Professional Connectedness 2019

As we bid farewell to 2019, I am pausing to share my gratitude for just some of the professional learning opportunities I have taken this year—from the local to the global. In his book Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students, Brad Gustafson writes about the importance of relationships and connectedness. “It’s important to point out that connectedness extends beyond traditional face-to-face relationships. Connectedness also includes how we build culture and community beyond the walls of our school through digital means” (Gustafson 2017, 19).

The reflection that follows includes both face-to-face and online connectedness. I am grateful for the sense of belonging and service that these collegial relationships and opportunities have provided. Thank you to all of you who have helped me continue to learn, create, share, and grow in 2019.

Local Advocacy Efforts
Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) School Librarian Restoration Project
Thanks to the support of TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo and the Governing Board Members, five state-certified school librarian positions will be posted in the spring of 2020. Members of our project worked with the TUSD Human Resources Department to revised the school librarian job description. Our project will support HR in recruiting effective candidates for these positions. We have also been invited to the table when the new strategic planning committee begins discussion in January, 2020.

Additionally, we are grateful to the School Community Partnership Council and the Educational Enrichment Foundation for their support. Also, we extend our thanks to the Arizona Daily Star for publishing two op-eds in 2019 in support of our work.

Literacy matters every day

Committing to a brighter future for Arizona’s children

State-wide Advocacy Efforts

Teacher Librarian Division (TLD), Arizona Library Association (AzLA)
At the AzLA Conference in November, 2019, I had the pleasure of co-presenting an advocacy session with Pam Rogers and Erin MacFarlane. I also keynoted a half-day workshop for school and public library youth librarians. In both cases, our focus was on advocating for full-time, professional school librarian positions.

In this coming year, we will be focusing on increasing our membership, our impact through administrator/school board conference proposals/presentations (American Association of School Librarians State-Level Leaders work), and the “Dear Arizona Voters Writing Contest,” a building- or district-level essay writing project resulting from classroom-library collaboration.

National Reciprocal Mentoring Activities
Lilead Project
For the past two years, the West Coast Lilead Team has given me the opportunity to learn with and from district-level school librarian leaders: Claudia Mason (Fontana, California), Janet Wile (Fresno, California), Jenny Takada (Beaverton, Oregon), and Trish Henry (Mead, Washington). Thank you for sharing your leadership journeys with me.

Dr. Pam Harland’s Dissertation Chair
It was my pleasure to learn from working with Dr. Pam Harland to complete her dissertation this fall. Pam expertly presented and passed her defense (with flying colors) on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. Pam has already begun sharing the results of her dissertation research, “Investigation into the Leadership Behaviors of School Librarians: A Qualitative Study,” in articles, conference presentations, and hopefully, in a forthcoming book chapter. Her work will influence the practice of school librarian leaders.

Online Graduate-Level Teaching
After a three-year hiatus from graduate-level teaching, I applied to teach for the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. In 2019, I taught two courses for the school: IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth (for both school and public youth librarians) and IS516: School Library Media Center. I had the privilege of learning with thirty-eight graduate students who have given me confidence that the future of our profession is in capable (and collaborative) hands of librarians with empathic hearts. Thank you for teaching me.

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
This past year, I chaired the AASL School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force. Our task was to revisit and re-envision four position statements related to the work of the school librarian and the school librarian in helping students grow their love of reading and learning, build their reading proficiency and ability to make meaning from texts, and use their literacy skills to think critically and create new knowledge. In six short months, our task force developed what we believe is a clear, concise, and empowered position statement. We submitted our work to the AASL Board today. Thank you to Molly Dettmann, Christina Dorr, Mary Moen, and Sam Northern for your collaboration, commitment, and passion for this work.

AASL Conference 2019
I had the good fortune of kicking off the Educators of School Librarians research symposium: Researching and Educating for Leadership. I also co-presented two concurrent sessions and shared a solo presentation at the AASL Conference. Co-planning with others to share information, experience, and insights builds our understandings and relationships.

Taking Our Case to Decision Makers: Effective State- and District-Level Advocacy
Deborah Levitov (on the right) moderated our panel presentation. Three members of the panel shared their state-level advocacy work: Kathy Lester, Michigan, Pat Tumulty, New Jersey, and Christie Kaaland, Washington State. I shared our district-level work in TUSD.

Collaborate! To Build Influence
This was my solo presentation. I am delighted that several participants have been in contact with me regarding their cadre’s Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy book studies. I will be providing webinars, conversations, and support for their leadership and advocacy work in 2020. (A special thank-you to my ALA Editions editor Jamie Santoro, pictured above, for her unfailing support for my professional books.)

Collaborate, Evaluate, Advocate: Tales from the Trenches in Assessing Readiness for Change
I had the opportunity to moderate a panel presentation for four Lilead leaders who contributed articles in the January, 2019, Knowledge Quest “Assessment” issue: Jenny Takeda (Beaverton, Oregon), Jennifer Sturge (Calvert County, Maryland), Misti Werle (Bismarck, North Dakota), and Carolyn Foote (Austin, Texas). Each of us presented further adventures in assessment and leading for change.

International Association of School Librarians (IASL)
Although I had presented at two IASL conferences held in the U.S., participating and sharing at the 2019 conference held in Dubrovnik, Croatia was an even-more empowering experience. In my October 30, 2019 blog post IASL 2019 Reflection, I shared the impact this learning opportunity had on me. I am in contact with several “Empowered Leadership: Building Connections for Transforming Teaching and Learning” participants and look forward to continuing our global conversations.

I want to especially thank IASL President Katy Manck for spearheading a collaborative, international effort to reach out to the International Literacy Association with questions about including school librarians and librarians in their recently published “Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction.” Thank you for your leadership, Katy.

2020
“Like a world-famous trapeze artist would never attempt a brand-new death-defying act for the first time without a net, neither can we find the courage to lead without the help of others. Those who believe what we believe are our net” (Sinek 2019, 218).

I am looking forward to continuing to learn and taking action alongside my colleagues near and far as we co-create a brighter, equitable literacy learning future for the children, teens, and communities we serve. Thank you for being my “net.”

Works Cited

Gustafson, Brad. 2017. Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sinek, Simon. 2019. The Infinite Game. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.

Gifts of Windows and Mirrors

“Humans don’t make our stories, it’s stories that make us human (paraphrasing Amiri Baraka). It’s not until we know the stories of each other that we embrace our humanity. When I know the stories of my people and my culture, that’s when I become human myself” (Hyland 2016).

I was fortunate to publish my first book written for children in 1997. After three years in the submission-rejection cycle, the contract for Sing Down the Rain seemed like a miraculous gift. Kiva publisher/owner Steve Hill mentored me through the publishing process, and I, in turn, mentored our illustrator Tohono O’odham artist Michael Chiago through the illustration process. I had the critical and additional blessing of being mentored by respected Tohono O’odham elder Danny Lopez who ensured cultural accuracy in my poem.

This collaboration resulted in a book that shares the saguaro fruit harvest and rainmaking ceremony of the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) in the context of the ecology of the Sonoran Desert, where I’ve now lived for thirty years. The book is dedicated to the children of the Tohono O’odham Nation for whom it provides a mirror of their cultural traditions and the beauty of our desert home. The book also offers a window into a culture that is little-known outside of the Southwest. All multicultural children’s literature has the potential to serve as mirrors and windows (Bishop 1990).

Sing Down the Rain was in print for fifteen years. During that time, O’odham students performed the choral reading of the poem on and off the reservation. Some of their audiences were family and tribal members; some of their audiences were non-O’odham people. Non-O’odham students also performed the poem in schools and communities. Michael and/or I attended these performances, signed books, and celebrated with choral readers and their families. When publisher Steve Hill retired, the book went out of print in 2012.

The Window: Walden School, Louisville, Kentucky
Last spring, I received an email from an art teacher in Louisville, Kentucky. The Walden School is an independent K-12 school. A first-grade student and his mom had selected Sing Down the Rain as a read-aloud to share with his class. The art teacher followed up the reading with a weaving art activity. She sent me photos of the reading and students’ artwork. As it happened, I was planning to be in Louisville in November to attend a conference. I asked if the Walden School would be interested in an author visit.

On November 12, I had the gift of sharing Sing Down the Rain and oral storytelling with K-4 Walden students. I met Ben and his mom and learned that he had repeatedly requested she read the book at bedtime; he described it as a lullaby. Sing Down the Rain offered Walden students who had never met an O’odham child a window into O’odham culture. They had the opportunity to “see” another culture and a desert environment through Michael’s illustrations and the words in my poem.


The Mirror: Ha:san Preparatory and Leadership School, Tucson, Arizona
Just a few weeks later, I had an email from two high school teachers who asked me to meet with their students who were preparing to perform Sing Down the Rain. The Ha:san Preparatory and Leadership School is a bicultural, community-based school that infuses elements of Tohono O’odham language, traditions, and Native history in the curriculum. I was able to share with the teachers that Regina Siquieros and Angie Saraficio published a version of the poem with O’odham words.

On December 12, one month after the visit to Walden School, I had the gift of sharing with Ha:san students how Sing Down the Rain came to be—the process of writing, publishing, and sharing the book. I shared how I worked with Tohono O’odham artist Michael Chiago to design the illustrations. I gave examples of how Danny Lopez helped me correct errors in my understanding of O’odham cultural traditions in order to portray the rainmaking ceremony as authentically as possible.

The students asked me questions, including why I wrote the book. I showed them the books that had been on our library shelves in 1991 when children were bused from the San Xavier District of their reservation to an elementary school where I served as the librarian—books written by anthropologists or books that perpetuated stereotypes of Native peoples. The poem I wrote and later the book we created was intended to offer all O’odham youth a positive reflection of their culture.

“Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books” (Bishop 1990, ix).”

#OwnVoices
Sing Down the Rain was intended to be a seed. At the time it was published, I hoped that other books would be written and illustrated by Tohono O’odham and traditionally published. Then, these windows could help O’odham youth see their culture reflected in many books. And children living in other parts of the country and around world would learn about the O’odham and their culture.

When families, librarians, other educators, and publishers are considering the critical importance of mirrors and windows, I hope they will support the #ownvoices movement and infuse children’s worlds with the grand diversity of humanity—written and illustrated by people who have first-hand knowledge of the culture and experiences being described.

As the author of four books for children and families, I am grateful for the mysterious and miraculous ways my writing can touch the hearts and minds of others. At Ha:san, one student asked me why I didn’t write about his experience as an O’odham teen living in Tucson today. In all of my author visits with middle and high school students, I invite future published authors and illustrators to pursue writing and drawing—specifically for children. I hope this is the story this young man will write.

I have faith that more books will be published until one glorious day all voices are heard—and all people are seen as essential to our shared human experience.

Works Cited

Bishop, Rudine Sims. 1990. “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Perspectives 1 (3): ix–xi.

Hyland, Ezra. 2016. The African American Read in from NCTE: Podcast, https://www.blogtalkradio.com/edutalk/2016/01/27/the-african-american-read-in-from-ncte

Photographs of Author Visits Used with Permission

End of the Semester Reflection

Monday evening was the last virtual synchronous class session for IS516: School Library Media Center. This week iSchool graduate students will be sharing their course learning in an online discussion forum . As a co-learner in this class, I am taking the opportunity to reflect here and will share this post with the class.

Time
There never seems to be enough time to accomplish all that we set out to do in a single class. All educators must prioritize. Inevitably the instructor’s values combined with the course description and stated student learning outcomes figure into those decisions.

Course Content and Textbook
To put this course in context, IS516: School Library Media Center focuses on instruction through the library program. Currently at the iSchool, school library administration topics are addressed in students’ practicums and in a general library management course. It was this focus on instruction that led me to apply to teach this course.

This was a golden opportunity for me to use my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018) in a graduate-level course for school librarians. I feel luck to have had this opportunity.

I believe the book offered students a framework for exemplary practice. Each of the chapters fit into a flow of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that can lead school librarians into leadership roles on their campuses. Last June at ALA, I received one of the highest compliments of my career from a colleague who teaches school librarians at another university. She said, “We recommend your book to prospective students. If they see themselves serving at this level of leadership, we encourage them to enter our program.”

For me, the downside of using my book was that we could not take full advantage of the discussion questions, activities, and reflection prompts. The book was intended to be read one chapter a month, digested, and reflected upon over a nine-month period. Some of the questions, activities, and prompts are most effective for practicing school librarians rather than candidates. That said, I hope students in IS516 and other preservice courses will keep, revisit, and use the book in their practice of school librarianship. Perhaps they will share it with a principal or other decision-maker to start a conversation about how school librarians can serve as leaders.

Pre- and Post-Course Surveys
I asked students to complete a pre-course and a post-course survey. All students completed the pre-course survey; fourteen out of nineteen completed the post-course survey at the time of this blog post.

On the survey, I listed in alphabetical order the five roles identified by the American Association of School Librarians and asked students to rank them in importance: information specialist, instructional partner, leader, program administrator, and teacher. While leader remained number one by a narrow margin, both information specialist and instructional partner increased their rankings in the number one and number two slots. I assume this was a direct result of the content of this course and the assignment tasks as well.

The survey asked: “In your role as a school librarian, who will be your most critical ally and advocate, and why?”

Position  Responses
Classroom Teachers

7

District Level Librarian Supervisor and Site Instructional Leader

1

Principals

4

Teachers and principal

2

I believe the focus on instruction in this course put the emphasis on classroom teacher colleagues. I agree that classroom teachers and school librarians must collaborate and coteach in order to move the work of the school librarian into the center of the school’s academic program. This can be started without the explicit support of the school principal. But in terms of long-term success, in my experience and in school library research, the principal’s support for the school librarian and the library program are absolutely essential.

Students’ Top Priorities and Lingering Questions
The survey asked: “What is your top priority in maximizing school librarian leadership?” It was compelling to me that many students’ top priorities and their lingering questions were directly related. Top priorities included increasing understanding and gaining respect for the roles of the school librarian, the perception of administrators and colleagues that the librarian is an equal partner with classroom teachers, building relationships, and launching collaboration.

Many lingering questions focused on how to begin collaboration conversations and launch coteaching as an expected practice in their buildings. I would ask students to return to the “diffusion of innovations” Activity 2 on page 35 in our textbook. Who are the most promising partners? Who are the most strategic in terms of their ability to influence colleagues? To students who asked about collaborating in large schools, I would recommend identifying someone in the English language arts department, preferably the chair, as a first effort since every student must take ELA-R classes. (That was my strategy when I served in a high school with 1,800 students.)

Others asked about changing school cultures, (traditional) perceptions of school librarians’ roles or teaching as a “solo” activity. Although it seems like a simplistic response, everyone is from “Missouri,” the Show Me State. If you can show the benefits of clasroom-library collaboration to classroom teachers and students, you can begin your effort to create a collaborative culture of learning. When you strengthen that effort by partnering with administrators to help every school stakeholder reach their capacity, you have a recipe for successful change.

One student also wrote about advocating for full-time state-certified school librarians in every school in their district. (I invite you to follow the progress of the Tucson Unified School District School Librarian Restoration Project). Another asked about moving to a completely flexible schedule. Again, advocates for change must demonstrate how the need for professional school librarians and schedules that allow students to access the library at the point of need make a positive difference in student learning outcomes and in classroom teachers’ satisfaction and involvement in the library program and its resources, including its most valuable resource—the librarian.

My Reflection
The first time an instructor teaches a course can involve a steep learning curve. I was happy that I could align my book’s content with assignments that are prescribed for IS516. This course combined content from three courses I have previously taught at other universities. I was able to revise and update resources from those courses and identified or created many additional resources as well.

I created checklists and rubrics for all of the assignments in the course. All teachers learn from the first time out with assessment tools. This semester was no exception for me. Thank you to students for teaching me where the gaps were and where I can (and have) made improvements for next time.

The two-hour weekly synchronous meetings were new to me in a 16-week course. I still find this format challenging in terms of ensuring interactivity in that time slot and keeping our conversations fresh over the course of the semester. I especially appreciated students’ willingness to explore Twitter chats as a learning platform. Our chats were an ideal way for everyone to share in real time. They were also a way for me to learn more about what students were gleaning from the textbook and how they were connecting it to their current and future practice. I hope students will continue to grow professionally using this tool. This semester, I also learned about some new technologies and their applications in classrooms and libraries from students’ work products.

I am grateful to the students in IS516 and for the iSchool for giving me the opportunity to teach this course. I appreciate IS516 students for co-creating a culture of collaboration within our course. From my perspective, the course focus on instruction and my emphasis on leadership through coteaching combined to make this learning experience influential for students’ current and future practice. It also offered me the opportunity to practice what I preach—continuous learning. I will apply my learning in future courses with graduate students and in my work with school librarians practicing in the field.

“The conditions are right and ripe for school librarians to maximize their leadership roles in building collaborative school cultures. There is an urgent need for students, educators, administrators, and community to work together to create dynamic learning environments” (Moreillon 2018, x).

Our profession needs the best prepared candidates to serve school library stakeholders through the library program I believe IS516 Fall 2019 students are prepared to create optimal conditions for teaching and learning and for taking leadership roles in their schools.

Work Cited
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Making Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Image Credit
mrkrndvs. “Isolation vs. Collaboration.” Flickr.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/35978055230

Leadership Twitter Chat

This fall graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” have participated in bimonthly Twitter chats. The chats are based on the pull quotes from chapters in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

We invite you to join us our final chat of the fall semester on Monday, December 9, 2019 from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. Central Time. Chat questions are posted on this blog on the Wednesday before our Monday chats.

December 9, 2019: #is516 Twitter Chat: Leadership

 This post is adapted from the Maximizing School Librarian Leadership preview podcast.

I believe school librarians have three converging pathways that point the way to leadership. School librarians are culture builders, professional developers, and changemakers.

School librarians are culture builders.
When we create a welcoming, accepting, risk-taking space for exploration in the library, our influence can spread throughout the building. With smiles, hellos, and a service orientation toward all library users, the library, the largest classroom in the school, can be as important as the front office in creating a climate of welcome.

With resources reflecting diverse perspectives, the library can be a place where learners – of all ages – come to explore their own worldview and the worldviews of others.

And with a commitment to exploration, the school librarian can model risk-taking—accepting missteps as an essential aspect of learning and growing from mistakes in order to fail forward. A whole-school, or systems thinking, approach helps school librarians serve as effective culture-builders.

School librarians are professional developers.
Through sharing our expertise and integrating the library’s resources into the classroom curriculum, school librarians practice reciprocal mentorship with the classroom teachers and specialists with whom we form effective instructional partnerships.

Collaborators coteach multiple literacies, inquiry, deeper, and digital learning. Educators model and coteach skills, such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. We model and coteach dispositions, such as flexibility, openness, and persistence.

Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning and our own instructional proficiency, we practice the best kind of professional development—job-embedded. As collaborating educators, we develop our craft by working as equal partners; we coteach with classroom teachers, real students, actual curriculum, available resources and tools, with the real supports, and within the constraints of our everyday teaching environments.

School librarians are also changemakers.
We understand that the teaching and learning landscape is in a constant state of change. Lifelong learning is an essential behavior for all education stakeholders. Preparing students for futures that we cannot imagine takes a leap of faith and a willingness to accept change as the defining feature of all our lives.

Rather than sitting back and waiting for change to happen to us, changemakers are proactive. We strategize; we experiment; we test and retest until we create learning environments and opportunities that engage, excite, and support students as agents in their own education.

All three of these pathways to leadership require collaboration.

Effective school librarians can maximize leadership opportunities by collaborating with others—with administrators, educators, and students, and with family and community members.

#is516 Chat Questions (for copy and paste)

Q.1: How do you/can you show a commitment to continuous change/professional growth? #is516

Q.2: Why is collegiality so important? #is516

Q.3: How do you bridge Ss in-school and out-of-school lives? #is516

Q.4: How can you help develop an effective teaching force in your school? #is516

Please respond with A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4 and bring your ideas, resources, experience, questions, and dilemmas to our conversation so we can learn with and from you!

For previous chat questions and archives, visit our IS516 course wiki page.

Thank you!

Post Adapted from
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Book Study: Preview Podcast. https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/moreillon/episodes/2018-08-05T19_58_04-07_00