The smartest teachers in the world work in my school—they have brilliant lesson plans, amazing classroom management, and solid assessment skills. It is really enjoyable to work with them on a project. Just when we need it the most, I can say, “This looks like a job for Sound Cloud!” or “Storybird would be great for this fable unit.” I love pulling the perfect tool out of thin air. My teachers think I’m a genius!
You see, I’m not really that smart. I just know people who are. One of the wisest things that we librarians can do is to collaborate with other smart librarians who love to share. For example, I have a strong personal learning network (PLN) that starts on Twitter and even includes a monthly face-to-face gathering. My PLN provides me with lots of really good ideas, answers questions, and supports my work. It is through these resources that I have gathered a huge technology toolbox, assessment strategies, promotional ideas, and a ton of worthwhile resources that I can pass on to my teachers.
The core of my network starts online with Twitter and the #tlchat hashtag. You can get started on Twitter by following great school librarians like Buffy Hamilton, Gwyneth Jones, Donna Baumbach, or Jennifer Lagarde. You can also find librarian folks on Facebook and Google+. Several blogs like The Never Ending Search and Not So Distant Future post great resources, links, ideas, and challenges. I find the online world a great place to ask questions or get directions. For me, this is better than email because there are so many knowledgeable experts who respond almost instantaneously.
Librarians can also take advantage of some great (free) professional development opportunities. Join the Teacher Librarian Virtual Cafe webinar presentations the first Monday of every month, live #tlchat twitter discussions the 2nd Monday of every month, or peruse the outstanding free online recorded sessions of Library 2.012 Worldwide Virtual Conference held last month. School Library Journal also features many free webcasts including a series that just began in September focused on Common Core.
Do you need more ideas? My state’s professional organization (Colorado Association of School Libraries) has been developing a site where we librarians can upload examples on everything from advocacy to lesson plans. Perhaps your state has a site like Survive and Thrive which has been created as a space for sharing stories and models of 21st century skills. Broaden your perspective by joining EdWeb.net, Council on 21st Century Learning, or your own state’s eLearning professional development site (like eNet Colorado).
Finally, take some time to meet face-to-face with other professionals in a learning atmosphere. A small group of us have committed to meet once a month (at the bar of course!) where one of us facilitates the discussion or shows new tools for learning. While we often arrive beleaguered by the trials of the day, we invariably leave energized and ready to try new things.
Librarians love to grow and learn, and must do so to be on the cutting edge of positive change. Since most of us are the only staff person in our field in the building, we must utilize opportunities to develop our own personal learning networks, share ideas, and find ways to be rejuvenated.
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