My time and experience in obtaining my Master’s of Library Science has fundamentally changed my purpose. I began my coursework with the idea that I would be the curator of books. Now I know that collection development is just one of many responsibilities and expectations of school librarians. Other factors include collaboration with teachers, and other things. Even more so is the importance practicing cultural competence, and inclusiveness for all library users.
How have you displayed inclusiveness, cultural competence or a support of individual and group perspectives during your practicum hours?
New Library Display
When my school librarian lamented that she could not purchase more ALA READ posters due to vendor and purchase constraints, I suggested an idea I had seen on a TED talk in which students who actually attended the school were photographed and made into a mural on the walls of their newly renovated school. We set out to do something similar.
We made announcements for anyone who was interested to participate in a photo shoot. In this photo shoot, they would pose in various places and positions in the library with their favorite book. While this event was a volunteer event, care on our side was taken to ensure that as many demographics were represented as possible. We wanted the students on display to look like a snapshot of at least some aspects of representation of the school.
This displays inclusion of students because having a library with beautiful photographed pictures of students who actually attend the school fundamentally change the library. The library becomes a place that is their home, where they see themselves and where they are the stars of their own library. This is validating to the students and works toward the mission of the library being a haven.
Culturally Responsive Practices
A big challenge with practicum, student teaching or any internship, is that while one is getting on-the-job training, the job is still not your own. So, while I am learning from wonderful mentors, it is not my place to change the expectations, procedures and teaching that is already in place. Therefore, here are a few culturally responsive practices I will consider when I obtain my future library job:
- Allowing students to check out book(s) if they forgot to bring their library book
- Not including books or the checking out of books as a punitive measure to undesirable behavior
- Doing Read-Alouds to ESL, SPED visits
- Allowing talking during morning library time (with volume expectations)
- Having extended library hours
Interactions with students is one of my favorite parts of being a choir director. I love talking with them, getting to know them and making connections. In my time as a teacher and in my master’s program, I have been exposed to the importance of relationship building, restorative practices and embedding social emotional learning into the classroom. Even when a student gets in “trouble,” I look forward to my interaction with them because it is an opportunity for honesty and reflection from the student and an opportunity for me to model conflict resolution and restorative practices.
In my time during my practicum, I have had the opportunity to have many student interactions. Some of the highlights include:
Interaction: Helping facilitate book club with my mentor with 5th graders for the book Holes
How I’ve displayed support of individual perspectives: listening without judgement to opinions and thoughts of students; asking questions about how they arrived at a particiular opinion or conclusion
Interaction: Helping ESL Newcomers with their Social Studies homework
How I displayed cultural competence: Asking students about themselves before we started, speaking a blend of English and Spanish to make both cultural and language connections
Interaction: Participating in book club meetings
How I displayed support of individual and group perspectives: In book club, as students would share their opinion I would make sure to give validation to that opinion even when I felt differently; In addition, I had individual conversations with students about what was important to them in a book, or their favorite genres and why they liked them.
Interaction: Planning and executing the Library Display Event
How I displayed inclusiveness: While participation in the library display photo shoot was optional and based on volunteers, I did reach out on a one on one basis to to demographics that I did not see represented. It is important for students to see themselves represented, in this case, in the photos displayed around the library.
What changes could you make to the library to make it more accessible to people with special needs?
- Offer students a Safe Zone with materials and activities for
- students who need a break
- social emotional learning practice
- Quiet zone
- For students who need a place that is tucked away
- For introverted students
- Before and after school library hours
- Students who need a safe place before or after school
- Offer Playaways for all studentsStudents with visual impairments
- ELL or ESL learnings
- Reluctant Readers
- All students
- Ensure that bookshelves are in compliance with American Disabilities Act recommendations
- Ensure that space between chairs, bookshelves and tables allows for wheelchair space