Grit, Complacency, and Passion

Last summer, I published a series of professional book reviews. The titles were some of the books I read as I prepared my forthcoming book. At that time, my LM_NET colleague and friend Barb Langridge, who blogs at A Book and a Hug and recommends children’s books as a regular guest on WBALTV Channel 11 in Baltimore, sent me an email asking if I had read Tyler Cowen’s book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I had not but said I would do so. Cowen’s book made be think. It also invited me to reflect on two previous books I read. (So, finally, this post is for you, Barb.)

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth makes a compelling case for people to follow their passion and learn perseverance. (I referenced her work in my 2018 New Year’s Resolution post.) She defines “grit” as self-discipline wedded to dedicated pursuit of a goal. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). If you haven’t yet take her online test, you can access her “grit scale” on her Web site.

One of her findings that was particularly meaningful to me is this. “Grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life. Higher scores on purpose correlate with higher scores on the Grit Scale” (Duckworth 2016, 147). People, such as school librarians, who have a moral purpose to serve others can be some of the grittiest people in terms of persevering to follow their passion. For me, this portends success for our profession.

School librarianship is complex. The exemplary practice of effective school librarians requires a wide range of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and dispositions, such those in this word cloud:

Duckworth elaborated on the Finnish concept of “sisu spirit.” Having this disposition means you understand your setbacks are temporary learning opportunities. You will tackle your challenges again no matter what. Setbacks won’t hold you back. “Grit is who you are!” (Duckworth 2016, 252). Just as the Finns do, Duckworth says we must model for and teach young people how to approach life with a “sisu spirit.”

Tyler Cowen in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream presents readers with a U.S. culture very much in need of “sisu spirit.” Cowen’s thesis is that Americans have lost “the ability to imagine an entirely different world and physical setting altogether, and the broader opportunities for social and economic advancement that would entail” (Cowen 2017, 7). He writes that the main elements of our society are driving us toward a more static, less risk-taking America.

In terms of our young people, Cowen notes (most?) schools occupy them with safest possible activities, most of all homework. We also classify students more thoroughly through more and more testing (Cowen 2017, 19). Low-level, low-risk “activities” in K-12 schools result in students who are averse to risk-taking and unable to problem solve. They will lack the social emotional learning necessary for an entrepreneurial spirit, for a “sisu spirit.”

I believe that Duckworth’s “grit” is the answer to Cowen’s complacency prediction. Inquiry learning (see 2/22/18 post) and activism are also pieces of the puzzle.

Serving as a school librarian is not for the faint of heart. For many school librarians, their work involves bumping up against a system that may not be serving students, educators, and families well. It means influencing others through leadership—an effort that takes passion, purpose, risk-taking, and perseverance. We must have the necessary dispositions to succeed, and we must model these and co-create with classroom teachers opportunities for students to practice them.

As a current example, Carolyn Foote, district librarian for Eanes (Texas) Independent School District and Lilead Fellow, created a Resources for Planning a Peaceful March Padlet to support youth and educators who are organizing protests related to gun violence. She invited Future Ready Librarians to add resources and share this information in their learning communities.

The fact that young people across the U.S. are speaking up and out is sending a strong message to our representatives in Congress. These young people are displaying grit and passion. They are anything but complacent. It is our responsibility as educators and elders to support them and join with them in raising our voices and creating positive change.

As Randy Kosimar writes: “Following your passion is not the same as following your bliss. While passion is a font of expressive, creative energy, it won’t necessarily deliver pleasure and contentment at every moment. Success, even on your own terms, entails sacrifice and periods of very hard work” (2000, xiv).

Let’s get to work!

Works Cited

Cowen, Tyler. 2017. The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Kosimar, Randy. 2000. The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Crafting a Life While Making a Living. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Image Credits: Collage created at Befunky.com, Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 3

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning

“Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity. Curiosity is the technique that gets to innovation” (Grazer and Fishman 2015, 62).

Inquiry learning can spark students’ curiosity and ignite their passions. Inquiry puts learners in the driver’s seat and leads them to invest in and care about the literacies, competencies, and dispositions they develop during the process. As students pursue the answers to personally meaningful questions and engage in real-world projects, they learn how to learn and build their confidence.  Hands-on, minds-on inquiry learning experiences help prepare young people to problem solve when confronted with the inevitable learning and living challenges that will characterize their futures.

Educators are responsible for creating the conditions in which inquiry learning can flourish. Inquiry doesn’t just happen; it must be expertly designed. Building connections between required curriculum and students’ interests is essential. When two or more educators plan for inquiry, they increase the resources and knowledge at the collaboration table. They push each other’s creativity and codevelop more engaging learning experiences for students.

When school librarians and classroom teachers coplan, coteach, and comonitor students’ inquiry learning process, they create opportunities for students to increase their content knowledge. They help students develop future-ready skills and strategies that are transferrable to other learning contexts—both in and outside of school.

In this chapter, I provide a rationale for applying a research-based model for inquiry learning. Guided Inquiry Design (GID) is based on the findings of Kuhlthau’s information-seeking process research. GID provides a structure in which a team of educators share responsibility for launching, guiding, monitoring, and assessing learning outcomes. During curriculum-connected inquiry, students take responsibility for and reflect on their own learning process and products.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A Recipe for Inquiry Learning Graphic
2. Learning Phases in Various Inquiry Models
3. Guided Inquiry Design Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012)
4. Inquiry Learning Subskills (*Tested on Standardized Tests)
5. Inquiry as a Strategy for Professional Learning

School librarians can be leaders in codeveloping, coimplementing, and sustaining a culture of inquiry in their schools. When school sites or entire districts adopt and practice a single inquiry model, students and educators can rely on multiple opportunities to experience deeper learning. When educators use an inquiry model to explore their own questions about teaching and learning, their understanding of the process and their confidence in their shared findings strengthen a culture of learning and improve teaching in their schools.

Works Cited

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. 2015. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image credit: Word cloud created at Wordle.net

AASL Candidates’ Forum Speech

Yesterday, Eileen Kern graciously read the following speech at the AASL Candidates’ Forum at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver. I am reproducing it here and on my campaign wiki for those who, like me, were unable to attend.


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to run for AASL President-Elect. What motivates me to seek this position is our individual and collective capacity to step up our literacy leadership by engaging our passion, fulfilling our purpose, honing our expertise, and strengthening our partnerships.

Like you, I am passionate about the vital role literacy plays in the lives of individuals, communities, our nation, and our global society. Each school librarian’s passion for literacy can make a profound difference for the children, teens, and families whose lives they touch.

At the local level, each of us is THE representative of our profession. Through the daily practice of instructional partnerships, school librarians’ knowledge, skills, and expertise help transform teaching and learning. Our national association is stronger because of the work of each and every effective school librarian.

Our shared moral purpose is to help others reach their literacy goals. As a profession, we share an increasing sense of urgency regarding the need for today’s young people to be prepared for living and working in an ever-more rapidly changing world.

Students’ ability to ask meaningful questions and to find, comprehend, analyze, and use information, and create new knowledge and find solutions to the world’s pressing problems has never been put to higher a test. Our charge is to hone our expertise and co-facilitate empowered literacy opportunities for ALL students.

Partnerships are our pathway to literacy leadership. In order to engage our passion, fulfill our purpose, and hone our practice, school librarians and AASL must build connections…
• between curriculum and resources, standards and practice,
• between classrooms and libraries, schools and communities,
• and between our association and other educational organizations and initiatives.

AASL is tasked with strengthening partnerships to form coalitions with like-minded educators to transform teaching and learning. By working with partners that share our goals and concerns, we WILL shore up the literacy ecosystem so that ALL students, educators, and families have equitable opportunities to succeed.

As the African proverb states: To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.

If elected, I will conscientiously facilitate AASL’s work and serve with passion and purpose in building and strengthening our practice and our partnerships to maximize the leadership capacity of school librarians and libraries.

I will work with YOU through the AASL staff, Board, and Affiliate Assembly to ensure that school librarians have an essential and enduring place at the education table.

Thank you for participating in our association’s electoral process, and please encourage your colleagues to vote as well.

***

Thank you, Eileen, for speaking in my stead at the Forum.

Note: Our grandson, and the reason I was not in Denver yesterday, was born on February 11, 2018 at 11:54 p.m.

School-Public Library Partnerships Toolkit

Bravo to AASL/ALSC/YALSA for last Friday’s publication of the Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit.

The toolkit process and final product are an example of how AASL and our sister divisions can work together to create a useful resource for the benefit of all librarians who serve the literacy needs of children, young adults, and families and co-create empowered literacy communities. The toolkit opens with an explanation of how it was created. These are the five chapters that follow:

Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Why School-Public Library Partnerships Matter
Chapter 3: Successful School-Public Library Partnerships
Chapter 4: Continuing the Partnerships
Chapter 5: Templates and Additional Resources

The information in Chapter 1 provides strategies for identifying potential collaborators and reinforces the critical importance of building relationships as the first step in collaboration. This chapter lists ALA initiatives that provide springboards for school-public librarian collaborative work, such as ALSC’s Every Child Ready to Read® year-round initiative and annual Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week.

Chapter 2 includes research related to the process and results of collaborative work. As background information, this chapter includes a brief explanation of evidence-based practice and the Understanding by Design planning framework. Readers will want to review some of the highlighted research support for the benefits of summer reading on children and youth. Digital literacy and early childhood literacy are two additional areas that provide research support for collaboration. To further inspire you, this chapter includes testimonials from school-public library collaborators on the positive impact of their collaborative work.

For Chapter 3, the toolkit writers spotlight exemplary school-public library collaborative programs—both at the branch and school-site levels as well as system-wide examples. From assignment alerts and book collection/kits programs to book clubs and STEM programs, librarians will want to consider how they might work with colleagues to adapt one of these for their service population or use them as inspiration for creating an original program for their community. There is a summary for each example and contact information for one or more principal collaborators should you have questions or need more details.

Chapter 4, titled “Continuing the Partnership,” offers strategies for building on and sustaining successful collaborative work. In addition to all-important communication, there is specific information to help librarians understand the resources, priorities, and challenges in reaching across the aisle to work with their school or public library counterparts. This chapter also includes information about evaluation and sharing results. This critical step can make the difference between ending the collaboration with a one-off program and developing an on-going series of programs or more highly impactful programs based on data. Evaluation provides feedback for the librarian collaborators as well as for administrators who will want to ensure programs are successful (and that they deserve more support and funding).

Chapter 5 includes templates and additional resources to support librarians in successful collaborative work. From introductory email and educator card application templates to sample collaborative planning forms, the resources in this chapter are intended to help librarians hit the ground running once they have identified promising partners.

The AASL Strategic Plan calls for a focus on building a cohesive and collaborative association as a critical issue. This toolkit is an example of AASL reaching across the aisle to colleagues in the other two ALA divisions focused on children’s and young adult services. The committee that created the toolkit is composed of representatives from all three divisions and demonstrates that AASL is growing and strengthening its community.

In the introduction to the toolkit, you will learn this work involved a three-year process: planning, drafting, and finalizing for publication. It has been my pleasure to serve for the last two years with colleagues from all three divisions who collaborated successfully to draft, revise based on feedback from the AASL/ALSC/YALSA leadership, and submit the “final” initial toolkit. The online toolkit is intended to be a starting point for future revisions as more and more successful school-public librarian collaboration examples and research become available.

Please make time to check out the toolkit and use it as a starting point for a conversation with a school or public librarian who can become your next friend and collaborative partner in supporting literacy in your community.

Images courtesy of AASL/ALSC/YALSA