August 2020--I am in my first year as a librarian. Besides transitioning districts, I am also trying to figure out how to support my teachers in their instruction, digital technology, and training them on new ed-tech. Then there are the logistics for my library space, the rules, displays, and passive engagement activities within the parameters of the current pandemic that are filling my brain. Inspiration was hard to drum up as I felt overwhelmed with the new additions of safety, sanitizing, and just becoming more vigilant in providing digital resources for students and staff to use during this time. I knew entering into this position, I would be an island and, maybe even more so, with the dynamics caused by COVID.
Inspiration is a necessity for me. If I lack inspiration, I struggle to encourage it in others, and wherever I searched Google for help in an area concerning the library, Pinterest tags would pop up. It evoked memories of when I first learned of Pinterest. Honestly, it was the TikTok in 2012-2015 for me. Countless hours were spent scrolling through pins and creating boards. Whether it was the perfect outfit or hairstyle, or the myriad recipes I dreamt of trying, Pinterest was where I constructed a fantastical image of who I wanted to be both personally. It wasn’t too long until I made teaching boards.
When I got my first teaching job, I used Pinterest to help me brainstorm ideas for my lessons. I always pushed myself to make my lessons engaging and relevant to my students. When I was lesson planning, and I needed a boost, Pinterest was often my go-to answer. It then would lead me to countless educators’ blogs and specific education-minded websites that I saved and revisited. As the years passed, I still found myself revisiting these boards less and less as I grew in my teaching abilities.
Fast-forward to this past school year. My first as a school librarian. When my inspiration was in short supply, Pinterest became the place to inspire the design of my new library, the displays, the lessons, and the many other things I would be doing in my day-to-day. This certainly was true. The sheer number of ideas I gained was overwhelming. Whether it was pins from public libraries, school libraries, or academic libraries, I found positivity and inspiration. Pinterest became the place where I was no longer on an island but in a land of like-minded professionals. Pinterest helped me continue to be a positive light in my school to innovate and create, despite all added pandemic and hybrid/remote learning stressors. And by extension, I saw an opportunity to provide support to my teachers.
In December 2020, while working on my Smore newsletter layout, I stumbled upon Stephen Stewart’s 5 Tech Tips for Winter Break newsletter. One of his main tips was that teachers should take time to revisit ideas that had provided inspiration to help revitalize themselves for the upcoming second semester. This is where I had a lightbulb, “a-ha,” moment. I connected the idea proposed by Stewart’s newsletter and using Pinterest as the tool to constantly give teachers access to ideas that could cultivate inspiration, innovation, and creativity in their teaching. Isn’t it usually the case when we stumble on ideas that strike our teaching fancy, we often forget to save? This is why I thought Pinterest could be that curated holding-place for my teachers.
Here is what I did. First, I created a separate board for each content area at my school. [For elementary, I could see you doing this by grade level and specials.] Next, I curated these boards with content-specific lesson ideas and activities; I only included those that addressed the established curriculum. But to be honest, inspiration often guided my pinning. After I began curating pins and had some for each board, I emailed the respective teachers to become collaborators. Later on, I created a board for the guidance counselor to help her brainstorm bulletin boards for the guidance office after she saw the curated Pinboards in my newsletter. She just recently came and asked to start a new board to help her find career-readiness unit ideas.
While Pinterest boards do not have analytics provided to help you see how often they are accessed, it is a way that you can provide resources for your teachers, and they can access them 24/7. Currently, my guidance counselor, art teacher, and one math teacher have spoken to me about how I can help them implement some of the pins I have shared via these boards in their teaching next year. It has opened up avenues of conversation that I never imagined it would. One bit of advice I have is to encourage your teachers to add pins themselves. Truly make this a collaborative effort between you and your teachers. Though this is a “passive” form of engagement, it seems to achieve several of the AASL framework’s domains and shared foundations, and all it took was a little bit of scrolling, pinning, and sharing.
Gross Catholic High School
I scoot down the school hallway, copies in hand, shuffling my keys to unlock the library when I see her, she's standing still and looking at posters.
“Good morning,” I say quickly, shuffling by.
“Aren’t these neat,” she says--slowing my pace--gesturing so that I will stop and really look. “They really are saying something.”
I have walked past these motivational hallway posters what feels like one million times and never taken the time to read one. As I stand here with her, reading one after the other, I feel my shoulders soften, my to-do list feeling somehow more manageable.
Yes, we teachers and librarians move fast to get things done, but this woman also had things to get done–and one of the things on her list was to notice the good stuff around us.
The library is a great place to foster gratitude practices (intentionally noticing the good) this winter season--in virtual spaces and in real life. While we might not feel thankful in 2021, we can mine for gratitude in ways that impact our days, our colleagues, and our students. Here are some easy-peasy, plug-and-play ways to jumpstart gratitude at your school this season:
By Evi Wusk
Back in August, I shared the app Goose Chase with my faculty. Goose Chase is a scavenger hunt app where you can create a game with missions online and share it out to students through their devices (cell phones or iPads work the best, not so much laptop computers). Students can turn in missions via text answers or photo answers. Each mission is worth points and teams or individual students compete to be the top on the leaderboard. As a teacher, you see the submission feed on your device and can add or subtract points or even delete a submission if students don’t complete it according to your specifications.
After presenting, I had a tremendous increase in teachers wanting to work with me using this app for their classes. I have now worked with Math classes, Guidance Counselors, and English classes. In a school where collaboration doesn’t usually happen, I am super happy that I have found something to share with my colleagues that they want to use for their students. This positive turn helps promote the library and my services to other teachers who haven’t wanted to collaborate in the past.
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.