and create a breadcrumb doing a keyword search for something they were interested in.  Their 'ticket out the door' to go browse was that they had to show me they had mastered each step.  I didn't do this with 4th but was able to with 5th.  

For next time, I will wait to select my crew leaders until the end of the lesson and the same with crews so I can separate friends or rowdy students.  I liked working with them individually, too and I didn't get to do that with 4th grade so I need to make sure I have enough time to do that.  I also need to work on how to dismiss students so I can successfully manage the classroom while allowing them to browse the media center when I'm not right there.  That would have been tricky if I was on my own.  I need to start thinking about and asking my supervisor about transitions so I know what to do.

The best part was that most of the 5th grade students were able to find the books from the independent search they conducted.  My supervisor was really pleased with my lesson and felt it went really well, too.

 : )