Find Your Why: A Practical Guide

In July, I posted a two-part professional book review for Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Part 1 and Part 2). While traveling in the U.K. earlier this month, I slowly read and worked through Sinek’s follow-up book: Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. He coauthored this book with David Mead and Peter Docker.

I was eager to read Find Your Why because of a nagging question from the previous title. While I truly believe everyone must find her/his own personal “why,” I also believe a “shared why” is an essential component of collaborative culture schools.

In the past, I have served in schools where faculty have a shared sense of purpose. These have been the most productive, effective, and satisfying work experiences in my career. I have also worked (hard) as a member of a faculty with no shared why. Such an environment does not foster trust, collaboration, or innovation and results in a dysfunctional environment for growth and change.

Find Your Why begins with connecting readers with the why/how/what content of the first book. In the introduction, the authors write this: “Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it” (7). These ideas spoke to me, and I kept them in mind throughout my reading. Subsequent chapters include discovering your individual why, two chapters on strategies for “why discovery for groups,” a chapter on “hows,” and the final chapter about taking a stand for your/your tribe’s why.

Discovering Your Individual Why
Sinek, Mead, and Docker offer a compelling strategy for discovering one’s own why. It involves identifying ten impactful stories from your personal and professional life. (I used the two weeks of travel to consider, reconsider, and identify my top ten stories). The authors offer two strategies to help you select your stories: peaks and valleys and memories prompts.

After you are satisfied with ten, you identify a partner to help you explore the themes that inform and connect your stories. Your trusted partner in this process must be able to be objective (not a relative or very close long-time friend).

As you share your stories, your partner will encourage you to focus on how you felt as the events in your story were taking place. Your partner can ask questions such as “What is it about that story that really matters to you?” (51). Together, you and your partner draft your why statement: to ________ (contribution) so that ________ (impact). The authors suggest you validate your draft statement through individual conversations with friends until it feels just right. (Note: The book includes an appendix of partner tips for supporting an individual’s why discovery.)

Next Steps for Me
My ten stories are ready for prime time. Of course, I see themes and think I could compose my draft why statement today. However, I intend to follow the authors’ process. I have a short list of people to ask to serve as my partners to listen, to make notes, and to see the themes from their perspective that connect my stories. I am excited to learn what she/he sees that may be the same or different from my view.

Next week, I will reflect on the “nested WHY” information in the book. “The goal is for each individual to work for a company (with a school faculty) in which they fit the culture, values, believe in the vision and work on a team in which they feel like they are valued and valuable” (85).

Please stay tuned!

Work Cited

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin, 2017.

Leadership Shapes the Shore

My husband and I just returned from a two-week visit to England. During our trip, I took an almost complete technology-free sabbatical, answering only the most pressing email and not engaging with social media at all. My goal was to take a break from thinking about my book revisions (the result of the title change and plans to include the new AASL national standards) and my place in the great scheme of school librarianship. I wanted to know if other thoughts would occupy my mind.

Still, I seemed to find messages in the scenery that spoke to me about our profession. (I guess I have found my true “why”! Okay, so I didn’t give up reading on the trip. Read my take-aways from Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why in next week’s post.)

After we hiked the Jurassic Coast from the Chesil Beach in West Dorset (just one of the four gloriously sunny days we enjoyed during our travels), we drove to the seaside town of Seaton in East Devon.

This photograph shows one of two metal sculptures that demarcate the entrance to the boardwalk.

“The shore shapes the waves.”

A photograph of the other sculpture is below.

At first, these two complementary ideas spoke to me about how school librarians must respond to and interact with “the shore,” the ever-changing environment in which we live and work. Our actions within this environment are “the waves.”

There are positive aspects to being mindful of our school, district, state, and national trends and priorities. When we situate our work within those larger contexts, we align the library program with other people’s goals and may be able to reach our capacity to influence teaching and learning toward a future-ready direction.

This may be especially true for future ready librarians who are serving in school districts that have taken the Future Ready Pledge. A commitment to change, growth, and improvement in instruction presents leadership opportunities for these librarians. The waves they make land on a hospitable shore – an environment and school culture where they have support for enacting future-ready learning.

On the other hand, for far too many of school librarians, “the shore” can act as an impediment to such progress. Understaffing, fixed schedules that prevent school librarians and library resources from meeting the just-in-time learning needs of students and colleagues, the lack of collaborative planning time during contract hours, inconsistent or non-existent leadership at the district level, and more can create an undertow that limits our opportunities to make positive change. Such a shore can undermine our opportunities to change, grow, and lead.

“The waves shape the shore.”

To my mind, for most of us, this idea is a stronger metaphor for future-ready school librarian leadership. Rather than being at the effect of our environment, school librarians must be proactive in building a continuous learning environment and culture in our schools.

Through our work as leaders we must shape the shore. We must design library programs and guide our schools and districts as well as our state and national associations in shaping learning environments that “work for” students and educators.

Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows are engaged in the first of four leadership courses. In the current course, participants “identify an issue in their school or program that is important to their school, district, or state’s priorities, examining and planning practical and tangible ways the school library program can help address the issue. They will identify new ways of thinking about their library programs and how they can lead in change efforts at the building-, district-, and state-levels.”

This requires transformational change—not merely tinkering but targeting our “waves” to shape “the shore.” Our future leans more toward this message. We must use the force of our unique areas of expertise, our waves, to collaboratively create a receptive shore for change. This requires us to build connections between the library and the classroom, between curriculum and resources/tools, between and among educators, between school, home, and community.

School librarians must be proactive in offering ever more relevant, engaging school-based learning opportunities for future-ready students and in supporting the teaching and professional growth of our future-ready colleagues and administrators.

Image Credit:
Photographs from Judi Moreillon’s Personal Collection

International Day of Peace

This week, on September 21st, the United Nations will once again celebrate the International Day of Peace.  On this day, we join together around the globe to advocate for non-violence and strengthening peace among people and nations.

This year’s theme is: “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

As a children’s book author, I am a member of Artists and Illustrators for Children (AIC). The motto of AIC is: “We create children’s books because we care—that’s why we’re dedicated to a free, truthful, and safe America for all children.”

This year, AIC members Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle initiated a Padlet project where AIC members can share writing, art, and classroom activities related to peace.

I contributed a classroom-library-literacy coach-art classroom cotaught inquiry unit under the “Peaceful Activities for the Classroom” category.

During the 2001-2002, I served as a literacy coach at an elementary school in Tucson Unified School District. Along with a third-grade classroom teacher, the school librarian, and the art instructor, I codesigned and cotaught an inquiry unit focused on peace: Peace Poems and Picasso Doves.

We introduced this unit of study by reading Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace, Peace Begins with You written by Shelley Moore Thomas, illustrated with photographs by Eric Futran and selections from The Big Book for Peace edited by Ann Durell and Marilyn Sachs.

We asked students to share their personal responses to readings with partners or with the whole class. These were the questions we used to frame students’ responses:
1. What do individuals do to find peace?
2. What do communities do to create peace?
3. What are some symbols for peace?

The collaborating educators developed a text set of resources, which students explored as they began to develop their own questions, thoughts, and feelings related to peace. The students’ literature circle discussion around the book Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz were particularly powerful. Students studied and wrote poetry and learned about Pablo Picasso’s peace dove artwork. In their final products, the students’ peace poems and Picasso doves captured the personal meaning they ascribed to the word and concept of peace.

There is an undeniable link between peace and social justice. Expanding out from the personal to peaceful communities based in social justice is a logical next step. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child can help young people see the connection. With primary age students, I have used the child-friendly version and the book For Every Child: The Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures offered by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. For older students, in particular, the possibilities for connections to historical and current events is limitless.

If you have not yet read it, please see Loretta Gaffney’s Knowledge Quest blog post “Hate Has No Home Here: The Post Charlottesville School Library” (9/13/17). Loretta provides us with much to think about and excellent resources for educating for social justice.

School librarians who curate resources and codesign and coteach lessons and units of instruction have an essential role to play in making connections for learning between the classroom and library and across disciplines. We also have an obligation to “make important interventions in a political climate of hatred” (Gaffney).

In your daily practice of librarianship and this week, in particular, I hope you will look for ways to increase the peace and inspire conversations about social justice in your learning community. If  you tweet, please use #peaceday to share your work this week.

Work Cited

Gaffney, Loretta. “‘Hate Has No Home Here’: The Post-Charlottesville School Library.” Knowledge Quest, 13 Sept. 2017, knowledgequest.aasl.org/hate-no-home-post-charlottesville-school-library/.

Image Credit:
Peace Dove Artwork by Elise – Used with Permission

The Phoenix and AASL

Perhaps like me, you have imagined, practiced, and reimagined your professional work over a number of years. This past year has been a transition period for me. Actually, I am still in a period of ambiguity and although I have been here before, it’s not the most comfortable place for me to be.

Fortunately, I prepared for my “premature” retirement by beginning to write my forthcoming book before leaving my associate professor position. Once again, writing “saved” me! (And when writing doesn’t reading does!) Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published in early spring 2018.

In the meantime, I am living the myth of the Phoenix and thinking about the connections between my professional life and the upcoming AASL Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Like the mythical Phoenix from Greek mythology, I consider myself a “long-lived” bird – member of the school librarian profession. I have been cyclically born and reborn through my service as a school librarian at all three instructional levels in six school libraries in three different school districts. Each administrator, faculty member, student population, and community presented learning opportunities and challenges. Transitioning between levels and schools always felt like a mini-death and rebirth.

My service to AASL has also be an essential and cyclical aspect of my professional life. From serving on AASL’s @your library® Committee, chairing the School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force, serving on the 2009 Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force, serving on and then chairing the Knowledge Quest Editorial Review Board, to present time serving on the Interdivisional School-Public Library Collaboration Task Force and chairing the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Task Force.

Like the Phoenix, I have always felt stronger in my knowledge and practice and more empowered in each successive position and committee appointment.

The same can be said for my work over a 21-year-period as an adjunct instructor, clinical assistant professor, and most recently a tenure-track faculty member. Each new group of students, each new course, each new semester presented a fresh opportunity to be regenerated.

Like the Phoenix, this blog, too, is experiencing a re-beginning. For four years along with fellow faculty members from across the country and last year as a solo blogger, we/I blogged on the Building a Culture of Collaboration @Edublogs.org site. Now with my own domain, I will continue to share the news, research, and musings that have always been the focus of this Web presence.

And to further the Phoenix connection, AASL will be rolling out the new standards and guidelines—another opportunity to re-energize our profession. The conference will be held in Phoenix from Wednesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 11th.

As I prepare for my rebirth as a full-time consultant, I am excited to have the opportunity to present an AASL conference session “Investing in Social Capital Counts” (Saturday, 11/11 at 3:10 p.m.) and serve on a panel “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians” (Friday, 11/10 at 10:10 a.m.). For me, the fact that “Beyond the Horizon” will be held in Phoenix creates a full-circle synchronicity with my professional life since I began my career as a school librarian and as a school librarian educator in Arizona and now live once again full time in the Sonoran Desert.

I hope you have also registered and are making your travel plans to attend the conference. In addition to this year’s official rollout of the new standards, AASL conferences are always a golden opportunity to learn and network with colleagues from across the country.

Next Monday, September 18th, AASL will hold the first Twitter chat focused on AASL’s “National School Library Standards.” To participate, follow #AASLStandards beginning at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.

Wishing you an exciting professional rebirth this academic year and looking forward to the chat next Monday…

Image Credit:
Leunert, Elisabeth. “Phoenix Bird.” Pixabay, 7 June 2016, pixabay.com/en/phoenix-bird-fire-bright-red-swing-1440452/.

Influence and Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

While authoring my forthcoming book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the eleventh and twelfth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Thanks to John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org, I learned at the Lilead Project Summer Institute about the idea of expressing one’s “cause” in 27 words with 3 messages deliverable in 9 seconds. I have since been writing and revising the encapsulation of my forthcoming book in terms of 27-3-9. This is my latest version (minus the words in parentheses):

School librarians who build connections transform schools. Instructional partners (school librarians and classroom teachers) practice reciprocal mentorship when they connect inquiry and reading-writing across the disciplines with deeper and digital future-ready learning.

Many (if not most) school librarians and their advocates will need to influence the behaviors of others in order to enact these three messages (transforming through connecting, practicing reciprocal mentorship, and coteaching future-ready learning). Those “others” could be administrators, other educators, school board members and other educational decision-makers, families, and more. For this reason, Robert Cialdini’s books are invaluable to effective future-ready school librarians.

I first learned about Cialdini’s work in 2015 when I participated in the Canadian Library Association and the University of Toronto iSchool’s MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) entitled “Library Advocacy Unshushed: Values, Evidence, Action.” Throughout the six-week course, the presenters and guest speakers made multiple references to Cialdini’s book Influence: Science and Practice. While writing my forthcoming book, I reread it.

Cialdini, a social psychologist, suggests six “universal principles of influence.” Schools librarians can use these principles to achieve their goals.
1. Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor.
2. Consistency – If people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to follow through.
3. Consensus – People will do what other people are doing.
4. Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people whom they like.
5. Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures and experts.
6. Scarcity – Perceived scarcity fuels demand (2009).

School librarian leaders can apply these principles to enlist advocates within and beyond the school or library. Advocates can apply these principles as they speak up and out for future-ready school or library program initiatives.

Cialdini’s most recent book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (2016) focuses on what to do BEFORE you pitch your project plan or change initiative. I found the research and examples in this book fascinating.

Readers could think of Cialdini’s overarching concept as “foaming the runway.” He writes, “What we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next” (2016, 4).

Before pitching a new idea, plan, or program, do your homework. Carefully select your “openers.” Be sure you know what is important to your audience. Build on connections and personalize your appeal. Tell a story, preferably a mystery that will keep them on the edge of their seats. Use metaphors. Make your appeal easily understood.

The “privileged moment” was my big take-away from this book. It is the time when the presenter has prepared the listener to receive a new idea. This snippet of an example, which I have adapted for a school environment, is one that is easy to remembered.

If you are asking for funds for a technology initiative, begin by saying, “I know we don’t have a million dollars for this project. I would be crazy to ask for that much but this is what we can do with just a fraction of that amount.” Proceed with the benefits to students, educators, families, and community of this new initiative. Tell a story; provide some data. Then close the presentation with: “Together, we can achieve all of these benefits and we’ll need only $75,000 to do it well.”

Cialdini’s ideas help readers make the most of the “privileged moment.” That moment is when the influencer creates a context in which the listener is receptive to hearing the message and acting upon it.

I recommend both of these books for those who are preparing to launch advocacy campaigns and are leading change in their schools, districts, states, or nation.

Works Cited

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2009.

Cialdini, Robert. Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read (and re-read!) many professional books. This is the tenth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

I read Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari’s book Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School when it was first published in 2012. In 2012-2013, I was part of the Denton Inquiry for Lifelong Learning Project. We conducted a year-long study centered on this book. Our goal for the study was to increase the understanding and practice of inquiry learning among the various stakeholders in the Denton literacy community. Our collaborators included school librarians from Denton Independent School District, the Denton Public Library, the university libraries and graduate library schools of Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas.

There are eight phases in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Process: open, immerse, explore, identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate (2). Reflection and assessment are embedded throughout the process as a way for students and educators to monitor learning and ensure success.

The GID is intended to be co-facilitated by an inquiry team that includes two or more educators, including a classroom teacher or specialist and the school librarian. Throughout the phases, educators have shared responsibilities for designing learning experiences and collaborating with students to make school-based learning authentic, personally meaningful, and relevant to students’ lives. Educators also share responsibility for monitoring student progress and assessing student learning outcomes.

In co-facilitating inquiry learning, educators can practice and students can experience the creativity that comes from “two (or more) heads are better than one.” In addition to integrating the rich resources of the school library into inquiry learning, educators have expanded opportunities to launch the open phase creatively. With two or more educators facilitating student engagement with resources and identifying questions, students and inquiry groups will receive more personalized feedback throughout the process. With two or more educators monitoring student learning and providing interventions as needed, student success will be more assured.

Educators will also benefit personally by lowering the stress of guiding “messy” inquiry learning. They will practice reciprocal mentorship throughout the process and have the opportunity to improve their own teaching practices. They will have someone to share the joys and challenges and celebrate students’ success.

The GID clearly aligns with privileging the instructional partner role of the school librarian, my raison d’être!

How does inquiry learning align with your state standards? Although the term “research” rather than “inquiry” is used, one benefit Texas educators have is that the English Language Arts and Reading standards specifically include learning standards that align well with the phases of the GID. These include students developing open-ended questions, a “research plan,” revising research questions, applying information literacy skills (authority, reliability, validity, bias), resolving discrepancies in information, presenting their learning, and more.

When classroom teachers and school librarians coplan and coteach inquiry learning, educators can seamlessly and authentically integrate content-area, digital, and information literacies, competencies such as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), and dispositions, such as persistence and flexibility, into students’ learning experiences.

If you do not yet guide inquiry learning in your school, please read this book. Check out the model lesson plans offered at the end of each chapter focused on each phase of the GID.

If you have been teaching another inquiry or research process, compare it to the GID. I believe you will find that the GID offers you, your colleagues, and your students with a framework for guiding future-ready learning in your school.

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. (Or the 2nd edition published in 2015)

For Further Reading

Guided Inquiry Design. http://guidedinquirydesign.com

Guided Inquiry Design Blog. http://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2015.

Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the ninth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

As an advocate for inquiry learning, I am in total agreement with Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana: student-led questioning is an effective way to guide students into deeper learning. When students (or adult learners, for that matter) are invested in finding out why, they are more motivated to pursue answers to their questions and solutions to the world’s pressing problems—especially when the answers are illusive, the process is difficult, and the outcome is uncertain.

In their book Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, authors Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana note that student-led questioning helps ensure that students are learning and practicing thinking skills. Rothstein and Santana are the directors of the Right Question Institute (RQI), a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization.

They developed the Question Formulation Technique™ (QFT), which involves students in brainstorming questions as a way to launch an investigation. All students’ contributions are accepted and weighted equally. The question recorder documents all questions verbatim as asked without comment, response, or discussion. Statements are turned into questions as well. Students then prioritize questions to determine which are most compelling; their priorities set the learning agenda for the next class period (or subsequent lessons).

Educators can guide students in other types of questioning processes such as Question the Author (Beck, McKeown, Sandora, Kucan, and Worthy) during which students discover various aspects of the writer’s and illustrator’s craft as well as persuasive techniques and bias. When readers question the texts they encounter, they are engaged in an active learning process that has the potential to increase their content knowledge as well as improve their overall reading proficiency.

Questions are a way for students to uncover the gaps in their understanding. Questioning can also help them identify misconceptions. The ability to question, whether applied to reading and responding to literature, identifying bias in a political cartoon, or analyzing data in a scientific journal article, is an essential, lifelong-learning skill.

Santana and Rothstein call student-led questioning a “shortcut” to deeper learning. I agree. If you have not used the QFT™ in your teaching, I hope you will check out the RQI Web site and read their book. (Side note: One area RQI is exploring is “microdemocracy.” Their idea is that “ordinary encounters with public agencies are opportunities for individual citizens to ‘act democratically’ and participate effectively in decisions that affect them.” Brilliant work, if you ask me.)

That said, my experience tells me that educators who are teaching future-ready students need to do more than just this one thing to help prepare students for today and tomorrow. Honoring students’ agency and helping them explore their interests through student-led questioning is an essential and critical place to begin. Inquiry learning can be an essential part of the next steps, the “more” that future-ready students need.

Works Consulted

Beck, Isabel L., Margaret G. McKeown, Cheryl Sandora, Linda Kucan, and Jo Worthy. “Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text.” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 96, no. 4, 1996, pp. 385-414.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2015.

Start with Why, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is part two of the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Before participating in the Lilead Project Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, I had no intention of extending my review of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. (See Part 1 published on 7/17/17.)

But last week, twenty Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows, four Cohort 1 speakers and other supporters, the Lilead Project Team, and five mentors  (of which I am one) spent four days thinking and talking about, writing and revising our “whys” in terms of the Fellows’ Lilead projects.

Throughout this process of connecting the purpose and value of school librarianship to goals for their projects, Fellows had support for pushing their thinking and connecting their “whys” to their personal and professional values and to their school districts’ priorities.

During the week, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary shared information and strategies related to the importance of political literacy, particularly in terms of the Fellows achieving their project goals. (EveryLibrary is registered as 501(c)4 social welfare organization and supports library organizations around the country in achieving their goals.) John said this, “Our concern is on the basics: fix the disconnect in districts that say they want successful schools and fully prepared students but don’t fund their libraries or hire qualified librarians.”

John noted that for many library supporters a librarian “who cares (about other people’s literacy needs and welfare) is a proxy” for supporters’ own desire/need to care. These people comprise the “library party” and believe that the library is a transformational force in their communities. Everyone in the room agreed that passionate librarians are “true advocates for lifelong learning.” These connections apply directly to the “whys” Lilead fellows are addressing with their projects.

The Fellows were asked to write about their values related to education and librarianship, their vision for their school/district, why they do this work, and what happens if they don’t do it. All of these thinking activities connected and reconnected to their “whys.”

When the Fellows were asked to share the key ideas that frame their projects, the similarities in their “whys” were very exciting. This is what I heard in terms of key concepts: issues (access/budget/resources/staffing) related to equity (7), cultural responsiveness (2) a subset of equity, librarians as instructional/digital leaders/building capacity (5), advocacy/changing perceptions/increasing visibility (3), K-12 curriculum (2), and increasing future-ready learning spaces (1).

To “see” the Fellows’ “whys” expressed in these ways leads me to believe that the school library profession can coalesce around a shared overarching “why.” With a collective “why,” the “what” we do and “how” we do it may look different in different schools and districts but the benefit of an overarching “values-based approach” (John Chrastka) can help school librarians work within a shared values framework. It can help us identify and build coalitions. It can help the Fellows elevate their projects because they are based on authentic truths—on the school library profession’s shared values.

Thank you to Simon Sinek for giving us the “why” prompt as a stimulus to our thoughts, discussions, and the feedback we shared with and received from one another.

Thank you to John Chrastka for teaching us about political literacy and helping us apply these principles to help us achieve our goals for and with our library stakeholders. We look forward to learning more with you.

Thank you to Roger Rosen, president of Rosen Publishing, for joining us in Norfolk and for sponsoring our learning with John. We are grateful.

Resources
EveryLibrary.org. Newsletter Subscription.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Sweeney, Patrick PC, and John Chrastka. Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Although I had previously listened to his TEDTalks, I did not read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action until it was assigned to the Lilead Project fellows. As a Lilead mentor, I am reading and learning along with the fellows.

Beginning with the dedication, I have a deep appreciation for the message Simon Sinek communicates in this book (bold added).

“There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire us.

Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those
Who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.

This is a book for those who want to inspire others and
for those who want to find someone to inspire them” (np).

There are many in education, yours truly included, who hope to inspire others, and I, too, am always on the lookout for others who inspire me. Simon Sinek is someone who inspires me. One reason he inspires me is that I often agree with him about the critical importance of “whys,” “whats,” and “hows.”

As a former school librarian, librarian and classroom teacher educator, and now as a consultant, I truly believe that each individual must start with her or his own “why.” That said, my experience tells me that arriving at a “shared” why is a challenging proposition in many (professional) organizations and for preK-12 school faculty cultures, in particular. After reading Sinek’s book, I believe more fervently than ever that school librarians must arrive at a shared “why” in their learning communities at the site-, district- and national levels as well. I believe our profession must come to consensus on a shared “why.”

Since the school library profession does not have one single charismatic leader with an immutable sense of “why” (backed up by a flexible menu of “whats” and “hows”), arriving at a single “why” is more challenging in our organization(s).  I would like to believe our profession could come to a shared understanding – a shared “why” – a shared value that aligns with the values of other educators, administrators, and educational decision-makers and stakeholders. That “why” could speak to potential advocates and would encourage them to act on our behalf.

One of the tensions I feel is that the “what” (description of what we do) and “how” we do it different (or as Sinek says “better”) from classroom teachers is not shared by all members of our profession. There are those who are still printed books and reading promotion only school librarians. There are those who are technology above all else school librarians. The “hybrids” are growing in number but expectations in various schools and districts may contribute to this polarization that muddies our identity and the perception of others regarding our “whats” and “hows.” From my perspective, our “why” has to be larger than the resources and tools we use.

My “why” for school librarianship was born during my M.L.S. program and was crystallized during the heady days of the National Library Power Project in Tucson Unified School District (1993-97). For me, school librarians’ purpose is to colead with principals to ensure that their school communities are dynamic environments for nurturing continuous development and growth in order to improve teaching and learning.

For me, school librarians’ instructional partnership role is the most direct, assured, and documentable path to leadership. It is “how” we achieve our “why.” School librarians lead when our commitment to improving our own and our colleagues’ instructional practices builds a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in our schools. “What” we do is develop expertise and mastery with our colleagues in order to improve student learning outcomes. Why do we do this? Because “teaching is too difficult to do alone!” (from a Library Power poster, circa 1994).

With a global view of the learning community and a flexibly scheduled program based on access at the point of need, the resources of the library and the instructional expertise in their toolkits, school librarians occupy a unique niche on a school faculty. They must embody the behaviors of risk-takers and continuous learners. They must serve as models because they have the potential and responsibility to impact the learning of every member of their school learning communities—students, educators, administrators, families, and external stakeholders. They must help other reach their capacity.

I totally agree with Sinek: “Passion may need structure to survive, but for structure to grow, it needs passion” (184). I believe there is a great deal of passion in our profession, but I’m not sure we have yet developed the structure we need to help it grow. I think the Lilead Project (and Library Power before it) provide some of that structure. I think Project Connect and Future Ready Librarians are promising initiatives that provide structure. The new AASL standards and guidelines that are set to be rolled out next fall also have that potential. (I would like to think that the book I am authoring could provide some structure as well.)

As Sinek writes: “It’s the decision to never veer from your cause, to hold yourself accountable to HOW you do things; that’s the hardest part” (65). In my experience, collaborating with adults is a thousand times harder than collaborating with students. If we want to hold each other accountable for forming effective instructional partnerships that build an effective teaching force and improve student learning, we have set the bar high.

Many in our ranks continue to work in isolation from their classroom teacher and administrator colleagues. I believe what Sinek writes is true: “The only way people will know what you believe is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say or do, no one will know what you believe” (67). School librarians cannot say they are instructional partners if they still prefer to work alone—if they still refer to the library as “my” library, the collection as “my” collection, the instruction they provide as “library lesson plans.”

“A WHY is just a belief; HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief; and WHATs are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived” (85). I aspire to lead a professional life where all three are in balance. I aspire to be a part of a profession where all three are in balance—where there is a shared why and trust among the members and our value as leaders is widely perceived in the education field and beyond. I want to be part of a profession that “walks its talk.” And I will do my part to stay the course.

I am indebted to Sinek for a way I used his framework to organize Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. I begin every chapter in my forthcoming book with “why” that topic is essential in building a culture of collaboration. In each chapter, I specify the “what” and “how.” Although the “whats” and “hows” were always there, I strengthened the “whys” after reading Sinek’s book.

What is your “why?” How does it align with that of your site- and district-level administrators’ “whys”? How does it align with those of your classroom teacher colleagues, families, and community? Does your shared “why” make effective “whats” and “hows” possible?

Work Cited
Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Additional Resources
Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” TEDTalk. September 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Sinek, Simon. “First Why, and Then Trust.” TEDxMaastricht. 6 April 2011. https://youtu.be/4VdO7LuoBzM

 

Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the seventh in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

On June 12, 2017, I attended an ASCD Webinar presented by authors Eric C. Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray. (If you missed it, I highly recommend the webinar archive.) Their presentation was centered on their hot-off-the-presses book Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. After the webinar, I preordered a copy of their book and read it as I was completing my own manuscript.

This book focuses on creating a culture of innovation and leading change. In reviewing their table of contents, I found so many parallels between their book and mine that I was, at first, reluctant to read it… until after I had submitted my manuscript. However, my curiosity won out. And I am glad it did. Reading their work at the 11th hour in my process gave me an opportunity to further develop my thinking, reflect, and include some quotes from their book in mine.

In Learning Transformed, Sheninger and Murray identify “eight keys for intentional design.” They are:
1. Leadership and school culture lay the foundation.
2. The learning experience must be redesigned and made personal.
3. Decisions must be grounded in evidence and driven by Return on Instruction.
4. Learning spaces must become learner-centered.
5. Professional learning must be relevant, engaging, ongoing, and made personal.
6. Technology must be leveraged and used as an accelerant for student learning.
7. Community collaboration and engagement must be woven into the fabric of a school’s culture.
8. Schools that transform learning are built to last as financial, political, and pedagogical sustainability ensure long-term success (24-27).

I could not agree more about the importance of leadership and culture in creating the context for educational transformation. I believe future-ready librarians are positioned to be leaders and culture-builders in their schools.

For those of us in the school library profession, “inquiry” is the process that we promote for redesigning learner-centered/personalized learning. Sheninger and Murray offer thoughtful strategies for leaders to make student agency a reality in their schools. Among them are standards-aligned learning activities and assessments, student mastery of selecting the right tool for the task, portfolios as authentic assessments, student involvement in rule making, and participation in feedback loops—choice and voice (76-77).

Decision-making based on evidence also resonates with school librarians who develop library programs using evidence-based practice. One term that Sheninger and Murray use with which I was previously unfamiliar was Return on Instruction (ROI). They used this term in relationship to the funds and time spent on the latest technology tools and devices and ROI, evidence of improved student learning outcomes.

I found the parallel between ROI and Return on Investment an important one. School librarians who serve as technology stewards evaluate and field-test digital resources and tools based on sound pedagogical practices and learning goals can be leaders in their schools in ensuring a positive ROI. School librarians also provide formal professional development and job-embedded personalized learning for colleagues through coplanning and coteaching.

School librarians who have developed a learning commons model in their school libraries may be particularly interested in the chapter entitled “Designing Learner-Centered Spaces.” I suspect they will echo the authors’ contention that flexible spaces that “provide areas for movement, and promote collaboration and inquiry” (25) are needed if students are to explore creativity and reach for innovation.

As a reader, I found the format friendly, quotes thoughtful, and examples from the field compelling. I suspect many readers will compare their teaching and learning environments to those described in the book. It would be important to find as many similar assets with these sites and explore how your own school could further expand its areas of strength.

As an author, I was impressed by the endorsements Sheninger and Murray received for this book. Sir Ken Robinson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Daniel H. Pink, Robert Marzano, Michael Fullan, and many more education thought leaders have high praise for Learning Transformed.

If you are in a formal or informal leadership position in your school or district (e.g. future-ready librarians and school library supervisors), then you will want to read this book and discuss it with the decision-makers in your school and district.

Work Cited
Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2017.