This week I spent two days at Harmony Elementary School with their media specialist, Rachel Peters. What a whirlwind experience! Harmony has about 730 students, but Rachel is the only person in the media center. She has no additional staff--not even a part-time parapro! She relies heavily on parent and community volunteers to help cross items off her to-do list. Not only is she the only person in the media center, but she's also in charge of Harmony's computer labs, iPad carts, Chromebooks, AND the teacher workroom (!!!). She takes photos of school events, runs the morning announcements show, helps teachers out with technology... the list goes on. She maybe sat down for twenty minutes the entire day, and that was during her lunch period. MAD RESPECT.
The Harmony media center operates on a fixed schedule. Every class visits the media center during a set time once per week. Some classes are split to make sure every student gets a chance to check out a book, so sometimes we had a class of 25+ kids in the media center at one time. Rachel occasionally used part of the time to squeeze in some computer-based skills practice, to read a story to the class, or to guide students through an activity that related to what their teachers were covering this week. When students were in the media center, I helped out with simple tasks like checking in/checking out books (though students are pretty self-sufficient at this activity), helping students find books on the shelves, and general crowd control. I also got to lead story time for the kindergartners on both days... such a highlight! I read Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle since Harmony is currently celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. We even played bongo drums after the story, and students loved it. While in the computer lab, I helped students get logged in and helped them navigate their programs (like iRead). I also pulled books for teachers based on request lists, delivered books to classrooms, prepared materials (colored strips of paper for rainbows) for upcoming media center lessons, and reshelved like crazy. The hours passed very quickly. We did find a few minutes to chat throughout the day, and I learned quite a bit about Harmony's media program and how Rachel manages to juggle it all. She was incredibly helpful and forthcoming.
Obviously, her biggest issue is staffing. There are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. She does an amazing job given this very big limitation; she's very efficient in her instruction and never wastes a minute. She has also tried to streamline the check in/check out process so that students can do it themselves, and third graders even help her keep the shelves clean by "adopting" a shelf they tidy up periodically. Very innovative! I might take some of these ideas back to my media center. Another issue is fixed scheduling, which is new for her this year. Students are not allowed to come check out or return books except during their scheduled library time, and sometimes students get pulled from their library slot for special programs like CHAMPS or 4-H. While fixed scheduling does ensure that every class visits the media center, it's not ideal in terms of allowing students unrestricted access to books or for allowing collaboration between teachers and the media specialist. Still, she makes the best of it and has a very good relationship with both students and teachers.
I really loved my time at Harmony. Little ones are very different from my older students; I received plenty of sweet hugs and smiles! Rachel graciously offered to serve as a resource if I have questions in the future, and I'm sure I'll be taking her up on that offer.
Secondary site visit at Harmony Elementary: 16 hours.