Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Post 2: Creating a Positive Learning Environment

When we described our ideal classroom environment, I listed these characteristics: comfortable, vibrant, interesting, and organized. A school media center, or library, doesn't have to be a dry and boring place where a student comes only when forced to do research on a paper he or she doesn't want to do. No! The media center should be a vibrant and thriving environment where, yes, we do research sometimes, but where you can follow your own curiosity and interests...leading to the path of greater learning.

Few librarians get to construct a library from the ground up, designing spaces, plotting shelves, and shaping the physical environment. When we get a new position (whether in a school library or public or special collection), the great majority of space is often set for us and cannot be changed without a major overhaul of the entire facility. And we all know that's probably not going to happen.

However, what we can change in the physical environment --the placement of tables, reading areas, technology, social spaces, and the like -- can influence the learning environment a great deal. I would want to arrange the room to promote student interaction and collaboration with plenty of tables or groupings of chairs. In the elementary grades, I would also want to provide floor seating, a rug or teaching space, as well kid-friendly chairs or beanbags for quiet reading.  A high school media center may call for individual study corrals to minimize distractions, depending on how the library is utilized by faculty and students.

No matter how the space is arranged, the librarian should be able to easily monitor student activities and behavior. As many media centers allow open access to any student during the school day, the librarian must monitor and respond to many students do many different tasks at any given time. Librarians must show a high degree of withitness.

My library will have a clear set of expectations for student behavior, conforming to the school's overall policy. In addition, libraries must add a component to address how materials are treated (books, technology, magazines, etc.).

Most importantly, I hope to establish good relationships with the students who come into the library. Maintaining positive relationships with students can go a long way in dealing with behavior issues, particularly in special areas that might not be visited as often. Students will be treated with respect, and I except that they will treat me, my staff, and other students with that same respect.

CSEL Case Study: Elementary Education -- When Lisa comes to the library with her class, I often put the students in groups to work together on that week's topic. She gets angry with others if she doesn't get the job she wants or if she feels like her ideas for the assignment are not being followed. She refuses to contribute to the group's learning, constantly interrupting the other members and not paying attention to what others are saying.

In order to address Lisa's behaviors, I first would respond with a cue to the class to stay on task, followed by reminders to be respectful of others. Then I would place myself in proximity to Lisa's group in hopes that my presence and attention would encourage her to get with the program. She may also require a more understated individual cue (a look, a shake of the head, those raised eyebrows) that would indicate to her that she needs to cease certain behaviors and focus on her work.

Next, I would ask to speak with her privately, perhaps in a quiet corner or in my office. We would address her anger and unwillingness to work together as a group. Pointing out her negative behaviors can promote self-regulation in making her initially aware of the problem. As Lisa is in third grade, she may not be aware that her actions are inappropriate or how they affect her group's work.

Finally, if she continues with her inattention and disruptions over a period of time (a couple of visits to the library), I would certainly discuss the issue to her classroom teacher. Perhaps the teacher can shed some light on what is causing Lisa's behavior and what works well in the classroom to address similar problems. If Lisa, the teacher, and I cannot work out her problems to our satisfaction and in accordance with the school's policies for student behavior, then I would call Lisa's parents and see what solutions we might work out. In an extreme case, Lisa may have to sit out of library visits for a week or two until she can get her behavior and attitudes under control.


  1. Amy,

    Your evaluation of the case study is very good! I like how you used proximity, and how you also suggested working with the classroom teacher. At every school I've worked at, the librarians always knew the students well and were more than willing to work with teachers in regards to those students. Your consequences for Lisa - losing library time - is perfectly adequate for the situation.

  2. I totally agree- As soon as I read your step-by-step procedure for handling the situation, I was thinking you maybe have had experience with misbehaved students! It's very professional for that age group.

    I love your 'kid friendly' library setting. I would love coming into an environment like that as a child-even now! :) I think bean bags and floor seating also gives them a sense of a bit of freedom.

  3. Amy, I too was very enlightened to read your thoughts on how you would react to Lisa. I think that it is also very important to take Lisa aside to a quiet place or in the office and talk with her first. So many times I can remember getting "in trouble" for a behavior and just given a punishment without even being told what I did or asked my viewpoint of it. As a student, I think I would have really appreciated that, and respected you for that! Great ideas and I love your thinking on your library's environment.