By: Deb Logan, OELMA President
Missing school means doing paperwork, putting together sub plans, adjusting instructional times, and losing learning time. Anytime I contemplate missing school, I have to think about the cost versus the return on my investment of time and the use of my precious few professional development days. That means I need professional development opportunities that have a high return for my investment. Did attending the 2017 OELMA conference pay off? Yes, and the payoffs started immediately and they continue to roll in!
The return on my investment started as soon as I returned to school. My students wanted to know where I had been. Their guesses ranged from my being home sick to my going on a beach trip. I told my younger students about my meetings by sharing books by Charles R. Smith, Jr. They were excited to hear about a poet also being a professional photographer and an American Ninja Warrior. My older students were also intrigued and excited to hear about Charles R. Smith, Jr. There were gasps when I told them about meeting Serafina author, Robert Beatty. We talked about his career path and books before watching the video he made for his books. Anecdotes about these authors now join the countless others I have collected over the years and will be shared with students along with their autographed books. I ask authors to sign my books to Mrs. Logan and her library friends.
Within two weeks of attending conference, I was able to use a combination of ideas from conference to do a presentation in front of my new school board. For weeks before attending conference, I was actively searching for an idea to use during the board presentation about our new program. I knew I wanted to have a challenge activity that one of my advisory board students could introduce to groups consisting of other advisory board members (grades 3-5) and school board members. This all had to work in an extremely limited time frame and with the wide range of ages. At conference, I heard several ideas during sessions and from other attendees that I was able to pull together with what I had already planned. The ideas from conference rounded out a plan that worked perfectly for the participants and the school board’s time frame. The presentation was a success.
My takeaways were not limited to ideas and information I used in October. Listening to how others implement challenges and structure maker spaces impacted my thinking in myriad ways. In one session, small groups talked about basic things like how we arrange the maker space areas of our rooms. I also learned about different products and resources to use in my program. These conversations led me to the exhibitors where I could find out more about the resources I had heard about. The After Hours Task Party was fun and as colleagues played with materials and the making process, it made me think more deeply about how to ignite the same kind of excitement and passion in my students. What opportunities can I design? How can they be structured? Conference also helped with ideas for using resources that I already had. In August, I had ordered a breakout kit and began work on a breakout idea. Angela Wojtecki and Trent Robert’s preconference session on breakouts helped me with developing that first original breakout.
Finally, one of the least tangible, but most important things I take away from OELMA’s annual conference is time with “my library peeps.” Even though most of my career has been in a collaborative instructional program, I also typically work as the “only one of my kind” in schools where other teachers are parts of grade level and other teams. It is refreshing and invigorating to spend time with peers who are “kindred spirits” and who have shared mindsets. As a profession, we face similar opportunities and challenges. I thank each of you who planned, presented, shared and attended for the learning, ideas, and inspiration from this year’s conference.
Yes, attending OELMA meant that I had to miss school, do paperwork, justify attending,l and make lesson plans. It was also time away from my students. My students were upset that I was gone, but they are also excited and engaged by the ideas and information that I brought back. I came back to school recharged and with ideas that I immediately began to use and share. Those ideas continue to help me put together the best possible learning experiences I can for my students. OELMA 2017 was an excellent investment and I am looking forward to OELMA 2018!