School libraries, like public libraries, provide a collection of up-to-date resources that inform and entertain. Many school libraries are benefitting from renewed spaces that welcome students by providing seating that is relaxing and grouped for conversing, while offering individual spaces for pondering and completing homework.
The American Library Association (2022) defines libraries as a “venue for exploring questions that arise out of individual curiosity and personal interest”. Ask any reader why books are engaging and the answer will be related to that individual’s ability to find a connection with the characters or content (Allyn, 2015). I remember when a 10th grader, who didn’t read much, came to the library just to get out of study-hall. After talking about his interests, of which one was fishing, he happily left with a non-fiction book on trout fishing with high-quality photographs of tips and tricks. The library and its collection should be a place where all students, faculty and staff are welcomed and affirmed, thus supporting mental and emotional health.
In studying college students’ psychological distress, Levine et al. (2022) found that “recreational reading was associated with reduced psychological distress” and “seemed to buffer against the frustration of one’s basic psychological needs which led to improved mental health”. Another study found that recreational reading can “support readers to deal with the daily emotional challenges they experience affecting their psychological well-being” (Yulia et al., 2021). And it doesn’t take much time! Taking just 6 minutes a day to read can “reduce stress levels by up to 60% by reducing your heartbeat and muscle tension and changing your state of mind” and can be more effective than listening to music (“Making Reading”, 2022).
School recognizing the relationship between stress and mental health are making efforts to create stress-free and welcoming environments via the school library (“Relationship Between”, 2022). Below are some pictures of several districts who have changed up their libraries with color, comfortable seating, new flooring, and new shelving.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Allyn, P. (2015, March-April). For the love of reading: five methods to instill a lifetime of good habits. Reading Today, 32(5), 26+
American Library Association. (2022, June 27). Definition of a library. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://libguides.ala.org/library-definition.
Make reading a habit for better mental & emotional health. (2022, October 6). Business World, NA
Relationship between stress and emotional self-efficacy. (2022, August 10). Business World, NA.
S. L. Levine, S. Cherrier, A. C. Holding & R. Koestner. (2022). For the love of reading: Recreational reading reduces psychological distress in college students and autonomous motivation is the key, Journal of American College Health, 70:1, 158-164.
Yulia, A., Joshi, R. M., & Husin, N. A. (2021). Assessing the effects of books on psychological wellbeing in Malaysia. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 19(1), 87+.
Today’s changing society has promoted classrooms that have become faced with questions about COVID 19, current events, political viewpoints, and students wondering where they fit in within the new norms of society. As educators, we have a large responsibility to respond to the changes in society, along with differences in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and teach students not only to become college and career ready, but also civic ready.
You may be wondering, “what is civic ready?” Civic ready students are those who are alert, thoughtful, engaged, and inquisitive members of society. Developing classrooms that invite opportunities for change, and ways to create civic ready students, will assist in an overall investment to help better our society. As educators, we can assist in developing all students to learn how to become civic-minded students by teaching them to seek knowledge from multiple sources, reminding them to be alert to self-identity and bias, and teach them to be critical and engaged consumers and producers of media.
The Civically Engaged Classroom by Mary Ehrenworth, Pablo Wolfe, and Marc Todd, recently published in 2021, proposes vast, meaningful strategies for reading, writing, and speaking for change. This text will be of assistance in creating classrooms designed as spaces where truth is practiced, exposed, accepted, challenged, embraced, or even resisted.
Students already have a voice, and the work of The Civically Engaged Classroom, is to provide educators with new ways to work with teaching students to use their voices with confidence and power. The classroom can be a place for all students to experience what it means to live in community with others, while also challenging them to overcome differences.
At Pioneer Middle School, Art Teachers, Mr. Daggett and Mr. Necci are allowing students to use their voice in their Social Issue Poster Project. Displayed around the school are posters that encapsulate student emotion, passion, and engagement around a social issue. Students are encouraged to think about a social issue that is passionate to them, and the examples that are displayed around the school are powerful.
Think about the goal of creating civic ready students...
to create alert, thoughtful, engaged, inquisitive, and active citizens of society
Educators, this can be challenging. This is going to be an ongoing process for ourselves and for our students, however, this will allow for student awareness. Change will come if critical conversations are occurring in classrooms, and if we as educators are equipped to use critical lenses to sift through the abundant information and data that our students consume from their own devices. As we can see from these student posters, students powerfully “voiced” their opinions through these posters when given the opportunity to meaningfully and appropriately do so.
This book provides an ample number of resources for you to use in your classroom, and a vast array of eye-opening ways that we can ensure that all voices in our schools are heard.
Here are some examples of available resources within the text.
Resources to Empower Students Writing and Ensure that All Voices can be Heard:
The New York Times Learning Network: lesson plans, activities, and suggestions for how to
bring current events into the classroom
By: Jenna Fontaine, CA BOCES Professional Development
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is certainly not new, but if it wasn’t already, it is certainly now a top priority since the beginning of the pandemic. Students’ overall well-being has suffered, giving schools an extra challenge to deal with as instruction has returned to five days a week this school year.
One way Pioneer Middle School has addressed this challenge is by incorporating a program called Second Step. Second Step describes itself as “a holistic approach to building supportive communities for every child through social-emotional learning.” Started successfully in the district’s elementary schools during the 2018-19 school year, the middle school has embraced the program by incorporating Second Step Wednesday’s, where homebases are extended twice a month to allow for a particular SEL lesson to take place.
With vertically aligned and scripted lessons for teachers that are research-based and aligned to SEL standards, the program has thus far been a success. In addition, all teachers and students in the school are involved in the program allowing for common themes in each lesson to continually be supported and intertwined into instruction regardless of the class subject area.
But what exactly is Second Step? (https://www.secondstep.org)
Ultimately, the school will measure the success of the program by using the administration of a SEL screener, last given in April 2021, in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. The screener analyzes student responses to a number of questions to determine if the student is at normal, elevated, or extremely elevated risk. By utilizing the screener, those students who are identified as elevated or extremely elevated risk are given a second chance to get the support they need to succeed, support they may have previously not received had it not been for the Second Step program.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
Middle school math teachers at Pioneer Central School recently tried a new problem-solving model with educational consultant, Susan Rothwell. The teachers were looking for additional instructional practices that allowed students to collectively tap their knowledge in order to solve a challenging, multi-step problem in mathematics. Over the past few years, being able to successfully collaborate with others has consistently been identified as one of the most important skills employers are looking for. This model allows students to improve upon these skills as well as develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what they are learning. The problem-solving technique that was introduced to the teachers and students included the following materials and steps.
Problem-Solving Model Steps: (total time is 31-47 minutes)
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
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