This week I spent two days at Carver Middle School with media specialist Erin McElroy. Carver serves about 850 students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Luckily, Erin has a full-time parapro to help her out with day-to-day media center operations. Still, she has a lot to cover--in addition to running the media center, she also manages the teacher workroom, a computer lab, several iPad carts that rotate out to classrooms, and all student Chromebooks. Carver is 1:1 for students in seventh and eighth grades, and sixth graders will get devices next year. Although students do not take Chromebooks home at the end of the day, their on-campus use is still a big responsibility that takes up much of Erin's time.
The Carver media center operates on a flexible schedule, with teachers signing their classes up for a visit or Erin going out to visit classrooms. It seems having the media specialist come to students is an emerging trend, and I do it quite frequently myself at GWA. This week was exam week at Carver, so the media center was quieter than normal--but that doesn't mean we didn't stay busy! Students were constantly in and out to use computers, check out books, ask for help with Chromebooks, and pick up workroom items for teachers. One task I was asked to tackle was to create a promotional poster for an upcoming fall reading challenge, which is Star Wars themed. I used Canva, and everyone seemed pretty pleased with the results. After the posters were finalized and printed, I helped hang them up in the hallways around campus. I also helped weed the reference section and posted promotional displays around the media center. I even found time to read some of the shelves--something every media specialist would love to do but never has time for. At one point, I was able to accompany Erin and the technology integration specialist to a teacher meeting. This teacher wanted to use Kahoot! for a student review game, and Erin and the technology integration specialist coached her through that process and tested a few practice questions with her. We went back to the teacher's classroom the following morning to observe and help out, and it was great to see everyone's hard work come to fruition. One of the most helpful aspects of my time at Carver was the opportunity to visit with Erin about how she promotes reading for students. This area can be a struggle for me, and she gave some great advice and useful tips.
One of Erin's biggest challenges seems to be the division of her time and attention. Media specialists really are expected to "do it all" in many schools. She was constantly shifting gears from tech help desk to student book adviser to teacher tech coach... and more. Another issue for her is getting teachers on board with collaboration. Not only is it difficult to find the time for collaborative planning, but many teachers are still resistant to sharing their classrooms, instruction, and assessments with a media specialist. I've encountered this resistance at my own school and it remains a constant battle. Like Erin, I'm always working to win over converts. It takes many intentional conversations, patience, and great lesson ideas that teachers can get excited about.
Carver was a great experience, and Erin was full of useful tips and pointers. I'm hoping she'll be able to visit my media center soon and that we'll continue to bounce ideas off of each other.
Tertiary site visit at Carver Middle School: 16 hours.