For as long as I can remember educators have been making students fill out pen and paper reading logs. Just look on Teachers Pay Teachers and you can find hundreds of examples of them. What knowledge do we really gain from these log, other than seeing if students are being compliant in reading? The data from these logs is almost never used for anything else until now! Thanks to Google Forms & Google Data Studio I have transformed the traditional reading log into data that is useful, and is constantly being updated and available for teachers, students, administrators to see in real time.
Last year we implemented an independent reading program in our English classes where the students and teachers read 15 minutes a day 3 days a week from a book of their own choosing. We did not require students to fill out any paperwork on the books. When teachers this year started talking about the program we decided we wanted a quick and easy way to track what the students were reading and also a way to help students get recommendations for good books to read. Since this summer I had students use Google Forms to track their Summer Reading, we decided to make a quick Google Form for students to fill out at the end of the book.
Thanks to Google Data Studio I was able to aggregate the data from the responses into the charts and graphs that automatically update when new responses to the Google Form are added. I, not being a Google Sheets expert needed my husband's help to make this happen. I highly recommend if you are not Google Sheets or Excel savvy getting someone to help you design your Data Studio Infographic. (see mine below)
With a little forethought when creating the form fields and by using some of the built in functions Data Studio provides to help normalize the data set, you can set yourself up nicely. One of the most important things to remember is that since you're going to be trying to parse results from multiple fields (i.e. what author was read most often by 6th graders, or who the top authors are in the most popular genres), it's critical that the form is designed in a way that minimizes data entry inconsistencies. Separate fields for the student's last name, for example, will stave off situations where a student enters their name as Doe, Jane for the first book she reads and Jane Doe for the second. Also, having pull-down lists for things like genre or teacher's name makes it impossible to have misspellings or duplicate entries with different spellings. Once you're in Data Studio, you can further normalize the data by forcing text entry fields to be all upper-case.
From there, the sky is the limit. My husband says that even if you know Google Sheets and Excel, the functions inside Data Studio are kind of a hybrid of spreadsheet functions and database design functions, so sometimes it take a little experimentation (and lots of failures) to finally get the data to present in the way you want it. That said, your patience (and head banging) will pay off in the long run since you now have a customized inforgraphic that updates itself!! It's also easy to share with staff and administrators thanks to Googles sharing features and can even be embedded on your library or school's webpage. I have mine on the front page of my website for all to see.
I also took the data from the Google Forms and made posters featuring books that the students recommended using Canva that are now on display behind my circulation desk. The students are so excited to see their recommendations now available for others to see & its helping students find books to read.
Google Forms and Google Data Studios has totally transformed the traditional reading log for the SMS Community and I hope you will consider using these tools to transform yours.
Thank you School Library Journal for using my experience fighting the library cuts in South Orange Maplewood School District & interviewing me for this important article! We must continue the fight!
This is a picture of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Librarian Diana Haneski and on February 14th she helped to save the lives of over 50 students and staff by hiding them in media equipment room of her Library and locking the door. No one should ever have to do what she had to do. No one should have to experience what she and the students and staff of MSD experienced.
Libraries should be safe spaces where librarians spend time worrying about how they are going to find the money to get the latest books for kids and how to get that just that ”just right book” into the hand of their students. Librarians should not have to be wondering where do I hid my students in case of a school shooting.
Can they all my student fit in the supply closet, or in my office? Will going in the corner away from the windows and the book cases be enough? What do I do because my doors don’t lock from the inside? These are the thoughts that enter my mind every day when I enter my Library.
When the lockdown announcement comes over the loud speakers and I run to get my keys and go out in the hallways to lock my doors, while also making sure my students in the library are hiding. The thought that always goes through my head is is this one real and not a drill?
Librarians can no longer be silent on this issue we must stand up and say enough is a enough. No child or teacher should have to wonder if today is going to be the day that gun violence occurs at my school! We must fight for gun control laws, and more money for mental health treatment. We must work hard to make sure Diane Haneski and her students are last ones to ever experience this.
Diana is a hero, but my bet is that this not the way she wanted to become one.
Before we know it "hiring season" will be upon us and administrators will be looking to hire librarians. Many of these administrator really do not understand exactly what librarians do and because of this struggle when it comes to writing good interview questions. I am often asked by administrators for help finding a librarian like me. In order to help administrators with this task I have developed 18 Interview Questions that will hopefully help them find the perfect Future Ready Librarian. Many of these questions are developed using the Future Ready Librarians Framework as a Reference. Hopefully these questions will help you to find the perfect progressive librarian for your district.
I would also love suggestions for more questions to add to this list. Please feel free to comment below.
I believe librarians must do all we can to help students find the books and materials they need. This includes providing them with information on how they can find books on tough topics which they may not feel comfortable asking. I found copies of these book marks online and customized them a little. Feel free to take them and use them in your library.
The #METOO Movement was just named Times Person of Year and I am very happy that all of a sudden people are starting to take sexual harassment seriously. For far too long women have been experienced sexual harassment and no one including other women took their experiences seriously. Women are often told that it is part of being a woman and the more successful you become at a given career the more it just becomes "part of the job." Finally, women are saying they have had enough and are no longer afraid to share their experiences. Yet it seems like women in the education field are still scared. When I did a google search for information about the #metoo movement in education I found some great articles on how to teach our students about sexual harassment, but almost no testimonials from educators who have been harassed. Why is that?
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2011-2012, 76% of public school teachers were female, but only 52% of Principals are women and only 14.4% Superintendents are female. Those statistics sadly prove that most of the time the positions of power in public education are held by men. That makes it scary to a lot of educators to stand up and say #METOO and tell their stories. Female educators are getting sexually harassed in the workplace by fellow colleagues, supervisors, principals and in some cases superintendents. Women, we must stand up and fight this. I know its scary but it is time. Here is my story and I am sharing it in hope that it will help others find their voice.
Throughout my over 17 year career as High School teacher, and then Middle and High School Librarian I have been harassed by both coworkers and men who were in positions of power. I even went so far as to work up the courage to tell not only the co-workers Supervisor but also the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources about one how one co-worker who made unwanted advances to me, texted me some inappropriate sexual things about how I was dressed, called me the C word and threatened to spread rumors about me. The problem I ran into is that I cursed the person out via text message when he said that to me and because of that my administration felt like it was going to be a he said she said thing and that if I pursued it further I did not have much of a chance at winning. I also did not want the alleged rumor to get out and because of that I did not pursue charges against the person and went back to avoiding him.
The second incident of sexual harassment came at the hands of my supervisor. Off and on during the first few years that he was my boss, he would send me weird and not very professional text messages. During meetings, he would sit next to me and at times place his hand on top of mine. To this day I can still remember the creeped out feeling I felt when he would place his hand on mine, but I was too afraid to say anything or move my hand. He would also make remarks to me that led me to believe he wanted more out of our relationship. It all seemed to come to head when he asked to friend me on Facebook. I did not feel comfortable having my boss as my friend and I nicely told him so. From that moment on our relationship changed. My rebuff of him, lead to him looking for ways to get back at me.
It started out with just little comments to other coworkers about how he could not understand how I would friend them on Facebook and not him, but quickly it became worse. Soon he found a way to move me to the Middle School and to bad mouth me to Middle School administration and others saying how uncooperative I was and how I could not get along with others. It got a little better when I left the building, but it never got much better.
When I won a state award for having the School Library Program of the Year he did not even congratulate me or do anything to recognize the award. He also found petty ways to remind me that he was in charge, be it trying to write me up for going and teaching the 5th grade at one of the elementary schools without getting his permission, or telling me in a meeting that I had to get permission from him before I could speak at a Boar of Education meeting, even though I was a resident of the town. There were many other subtle and nonsubtle things that he did that made it very clear to me and others who I told, including my husband, that I was being retaliated against. But I never said a word to any administrator about it because it was clear from my experience with the co-worker that administration did not seem to take these complaints very seriously. It was also a time when there was a pervasive culture of retaliation in the district, which went all the way up the Superintendent so I did not feel comfortable speaking out and because of that all of those factors I choose to remain silent. I have since left the district but I still worry some about what will happen since this man was given a position of power in my son's school, but I feel that I can no longer remain quiet.
My story is really no different than many other female educators out there. I know that from talking with other women in our profession. If you are too afraid to put your name to your story contact me and I will publish it anonymously, but I beg you to please tell your story so that hopefully this culture will change.
As I am about to embark on yet another book fair I am left to wonder why do I REALLY have one every year?
Is it because of the fact that we want to promote reading to our students? I love the idea of promoting independent reading to students but not all students and parents can afford the books and material at the fair. We are a Title I School and I have a lot of students who can not afford the materials at the fair. It always makes me sad to see these students want all these books but know they can’t get them cause they don’t have the money. The irony is also not lost on me that I am having the fair in my library and asking kids to pay for books when they could just check out books for free from the library. And let’s be honest, how many kids are buying books and how many use their money on the pens, pencils, erasers etc? I know at my school way more is spent on “junk” than books.
Do we have book fairs because it is one of the only ways we can get money and material for our school libraries? I know that is the case for me. My budget is small and seems to get smaller each year. I am left looking for ways to supplement it and the book fair, even though I don’t earn very much from it. It is though a sad commentary on public education today that we are not giving enough money to our libraries and we need to rely on book fairs.
Or is it because it is tradition and something we as School librarians must do? When I came into my new job I was told we always do the book fair during parent teacher conferences, so I am continuing that tradition. It does make me wonder, just because it has always been done does that mean that I must continue doing it. I am reminded of a quote from Grace Hooper that states, “the most dangerous phrase in the language is we have always done it.”
I really would love to honestly know why you have a book fair. Please let me know in the comments below.
Recently, I was touched and honored when a student of mine told me that they were transgender. I wanted to look for ways to support this students during the transition process and went to my amazing Personal Learning Network for help and resources. I have complied these resources into this Padlet padlet.com/emalespina/transresources to help other educators. I would also love it if you add other resources to this Padlet. My goal is for this to be a crowdsourced resource that can benefit many educators and Transgender Youth.
Let me start off by saying that what I am going to talk about today may be controversial to some people, but it is my belief that we need to start thinking about why these policies are in place and how are they benefiting students. My hope is that this blog post will start to really spur a conversation within the librarian community and hopefully change some people's minds on some of these policies.
The new school year is about to begin and with that comes the opportunity for each librarian to ask, are the rules and policies currently in my library breaking down barriers and making it easier for my students to access information and materials?
If you have any of the following three policies in place it is time to rethink them:
1. Students can not check out a book without an ID card - If students are required to wear ID cards at all times or if the ID card is used for multiple purposes in the school like for your lunch account etc than I have no problem with an ID Card being used for book checkout. If the ID card is only really only used for book checkout than I believe it is time to rethink this policy. Yes, I know the policy in most schools, especially High Schools is that students are supposed to have IDs on them at all times, but when the policy is not enforced and the ID card's only real purpose is for book check out, how can we really expect our students to have their IDs on them? In circumstances like this making students need an ID card to check out books is impractical and puts up unnecessary barriers for allowing students access to much needed books and materials.
2. Students can not check out books if they have a fine - Why are we denying students a chance to read due to the fact that they have not paid a fine for an overdue book? By enforcing a rule like this you are unintentionally making it so that students who might be economically disadvantaged are the ones who suffer the most. Lack of money and resources should never be a factor in access to information and no child should be turned away for checking out a book because his or her family can not pay a fine! In my over 15 years as a librarian, I have seen way too many students be afraid to take out a book because they did not want to lose it or pay a fine. Things have gotten so much easier for me once I moved to a district where there are no fines. I highly recommend looking into the idea of eliminating overdue fines for your library. Here is a great article in Slate about how some public libraries are eliminating fines. If public libraries can do it surely school libraries can also do so.
3. Students can only read certain level books or "just right books" / labeling books with level stickers - Library books should never be shelved by reading or grade level, by doing this you are unintentionally singling out students and potentially embarrassing them. I also believe that we should never make kids take out books within their "levels". Let students read what they want! When students are forced to read within levels or limit what they can read, the joy of reading soon begins to disappear. I completely agree with AASL's position statement on labeling books especially where it states "Student browsing behaviors can be profoundly altered with the addition of external reading level labels. With reading level labels often closely tied to reward points, student browsing becomes mainly a search for books that must be read and tests completed for individual or classroom point goals and/or grades. School library collections are not merely extensions of classroom book collections or classroom teaching methods, but rather places where children can explore interests safely and without restrictions. A minor’s right to access resources freely and without restriction has long been and continues to be the position of the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians. Labeling and shelving a book with an assigned grade level on its spine allows other students to observe the reading level of peers, thus threatening the confidentiality of students’ reading levels. Only a student, the child’s parents or guardian, the teacher, and the school librarian as appropriate should have knowledge of a student’s reading capability."
This is by no means a complete list of all the ways that libraries policies can have unintentional consequences. Please feel free to add to the list and I would love to know your comments.
Elissa Malespina is the Middle School Teacher Librarian in Somerville and a Presenter, Author and much more. The views are my own. Find my full resume above.