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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small Changes have a Big Impact at Kilgore High School

By Stacey Cole, District Instructional Media Specialist Kilgore ISD (scole@kisd.org)


Last year our school district screened the movie Most Likely to Succeed .  Not only were our students, parents, and faculty invited to attend but our community was also notified and encouraged to come.   Most Likely to Succeed  is a documentary about education that showcases San Diego’s High Tech High (a local charter system). High Tech High offers a revolutionary approach to education that differs greatly from traditional high schools.  At High Tech High, student centered learning is key and the soft skills needed to work as part of a team are greatly emphasized.


This documentary lit a fire in the hearts of all who saw it. As a result our community, students, and faculty began to have town hall meetings to make a plan for our district. As soon as possible, we combined English and Social Studies classes for our freshmen students that opted to be a part of this program.  Now they are sophomores and the program continues and our newest freshmen had the choice to be a part of the program as well.  The curriculum for these students focuses on project based learning and the students have a lot of input and choice into which topics they want to explore and how they present what they have learned.  There has never been a more exciting time at our campus and our teachers are re-invigorated and excited to teach in ways that they have never experienced before. I am happy to say that these changes have inspired our students to look outside of Kilgore and develop more cultural and social awareness.  With such stimulating changes taking place, the library is changing as well.  


When I started my job as the librarian at Kilgore ISD four plus years ago, the library had been without a certified librarian for a couple of years and had become somewhat stagnant.  I was eager to breathe new life into the library and implementing various programs and activities including trivia nights, book clubs, reading incentives and more but I was somewhat disappointed when attendance and participation in these activities was very low.  


Kilgore is a small town but we have over 1,000 students in our high school.  For 3 years I tried to change things up with little success.  After viewing Most Likely to Succeed, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had been trying things that I THOUGHT my students would like without ever really asking them what they actually wanted to see in our library.  I conducted a survey with freshmen Humanities (World Geography & ELA combo) students and got great feedback.  I found that a lot of students made assumptions about programs/policies/books in our library that were not necessarily true.  In honor of the survey results, I made the time to go in and talk to the kids about their feedback and clear up any misunderstandings.   I was also able to clarify some things with them about what they wanted to see in the library.  


They expressed interest in coding, robotics, 3D printing and they voted overwhelmingly to reopen the cafe in the library.  Having our cafe in the library gives students a chance to buy coffee at school and the library a chance to raise funds.  Proceeds from the cafe are used to create the type of library our students want.  After hearing what the students wanted to see in our library, we have made several changes. We updated our decor, putting the students in charge of the decisions and the actual painting! We also made our Wii & PS3 easier to access, and we have plans in the works to buy a write-able flip table and to finally integrate the MakerSpace that we have been dreaming of. Most importantly, getting feedback from the students has helped to get administrators to take notice of the important role the school library can and should play.  The input your students can give you is invaluable and I urge you to seek it.  To see condensed survey results, click here.
Geography homework goes better with coffee.

Homework is done - time to play!
It was only a movie, but it changed this library. By taking to heart ideas in the movie about student centered learning, we were able to put the library back in the center of what they need and want as they grow more successful in their classes and beyond. Go ahead. Ask YOUR students what would make the library more useful to them - and give them what you can. A sense of ownership is powerful, and supports student involvement in other areas of school and community life.

3 comments:

  1. Bravo!! Thank you for taking the time to find out what the students want and need. Small changes, but BIG impact!

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  2. Great article. Thank you for working with the students and making a difference by your willingness to adapt to their ever-changing needs and expectations. Too many folks have been unwilling to ask what can be done better and opt to forge ahead unchanged in spite of the dismal results. Big THUMBS UP!

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  3. Love the way students were involved and took ownership of the library. Great article.

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