January 4, 2012
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
The second year is definitely a slight bit easier than the first year. The scheduling is a bit smoother. I know where more things are. Best of all, I know the students and teachers better.
Challenges have been little things. The first Scholastic Book Fair was a bit confusing. We did it at a different time of the year, had two registers instead of one and that let to some frustrating math problems on my part. And I still haven't figured out if it's better to take cash from them or use their "Scholastic Dollars."
Which vendors to use is always a question. It's a juggle between quality, price and ease. No one has it all. I'm trying out a few different ones, but am still looking for the best choice for us.
But hey, we've got lots of new books! Getting to know the people has allowed me to make better choice of what people actually want to read and use for teaching. I only want to buy books that people want. I'm thinking of changing a few rules of thumb I'd made up last year. One was: don't buy bios of people unless they're dead (or at least basically retired or established like Muhammed Ali or Aretha Franklin). That way I don't have embarrassing bios of 80s celebrities to weed. The bios that go along with the curriculum are easy. More Frederick Douglass? Sure, why not. But currently popular sports, singing and acting stars? Nope. They'll go out of date to soon. But we do have a few of these and they do check out quite a bit. So I may buy more of them. I realized, I don't have to worry about longevity as much as I thought since I've started a big weeding campaign. If I buy a book about Justin Bieber and it checkes out 50 times in the next couple of years, it was worth the money even if he drifts into obscurity and I weed in in 2017. It's what some kids (many, actually) want to read about right now and that's one of the main goals isn't it? To have stuff on the shelves they actually want to read? I'm not going crazy with this, but a few well-chosen very popular bios won't break the budget and I'll keep an eye on how they do.
As for the weeding, it's going well. Slower than I'd like but well. I'm hitting the reference section hard right now. I read something recently that recommended getting rid of anything older than five years. I figured I'll try 10-12 and see how that goes. It's going great! Most of that stuff was too hard for elementary kids anyway and sorely out of date. We have access to many great online resources (Britannica, World Book, etc.) so most of that stuff is just collecting dust. I have a 2011 set of elementary Britannicas and a 2006 set of World Books on the shelves, but I don't know if I'll be replacing them or not. I'm keeping my eye on their usage (other than my reference lessons). I'll always keep buying physical kid almanacs, though. They love them.
And of course I think one of my bigger successes this year was once again talking people out of adopting AR. If it comes up again I may implement my own incentive program (which will be tilted more toward reading and less towards incentives) and see if that keeps it at bay. It wasn't actually too hard to fend it off because of money. It's too expensive and we need more books. My weeding campaign will make that more apparent. The more new interesting books circulating, the more kids are reading, the better they do in school, the less I'll hear about AR.
Here's to a great new year for you all!