From Where Does Your Authority Come?

The authority of an author is one of the first pieces of background knowledge we ask students to consider as they weigh the value, reliability, perspective, or bias in information. The importance of researching the author’s or authors’ credentials, knowledge, experience, and prior contributions to the conversation on any given topic is equally important for educators who are considering reading a professional book.

To add to what you can learn about me from this blog, my previous writing, or a Google search, I would like to share three of the defining experiences of my professional life. These experiences have charted my practice, scholarship, and service. It may come as a surprise to School Librarian Leadership blog readers who were children or who weren’t yet born in the mid-1990s, but resource-based learning, flexible library schedules, and classroom-library collaboration for instruction have been part of our school librarianship and education history for decades.Resource-based Learning
As a preservice classroom teacher in the 1980s, I was schooled in literature-based teaching. This involved developing units of instruction in all content areas based on literature text sets. These topical or thematic text sets included fiction and informational texts in all genres at a variety of reading proficiency levels. Those text sets even included media (!), which in those days focused on films (and yes, filmstrips), cassette tapes and other recordings, artifact kits, computer-based programs, and more. The goal of developing text sets was to give students choice in exploring resources to develop their literacy and increase their content knowledge.

At that time, we conducted “research.” Most often classroom teachers gave students a set of questions or tasks to complete using the text set for resources. (We did not have a school librarian in our California school.) Most often, students produced traditional reports and presented their learning orally with some type of visual aide. In my classroom, students often had choices in how they presented their learning. Some chose to write traditional reports; others wrote poems or stories, performed skits, or created highly illustrated work. (We had only one Apple IIe computer in our classroom. Its primary instructional use was our student-published class newsletter, The Hang-Ten News.)

Library Power
It wasn’t until my early years as a school librarian that I was introduced to inquiry learning. In my third year of practice, I transferred school districts and secured a position in a high-needs elementary school in a district that had received a Library Power grant. The National Library Power Project was funded with a grant from the Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. Over the course of ten years, the fund provided $45 million 700 schools in 19 school districts across the United States.

I led the team at Corbett Elementary in writing our school’s successful Library Power application. This grant likely changed the course of my career in school librarianship. All Library Power school library programs in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) were required to operate with flexible scheduling based on classroom-library collaboration for instruction. The grants included funds for purchasing new print and electronic resources and renovating the physical spaces of our libraries. Perhaps, most importantly, Library Power districts provided professional development (PD) for classroom teachers, school librarians, and principals.

Classroom-Library Coteaching
School librarians involved with TUSD’s project participated in “Cooperative Program Planning,” a week-long training provided by Ken Haycock. This training was focused on classroom-library collaboration for instruction. In TUSD, we launched a follow-up PD series for which Library Power school librarians were required to bring a classroom teacher colleague to learn and practice coplanning strategies, and prepared to coteach in the classroom or library.

I was hooked. To be honest, I had felt inadequate as a classroom teacher working solo in my classroom. As an isolated educator, I never felt I could simultaneously address the needs of English language learners as well as the students reading and writing far above their grade level. As a school librarian coteacher, I experienced the benefits of two heads for planning, four heads and four hands for coimplementing instruction and coassessing student learning outcomes.

I achieved more satisfaction as a coteacher because I experienced the power of two educators offering students more personalized learning than one educator working alone could provide. Students were able to succeed with individual and small group inquiry projects. And my collaborators and I shared a sense of achievement in meeting students’ needs and developing our instructional expertise alongside one another.

Classroom-Library Collaboration Testimonials
It wasn’t until I transferred to another Library Power elementary school and began regularly teaching a graduate-level course in school librarianship at the University of Arizona that I realized I could be recording classsroom-library ollaboration testimonials from classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators. I began recording in 2001, and other school librarians have since contributed to this page.  The most recent video was crowdsourced and includes testimonials from principals and district-level leaders from across the U.S. regarding their experiences working with professional school librarians: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School” (2014).

My goal in capturing these testimonials was to inspire preservice school librarians to help them understand the benefits of classroom-library collaboration from the perspectives of classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators. Rather than “taking time away” from classroom teachers (losing or taking planning time or classroom instructional time), I wanted to show future school librarians that other educators would welcome their instructional partnership invitations. These testimonials show that educators and administrators value what school librarians bring to the collaboration table and know how our teaching increases student learning.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are your defining professional experiences and how have the influenced the way you teach?
  2. Whose work has guided your instructional practices, and how do you currently apply their thinking and strategies in your teaching?

Reference

Haycock, Ken. 2007. “Collaboration: Critical Success Factors for Student Learning.” School Libraries Worldwide 13 (1): 25–35.

#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.

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 7

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 or two blog posts a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 7: Assessment

“Our opportunity—and our obligation to youth—is to reimagine our schools, and give all kids an education that will help them thrive in a world that values them for what they can do, not for the facts that they know” (Wagner and Dintersmith 2015, 222).

Assessment must always be conducted in the service of learning. When educators conceive of learning as an on-going journey that students and educators take together, they can keep their focus on assessments as measures of both students’ development and educators’ effectiveness. School librarians can maximize their instructional leadership by developing assessment tools, assessing student learning outcomes, and reflecting on the effectiveness of their instruction with a trusted colleague. These activities lead to evidence-based practice.

During coplanning, classroom teachers and school librarians must determine “how” knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions growth data will be collected, analyzed, and used to improve schooling for future ready students. Educators use formative and summative assessments and reflection activities to measure student growth. The formative assessments monitor student growth and provide students with timely feedback so they can improve their work. Formative assessments also inform educators’ subsequent instructional decisions. Educators use summative assessments at the end of an inquiry unit and are often represented as final project grades. Reflective activities integrated throughout the inquiry process help students understand their own learning process and improve their ability to transfer learning to new contexts.

Rather than using traditional standardized, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blanks tests to assess students’ content knowledge, educators use performance-based measures to assess how students apply future ready learning in real-world, authentic contexts. “The integration of authentic learning tasks with diagnostic assessment and project monitoring is a powerful education instrument for [instructional] change and student achievement” (Moreillon, Luhtala, and Russo 2011, 20). The effectiveness of performance-based assessments is determined by how well students can use them to guide their learning process and self-assess their progress as well as their final product or performance.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. A Rationale for Why School Librarians Must Collect Student Learning Outcomes Data;
2. A Plethora of Assessment Tools and a Sample Analytic Rubric;
3. School Librarian Self-Assessment Criteria;
4. A Challenge for Building a Positive School Climate and a Culture of Collaboration.

School librarian and library program evaluation and self-assessment must be based on rigorous criteria. Performance reviews must be designed to guide and improve school librarians’ practice. As a result, it may be necessary to modify district-level evaluation tools to reflect school librarians’ vital contributions to student learning, educator development, and school culture.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi, Michelle Luhtala, and Christina Russo. 2011. “Learning that Sticks: Engaged Educators + Engaged Learners.” School Library Monthly 28 (1): 17-20.

Wagner, Tony, and Ted Dintersmith. 2015. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. New York: Scribner.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

School-Public Library Twitter Chat

The AASL/ALSC/YALSA “Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit” was published in early February. I wrote about it on my blog that month. If you so choose, you can access the toolkit or view my summary before participating in the chat.


Tomorrow, April 24th at 8:00 p.m. Central Time, Mara Rosenberg, Natalie Romano, and I will moderate a Twitter chat hosted by #txlchat. Mara, Natalie, and I are members of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

We owe a huge thank-you to #txlchat moderators for giving us this opportunity to use their Twitter channel for the chat.

We will be using these hashtags: #splctoolkit #txlchat #aasl #alsc #yalsa

These are the questions around which we will build our school-public library collaboration conversation. The questions are organized by the toolkit chapters:

Chapter 1: Getting Started
Q1. What advice would you offer to librarians beginning a new partnership w/their counterpart in a school or public library? What steps have aided in the success of your past collaborations?

Chapter 2: Why School-Public Library Partnerships Matter
Q2. How have you collaborated w/your school or public librarian colleague to prevent summer slide/summer reading loss?

Chapter 3: Successful School-Public Library Partnerships
Q3. What does your public/school library collaboration look like during the school year?

Chapter 4: Continuing the Partnerships
Q4. What tools do you use to keep up with your public or school librarian throughout the year? What works well and what could be improved?

Chapter 5: Templates and Additional Resources
Q5. Do you have templates to share that can help others further develop their school-public library #collaboration?

The toolkit process and final product are an example of how the American Library Association 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 help co-create empowered literacy communities.

We hope you will join us for the chat and share your ideas and experiences of school-public library collaboration.

Our goal is for you to leave the chat with new ideas and inspiration for starting or strengthening a collaborative conversation with your school or public librarian counterpart who can partner with you to grow literacy in your community.

Link to #splctoolkit #txlchat 4/24 Twitter Chat Archive

Image Credit: Chat graphic created by Sharon Gullett, #txlchat Co-Founder

#TxLA18 Winning with Instructional Partners

This week, librarians and librarian advocates from across the state of Texas and beyond are gathering in Dallas for the annual Texas Library Association Conference (#TxLA18). This year’s theme is “Perfecting Your Game: A Win for Your Community.”

I was invited to facilitate two sessions at the conference. Last week, I gave a brief preview and made connections to my Wednesday, April 4th session “Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature.”  You can also view the presentation wiki that includes handouts and will include the slides after the conference.

On April 5th, I will be sharing “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners.” In this session, we will focus on the leader and instructional partner roles of school librarians and make connections to Texas and national school library standards. If you are attending TxLA, I hope to see you at one or both sessions or to cross paths with you during the conference.

Last week, Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel published an article in Phi Delta Kappan (and available online) titled “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.”

Their article and the research they share fully supports the premise behind “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners,” my forthcoming book, and my years of teaching, scholarship, and service. It provides evidence on which to further develop school librarians’ practice, to build effective school library programs, and to grow our profession.

The correlational research cited in the article has been collected over a twenty-five-year period—not coincidentally about the same number of years I have been involved in the profession. While the presence of a state-certified school librarian is correlated with better student learning outcomes, particularly in reading, the quality of a school librarian’s work also matters.

I have bolded key phrases in the excerpt that follows. “Multiple studies have found that test scores tend to be higher in schools where librarians spend more time:

• Instructing students, both with classroom teachers and independently;
• Planning collaboratively with classroom teachers;
• Providing professional development to teachers;
• Meeting regularly with the principal;
• Serving on key school leadership committees;
• Facilitating the use of technology by students and teachers;
• Providing technology support to teachers, and
• Providing reading incentive programs” (Lance and Kachel 2018).

To summarize, effective school librarians serve as leaders and instructional partners.

The activities and priorities of more effective school librarians have a school-wide impact on learning and teaching in their buildings. “Fully integrated library programs with certified librarians can boost student achievement and cultivate a collaborative spirit within schools. School leaders who leverage these assets will realize what research has shown: Quality school library programs are powerful boosters of student achievement that can make important contributions to improving schools in general and, in particular, closing the achievement gap among our most vulnerable learners” (Lance and Kachel 2018).

April is School Library Month (#AASLslm). “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners” supports the Learner and Educator Connections identified by AASL’s SLM Committee.

There is no better time than the present to step up our literacy leadership and reach out to collaborate with administrators and classroom teacher colleagues to maximize school librarian leadership by building connections for learning and advocacy.

What are you doing every day to practice the leader and instructional partner roles in order to transform learning and teaching in your school? If you are attending TxLA, come to the “Winning the Game with Instructional Partners” session and share your strategies. See you there!

Work Cited

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan 99 (7): 15-20. http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research

Logo © 2017 Judi Moreillon

 

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

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

Teach Like Finland, Part 1

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the first in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Since 2001, many educators in the U. S., including yours truly, and around the world have wondered why Finnish students continually rank as top scorers on the international PISA exam. I recently read Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. This is some of what I learned.

Before I even opened the book, I reflected on the use of the word “joyful” in the subtitle. In my work as a school librarian which included thirteen years at all three instructional levels between 1992 – 2009, I cotaught with classroom teachers in their classrooms as well as in the library, computer labs, and out in the field. I had the pleasure of working in many “joyful” classrooms, libraries, and even one very joyful school!

I agree with Teach Like Finland author Timothy Walker that joy is one of the too-oft missing ingredients in schooling today. Walker organizes his book into the four elements of happiness — belonging, autonomy, master, and mind-set — identified by Rag Raghunathan author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? To these Walker adds “well-being.”

There were many other aspects of the Finnish education culture that “spoke to me.” Children start formal schooling at age seven. Elementary schools, in particularly, strive for a holistic, child-focused curriculum that addresses all subjects evenly. All subjects including art and music as well as what U. S. schools consider “core” subjects get equal time. Finnish schools apply the research that has shown art contributes to innovative thinking and music knowledge can help learners grasp mathematical patterns. The holistic model gives children opportunities to cultivate multiple aspects of their personalities and talents.

The average time that Finnish educators spend in actual instruction is also shorter than U. S. teachers per week (18 hours versus 26.5 hours). Finnish students and teachers have 15-minute breaks after every 45-minutes of instructional time. Collaborating with colleagues is one way that educators use that “free” time every day. (See below.)

Walker identified six strategies Finnish educators use to approach their work: seek flow, have a thicker skin, collaborate over coffee, welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy. All of these are well worth considering.

Seek Flow
As a writer and educator, I know and strive for that feeling of flow when my mind and body are totally focused and I do my best work. Walker writes: “Being teachers who seek flow, not superiority, is something that’s not just good for us; it’s also good for our students. Our students are watching us, and if they see that we’re seeking to do our best work, free of comparing ourselves to others, I’m confident that this kind of example will foster a noncompetitive culture in our classrooms… This positive change we want to see—as is so often the case in teaching—starts with us” (Walker 173).

Have a Thicker Skin
Having a “thicker skin” that allows us to give, receive, and respond to constructive criticism is another important strategy. Principal leader and author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Couros just last week posted “It’s Okay to Be the ‘Boss’” to his blog. The thicker skin strategy totally aligns with Couros’s idea about providing adults with feedback.

Couros writes: “As long as people know that you are both on the same page (that you want them to be successful), they will accept the feedback. For some, it is harder than others, but when they know it is because you want them to be better, it is a much easier pill to swallow.”

Walker goes on to write about how he uses journaling to work through anxieties and challenges in teaching. He also writes about how noting “gratitudes” can boost happiness and giving thanks can strengthen relationships.

Collaborate Over Coffee
Of course, the aspect of daily life in Finnish schools that jumped off the page at me was educator collaboration. Walker interviewed several Finnish teachers and asked: “What brings you joy as a teacher, and what brings your students joy?”

One of the most popular answers was collaboration! He noted that nearly 50% of the lessons he taught during his time in Finland were cotaught.

“Teachers in my school were not just collaborating in the traditional sense, by planning and teaching lessons together—they were truly laboring together, sharing the burdens of teaching with each other. They were helping each other track down the resources they’d need for an upcoming lesson. They were discussing better ways to support needy students. They were analyzing curriculum together. They were talking about how to improve recess for the kids. They were grading tests together. They were offering tech support to each other. To my surprise, this work often happened in between sips of coffee, during those fifteen-minute breaks throughout the day” (Walker 178-179).

His comment made me think about what I mean when I write about collaborating in the “traditional sense.” I believe coteaching involves all of the aspects that Walker describes, but maybe others, who have not experienced classroom-library coteaching between equal partners, do not perceive the same depth of partnership that I have experienced.

In the course of coplanning and coteaching, classroom teachers and school librarians are analyzing curriculum together. They are sharing resources and providing technology support to one another. They are strategizing how to differentiate to meet the needs of all students. And in the most effective partnerships, they are assessing students’ work together and using assessment to adjust their instruction.

Walker writes: “More than anything, I think collaboration is all about mind-set. If you truly believe that you are a better teacher when you are working in concert with others, then I think you will naturally find small, simple ways of collaborating… Their work together seemed like a by-product of their teaching mind-set” (181).

Bravo! And yes! To a mind-set that believes collaboration is the key to better teaching.

I will reflect on the other three strategies next week: welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “It’s Okay to Be the ‘Boss.’” The Principal of Change blog. 18 May 2017, http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7360 Accessed 20 May 2017.

Raghunathan, Rag. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? New York: Penguin, 2016.

Walker, Timothy D. Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.

Empowerment and Transformation

This week April 9th through 15th is National Library Week. This year’s theme is “Libraries Transform.”  It is fitting that this public awareness week is embedded in School Library Month (April). The SLM#17 theme is: “Because school libraries empower students.”

There is a strong relationship between these two themes: empowerment and transformation.

Empowerment
What does empowerment mean? This is the second definition offered by Google in a quick search: “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”

How then do school librarians empower students? School librarians empower students by helping them become engaged, effective and critical readers, avid inquirers, and motivated knowledge creators. Empowered students develop agency and become self-directed learners; they are prepared for lifelong learning.

In my experience, the way school librarians empower student learning is through classroom-library coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing outcomes. When school librarians bring their expertise to the collaboration table, they influence the curriculum, instructional strategies, and resources, including technology tools, available to students.

Through reciprocal mentorship with classroom teachers, school librarians influence other educators’ teaching, even when they are not coteaching with the librarian. They impact the learning of all students in their schools. This is the way empowered school librarian leaders best serve empowered students and colleagues.

In her chapter on staying visible and vital in Leading for School Librarians, Hilda K. Weisburg offers key ideas related to empowerment. I have selected a few of them here:

• When you empower someone, you help them feel more confident and sure of their abilities.
• Leaders need to empower their stakeholders.
• Through your teaching, readers’ advisory, and one-on-one help, you empower students.
• You empower teachers by helping them with technology and current educational practices.
• Keeping administrators aware of tech resources being integrated into instruction, and showcasing the work of teachers whose classes have used the library, empower administrator (134).

Transformation
What does transform used as a verb mean? Google says it means: “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.” In my experience, libraries lead by progressive librarians can transform entire communities. Through community-based librarianship, school, public, academic, and special libraries enter into partnerships to help people achieve their goals.

As David Lankes writes in his book Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World: “The mission of the library is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in the community” (33). He goes on to discuss the importance of the word “improve,” which along with “facilitate” implies proactive, collaborative, and transformational action (42-43).

Libraries led by progressive librarians collaborate to transform their communities.

Empowerment and Transformation
In the age of innovation, empowered educators and administrators have the potential to transform the school learning environment and the quality of students’ learning experiences. They also collaborate with a goal of transforming educators’ instructional practices. Through transformed practices, educators and administrators can cofacilitate learning opportunities that are authentic, relevant, and meaningful to students.

School librarians can serve as leaders who help develop the culture of collaboration in which empowerment and transformation can thrive.  It is no accident that the title of American Association of School Librarians’ guidelines for school library programs is entitled Empowering Learners

Empowered students, school librarians, and other educators can transform learning and teaching. That’s what I am celebrating this month.

Side note: On Tuesday, April 11th, the #txlchat topic is school library advocacy.  James Allen, Suzanne Dix, Sara Kelly Johns, and Jane Lofton will be guests. The chat is held on Twitter at 8:00 p.m. Central time.

Works Cited

Lankes, R. David. Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2012.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image credit: Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer,” 7 Sept. 2008, Flickr.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493

The Literacy Village

This past weekend, Tucsonans and visitors to the Old Pueblo celebrated literacy at the ninth annual Tucson Festival of Books. Over 100,000 people attended the two-day festival.

From infants to the elderly, future and avid readers from all backgrounds and with varying literary preferences enjoyed immersing themselves in the power of story and the critical importance of literacy in their lives.

This year, I had the responsibility and pleasure of booking the storytellers and facilitating their performances at the Children’s Entertainment Stage. These performances were part of the Entertainment and Family Activities offered at the Festival.

In chronological order, Elly Reidy, South Mountain Community College (SMCC) Storytelling Institute tellers, Antonio Sacre, More to the Story Entertainment, Joe Hayes, and Carla Goody shared their love of story and their talents to eager audiences of all ages.

Elly Reidy and  SMCC Storytelling Institute Tellers Mario Avent, Chantel Freed, Chrissy Dart, and Liz Warren shared stories from published traditional literature. Their stories spanned different cultures and their retellings reflected the personalities of the tellers. In addition to enjoying their live retellings, listeners could find their stories in the folktale section of their public and school libraries. Hurray for 398.2!

Antonio Sacre, who told stories on both days, shared personal family stories some of which have become picture books or part of a short story collection. One of the overarching themes in Antonio’s tellings is the power of family storytelling, Throughout his performance, he asked listeners to connect with their own stories/memories. Antonio shared his stories in Spanish and English and gave listeners a humorous and heartfelt window into his experiences as a boy, son/nephew/grandson, and father.

More to the Story Entertainment captured the attention and imaginations of the youngest TFOB audience attendees and their families. Through fairy costuming, song, audience participation, and magical moments they delighted their audience.

Joe Hayes once again captivated his loyal audience and made new fans, too, with his Southwest-seasoned tales and stories from beyond our region. Joe said he enjoys telling stories that blend cultures. He told a Cuban story about a family of white herons in Spanish and English and wove a chorus throughout the telling that reminded listeners of the African ancestry of a majority of Cuban people. Joe reminded us that stories connect people of various cultural backgrounds to a shared humanity.

C. A. Goody shared the story of her inspiration for her Charlie the Cat series, which now includes nine titles. Taking the point of view of Charlie, she recounted how a cat might experience various aspects of life. Written for third- and fourth-grade children, Carla’s stories invite readers to take up their pencils/pens/keyboards to craft stories of their own.

Thank you all for your part in making the Children’s Entertainment Stage an exciting part of the TFOB.

As a former school librarian, (school) librarian educator, and family literacy advocate, I am keenly interested in the literacy organizations that support Tucson’s literacy ecosystem, particularly those that impact early childhood education.

These were some of the booths I visited and the groups whose work I applaud (and support). In alphabetical order:

Expect More Arizona: “Expect More Arizona fosters a shared voice and collaborative action among partners statewide to advocate for all Arizona students to have the opportunity to succeed, from their early years and throughout life.”

First Things First: “First Things First is one of the critical partners in creating a family-centered, comprehensive, collaborative and high-quality early childhood system that supports the development, health and early education of all Arizona’s children birth through age 5.”

Literacy Connects, which includes Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona, Reading Seed, and more: “Literacy creates solutions to many of society’s most persistent problems. From reducing unemployment and poverty to increasing economic growth and opportunity, literacy is key to a better future for all of us.”

Make Way For Books: “Our mission is to give all children a chance to read and succeed.” MWFB serves more than 30,000 children and their families and 700 educators.

Worlds of Words: “Worlds of Words is committed to providing a range of resources to encourage educators at all levels to integrate global literature into the lives of children.” (More about WOW next week!)

It does take a village to support literacy and these organizations are doing vital work to elevate literacy in our community and improve the quality of life choices for our residents, particularly as they launch their literacy lives.

Thank you to the presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, and most of all the readers who use their literacy skills every day to enjoy life, to improve their life choices, and to participate in the life of our village, our country, and our world. In doing so, you are an essential part of the literacy village we all need. Bravo to all!

Image Credit: Tucson Festival of Books logo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star, image created in PowerPoint