I can still remember the day, March 9th, 2020, when someone in the staffroom mentioned a sickness originating from China making headlines in the news. The next day, our principal suggested bringing home anything we might need for teaching remotely after spring break. Just in case.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think anything would ever close schools.
I was wrong.
Two weeks of spring break passed and we were still at home. During the first week, I remember feeling extremely useless because I wasn't a classroom teacher. I didn't have thirty students and their families to connect with and reassure. I remember crying in my husband's arms, fighting the feeling that maybe this was a wake up call that my position wasn't really needed. A teacher-librarian wasn't essential to a student's education.
But I was wrong.... again.
With teachers scrambling to set up online meetings, phone chats, and figure out how to teach the curriculum they knew so well to a virtual audience, I became a much needed source of information, ideas, and resources. I was a virtual ear to listen, an online shoulder to lean on, and a zoom hug for reassurance.
I worked harder in the three months after spring break than I have ever worked seventeen years of education.
So, here's a taste of what being a teacher-librarian in a pandemic lockdown looked like for me.
1. Novel Studies: I supported the Grade 4 and 5 classes by providing novel study books. My technician and I made a list of books in the book room along with brief descriptions that students could choose from. We sanitized the front covers and put the books in Ziploc bags with students name and divisions. On Tuesdays, students dropped off their books and picked up their new books at a table at the front door of the school. Returned books were checked in, sanitized, and left to isolate in the library until needed again. Sometimes, we would throw in an extra library book if requested by a student.
2. Technology: My technician and I also went in and organized the distribution of iPads to families who needed devices for learning. We catalogued all the iPads that were usually housed in classrooms and signed them out to families during pre-booked appointments as to maintain social distancing. We helped families fill out the district loan forms and made sure the apps needed for their specific division/grade were uploaded and ready. Once school resumed in September, we were responsible for contacting families to return devices, checking the devices in, sending devices for repair, and cleaning up/deleting personal information on all devices.
3. LPBOY Contest: Our district usually runs a Langley Picture Book of the Year contest - a battle of books. I created a website which linked families to video read-alouds with my voice taped over pictures of the books for all ten books. Families were encouraged to listen to the books and then vote for their favourite books by emailing their choices to my work email. Anyone who voted had their names put into a draw for a $50 Indigo gift card. The contest was a hit.
4. KM Club: Our school normally runs a Km Club during PE classes and school wide preps. We use an online program that tracks student''s progress and students earn little foot tokens for every 10 km. Through our online newsletter, I encouraged families to stay active by continuing the Km Club during the three months of shut down. Families tracked distances during walks, bike rides, runs, and rollerblading. They emailed me the distances and once a month, they could arrange a time to pick up their foot tokens. It was easier for me to run this program because as the teacher-librarian, I know all the students and their families.
5. Staff Parades: Twice we drove slowly through the community and waved to all our students as they watched from their front lawns. We were encouraged to decorate our vehicles and my husband enjoyed turning our SUV into a Pokemon car.
6. Grade 2/3 Learning Website: I single-handedly created a website where all the students and parents in the three Grade 2/3 classes could find their weekly work and links. (It's called the Congo Pod because the theme for the school that year was Jungle and each grade grouping was named after a world jungle.)
The three classroom teachers and I made lessons, videos, worksheets, and activities for all 72 students. Since we all worked together and had the same expectations, it made it much easier for parents and our administration team. I spent endless hours uploading, modifying, creating content, and recording audio instructions so that students could do their work without the direct help of their parents.
Here's the link to the website: https://themischievouslibr.wixsite.com/congopod
7. In-Person School: I also helped for one day a week in the Essential Workers School that was held in our gym from May to June. The students of essential workers and vulnerable families were socially distanced at their own desks and tables and we helped them with their school work in the morning and then ran fun projects or small outdoor trips in the afternoons.
Overall, I feel very proud of my position and how I was able to help students learn while always promoting literacy during the at-home learning due to COVID-19.