Educating Young and Future Voters

This month op-eds and letters to the editor in the Arizona Daily Star and other news sources have called for seasoned voters to encourage and support young voters, especially Millennials, in exercising their right to vote. This is especially true in midterm elections when many “mature” voters opt-out of participation in our country’s electoral process. For educators, this is two-pronged responsibility.

Educators Must Vote
Educators must commit ourselves to work for and vote for candidates that support district public school education. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the projected 2018 public school enrollment was 50.6 million students. Nationally, about nine out of ten students rely on publicly funded schools for their education. (That is why I vote for Arizona candidates who are #RedforEd and support #SOSArizona.)

The illustration for this blog post was created by Authors and Illustrators for Children member R.W. Alley. I agree that “v-o-t-e” is the way to spell “future….” and so is “e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n.” As a children’s book author, I am a member of AIforC. This organization is dedicated to a “free, truthful, and safe America for ALL children.” Our members are children’s book creators and associates “committed to vote, campaign, and speak out for candidates and policies to create a safe, healthy, and inspired future for children everywhere.” (You can view a list of members on the website.)

Educators Must Educate Young and Future Voters
Educators must also support young voters in accepting and cherishing the right to vote. I have been phone banking in Arizona. Many of the voters I have talked with are passionate about exercising their right to vote. As educators, we must share that passion with the young people in our care. Whether or not they are yet eligible to vote, we must teach students the history of enfranchisement in our country and instill in them the importance of participating in all elections—local, state, and national.

Last month, Common Sense Media posted an article by Regan McMahon in their “Parents, Media, and Everything In Between” section called “17 Tips to Steer Kids of All Ages Through the Political Season.” Many of these strategies can be used by school librarians and classroom teachers as well.

Last summer, I posted resources to support classroom teachers and school librarians in teaching and coteaching civics education. (See below.) This week and next are ideal times to take up this topic in classrooms and libraries across the U.S. Integrating real-world and current events into the curriculum can help students find relevance in their schooling. Focusing reading, research, and discussions on voting can also help strengthen our democracy.

Let’s work together to ensure that all current and future voters know how to spell “future.”

“V-O-T-E” and “E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N” !!!

Previous 2018 Posts Focused on Election 2018

7/16/18 – Planning for Election 2018

7/23/18 – Election 2018 Resources, including The Center for Civic Education

7/30/18 – Election 2018 and Digital Literacy

 

Image Credit: R. W. Alley “Spelling Bee.” Used with Permission

#Election 2018 and Digital Literacy

I had intended to review one more #Election2018 resource, iCivics, in this three-post series. However, Connie Williams did an outstanding job sharing this site in her “Got Civics?” post on the Knowledge Quest blog in June so I will simply reinforce her post here. Connie spotlighted the Drafting Board and civics learning games. As Connie noted, educators can expect to find a new game on the iCivics.org site this fall. iCivics is partnering with the Annenberg Public Policy Center to develop this game. Look for it. Educators can set up free accounts in order to access all of the resources on the site.

Digital Literacy
Connecting #Election2018 with digital literacy presents a leadership opportunity for school librarians. “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills” (ALA 2013). The technical skills involve the use of various information and communication technologies. #Election2018 presents an opportune time to coteach digital literacy with educators in every content area. Here are some promising possibilities.

Published Lesson Plans
Common Sense Education offers outstanding lessons including this one: “News and Media Literacy.” Lessons are targeted to four grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. One newly added resource that English Language Arts and Reading (ELA-R) educators may find useful is a one-page piece on “Misinformation.” It includes definitions for key vocabulary such as “clickbait,” “extreme bias,” and “hate news.”

As previously noted, The Center for Civics Education Project Citizen offers lessons for upper elementary through post-secondary students. Taught alongside the Stanford History Education Group’s resources, educators can help students develop the critical thinking and information/digital literacy skills they will need to be informed, active citizens.

The advanced questioning lesson (for approximate grades 9-10) in my book Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA 2012) uses editorial cartoons as prompts. In the lesson, educators teach and students apply the Question-Answer-Relationships questioning strategy. “The Editorial Cartoons of Clay Bennett” is one of the resources I recommend for this two-part lesson. (Since the publication of my book, this site has been thankfully archived by the Library of Congress.) Of course, your hometown newspaper (in print or online) is likely an outstanding resource for your students.

Other Published Texts
Both ELA-R and civics/social studies/history classroom teachers often assign students op-eds as writing activities. (See Sarah Cooper’s post on The Middle Web blog: “An Op-Ed Project Based on Personal Choice.”)

The election season presents a perfect opportunity to analyze published texts for persuasive techniques and for students to compose persuasive texts of their own. School librarians can support classroom teachers’ curriculum by identifying op-eds and letters to the editor in local or national newspapers and news outlets. Here is an example written by Paul McCreary and published in the Arizona Daily Star on July 27, 2018: “What can we do? Vote!

The New York Times The Learning Network offers a wealth of participatory and real-world learning experiences to prompt student learning and support educators’ teaching. During the academic year, the site posts an article of the day, a news quiz, and a student opinion section. The Learning Network offers lesson plans for students in grades 7 and up in core content areas and lessons on topics that build technology skills, too.

Research to Support Teaching Digital Literacy
In conversations with administrators and classroom teachers, school librarians may want to share popular or scholarly articles and research studies that make the case for teaching digital information literacy. These are three recent articles that are well worth reading, discussing, and applying in our professional work.

Gooblar, David. 2018. “How to Teach Information Literacy in the Era of Lies.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Teach-Information/243973

Taylor, Natalie Greene. 2018. “Middle-Schoolers’ Perceptions of Government: Intersection of Information and Civic Literacies.” Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults 9. http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2018/07/middle-schoolers-perceptions-of-government-intersection-of-information-and-civic-literacies/

Weaver, Brilee. 2018. “From Digital Native to Digital Expert.” Harvard Graduate School of Education. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/06/digital-native-digital-expert

Preparing for and Teaching #Election2018
Connie Williams also noted in her KQ post that classroom-library collaboration for civics teaching and learning should not be relegated to civics and government departments only. This and my previous two posts on this blog have focused on ELA-R and social studies/civics connections.

What about reaching out to mathematics teachers to study polling or other data that is published during this election cycle?

How are candidates talking about topics related to science, such climate change, fossil fuels, and alternative energy sources?

What about connecting candidates’ positions and promises related to health care with health or P.E. teachers’ curriculum?

How will you use digital texts to strengthen students’ literacy during this election cycle? What are your plans for collaborating with classroom teachers to engage students in digital literacy – locating, comprehending, evaluating, creating, and communicating digital information – in Fall 2018?

Work Cited

American Library Association. 2013. Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy: Report of the Office of Information Technology Policy’s Digital Literacy Task Force. www.districtdispatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2012_OITP_digilitreport_1_22_13.pdf.

Building Connections for Learning in the Neighborhood

In my blog post last week, I recommended that people see Emilio Estevez’s film The Public when it is available in their community. This week I MUST follow up that recommendation with another. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—a film about the life, work, and empowered positive impact of the amazing Fred Rogers—is a touching, sweet, emotional, and illuminating film about a man who made an incredible difference in the lives of countless young children and their families.

I have always remarked that one attribute that separates educators from (many) other adults is that we care about other people’s children. School librarians whose “kids” are all the young people in their schools must have expansive hearts to accommodate the personal and academic needs of all the youth we serve.

Effective and caring school librarians create a climate of welcoming acceptance in the library that extends out into the school and into the surrounding community. We achieve that through library programs that affirm diversity, insist upon equity, and strive to help all learners (students, educators, and parents) achieve their capacity to think, create, share, and grow.

This film made so many connections for me with our work in school libraries. These are just a few of them.

In the themed episodes for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred addressed children’s feelings about war, divorce, race, and other timely topics. He did not talk down to children. He did not shield them from the realities of their lives because he respected their intelligence. Fred Rogers was a courageous educator and friend to children. Today’s educators should be as courageous in helping learners express their feelings and deal with real-world problems and issues.

Our daughter watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is the 1980s. I distinctly remember the pace of Mr. Rogers’ show compared with other children’s programming at the time. It was slower, in many ways more thoughtful, and allowed viewers thinking and feeling time. With today’s focus on academic, social, and emotional learning in many schools and districts (see CASEL), there is much for educators to consider in terms of a slower pace. We can carve out the necessary time students need to integrate their learning into their lives by making time for reflection and time for sharing with others.

The Guided Inquiry Design Framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) that includes sufficient time for students to immerse themselves in questions of their own making acknowledges the emotional aspects of learning. As Carol Kuhlthau (2013) found in her research on the information search process, inquirers pass through various emotions as they pursue learning. If Fred Rogers had known about inquiry learning, I believe he would have agreed that such a process is respectful of learners’ emotions as well as their intellect.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Fred Rogers testified at a Senate hearing regarding funding for the Public Broadcasting System. At the hearing, Senator John O. Pastore promised to read Fred’s prepared statement but asked him to talk extemporaneously in his oral testimony. Mr. Rogers began his response by telling the senator that he trusted him to keep his word and read the statement, which Fred has so carefully prepared. Then, he sang him a song about children feeling fearful and developing trust—a song sung from Fred’s heart that went straight to Senator Pastore’s heart. At the end of the song, the senator simply said, “You got the $20 million.”

This is a vivid reminder that when we are advocating for school library programs that help all learners succeed, our knowledge and data do matter. But it’s our stories that touch the heart; they are most often the aspect of our advocacy work that helps people make difficult decisions. Changing people’s minds through their hearts works.

These are some of the quotes from the film that made powerful connections for me and may serve as words of wisdom for today’s educators.

“’Won’t you be my neighbor?’ Well, I suppose it’s an invitation. It’s an invitation for somebody to be close to you” (Fred Rogers).

“Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become” (Fred Rogers).

“Someone smiled you into smiling; sang you into singing; read you into reading” (Fred Rogers paraphrase from the film to the best of my memory).

I believe that educators can care students into caring about their own well-being, the health of our/their country, and the future of our planet. When we care for our “neighbors,” we model the empathy that is essential for living, working, and succeeding in a global society.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, film director Marvin Neville, the film’s producers, and others who brought Fred Rogers’ knowledge, perspective, and heart to the screen. I also believe we become what we see and hear on the screen. I want Won’t You Be My Neighbor to be part of my becoming.

References
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. “CASEL: Educating Hearts. Inspiring Minds.” www.casel.org.

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. 2013. “Inquiry Inspires Original Research.” School Library Monthly 30 (2): 5-8.

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: Sign distributed by Peace Centers across the U.S.

Question to the Internet Movie Database: What does it take to earn a ten?

 

Libraries and Neutrality

The June, 2018, American Libraries magazine is one of the most thought-provoking issues ever. I believe the summary and links from Jim Neal’s Midwinter President’s Program on librarianship and neutrality should be required reading for every library science graduate student and used as a discussion starter in classrooms and libraries everywhere. From serving the literacy needs of patrons in prison and those of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program families, to using visual data to activate middle school readers, to addressing Melvil Dewey’s legacy, this issue is a treasure trove of information, knowledge, and wisdom. It’s also a rich source of topics for this blog.

ALA President Jim Neal’s session at Midwinter in Denver featured a debate with two speakers in favor of neutrality (James LaRue and Em Claire Knowles) and two speakers against neutrality (Chris Bourg and R. David Lankes). A panel of four speakers responded to the debate: Emily Drabinski, Emily Knox, Kathleen de la Peña McCook, and Kelvin Watson. The full program video is available online to Midwinter attendees at bit.ly/mw18-pres.

These are some of my takeaways beginning with the pro-neutrality debaters. James LaRue offered three dimensions for neutrality: service, access, and collections. In his view, neutrality is “enshrined in (library) values” and can be summarized as “everyone gets a seat at the table” (34). Em Claire Knowles noted that libraries/librarians have social goals but believes “an active, engaged, continually reaffirmed neutrality is just the first rung on the ladder to advocacy and social justice” (35).

On the other side of the debate, Chris Bourg noted that “neutrality, by definition, is not taking sides” (34). Operating from that definition, he notes “decisions like how much funding a library gets, who should have access to a library, and even where a library is located are not neutral decisions” (34). R. David Lankes further unpacks the “myth of neutrality” (35) and gives this example: “a poor child needs a different level of service to meet our mission than college-educated adults in terms of literacy” (36).

Emily Knox’s comment reproduced in the image above rings true for me (37).  Libraries, and school libraries in particular, cannot collect every book published for youth. In our decision-making, our goal is to provide access to all sides of issues. But with limited budgets and the charge to provide resources aligned with school curricula, school librarians must pick and choose. We do so in the displays we create, the literacy programs we offer, and the ways we collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists and involve students and families in the library program. As the article in this issue by school librarian Kelsey Cohen demonstrates (see next week’s blog post), the library cannot be neutral and simply serve the students who are eager to read.

To be honest, the decisions we make reflect our shared librarianship values, the values of our communities, and our own personal values as well. In the types of outreach and the target audiences for our outreach activities, whether in school, public, or academic libraries, librarians who adhere to our value of “access” seek to be fair rather than equal. A neutral library would simply exist and serve the patrons who come. The library/librarian that assesses the community and determines how to best help people achieve their goals will, of necessity, do more for some than for others.

As Kelvin Watson noted: “We can’t be neutral on social and political issues that impact our customers because, to be frank, those social and political issues impact us as well” (38). In schools, our English language learners and their classroom teachers may need more literacy support than our gifted and talented students and their classroom teachers. Youth living in poverty may need access to literacy and technology resources more than our affluent students who have access in their homes. Inviting an author from an underrepresented group to provide a literacy event may speak in more personally meaningful and impactful ways to some of our students and families than to others. In my opinion, the ways school librarians address academic, social. and political inequities is not a neutral stance.

Since I was unable to attend Midwinter, I especially appreciate the excerpts available in American Libraries magazine and the links to some of the presenters’ full remarks. As noted above, I believe this article can spark a lively and critical conversation in libraries across the country and around the world. I hope you will make time to seek out, read, and discuss the issue of neutrality in librarianship in your professional learning networks.

Work Cited

American Libraries 49 (6). June, 2018.

Image credits:
Quote from Emily J. M. Knox

Youngson, Nick. “Decision-making Highway Sign.” http://www.creative-commons-images.com/highway-signs/d/decision-making.html

National Library Legislative Day and More

A photograph on the Arizona Daily Star opinion page on May 3, 2018, struck a chord with me. If you have been following the national news, you know that Arizona’s teacher walkout and #RedForEd movement has been called a “Norma Rae moment.” Long underpaid and undervalued educators working with large class sizes and antiquated technology in crumbling buildings, Arizona educators and advocates have held Governor Ducey and his majority-Republican legislature’s feet to the fire. Activists are vowing to keep the momentum for improving education for Arizona’s students going through the November election.

The photo on the May 3rd opinion page was of a #RedForEd group in which one of the protesters was a woman holding this sign: “Even LIBRARIANS can’t keep QUIET anymore!”

To my way of thinking, NO ONE who is passionate about youth, learning, and teaching should ever keep quiet about what kind of education today’s young people need to succeed—especially not school librarians.

In that context, I am delighted that hundreds of librarians, library trustees, library patrons, and advocates are in Washington, D.C. for the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day (#NLLD18).

I have never had the opportunity to meet face to face with lawmakers during #NLLD, but I am signed up to participate virtually today, May 7th and tomorrow, May 8th.

I will be emailing, phoning, and Tweeting Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and  Representative Martha McSally during this two-day event to remind them that Arizona’s students, educators, and families need the expertise of school librarians and the services of school libraries.

U.S. school and public libraries have a vital role to play in the health and prosperity of our country. Literacy learning and programming are critical services. From cradle to grave, libraries help patrons and communities meet their life goals. Access to technology tools is one essential service libraries provide. Since one in four households in the U.S. are without Internet connection, school and public libraries help level the playing field by providing students, families, and adults equitable access to the tools of our times and the digital resources that impact daily lives.

Other Library National Advocacy Efforts
ALA members and supporters advocate for their patrons all year long. The ALA Advocacy page provides a rich resource of support. This year, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Advocacy Committee launched AASL Connection (#AASLcxn), a quarterly advocacy and information sharing effort that includes webinars, Twitter chats, and more. The Association for Library Service to Children Everyday Advocacy page provides resources as well.

In addition to these, I highly recommend the work of EveryLibrary.org. Every Library helps school and public libraries organize and sustain advocacy efforts. Signing petitions or tweeting out information for these efforts is a way for librarians to support advocacy initiative across the country. Every Library has also started a peer-reviewed journal called The Political Librarian. As an Every Library monthly subscriber, I am proud to support the activism of my colleagues.

Advocating Closer to Home
I have made a long-time commitment to write as often as possible for Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star newspaper. I believe it is important to speak up locally as well as nationally about school librarianship, particularly in a state like Arizona where so few preK-12 students and educators are receiving the support of state-endorsed school librarians.

Although my letters do not always get published, my passion for our profession and what access to literacy learning means for students keeps me submitting. These are a few of my published letters to the editor and an opinion piece published within the last year.

One Million Arizona Students at Risk.” Arizona Daily Star (Apr. 4, 2017)

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning.” Arizona Daily Star (Nov. 3, 2017).

Early Childhood Education: A First Step that Requires Follow-Up.” Arizona Daily Star Online (Apr. 11, 2018)

I Know Who Goldwater Can Sue.” Arizona Daily Star Online (May 2, 2018).

If school librarianship is to survive, each of us must find our way to speak up and out for our profession. Yes, it is ideal and rewarding when our administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, families, and students raise their voices in support of our work. Yet, there are many who do not have first-hand experience of what school librarians contribute to students’ learning and to other educators’ teaching. It is only by educating the larger community and speaking up for our work that we can expect to change the outdated stereotypes and under valuing of our school librarians and libraries that persist today.

Please join our librarian colleagues, library advocates, and me today and tomorrow for National Library Legislative Day. Think nationally for #NLLD18 and act locally every day. Together—we can make a difference.

Image Courtesy of the American Library Association

Empowered Citizenship

From my reading of the news, activism among young people is on the rise. The tragedy of school shootings has activated young people, educators, families, and citizens in powerful ways. School librarians and other educators can apply what we have learned from our own advocacy efforts and activist experiences to help youth exercise empowered citizenship.

Last fall, I read You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen by Eric Liu. The author is the founder and CEO of Citizens University, an organization based in Seattle, Washington that promotes effective citizenship. Liu says he wrote this book for underdogs and challengers. “It’s for people who want to be change agents, not defenders of the status-quo” (Liu 2017, 11).

It takes courage to act on what you believe in, especially when there are powerful institutions and traditional structures in place that your beliefs will disrupt. The ideas in this book are important for anyone—younger or older—who is working to make positive change happen in society.

These are a few of my takeaways from this book and some ways that school librarians across the country are advocating for school libraries staffed by professional librarians and effective school library programs that can serve the needs of empowered students, educators, and families.

“Movements that truly change a society will cohere only when intuitive and uncoordinated activity becomes intentional and well-coordinated” (Liu 2017, 113). The call to intentional, well-coordinated action is a foundation of any successful change process. This can be said of effective instructional planning and professional learning as well as of social movements and advocacy efforts.

In his book, Eric Liu notes three opportunities for people to demonstrate they are more powerful than they (or others) think they are. Reading more about these three strategies is well worth the time.

1. Power creates monopolies, and is winner-take-all. You must change the game.
2. Power creates a story of why it’s legitimate. You much change the story.
3. Power is assumed to be finite and zero-sum. You must change the equation (71).

One way the Lilead Fellows have been thinking about their school library services action plans and advocacy activities is by crafting 27-9-3 messages (27 words, spoken in 9 seconds, with three points – see 01/01/18 blog post). John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org and collaboration among the Fellows have been instrumental in honing messages to make them more effective for their intended audience(s). These messages are about changing the “game” and the “story.” They are about building relationships in order to share power for the benefit of students.

“To be sure, the citizen’s view of power is not selfless. It is often quite selfish. But whereas self-help and self-advancement focus on the individual, often in isolation, citizen power is about identity and action in the collective: how we make change happen together” (Liu 2017, 11).

These are two examples of how school librarians are working to maintain and improve effective school library services.

News from Washington State – Contributed by Dr. Christie Kaaland, Core Faculty, Antioch University
In response to a teacher shortage, the state’s educational standards board made a rapid unilateral decision to eliminate all coursework requirements to becoming a teacher librarian (along with 25 other content areas) in Washington state. Teacher librarian advocates rose to the cause and aggressively contacted standards board members.  The board was flooded with emails, phone calls, and on-site testimonials resulting in an overturn of this reduced standards’ decision by the board.  This advocacy work happened swiftly, professionally, and timely and resulted in retaining the coursework requirements for all of the 26 content-area certification standards.

News from Michigan – Contributed by Kathy Lester, School Librarian/Technology Integrationist and MAME Past President
On February 8, 2018, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) published a memo that was sent out to all school districts. In essence, it said that if the person in the school library is doing x, y, z (a list of things from the Michigan certification preparation standards based on certification laws), districts need to have a certified school librarian in place or the district may be financially penalized by losing a small portion of their per pupil funding.

MDE’s intention was to work with districts to grow staff (by earning certification) and provide temporary permits.  However, because only 8% of Michigan schools have full-time certified librarians (and 18% have part-time certified librarians), there was a huge push back from superintendents (and legislators) especially from rural districts in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

As a result, MDE re-wrote the guidance without the Michigan Association of Media Educators’ (MAME) knowledge. Unfortunately, it basically says “anything goes” in school libraries including having paraprofessionals run the library. This “clarification” went out on February 15th.

MAME feels the sting of this setback in an advocacy effort they have been working on since 2013. Still, they are not giving up. They are reorganizing their efforts and rethinking their next moves. As Kathy notes, advocates must keep the five Ps in mind: – present, polite, prepared, positive and persistent.

School librarians can be leaders in modeling effective citizenship and collective action. We can be transparent in our activities and show students, our classroom teacher colleagues, and administrators that it takes organization and persistence. We must also show that the road to change will have its ups and downs but setbacks cannot stop us if we collaborate with a cadre of committed activists and remain true to our moral compass.

Our numbers and our ideals can be sources of power as we seek to ensure empowered learning and teaching through school libraries.

Side note: We can start with being active in our national association and vote! Ballots are available and voting starts today through April 4th. Please consider #Judi4AASL

Work Cited
Liu, Eric. 2017. You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change. New York: Public Affairs.

Image Credit: Remixed by Judi Moreillon from Thurston, Baratunde. 2008. “I Am A Community Organizer.” Flickr.com. https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493

 

 

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