Advocacy: A Long-term, On-going Process

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy Podcast: Virtual Interview with Dr. Ann Ewbank

When advocacy becomes a regular part of a school librarian’s daily practice, then the long-term, on-going nature this work becomes clear. School librarians must always serve stakeholders in such a way as to engender their support for the professional work and leadership of the school librarian and the role of the library program in student learning. The history of school librarianship is clear. School librarians can never rest on their laurels and assume that their positions, library budgets, and programs are safe from cuts when budgets get tight, district deficits loom, or national trends in education shift.

Readers of Ann Dutton Ewbank’s book Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence (2019) can find additional support for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and developing persuasive messages. School librarians can also use the American Library Association’s Library Advocate’s Handbook (2008), which includes guidelines for telling the library story, successful speaking tips, including a speaker’s checklist, and tips for talking with the media and dealing with tough questions.

Advocating for the Program
When school librarians have formed a solid base of support for the contributions of the library program to the school community, they are able to mobilize support from stakeholders when the need arises. Keeping the library program in the spotlight through consistent services and public relations are essential. The school or library website and social media, the school or library newsletter, principals’ communications to families, and local broadcast media outlets are all venues to share the library story.

In her article “Tales of the Crypt,” elementary and middle school librarian Kelly Klober from Danville (AR) shares an exciting Living History project and event that involved students in researching the lives of people buried in the town cemetery. Adult participants in the project included classroom teachers, family members, and other volunteers from the community. Kelly included this as one of her tips for success: “Make friends with the press. We always have incredible coverage from our local newspaper, and our high school’s senior seminar class has always been kind enough to video the event” (Klober 2019, 20).

Advocating for the Position
While some argue that school librarians should not advocate for their own positions, I whole-heartedly disagree. If there were a proposal on the table in your district to eliminate all kindergarten teachers, you can bet that kinder teachers (and their first-grade colleagues, families, and more) would be frontline advocates who could clearly state the need to retain these positions. State-certified school librarian positions are no different. There is research-based evidence that supports the value of having a state-certified school librarian on every school faculty. School librarians should know this research. The following examples are from an article published in Phi Delta Kappan Online by Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel (2018).

Given the emphasis on literacy and reading in many schools and districts, it makes intuitive sense that students’ reading and writing scores would be better in schools with a strong library program. In a Washington state study, graduation rates and test scores in reading and math were significantly higher in schools with high-quality libraries and certified librarians, even after controlling for school size and poverty (Coker 2015). Reading and writing scores tend to be higher for all students who have a full-time certified librarian. The Pennsylvania study (2012) found that reading scores for Black students (5.5%), Latino students (5.2%), and students with disabilities (4.6%) where higher when the school had a full-time librarian. Even higher academic gains were evident among student subgroups if their schools had more library staff, larger library collections, and greater access to technology, databases, and the library itself. The 4th-grade NAEP reading data supported the Pennsylvania findings. In states that gained librarians between 2004-05 and 2008-09, average reading scores for poor students, Black students, and Latino students improved more than in states that lost librarians. In states that lost librarians, English language learners’ scores dropped by almost 3% (Lance and Schwartz 2012).

School librarians must advocate for their own positions based on research, on their own practice, and on locally collected student learning data.

Advocacy-at-Large
Inviting print and broadcast media to library program events and writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for local newspapers are ways to take the school library story out into the community. School librarians and their advocates can keep school libraries in the minds of the general public as preparation for advocacy appeals and initiatives that will require the support of school boards, families, and voters.

Here are two recently published op-eds that I wrote on behalf of Tucson’s school librarians, libraries, students, educators, administrators, and families.

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning,” Arizona Daily Star, November 3, 2017.

Literacy Matters Every Day,” Arizona Daily Star, March 6, 2019.

And as part of a School Librarian Restoration Project in Tucson Unified School District, TUSD board liaison Kristen Bury of the School Community Partnership Council and I were briefly interviewed by a local news station KGUN9.

Restoration Project Aims to Employ More Librarians for TUSD,” KGUN9 video interview and article.

This letter to the editor was published on April 18, 2019 during School Library Month. “The Library Ecosystem.”

Strategic school librarians engage and enlist others in long-term, on-going advocacy efforts to ensure that school library stakeholders will have equitable access to the resources, instructional and other services, professional expertise, and leadership school librarians and libraries provide. Keeping the public informed is essential when the time comes to seek their support for specific advocacy appeals.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How are you engaged in long-term, on-going advocacy?
  2. Who do you need to ask to join you in this effort?

Works Cited

American Library Association. 2008. Library Advocate’s Handbook. 3rd ed. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advocacy-university/library-advocates-handbook

Coker, Elizabeth. 2015. The Washington State School Library Study: Certified Teacher-librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools. Seattle: Washington Library Media Association.

Ewbank, Ann. 2019. Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Klober, Kelly. 2019. “Tales from the Crypt.” Knowledge Quest 47 (4): 16-20.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. 2012. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543418.pdf

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

Leading Successful Advocacy Appeals

April is School Library Month: Everyone Belongs @Your School Library

When you read Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, you will clearly make the connection between leadership and advocacy. Effective school librarians lead advocacy initiatives in order to spotlight the needs of students, classroom teachers, and administrators in relationship to the library program. Such advocacy efforts are made in light of the positive impact the program and school librarians’ teaching/coteaching have on student learning and classroom teachers’ teaching as well as in support of administrators reaching school goals.

School librarians’ own advocacy efforts can lead to increasing all library stakeholders understanding of the critical role libraries and librarians play in future ready education. In a study of school library advocacy literature published between 2001 and 2011, researchers Ann Dutton Ewbank and Ja Youn Kwon found that 83% of advocacy activities were initiated by school librarians themselves or by an individual in the school library field (2015, 240). Only 5% of the advocates mentioned in the literature were parents and just 3% were school administrators.

Advocacy Appeals Supported by Stakeholders
The “Spokane Moms” are one of the shining examples of parent advocates who have spoken up for school librarians and libraries. In 2008, they launched a website, maintained a blog, cited research and testimonials, and provided advocates with ways to support their cause. Working together, they effectively advocated to save professional school librarian positions first in their own city and then throughout the state of Washington.

Each year during April, School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians seeks an advocate who will record a public service announcement (PSA) to promote the importance of school libraries and librarians. Author and illustrator Dav Pilkey provided this year’s PSA. His heartfelt personal story of being a child with learning challenges and parents who encouraged him to read whatever he wanted provides a powerful testimonial for librarians and librarians. School librarians and school library advocates are encouraged to download it and share it widely in their learning communities and online.

Advocacy Appeals Launched by School Librarians
We all wish our communities had the advantages of a dedicated group of advocates such as the Spokane Moms. While we can count on support from our national association and authors who are generous in making appeals for our profession, school librarians must face the reality of everyday advocacy. School librarians themselves must speak out and be their own first advocates.

Chapter 8 includes an example of a school librarian-led advocacy appeal to hire library assistants in every school—assistants who make it possible for school librarians and the program to reach their capacity to lead, teach, and provide professional development. The example guides readers through a step-by-step process that can be applied to other types librarian-led advocacy efforts.

Advocacy Goal
School librarians may launch an advocacy appeal, but our ultimate goal is for stakeholders to become knowledgeable, vocal spokespersons for the program. When stakeholders speak up on behalf of school librarians and libraries, many policy- and decision-makers will sit up and listen. And when the initiative takes on a life of its own, school librarians can help ensure the success of such efforts by leading from behind the scenes to keep the messaging strong, clear, and productive in reaching the intended outcomes.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. For what specific support, project, resources, or tools would you launch an advocacy appeal today?
  2. How would you frame that appeal in terms of benefits to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and/or administrators?

Work Cited

Ewbank, Ann Dutton, and Ja Youn Kwon. 2015. “School Library Advocacy Literature in the United States: An Exploratory Content Analysis.” Library & Information Science Research 37: 236-243.

 

Differentiated Digital Professional Development

There is no doubt in my mind that when classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians coteach they offer each other reciprocal mentorship; they learn with and from one another. In the context of digital learning, this results in differentiated digital professional development for all educators and improved outcomes for students.

Rose Else-Mitchell, who is currently the Chief Learning Officer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, conducted a study in 2017 in which she found that 2/3rds of classroom teachers are using technology in instruction but feel they need more support and training (cited in Wolf 2018, 182). When educators are coplanning and coteaching as equal partners, their combined digital teaching and learning expertise enhances experiences and ensures that instructional innovations, including students’ use and mastery of technology resources and tools, are diffused throughout the learning environment.

Research Related to Adult Learning
Andragogy comprises principles of adult learning. As mentioned in the “Professional Development is Key” blog post last September, these principles should be adhered to in formal professional development as well as in informal coteaching/reciprocal mentoring. Adults learners:

  1. are self-directed and take responsibility for their own learning;
  2. have prior experiences that can be a positive or negative influence on learning;
  3. are motivated by an internal need to know;
  4. and have a problem-solving orientation to learning (Knowles 1990).

School librarians are wise to approach collaboration from the perspective of helping a colleague solve her/his instructional challenge. With regard to school librarians’ role as technology mentors, this can come from a place of sharing what we know, learning from what the other educator(s) knows, or taking a risk together to attempt something new in order to engage, motivate, or challenge students.

In my experience as a school librarian educator, I found many graduate students who were learning new technology tools felt supported by taking a risk with a university classmate or building-level colleague. Educators found that identifying resources and tools, troubleshooting tools with students in mind, and providing students with choices and a menu of resource and tool options can be more successful with two or more designer-facilitators of learning.

Exemplary Practice from the Field
Laura Long is the school library media specialist at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, North Carolina. In her January 10, 2019 Knowledge Quest blog post “The School Library, Makey, Makey, and Learning,” Laura shared an exemplary example.

Laura’s colleague Jamee P. Webb teaches English III (11th grade). This is how Laura describes Jamee, “She is a frequent collaborator with me in the school library, and she is a lifelong learner. It is fun to watch her discover new strategies, apps, and products that she can use with her students.” (This description says as much about Laura who wrote it as it does about Jamee.)

When Jamee earned a grant for “Makey, Makey STEM kits,” Laura, Jamee, and instructional technology facilitator Katherine Leatherman explored the Makey kits with Jamee’s classes. The two-day project culminated with student-created poetry using the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as background information. (Please read Laura’s entire post.)

Also, on March 6, 2019, school librarian Harry Oslund from William J. Brennan High School in Northside ISD (Texas) and the school’s academic technology instructional support specialist Ryan Fontanella are offering a webinar titled “Using Makerspaces to Build Teacher/Librarian Collaboration” via AASL’s eCollab. I am excited to hear their presentation and learn how they are collaborating to maximize the impact of their school’s makerspace on students’ classroom-based learning. You can sign up here: http://www.ala.org/aasl/ecollab/makerspaces

Embracing Tasks Before Apps Mindset
When I read Laura’s post, I was reminded of an article that was written by Monica Burns (ClassTechTips.com) that appeared last September in the Association for Curriculum and Development’s Education Update. Dr. Burns offered four tips for keeping the focus on tasks rather than on the technology tools themselves. These tips support classroom-library coplanning and coteaching in the context of digital learning.

  1. Review curriculum goals.
  2. Reflect on creation opportunities.
  3. Take stock of student interest.
  4. Find your partner in technology (Burns 2018, 4-5).

Unfortunately, Dr. Burns didn’t mention school librarians as natural partners for classroom teachers when it comes to curating and integrating apps and other technology tools and devices into classroom instruction.

As Laura Long’s experience shows, when classroom teachers, school librarians, and technology instructional coaches pool their expertise and resources exciting, successful, and digitally rich learning experiences happen for students.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you currently practice technology-focused differentiated professional development with and for your colleagues?
  2. What ideas do you have for improving technology-focused differentiated professional development with and for your colleagues?

Works Cited

Burns, Monica. 2018. “Embracing a Tasks Before Apps Mindset.” ASCD: Education Update: 1, 4-5.

Knowles, Malcolm. 1990. The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf.

Long, Laura. 2019. “The School Library, Makey, Makey, and Learning.” Knowledge Quest Blog. https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/the-school-library-makey-makey-and-learning

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Digital Learning Dispositions

In Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, I argue that educators modeling and students practicing dispositions is a key aspect of future ready learning. In our technology-enabled world where answers to straight-forward questions are nearly instantaneous, it is essential that students learn to invest in deeper digital learning. This requires them to learn and practice dispositions such as openness, flexibility, persistence, and more. Another way to refer to these attributes and behaviors is social and emotional learning skills or SELs.

“When schools recognize that emotions drive much of how and what we learn, students and educators will flourish” (Bracket 2018, 14).

Survey of  Students
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) conducted a national survey of current and recent high school graduates; 1,300 participated. 77% of the survey participants said they were not as prepared socially and emotionally for life after K-12 as they are academically prepared. In short, they weren’t fully college, career, or community ready. School librarians can be leaders on their campuses when SEL curriculum is rolled out. They can also be leaders in highlighting the importance of SEL in schools and districts where this movement has not yet arrived.

“Students who are in schools where the integration of social, emotional and academic development is strong report doing much better academically, getting along better with others, feeling safer, being much better prepared for life, and having higher rates of volunteering than those students who do not attend such schools. Their experiences are borne out by research demonstrating that high-quality social and emotional learning boosts many of the outcomes we already measure – such as attendance, academic achievement, behavior, graduation, college attainment, employment, and participation in community” (DePaoli, Atwell, Bridgeland, and Shriver 2018, 1).

For a brief summary of the survey, see the link below for an EdSurge article by Emily Tate. In her article, Tate quotes Timothy Shriver, CASEL’s board chair: “There has been a long and divisive conversation about whether we should be educating the head or the heart. That either/or conversation needs to be over.”

Digital Dispositions
I agree with Shriver; there should be no question. Educators must attend to the needs of students’ hearts as well as their minds. Noticing the role dispositions play in (inquiry) learning is one way to bridge hearts and minds.

Grit and persistence (discussed in previous blog posts) often come into play during digital learning and in life. (The author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Angela Duckworth is developing a website called “Character Lab” to provide SEL resources. Check it out!) Other dispositions such as confidence which can result from having choice and voice in choosing and using digital resources and tools, and optimism, which comes with successful learning experiences are other SEL dispositions that educators guide students in reflecting upon as they wrap up inquiry learning experiences.

Edsurge includes the 4Cs (Partnership for 21st Century Skills) as dispositions: communication, collaboration, critical thinking (and problem solving), and creativity (and innovation) as future ready dispositions. Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise, participated in an EdSurge on the Air podcast interview: “How Do You Prepare Students for Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet?”  In the interview, Cator, a former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, talks about transitioning workforce development to the skills that are “uniquely human.” She suggests coteaching and coaching for classrooms teachers in order to learn to facilitate new kinds of learning experiences. She notes that inclusive innovation means problem solving with the people who are affected by the solutions to these challenges; for educators this means innovating along with students. She also notes that educators have a responsibility to make sure all educators and students can benefit from innovations in teaching and learning.

Executive Functions
Some dispositions are also known as “executive functions.” These include self-awareness, self-control, self-direction, good study habits, and more. When students take the responsibility for self-monitoring inquiry learning, educators can help learners understand that they are practicing dispositions that will be useful when they enter the workforce, enter higher education, or raise a family. Educators can help students design strategies for increasing their success in developing executive functions such as creating learning plans, learning logs, checklists, and other tools. Inquiry learning is an ideal context for practicing these dispositions.

Lived Experiences
Educating the whole student means attending to the heart as well as the mind. Planning a relevant curriculum means that school-based learning connects to students’ outside-of-school lives. “Learning happens best when the full, often complicated nature of our lived experiences are recognized celebrated, and serve as the basis upon which we experience school” (DePaoli, Atwell, Bridgeland, and Shriver 2018, vi).

Through coplanning and curation, school librarians can ensure that empowered students are prepared for learning and life with SEL experiences. They can ensure that students are given opportunities to tap into their imaginations and curiosity and are encouraged to take the initiative as knowledge creators who share their learning with personally meaningful, authentic audiences. Working together classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians codesign and coimplement digitally powered instruction that includes SEL and leads to improved student learning outcomes as well as increased student engagement and motivation.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Which dispositions do you believe are most closely tied to and practiced during digital learning experiences?
  2. How do you assess students’ development of digital learning dispositions?

Works Cited

Bracket, Marc A. 2018. “The Emotional Intelligence We Owe Students and Educators.” Educational Leadership 75 (2): 13-18.

DePaoli, Jennifer L., Matthew N. Atwell, John M. Bridgeland, and Timothy P. Shriver. 2018. “Perspectives of Youth on High School Social and Emotional Learning.” CASEL. https://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Respected.pdf

Tate, Emily. 2018. “Students Say Poor Social and Emotional Skills Are Leaving Them Unprepared.”  EdSurge Blog. https://tinyurl.com/edsurgetate18

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

Coleading Alongside Principals

Earlier this month there was a discussion on the AASL Forum about the perceptions of education decision-makers regarding school librarians’ skill sets and contributions to student learning and classroom teachers’ teaching. (In addition, Rebecca Moore also published an article in VOYA magazine called “Beyond Mysterious Stain Removal: Top Skills for School Librarians.”)

Several people have commented on the Forum that school librarians must listen to principals, in particular, and help them solve the challenges they face. By helping principals and other district-level administrators solve problems and serving as coleaders alongside their administrators, school librarians can help others successfully implement change.

I invite you to revisit Misti Werle’s virtual podcast interview for Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development to note how she is leading coteaching practices among Bismarck (North Dakota) Public Schools as a way of addressing school administrators’ priorities.

In 2014, my former Texas Woman’s University colleague Teresa Starrett, who teaches school administration courses, and I crowdsourced a video titled “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.” We put out a nationwide request to school librarians who had experience collaborating with their principals and with classroom teachers. These testimonials, from across the country, document what these school administrators know are the reasons all schools should have a professional school librarian on the faculty who leads a collaborative school library program.

The following are transcript excerpts from the videos we received. They were used to create the composite video.  From my perspective, these testimonials clearly indicate what all administrators should value and what all school librarians should contribute to their learning communities. I have highlighted some of the keywords in their testimonials. (Note: The administrators’ positions and titles listed were accurate at the time the video was published in 2014).

Paula Godfrey, Elementary School Principal (Retired), Tucson, Arizona
“Principals should stand for what’s important in schools, and having teacher librarians in elementary schools is essential. When you have a teacher librarian in an elementary school, they teach teachers how to be better at their craft, how to help children evaluate sites so that the research they do is meaningful and allows student voices to come out because they truly understand the research that they’re doing. When you work with the teacher librarian, you’re able to grow professionally in a way that’s very non-threatening, very supportive, but accomplishes that raise of rigor in the classroom, and their confidence in being able to complete a research project with their students. There is the opportunity on a day-to-day basis for the teacher librarian to use the skills that she has to improve teaching in classroom teachers. That professional development doesn’t happen on Wednesday afternoons from 1:45 to 2:45. Professional development happens as teacher librarians and classroom teachers collaborate together on projects for their students.

Teacher librarians are the heart of the school. And without a teacher librarian there is no central focus on literature. There is no support for families, for students, for teachers, for staff, on literature, on professional development, on research. Teacher librarians are the heart of the school.”

Dr. Neil Stamm, Assistant Principal, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, Virginia
“The school librarian has become more of a resource for students, rather than the keeper of books. Librarians now work with students and teachers as an information agent.”

Felicia Barnett, Principal, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, Virginia
“The true indication of the value of our school librarian is found in the excitement that our students experience when visiting our library. It’s an obvious result of the librarian’s passion: making literacy a priority for all content areas in our building and all students and families.”

Regina Stafford, Assistant Administrator, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, Virginia
“School libraries and school librarians contribute in rich and diverse ways to the intellectual life of a school. They help develop students to function in a complex and increasingly digital environment. The school librarian really is a co-teacher who undertakes an active role by engaging in shared instruction to produce literate and informed learners who can thrive in a digital knowledge-based world.”

Linda Nathan, Founding Headmaster, Boston Arts Academy, Boston, Massachusetts
“I’m a huge advocate for bringing librarians into the forefront and bringing libraries into the forefront of thinking about urban school reform.”

Dr. Lourenco Garcia, Principal, Revere High School, Revere, Massachusetts
“The learning commons is a place where the librarian, the person that’s running it, can really program, plan activities in a more engaging and interactive way, where teachers and students feel good because technically they are not entrenched in an area that’s cold like the traditional library, but in a place that is very engaging, very interactive, where the work can be done in a more relaxing environment.”

Dr. Nadene Stein, Northeast Elementary School, Waltham, Massachusetts
“We are blessed to have a vibrant library and a great librarian who can connect with the teachers and the students and really make learning come alive for kids. And I’m not really sure what we would do without that resource. I can’t imagine not having a library teacher. I’ve worked in other systems where that’s one of the first things that gets cut, and I would be holding on to the library teacher kicking and screaming if they told me that we had to lose that out of the budget. The resource is invaluable, and it is something that just enhances the curriculum of every grade level in this building.”

Priscila Dilley, Director of Elementary Leadership, Principal Supervisor, Fort Worth, Texas
“We like to really push for a coteaching approach, where the librarian and the teacher are there side by side and they know the skills that students need to review or, you know, spiral back in, whatever it might be. We like for the librarians to be heavily involved with that so that they can support the student achievement in their libraries as well.”

Rebecca Beidelman, (Former) Principal, Kutztown Area High School, Kutztown, Pennsylvania
“They (school librarians) are teachers. They are information specialists. And they sit down and they help with writing curriculum. And helping to design assessment. Because a lot of assessment is also project based and process based – you’re evaluating the process as opposed to just the process outcome. And that process, of course, in terms of Common Core, has to include all of the research components that are required. The technology components that are required. The higher-level thinking and the depth of knowledge that’s required. I cannot imagine not having an information literacy specialist in my building to bounce things off of.”

Shenequa Coles, Principal, Columbia High School, Columbia, South Carolina
“Our librarian is a member of our leadership team, she assists with the decision-making that the team has to do, and that includes department chairs and administrators. The bottom line is, our librarian assists with projects for students with teachers, research, she provides professional development through our Technology Tuesday sessions and other sessions that we have professional development sessions throughout the school year. This school could not function without our school librarian, and she helps to provide a rich culture that is filled with inviting and new learning opportunities.”

For me, all of these testimonials suggest that school librarians’ roles as curriculum developers (#1 on Rebecca Moore’s list) and leaders in job-embedded professional development can be pathways for school librarians to help principals and district-level administrators solve the challenges they face in our schools.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How does your principal engage in distributed leadership?
  2. What roles do leaders play in your school?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi, and Teresa Starrett, eds. 2014. “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”  YouTube. https://youtu.be/bihGT7LoBP0

All quotes used with permission

Professional Development Is Key

One of the long-term trends (five or more years) in the 2017 K-12 Horizon Report is advancing cultures of innovation. As noted in last week’s post, collaboration and leadership are both essential aspects of innovation and change. As innovators and change-makers, school librarians working alongside their administrators and colleagues can be at the forefront in a distributed leadership culture.

If innovation is a process of thinking that involves creating something new and better (George Couros paraphrase), then school librarians, as professional developers, will always be seeking improvement. As Senge and his colleagues suggest: schools that learn are “… places where everyone, young and old, would continuously develop and grow in each other’s company; they would be incubation sites for continuous change and growth. If we want the world to improve, in other words, then we need schools that learn” (cited in Moreillon 2018, 10).

Formal and Informal Staff Development

Formal staff development and informal professional learning (coteaching) are ways that school librarians lead in their schools. In recent years and in many quarters, the term “professional development” applied to adult learning has been replaced with “professional learning.” For me, development implies improvement. If we agree that all learning requires change, then I, for one, welcome “professional development” as a term that indicates an upward continuum of growth. I do not perceive of “development” as contrary to the autonomous aspect of andragogy, adult learning. (In my book, I use both terms: “professional development” and “professional learning.”)

There are many examples in editors Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet H. Harada’s book Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers. I highly recommend Maximizing School Librarian Leadership (MSLL) readers return to that book for examples of the many pathways school librarians have taken in leading professional development. (I would contend that all the examples in Growing Schools required collaboration in order to achieve success!) My chapter in that book provided the foundation for MSLL Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development.

Banned Books Week: Professional Development Opportunity
The American Librarian Association is part of a coalition of organizations that focuses a spotlight on Banned Books Week September 23rd – September 29th. School librarians can lead by coteaching and providing professional development focused on “Call Out Censorship.”  For inspiration read Jacqueline Higginbotham’s post “What? I am not allowed to read that” and comments on the TxASL Talks: Advocacy for All blog.

Then, ask yourself how you can offer your school community an opportunity to consider the ramifications of censorship. Follow up and ollaborate with classroom teachers to invite students to consider issues of censorship in light of the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017.”

MSLL Book Study Support
The discussion questions, activities, and reflection prompts at the end of each chapter in MSLL are designed to position school librarians as professional development leaders. The majority of the questions, activities, and prompts are focused at the building level but can be adapted for other contexts. By guiding MSLL co-readers through these activities, school librarians demonstrate leadership and their impact on adult learning in their schools and districts.

For example, one of the activities offered at the end of Chapter One is a job description writing exercise. It starts with the end in mind—the job description of a future ready student. From that foundation, MSLL readers are invited to write job descriptions for any stakeholder in that endeavor. School librarians facilitate these kinds of adult learning activities in order to build trust with and among colleagues, to develop shared values and priorities, and to improve instructional practices in their buildings or at the district level.

Brain research confirms that metacognition—thinking about our thinking/learning—is the way we modify our understandings and integrate new knowledge into our schema. I have included reflections prompts at the end of every chapter. I offer one prompt especially for school librarians. In this question in Chapter One, I encourage school librarians to think about how they make connections and contribute to a culture of learning in their schools or districts. (This will be one of the questions #txlchat participants will discuss on Twitter focused on Maximizing School Librarian Leadership tomorrow, Tuesday, September 25th. Join us!)

MSLL readers are encouraged to adapt the book study components of each chapter to their unique learning environments. Developing site-specific or district-level discussion questions is recommended as appropriate. Activities and reflection prompts can also be modified.

There are no shortcuts to culture building. Educators must develop trust and invest in their own and each other’s continuous learning. Shared professional development is the way.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you currently lead professional development in your school?
  2. What are your plans for increasing your contributions to your own and to colleagues professional learning this academic year?

References

Abilock, Debbie, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet Harada, Eds. 2012. Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

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

New Media Consortium and Consortium for School Networking. 2017. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition.

 

Collaboration and Leadership Are Essential

Working in isolation from other educators simply does not work. It doesn’t work for classroom teachers and specialists, and it doesn’t work for school librarians. In fact, while other educators in the building may “get by” with working alone, school librarians simply cannot maximize the capacity of library resources and the school library program unless they work in collaboration with administrators and colleagues. Most school librarians are the only person in their buildings who perform their roles and job functions. This position on the faculty also requires that school librarians develop leadership skills as well.

The Collaboration Challenge
Collaborating with other adults can be challenging. Many educators, including school librarians, enter the profession with a solo orientation to teaching. We think of the classroom or library as a “my” space. Classroom teachers refer to students as “their students” and school librarians refer to the library as “my library.” Moving toward an “our” orientation requires a culture shift that includes a commitment to continuous outreach to colleagues and (fearless) risk-taking with other adults.

School librarians have been “advised” to engage in classroom-library collaboration for more than fifty years. The Standards for School Library Programs published in 1960 recommended that instruction in “library skills” be a cooperative endeavor between school librarians and classroom teachers. However, many of the preservice school librarians in the courses I taught (1995-2016) believed that collaboration was a “new” way for school librarians to practice their teaching role. Their own experience as K-12 students, as classroom teachers, or even as school librarian interns may have contributed to their perception that working in isolation from other faculty members and classroom curriculum was an option.

Simply put, collaboration is not an option.

Literacies, Skills, and Dispositions
School librarians are responsible for helping students develop literacies, skills, and dispositions that cross disciplinary boundaries. To be effective in terms of student learning, they must teach literacies and skills and model dispositions in the context of the classroom curriculum. Coteaching with classroom teachers and specialists allows school librarians to fulfill their charge to integrate the resources of the library and their own expertise into the academic program of the school. If they do not collaborate, school librarians will be unable to help students, other educators, and administrators reach their capacity.

The literacies, skills, and dispositions students practice through an integrated school library program facilitated by a collaborative school librarian are transferable to every discipline and to lifelong learning. School librarian leaders feel a responsibility to ensure that students have multiple opportunities in many, if not all, content areas to learn and practice these aspects of future ready learning (see MSLL figure 1.1). This opportunity and responsibility is a call to leadership.

The Leadership Challenge
Before publishing the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018), the American Association of School Librarians hired KRC Research to conduct a study of the profession. Participants in AASL focus groups were asked about the core values of school librarianship. According to the summary, participants tended to agree on these core values (from more often mentioned to least often mentioned):

  • Inquiry
  • Equitable access to information
  • Commitment to lifelong learning (in oneself, one’s students, and one’s colleagues)
  • Empower student through literacy
  • Modeling and mentoring
  • Develop critical/skeptical thinking
  • Inclusiveness: diversity of beliefs, ideas, cultures and lifestyles
  • Intellectual freedom
  • Foster leadership and collaboration
  • Ethical use of information (AASL 2016, 9)

The fact that “foster leadership and collaboration” was one of the least often mentioned core values was a red flag for me. In my experience, enacting leadership and collaboration and fostering these two essential skills in others must be core values for school librarians. The preservice school librarians I taught over a twenty-one-year period may have come into their graduate coursework without such an understanding, but by the time they entered practice, I would hope they felt prepared to enact and foster these skills.

Simply put, leadership is not an option.

Collaboration and Leadership Are Essential
Research has shown that school librarian candidates can learn and embrace collaboration and leadership skills (Mardis 2013; Moreillon 2013; Smith 2011) and that school administrators view school librarians as leaders in technology, research, and information (Johnston et al. 2012). As Marcia Mardis (2013) notes the fact that “leadership [is] essential at all levels in schools has been described as an essential condition of innovation and change” (41).

If school librarians are to serve as key contributors to transforming learning and teaching in their schools then the abilities to collaborate and lead are essential skills to learn, practice, continually develop, refine, and sustain.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you enact collaboration in your school?
  2. How do you enact leadership in your school?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians and KRC Research. 2016. AASL Member and Stakeholder Consultation Process and the Learning Standards and Program Guidelines. https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/AASL_SG_ResearchFindings_ExecSummary_FINAL_101116.pdf

Mardis, Marcia. 2013. “Transfer, Lead, Look Forward.: Further Study of Preservice School Librarians’ Development.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 54 (1): 37-54.

Additional Reading

Johnston, Melissa P., Jeffrey Huber, Jennifer Dupuis, Dan O’Hair, Mary John O’Hair, and Rosetta Sandidge. 2012. “Revitalization of the School Library Media Specialist Certification Program at the University of Kentucky: Preparing 21st Century School Library Technology Leaders.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 53 (3): 200-207.

Moreillon, Judi. 2013. “Educating for School Library Leadership: Developing the Instructional Partnership Role.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 54 (1): 55-66.

Smith, Daniella. 2011. “Educating Preservice School Librarians to Lead: A Study of Self-Perceived Transformational Leadership Behaviors.” School Library Media Research 14.

Maximizing Systems Thinking

In this quote from the book, I offer a critical foundation for succeeding in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership. When administrators, educators, students, and families have a collaborative mindset, they will be invested in each other’s success and in the success of the entire learning community. With a culture of collaboration as a foundation, principals and school librarian leaders will have built the necessary relationships to fully understand the system they seek to lead.

The Global View
Like principals, school librarians have a global view of the learning community. Effective school librarians and principals also reach out beyond the school walls to work with families and other community members. A close working relationship between principals and school librarians helps them share their insights into the various components of the learning community.

Systems thinking involves taking stock of the whole system before attempting to change any part of it. Systems thinking leaders search for patterns in the interdependent relationships among people and practices within the system. It is important, then, that leaders step into each other’s and every stakeholder’s shoes. School librarian leaders must ask: What does the school library program look like from the perspective of the principal(s), classroom teachers, specialists, staff, families, district-level decision-makers, and community members?

Systems thinking helps leaders identify areas of strength. These are the places in the system that support the learning community’s vision, mission, or goals. Leaders also look for stumbling blocks that may impede the school’s progress toward achieving their goals. In a collaborative culture, leaders use this information to further strengthen the system and collectively solve the challenges that could keep educators, students, and families from achieving success.

School Library Services Alignment
Collaborative school librarians seek to align their work—resources and teaching—with the classroom curriculum. Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning outcomes they have first-hand knowledge of the instructional program from a school-wide perspective. Principals and school librarians can use that information to continually improve their own leadership as well as the success of other educators, students, and families.

Systems thinking involves working as a team. Team learning “is a discipline of group interaction. Through such techniques as dialogue and skillful discussion, small groups of people transform their collective thinking, learn to mobilize their energies and actions to achieve common goals, and draw forth an intelligence greater than the sum of individual members’ talents” (Senge et al. 2012, 8).

School librarians work with individual colleagues as well as with grade-level and disciplinary teams. This gives us the opportunity (and the responsibility) to personalize professional learning for each member of the teaching faculty. Our knowledge of the entire system, which we share with our administrators, helps school librarians collaborate with others to transform teaching and learning. It helps us know how we can capitalize on our colleagues’ individual strengths and the school’s collective strengths. It helps us develop strategies to address any policies, procedures, or practices that may be holding us back.

Systems Thinking in Education
Systems thinking is not a new idea in education. In 1992, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development published an issue of Educational Leadership called “Improving School Quality.” Frank Betts contributed an article to that issue called “How Systems Thinking Applies to Education.” As Betts notes, “Each educational system is composed of a unique set of elements arranged in a unique constellation of relationships. Furthermore, the relationships among elements, subsystems, and supra-systems are continually changing in search of equilibrium while avoiding entropy.” As the call for systemic change in education has grown even more urgent in the years since his article was published, there remains much to learned about applying systems thinking to transforming our schools.

Taking a systems thinking approach provides school leaders with the data they need to lead a change process. Strong leaders practice distributive leadership and encourage all stakeholders to actively participate in the process. Applying systems thinking and working collaboratively with others is the way to collectively take the risks necessary to maximize our effectiveness and reach for our capacity to meet the needs of today’s students.

Coming August 27th at 3:00 p.m. EST:

Your Library on Steroids: Make an Impact on System Level PrioritiesSchool Library Journal Webinar with Priscille Dando, Coordinator of Library Information Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Jonathan Hunt, Lead Coordinator of Library Media Services, San Diego County Office of Education

Questions for Discussion

  1. Do you feel that your school community is currently working together as a team?
  2. How do you or could you contribute to strengthening your school’s team?

Works Cited

Betts, Frank. 1992. “How Systems Thinking Applies to Education.” Educational Leadership 50 (3); 38-41.

Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares about Education. New York: Crown Business.

 

#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.