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Please share your experience and expertise in transitioning an elementary school with a fixed schedule to a flexible schedule.

We’re looking for specific strategies that will excite classroom teacher colleagues about the benefits to students and to themselves.

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Since we are a K-12 school, the library needs to be available for ALL students. The elementary teachers choose a day and time which works the best in their schedule every week, and then I try to keep that block open for them. However, at the request of a middle school or high school teacher who needs to do research for a specified length of time, that elementary class may be rescheduled or canceled to make time available to MS/HS classes. The library can hold one large class or 2 small classes simultaneously.
Kindergarten - 30 minutes
First Grade - 35 minutes
Second Grade - 40 minutes
Third Grade - 45 minutes
Fourth and Fifth Grade - 50 minutes
All other grades have 52 minute class periods.
It sounds like the school where you are currently interning runs a schedule similar to ours, except yours is just elementary.
This is a challenging topic, only because change takes time. I have always been a proponent of flexible programming and have had it in several schools. In my current school, I am in my 7th year, the district implemented a flexible program the year before I started. After going through the staff retreat my first year responding to people asking, can we go back to our regular schedule now??? I started my staff on baby steps to change. The first year the block was called "no library day"; then no special day, until finally this year, year 7, I am ifully ntegrated into the curriculum. I liken my enactment of change to being the "Fuller Brush man" of the building, dropping by grade level meetings uninvited, but with snacks and ideas, willing to try many lesson ideas whether they really met my curricular needs or not, just to show I was a team player, and demonstrated unceasingly that I too was a certified, responsible teacher who could be trusted to cover grade level standards and indicators.
I think the best way to start is to choose oen or two teachers who you really feel you can with with, and create a collaborate lesson that needs a flexible schedule to be successful, once it is successful encourage your collaborative teacher to share with others the benifits to her students, then wait for other teachers in that grade level to want the same treatment for their students!
One other way to pave the way to success is to involve parents. Once they understand how a flexible progam can benefit their child, they can be your staunch supporter. In one school setting, I was in a flexible program, then had the program moved back to a fixed, only to return to a flexible the next year because parents (most fathers who were businessmen) visit with the principal and insist on the flexible program because they could see the most progress in their students under a flexible tutalege.
I believe that a flexible program is best for students, but only if teachers will buy in a use the media center flexibly and work collaboratively with the media specialist.
Hope this gives you ideas to ponder!
I appreciate your ideas, having been in at least ten K-8 schools, all on a fixed library schedule. As a matter of fact, alternatives never came up, and as a teacher, I would sometimes be frustrated when I wanted my class to go to the library at a different time, and had to work around everyone else's scheduled times. These were definitely the days prior to teacher-librarians. One problem I see with beginning gradually with one or two teachers is that the scheduled classes expect the librarian to be there at that time for their class, so this already limits the flexible schedule to falling between these times. To complicate the matter further, many elementary teachers view the library period as their prep time, so immediately there is friction when this concept is challenged. I think my biggest challenge is going to be with educating faculty to a whole new concept of the library and its function with a qualified teacher-librarian. I also think that this could happen faster with a principal who understands the true function of the library and the library program. Do you have this type of support at your current school, and, if so, what are some of the ways your principal supports you and flexible scheduling without fostering discontent among faculty members?
I have found this discussion very interesting. I have taught as a replacement teacher in the Salt Lake Valley so my library time has always been pre-scheduled. While teaching I always stayed with the class when we had library time. The schools in Salt Lake always wanted the teachers to stay with the class whether they it was library time or computer lab time. They have made it very clear that library time is not preparation time. I agree that the principal should be one of the first that we attempt to convince about our increased qualifications. I talked with many of the librarians as my classes visited the libraries and many of them did not have degrees. Those that did expressed frustration because they were not allowed to provide all of the services that they really could provide. One of the librarians that had a degree that I talked to said that she wished that when she had her interview that she would have listed outright all of the services and programs that she could add to the library. She felt that if she had made it clear how she could supplement classroom teachings she would have more room to create. I think it is important to be clear from the very beginning about what one is capable of doing. It is also important to state why what you can provide is valuable. My question is how are people that are currently librarians, working to change the scheduling when teachers and administrators are not aware of all one is capable of?
Bless those schools in Salt Lake for declaring that library time was NOT prep time. Wish I was there. I am too exhausted to work to change the scheduling. Burning out fast...
I have two masters degrees one in elementary education and one in library science from Drexel. Qualifications and ability to provide the real services intended when certified librarians were required by my state is not the problem. The problem is the embedded perceptions of the school library position as where classroom teachers go (by challenging the Praxis) when they want out of the classroom. It's considered the "easy" job! LOL
It does give me lots to ponder. I appreciate that you point out a flexible schedule is best for students if teachers will buy in and work collaboratively. At my previous school I did the baby steps thing, one teacher at a time over an 8 year period to get a mostly flexible schedule, but when the schools in the district were reconfigured, it was back to square one. I now work within a fixed schedule and worry that if the status quo were to change by requiring teachers to stay for library lessons or moving to a flexible schedule by principal decree, I would be dealing with an angry staff who may just decide not to use the library at all. Flex times built into my schedule and with some coaxing, I have been successful in getting classes in for special projects, but now realize that for the most part these are cooperative lessons rather than collaborative. I'm beginning to think that we need to start with some staff training on the concept of collaboration.
You say the district implemented a flexible program the year before you started, do you happen to know how this change came about at the district level?
The first elementary school where I served as the teacher-librarian, I inherited a fixed schedule with 29 back-to-back classes each week. The great thing about the tradition at this school was that the classroom teachers stayed in the library with their classes. (The principal required it.)

These teachers saw what I was able to provide in the library. I invited them to coteach lessons with me. I attended their grade-level meetings at least once a month and was able to coordinate "library lessons" and sometimes work collaboratively with a team.

In the second half of that school year, I talked classroom teachers into having a fixed time every other week. (The principal said I could propose anything I wanted as long as the teachers went along with it.) This opened up 14 or 15 slots a week for collaborative teaching and in-depth projects. Classroom teachers experienced the benefits to students and to themselves.

Unfortunately, the district transferred me at the end of that year. I don't know what would have happened at that school had I had the opportunity to stay. I'd like to think I could have moved the faculty to a completely flexible schedule.

At the next school, my Waterloo, I had a fixed schedule once again - but the classroom teachers were not required to stay with their classes. Most did not. The principal instituted a flexible schedule for the final quarter of the year.

Teachers collaborated and booked the library solid. We did some great projects and the students clearly benefited. At the end of the year, the principal allowed the teachers to vote for "planning time" or a flexible library schedule.

I bet you know which way it went...

I resigned and accepted a position in another district in an elementary library that had a flexible schedule, except for kinders and first grade. (Teachers who had the fixed times were required to be in the library with their classes.)

With the support of the principal and classroom teachers, I transitioned the school to a completely flexible schedule in the second year.
Judi - You said "At the next school, my Waterloo, I had a fixed schedule once again - but the classroom teachers were not required to stay with their classes. Most did not. The principal instituted a flexible schedule for the final quarter of the year."

How did you convince your principal to go to a flexible schedule? I've been at the same school for almost 3 years & our teachers are not required to stay with their classes. Time during 'specials' is considered by the district to be collaboration & planning time, so it's not just a cultural/building issue to confront, but a district-wide policy.

I can provide all the documentation I can find on the benefits of flexible scheduling, but if the Superintendent (and C&I) doesn't support it, it's a battle I can begin to even fight without causing a lot of grief. Any suggestions?
Hi Susan,
When I interviewed for the position at "Waterloo," I told the interview committee of our success moving to a mixed schedule at my previous school. When the principal hired me, she said that is what I want for Waterloo.

When she was not able to convince the classroom teachers, I nearly resigned half way through the school year. As show of integrity, she pushed for the flex schedule in the final quarter.

For those who provide planning time for classroom teachers, the first question to ask is the "specials" time contractual or traditional. If it's in teachers' contracts, then you must work as a cohort of librarians at the district level.

If it's traditional, then you must continue to work on your principal. Find one or two classroom teachers who are willing to give up their planning time to coteach with you. Teach lessons that address the site goals (principal's goals) for your school. Gather some evidence of student achievement in the form of pre- and post-tests. Invite your principal to watch you team teach. Point out to him/her how students have more interaction with adults and that the educators are also learning from working together.

And don't give up - because you know this is what's best for students!
Thanks for your comments, Judi and Susan. As I begin to search for a school Teacher-Librarian position for the 2008-2009 school year, I feel that this blog will be a wonderful support for all of our endeavors. I especially like the way we maintain our positive tone and keep trying different approaches rather than giving up. I find the anticipation of school librarianship to be very life-giving. And thanks to you, Judi, for such a practical course in School Library Administration and Organization at UA this past semester. It provided me with the vision and conviction I need to go forth with confidence. Once I have these as a springboard, there is no stopping me. I truly feel like a bridge between the old and the new as I transition form the classroom to teacher-librarianship.
Hi all...this has been interesting reading as I am currently in the middle of my T-L training and am looking for my first library job as well. In most of the schools in my area, the library time is "planning" time but some teachers stick around just because they know they have a challenging class. These teachers would be my first choice to 'romance' into collaborative teaching. So many of our district's schools have sub standard equipment, one of the first challenges will be to get some fun tech in place!
I will keep reading and look forward to many more blogs.


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