[This is a three-part series. Read part 1 here.]
Sunday March 15
When I left our MASL virtual meet-up, I felt inspired and energized by my professional community. I was still processing the message from our central office that I’d received the previous evening: our students would have Monday “off” and remote, synchronous learning would commence on Tuesday, using a modified schedule. [Insert shocked, wide-eyed emoji face.] Teachers in our district would be expected to work from school (if they were able to and were not self-quarantining), being mindful of social/physical distancing. Monday would be a “prep” day for teachers.
Earlier that same day, from the packed parking lot at the grocery store, I signed up for the free Zoom upgrade offered to K-12 schools (school verification form here). My name, district e-mail address, and school website were all I needed to initiate the verification process — but I was warned that it could take up to 24 hours to verify. Zoom had already relaxed its 40-minute limit on basic accounts, as well as the number of participants. The upgrade would allow us to access the breakout room feature, which I knew would be valuable for teachers down the road.
Some of my school library colleagues were already putting together resource and support documents for their staff (linked below and here). By Sunday night my mind was racing as I began to brainstorm some things I imagined my staff might need in the coming days adjusting to synchronous teaching.
Monday March 16 – Teacher Prep Day
And so began the longest week ever, in my formal roles as librarian and technology integrator, and my informal roles as critical-thinking and creative, problem-solving collaborator with my colleagues. We’d start with a staff meeting in our auditorium; distant-seating encouraged. However, just after I arrived at school — and fifteen minutes before the meeting — I was asked by my principal to set up a Zoom meeting and record it for our colleagues who could not be in attendance. I’d never hosted and/or recorded a Zoom meeting before, but I’m always willing to model being a risk-taker and learner with and for my colleagues. This request was a harbinger of how the rest of my week would go: immediate needs and requests for support, pretty much all day long. By the end of the day, I shared a nascent version of the resource document with my staff.
Tuesday March 17 – Friday March 20:
First Week of Remote, Synchronous Instruction
The message for our staff was that our number one priority was to connect with our students via our virtual platforms. The learning and expectations would need to be modified, our plans and curriculum and methods would all need to be adjusted. We were asked to go slow and let go of some content, for our own sakes and for our students. For now, did our students have what they need to learn at home?
During this week, students and families were permitted to come into the building to pick up any necessary materials — including instruments, art supplies, workbooks or textbooks, class texts, and library books. A table was set up in the front hallway for some of these materials. Our administrators, transportation director, and food service director were already working on how to provide meals to our students via the school buses. These meals are free for all students, even children in the home who are not yet of school age, regardless of free/reduced lunch designation.
In the ESVM Library:
- Sanitizing Protocol: Following the information available on best practices regarding books and the Coronavirus, we developed a protocol for checking books out. We created a “clean station” on two tables, cleaned with alcohol-based wipes. We check books out to the patron, then use sanitizer on our hands and wipe each book with the alcohol wipes. The book covers are damp, so we carefully move them to the “clean station” where we stand them on edge to air dry. Once dry, we use hand-sanitizer as we place books in plastic bags and label each stack for the reader. The books remain on the “clean station” until pick up.
- Mrs. E’s and Mrs. C’s Quick Picks: The library assistant, Beth Chamberlin, and I both pulled some of our personal favorites and placed them just inside the front entrance of the library. We knew we’d have teachers and students stopping by to grab book stacks. On our social media platforms, we encouraged “book hoarding” and to “keep calm and read on.”
- Cookbooks: Mrs. Chamberlin displayed some of our newer cookbooks, hoping to inspire at-home chefs.
- Book Requests: We had several student readers reach out to us by e-mail to ask us to curate some book stacks for them. They would give us a title or a genre and we would curate a stack of a half dozen titles for them to pick up. Teachers would stop by for their own stacks. For the most part we were able to limit browsing of the stacks with staff and students. By the end of the week, we shipped some books via the school buses that were delivering lunch!
- Reaching Out to Students: We have our ESVM Library “regulars,” those familiar faces for whom the library and librarians are touchstones. We began to reach out by e-mail to some of those students — letting them know we missed them in the library, asking if they needed anything, and asking them to let us know how they were doing. We kept a steady social media presence and invited students to a newly formed Schoology Group for the ESVM Library.
- Hub for Tech Help: Much of the above was handled by Mrs. Chamberlin because I was in full tech-support mode. From practicing hosting a Zoom meeting with individual teachers, to trying out the Zoom break-out room feature, to helping teachers figure out EdPuzzle, or brainstorming an existing project or assignment and how it might “translate” into a virtual learning experience, I was flat-out.
In the in-between moments, as well as in-the-moment, I was learning about new resources, new procedures, and new features of tech tools I thought I already knew. As I learned, I added these items to the resource document for our staff (link to a copy of the original document here). What started as a few screen recordings and screenshots, began to include some of the many resources that were flooding my way from fellow school librarians and others. It became a landing place and reference that staff were consulting daily to view new changes.
On Friday March 20, we were told that on Monday our building would close to the public, and staff were strongly encouraged to gather what we would need to begin working from home. What would this mean for the library? And getting books to students? We went into the weekend unsure if we were locking the doors for the last time. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series!
Author: Iris Eichenlaub
Iris Eichenlaub is the Librarian/Technology Integrator at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, Maine. She is the 2017 Knox County Teacher of the Year, and was named an Inspiring Educator in 2017 by the Maine Education Association. Iris serves on the board of the Maine Association of School Libraries as the chair of professional development. Follow the story of the Edna St. Vincent Millay Library via Facebook (@ESVMLibrary or https://www.facebook.com/ESVMLibrary) or Instagram (@ESVM_Library or https://www.instagram.com/esvm_library).