As an educator and researcher focused on school librarianship, I need to stay abreast of the topics and issues classroom teachers and administrators are thinking about in order to engage in professional conversations with my colleagues. This helps me position my library work in the larger educational arena. In addition to librarian organization membership, I have maintained my memberships and read the publications of educational organizations, including the International Reading Association (IRA), National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). I am especially pleased that all three of these organizations have turned their attention to the importance of the collaborative cultures in which the most effective teachers teach and successful students learn.
In the June/July issue of Reading Today: Informed Content for Literacy Professionals, an IRA publication, long-time literacy educator Regie Routman authored an article entitled “To Raise Achievement, Let’s Celebrate Teachers Before We Evaluate Them.” In Common Core State Standards states and any district in which teacher evaluation is being discussed, the entire article is a must-read for today’s educators, principals, and district-level administrators.
However, there was one sentence that jumped off the page at me, and I must share it here: “In my forty-five years of teaching, coaching, and leading, I have never seen increased and sustained literacy achievement without a collaborative, knowledgeable, and trusting school-wide culture” (p. 10).
In my own experience serving as a classroom teacher or a librarian at three different instructional levels, in eight different schools, in four different school districts, in two different states, I totally concur. What happens in individual classrooms and libraries is affected by the school culture in which they thrive and grow or struggle and wither. Michael Fullan calls this “collective capacity.” In his book All Systems Go: The Change Imperative for Whole School Reform, Fullan notes that “collective capacity generates the emotional commitment and the technical expertise that no amount of individual capacity working alone can come close to matching” (p. xiii).
As you begin the new school year, what are your thoughts about the collective capacity in your school learning culture? What strengths do you see? What actions will you take for improvement?
Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole school reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Routman, R. (2013). To raise achievement, let’s celebrate teachers before we evaluate them. Reading Today, 30(6), 10-12.