Monday, November 9, 2015

Students Solve a Decade-Old Problem

Ever have a problem that seems nearly impossible to solve?

For me in the library, it was this: "How do I allow intermediate division students to use the library freely at recess without them abusing the privilege?"

Even before it was printed in Together for Learning, I always wanted to "alter 'hours of operation' and rethink assumptions about 'acceptable activities'" (T4L page 10). Unfortunately, every time I opened up the library for teen recess use, the same thing would happen: students would flock in just because it was cold outside; they would come in the library but then leave to wander the halls or congregate in the bathrooms; I became overwhelmed with policing the visitors instead of supervising or assisting those who truly wanted my help, and it became like another yard duty. The other teachers would become upset with the student conduct and every year, I'd have to tell the intermediate students that they could come after school but not at recess.

I didn't want this to happen again, so this school year, I turned to a group for help: the students. As Leading Learning suggests, "engage students in discussion and planning: what do they need, what are their ideas for transforming the school library?" (LL page 24). I explained to the Grade 6, 7, and 8s my dilemma. I described the pitfalls I encountered every year. I tried to model some of those Individual Growth ideas from Together for Learning, like considering divergent opinions and participating in the social exchange of ideas.

The students did not disappoint me. They came up with a plan, with some additional suggestions from their classroom teachers. Some aspects of their plan might not have fit with my own vision, but so far, it's been working well. Each junior and intermediate class has about eight Popsicle sticks marked as recess passes. The students take them when they want to go. This way, the class teacher has an approximate idea of how many students are in the library, a tool the teachers requested. Students write their name, date and circle their purpose in a library visit binder. Listing a goal means that students are accountable for their library time. The students themselves monitor how often they go to the library - the agreement is that they would only visit once per day, to allow other students the opportunity to go the library as well.

An unexpected benefit of the library visit binder is that I'm gathering data on what activities the students use the library for the most. When I get my MakerSpace up and running again, it will be another opportunity for library recess visits and it'll be interesting to see if that changes the reasons for the visits.

When the weather gets colder, it will also be fascinating to see if the self-regulation continues as well as it has been. I am so pleased with the students for helping me solve this problem. I wonder what else we can solve together?

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