Tricky timetabling in the library

15029248516Back to school for my classes tomorrow after the long 8 week summer vacation.  Teachers have been back a week and it’s been a productive but quite busy week getting everything ready. Is one every really ready? Who knows what the year will bring. What combination of students and teachers and classes will evolve as the year progresses.

As a  (with the emphasis on the “oneness” of A) Teacher librarian the timetable is probably one of the most tricky aspects. We’re just small enough to be able to have a hybrid timetable, where I can squeeze in every class once a week for a 20 minute slot (40 minutes for my grades 5 & 6, who need more “taught” and hands on higher level information literacy). I also have bookable periods where I can teach in class or classes can come to the library.  Based on the mistakes, observations and learnings of last year I made a few changes this year.

  • Blocking time so I can attend co-planning sessions for each grade with the PYP coordinators – that was a big failing on my part last year, and as a result I was always one step behind trying to play catch-up, relying on what was formally documented rather than actually happening and not being in the loop if things evolved – as they should in an inquiry based program.  Also, I’ve noticed that I need to promote new and different books as our collection evolves, and that would probably be the best forum.
  • Blocking time for ELL and language B students.  I’m an absolute believer in the importance of literature and literacy in language learning, but my practice was not supporting my beliefs. Of course it’s possible in library time to say to students “borrow a mother tongue book” or “borrow a Chinese / French book” – but with such a limited library time, it was an after thought rather than structurally built into the program. Also the French teachers were very supportive of my presentation to students on creating a language PLN and COP to their students and wanted me to revisit that early on in the year.  The time in the library has me as an optional extra – it’s more the space they’re using, so I’m available for in classroom teaching when I’m not needed by the language teachers.  Same with the ELL students.  Library time is intimidating if you’re only able to read “baby books” and asking a swamped librarian for advice is not always easy. This way the interactions can be more leisurely, students can book-talk lower level books without shame and they can get recommendations from each other. We’ll watch this space to see if it makes a difference. Also it would allow me to go through some of the research tools more thoroughly with the students at a slower pace.
  • Our bilingual classes are going to alternate days over 2 weeks in English and Chinese, so one week we’ll have them for English library, and one week for Chinese library. That was a logistical challenge, (to understand what we needed to do, most of all), hopefully we can support them in this.
  • Trying to group grades by day – i.e. G5&6 on Monday, G2 & 4 on Tuesday G3 on Wednesday, G1 on Thursday, Kindergarten on Friday.  Last year was mentally very taxing as I switched from Kindergarten to G6 to G3 back to Kindergarten to G1 all within a few minutes or hours of each other.  I’d have moments of complete blackout trying to remember which group was doing what (even having picture books labeled ready to go at my door, and tabs open for each class on my computer for presentations didn’t always help). With the exception of running out of time that suited one class it’s worked out fine – and teachers were quite receptive to the idea.  I did ask each grade lead which day would best suit them, and actually this year setting the timetable was a little easier than last year.  Having only 3 new teachers on board definitely helped the process as well.
  • Setting aside time for parent, librarian, teacher and community collaboration.  Last year’s series of “Library Bytes” for parents was well received on both campuses, and started bearing fruit towards the end of the year as we received more sophisticated and directed requests from parents – both those who had attended the sessions and those who had heard about them and wanted to know more.  This year I want to continue with the momentum, and even present some sessions in Chinese (not by me!) for our Chinese community.  The library staff is also going to start keeping track of teacher / parent questions so that we can make sure that all front-desk staff can handle all the questions, and we have material on our Libguide for parents who can’t come to the session.
  • Setting aside time for librarian meetings – both within our library and also between the librarians of our two campuses.  We have a new TL on board in our other primary section and I can learn a lot from her – but we need to make space for that learning.

Now, hold thumbs that we don’t have too many new classes added (as soon as we have enough students they open a new class at my school) or that there’s a major shift in the timetable!

How do other schools do the timetabling? Does it work for you?  For your teachers?  Are people unhappy with aspects of it? What compromises do you have to make?

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