As school librarians, we often look for opportunities to stand in front of the teachers in our buildings and share our resources. We offer to provide professional development during teacher learning days. School librarians ask to have time at faculty meetings to share a tech tool or new idea. As sometimes happens, librarians are bumped from the faculty meeting agenda when other discussions run long or we can’t see every teacher during the professional learning day.
So, What’s a School Librarian to Do? Try Something New.
This year, I tried the lunch-and-learn. The high schools in my district have one-hour lunches, as do some of the middle schools. Because I am the district specialist for libraries, I have access to multiple schools and chose a middle school to implement this idea. During one segment of the hour, teachers provide clubs, programming, and extra assistance to students in need. In the other half hour, teachers have their own lunch time. I decided to use this 30-minute chunk of time to invite teachers to lunch and learn with me one time per quarter, or every 9 weeks.
No one wants to give up their lunch voluntarily very often. Lunch is one of the few times in the day when teachers have a moment to breathe, and every second is precious. Because of this, I knew I needed to make my lunch-time professional learning opportunity relevant to everyone, easy to implement, and quick! I created my lunch-and-learn topics to go from start to finish in 20 minutes with a physical takeaway to send with the teachers at the end. I also provided dessert.
These are the steps that I took to get started with my lunch-time professional development:
- Talk to the principal and the administration team. Get buy-in from them first by bringing an outline of the topics and your ideas for your lunch-time sessions.
- Find a central location that you can use–it can be a conference room, the library, or an empty classroom.
- Advertise. Put flyers in the bathrooms, teachers’ mailboxes, and by the copy machines. Be sure you list your topics and the specific times and dates.
- Have some sort of a sign-up form. We have an electronic sign-up system for teachers to register for professional development, but you could use something as simple as Sign Up Genius. This allows you to do two things: know who your audience is and how many to expect (important for having enough dessert!).
- Create your mini session and a handout to give to teachers with all of the steps and a summary of what they learned.
- Time your sessions right! By this, I mean two things. Don’t offer your sessions at critical times for teachers such as the end of the quarter when grades are due. They are already overwhelmed. Look for times in the schedule when there’s a slight lull (we know it is busy all the time, but those times are there if you hunt for them). Secondly, you only have 20 minutes. Get to the good stuff in your session right away. You don’t want to spend too much time introducing a topic only to run out of time at the end of your 20 or so minutes!
My first lunch-and-learn, I had one participant. Yes, you read that correctly: one. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with the turnout. Reflecting, I had chosen a topic that probably was not relevant to most of the staff and perhaps didn’t give enough lead time or reminders before launching my lunch-and-learns. If nothing else, I learn from my mistakes. The second attempt in December, I advertised heavily, talked about the topic ahead of time by sending out some enticing e-mails, and mentioned the cookies and brownies that would be available to all who joined me. I had 12 faculty members at my second lunch-and-learn.
What Makes a Good Lunch-and-Learn Topic?
Topics that are great for a lunch and learn include:
- Small, easily digestible topics such as a website or web tool
- Introducing a database your school subscribes to
- Showing how to clean up e-mail by creating folders and archiving
- Showing how to share documents in Google or Office 365 (depending on what your district uses)
- Inserting Creative Commons licensed pictures into a file
- Finding Creative Commons licensed materials for use in the classroom
- Using a tool such as Flipgrid or Voicethread
- Introducing Wakelet
This spring, I plan to renew my lunch-and-learn efforts and offer these bite-sized professional development opportunities once a month in order to grow our capacity in technology and school library resources. Teachers are amazing people. They love learning and growing alongside each other and continually amaze me with how they grow and learn–even during their lunch break!
Author: Jennifer Sturge
Jennifer Sturge is a Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning for Calvert County Public Schools. She has been an educator and librarian for 25 years and is always looking forward. She is a member of ALA and AASL and is President Elect for the Maryland Association of School Librarians for 2019-2020. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow.