Practicum Week 6: Middle School

(This post was written back in February.  I am a bit behind on my practicum updates will try to catch up this week!)

This week I started my placement at Hart Middle.  The media specialist position is shared by two librarians — Audrey S. (Monday/Tuesday) and Kristi T. (Wedneday through Friday) — who are known in the school community for being highly effective and enthusiastic, and I am looking forward to learning from them.

One of the biggest differences between elementary and middle school is that middle school media specialists are on a flex schedule.  One of the last things I did at Hampton was attend a district wide media specialist meeting where the director hinted at the possibility of elementary media specialists going to a flex schedule starting next year (the “library” special would be replaced by a “foreign language” special), and many LMS present were understandably concerned — not just for their job security, but how they would be able to effectively carry out the goals of the ILS program if they aren’t seeing classes regularly.  I promised my mentor there that I would pay attention to how flexible schedule is done at Hart and report back anything they might find useful at an elementary school level.

What I learned during my first week about flex scheduling at the middle school level…

  • You can go a long time without going into a class or have a class come see you.
  • It’s up to you to seek out opportunities to collaborate with teachers.  Even though many of them probably could use the help, they are usually too busy to seek it out.  Some might think you don’t have anything to offer to them.  Some are so afraid of new technology they are unwilling to have you show them how it can be incorporated in the class.
  • Even when there’s obvious areas where LMS can insert themselves, some opportunities seem to be lost.  There are classes being taught at Hart on digital citizenship, internet safety, and something called “tools for success”, where students learn about different web tools/apps and research skills that will help them in their middle school years.  However, one of these classes is being regularly offered by the Health teacher, and one is taught by rotating teachers (who are put on the rotation for no specific reason other than they have a free period on a certain day).  I asked why these aren’t taught by LMS, or at least co-taught.  The health teacher, I was told, has a really great PowerPoint that he’s been adding to for the last couple of years, and since internet safety/digital citizenship are related to personal safety, the administration feels like the health teacher is the natural person to teach it.  I wonder why they wouldn’t at least collaborate though, since these topics are also standards that should be taught in the media center.
  • I was asked to put together a presentation on digital citizenship/cyberbullying for 6th graders next week, which I started working on, using resources found on Commonsensemedia.org, etc.  We are planning a teaching portion, whole group activity (where we will watch a video, then discuss what we saw), and then break out into small groups.  I am looking forward to doing this with 6th graders because it’s such an important topic, but I wonder again why the LMS are not doing this more often.  This could also be a great opportunity to collaborate with the health teacher, who already HAS a great presentation we could use and build upon.  A lot of time and energy could be saved if they recognize that they are teaching the same thing and find a way to share these resources.
  • Because we didn’t see any classes this week, most of my tasks were focused on some big events/projects that are coming up: Scholastic Book Fair next week (Feb 25-March 6), March Reading Madness, and Authors In April.  MRM is a BIG deal and so I spent a few days creating displays, reading logs, raffle tickets, posters, etc., and brainstorming with Audrey and Kristi how everything will work.  We also had to contact different local vendors to see if they’d donate coupons that we could use as prizes.  I might help them create a website and digital book bracket that the students can vote on.

My big question this week is about fixed vs. flex scheduling.  It seems like flex scheduling works better for middle/high schools (if only because there is no way you could see all the students in a week) but what are some ways to ensure that you are still seen as necessary and effective?  Is flex scheduling better or worse in terms of job security?

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