Instructional Leadership Opportunities

School librarian leaders belong to school library professional organizations. We read the journals and magazines focused on research and practice in our own profession. We participate in Facebook, Google, and Twitter chat groups and more to learn with and from each other to develop our craft.

While it is essential that school librarians stay abreast of new developments in our own field, it is also important to read the journals and magazines our administrators and classroom teacher colleagues read as well. In addition to library-focused organizations, I belong to two non-library organizations, the International Literacy Association and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in large part to read their journals and access their online resources.

Last May, ASCD’s Educational Leadership published an issue titled “Lifting School Leaders.” Check out the table of contents. From my perspective, school librarian leaders could benefit from reading every article in the issue. These are my comments on four of them.

In her column, “One to Grow On,” Carol Ann Tomlinson notes four ways school leaders claim their authority: bureaucratic (hierarchy), psychological (expectations and rewards), professional (training and experience), or moral (values and norms). In schools where leaders with “moral authority” have invested in building relationships, reaching collective values, and establishing shared norms, they lead their colleagues in creating a collaborative culture based on interdependence and reciprocal mentorship. School librarians can be coleaders along with their principals in creating the conditions that make such a school culture possible.

Instructional coach Anne M. Beaton wrote an article called “Designing a Community of Shared Learning.” She cites the work of Roland Barth, one of the educational researchers who has greatly impacting my thinking about the community of school. Anne realized the richness of instructional expertise that classroom teachers in her school were missing by not being able to observe one another teaching. She set up a rotation and a protocol for educators to learn from visiting each other’s classrooms. For me, her article made a connection to the enormous benefit school librarians have to develop their craft through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning with every classroom teacher and specialist colleague in their building!

Kenneth Baum and David Krulwich wrote about “The Artisan Teaching Model” as a way to develop instructional expertise. In their article “A New Approach to PD—and Growing Leaders,” they describe the importance of writing, practicing, and delivering engaging lessons as the “defining work” of educators. I could not agree more! The Artisan Teaching Model involves co-creating quality instruction in grade-level, content-area teams facilitated by a team leader. After writing high-quality plans, a teammate observes a colleague teaching and provides feedback. Again, my connection is to the opportunity school librarians have to learn with and from their colleagues through instructional design, delivery, and assessment.

In “Building a Schoolwide Leadership Mindset,” Sarah E. Fiarman, a former school principal, shares how principals can support educators who think in terms of how their actions will benefit the entire school. Rather than focusing their work at the classroom (or library) level, educators with a whole-school perspective can influence the practices of their colleagues. Principals create opportunities for educators, including librarians, to share responsibility for improving teaching and learning by “getting out of their way” and giving them tasks they have never done before. Supporting educators in taking risks helps them grow as leaders in a culture of professional learning.

School librarians have limitless opportunities to serve as instructional leaders in their schools. (Sadly, but it seems all too common, I did not note that a school librarian was mentioned in any of the articles in the “Lifting School Leaders” issue.)

If you do not have access to the May, 2017 issue of Educational Leadership, ask your principal to share her/his copy. Make time to read the articles and note how you are serving and can grow in your instructional leader role. Follow up with an appointment with your principal to discuss what you learned and how she/he can help you further build your leadership capacity.

As Google’s Educational Evangelist Jaime Casap proclaimed in his keynote at the American Association of School Librarians’ conference in Phoenix last month, it’s time for educators to step up our work. Jaime said, “Take the best ideas we have (in education) and bring them to the next level.”

Let’s make sure our administrators and colleagues experience how school librarians are coleading as we build on the best ideas in teaching and learning. In collaboration with our principals and classroom teacher colleagues, we can best serve our students by taking those ideas to the next level.

Image Credit: Educational Leadership Cover courtesy of ASCD

#AASLstandards Resources

New standards cause educators to sit up and take notice. The release of the National School Library Standards for Students, School Librarians, and School Libraries (ALA 2017) at the #AASL17 conference has created a treasure trove of resources to support practicing and preservice school librarians, school librarian supervisors, and school librarian educators in studying and adopting the standards.

As a member of the School Library Connection (SLC) Editorial Board and a regular contributor to the magazine, I was asked along with others to give my initial reaction to the new standards.

This is what I submitted: “The online support for AASL’s National School Library Standards is effective and will support practicing school librarians as they explore and adopt the new language and content of the book. In the book itself, the ‘Standards Integrated Frameworks’ that align the learner and school librarian competencies and school library alignment for each shared foundation and domain may help clarify this initiative for readers.”

You can read all of the comments at “What Do You Think about the New AASL Standards? Librarians Weigh In!

The following are just some of the resources that can help you learn more about the standards and consider how they can help you move your practice of school librarianship forward.

Members of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force and others have been writing posts on the Knowledge Quest blog. These are three of them:

Counting Down to the Standards Release
Mary Keeling provides background and vocabulary information to help you navigate the new standards.

Leading with Your Leader: Preparing Your Administrators for the New AASL Standards
Kathryn Roots Lewis and Sara Kelly Johns share strategies for sharing the new standards and a suggestion for aligning your work with your administrators.

Something Familiar, Something New: Unpacking the Standards
Daniella Smith provides a list of features that she appreciates in the new standards.

Joyce Valenza wrote a comprehensive blog post to get you started that includes links and annotations to the online resources for the standards: “AASL National Standards: A few essentials to get started!

Peggy George, Susie Highly, and Jane Loften created a #notataasl Livebinder with information about the new standards, including videos and Webinars.

These are some questions you might use to frame your exploration of the new standards.

1. For #SchoolLibrarianLeadership blog readers who were familiar with the previous standards (Standards for the 21st-Century Learner 2009), what similarities and differences do you note between the 2009 common beliefs and standards and those in the new document?

2. For both seasoned and new school librarians, how do the new standards for students or for school librarians compare or align with other initiatives such as Future Ready Librarians or the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students and Standards for Educators?

3. What are the connections that you make between the priorities of your administrators and colleagues and the National School Library Standards?

4. How will you implement the new standards for school librarians and school libraries?

If you have comments regarding the standards, I invite you to post them here.

Image Credit: Book Jacket copyright by AASL

 

Everybody Is On Commission

Those of us involved in the Lilead Project enjoyed one full and two half days of learning and networking before attending the AASL Beyond the Horizon Conference. Being face to face with the Westcoast Fellows, Claudia Mason, Debi Shultz, Janet Wile, Jenny Takeda, and Trish Henry is always a pleasure. I have learned so much with and from them, and we are less than half-way through our Lilead journey!

I have also been fortunate to work closely with other Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows. Last week, I had the opportunity to contribute a post about the Lilead Project on the Texas Association of School Librarians TxASL Talks blog: “Lilead Fellows Program Holds Potential to Positively Influence Texas School Librarianship.” Go Texas Lilead Fellows!

During our time together in Phoenix, the Lilead Project members shared the results of our Strengths-Finder Inventory (Rath 2008) and further explored our “WHYs” (Sinek, Mead, and Docker 2017). We also learned with and from a panel of school administrators and from Sean Lockwood, Senior Vice President of Sales at Junior Library Guild (@JrLibraryGuild).

I was delighted that John Chrastka (@MrChrastka) and I shared a special affinity for one of our strengths: “maximizer.” We had the opportunity to talk about how that strength has played out in our professional lives thus far. When I first got the results of my Strengths-Finder, I was happy to see “maximize” in my top five. All four of my ALA Editions professional books have “maximizing” in the title, including my forthcoming Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy.

I also had the pleasure of sharing five professional life stories with Lilead Fellow Elissa Moritz (@ElissaMoritz), Library Media Services Supervisor, Loudoun County, Virginia. Together, we searched for themes in each other’s stories and further supported each other in refining our “whys.” (See my Find Your Why blog post.) I tweeted during the administrator panel so I have already published my takeaways from their presentation.

Since the Lilead meeting, I have thought a great deal about Sean Lockwood’s sales presentation. He started his talk with this comment:

“Everybody is on commission. Everybody is either buying or selling.”

He offered five steps to sales success:
1. Correctly identifying your customer.
2. Understanding your customer’s view.
3. Aligning your value proposition.
4. Following a pre-determined process.
5. Delivering more than you promise.

The value proposition was a new concept for me. Sean showed us and explained a matrix that identified a series of values and aligned them with the customer’s issues, the advantages the new product offers the customer, and the significance of the outcome from the customer’s perspective. I have been pondering “sales success” in terms of my forthcoming book. Rather than selling a “product” per say, I am definitely putting forth a strategy for school librarian leadership. I am not yet ready to complete the value proposition document in terms of my book, but I am thinking (hard) on it!

I am also thinking about the connections between what we traditionally refer to as advocacy and sales. Hmmmmm….

Besides that piece, I resonated with the final step: Delivering more than you promise. Promising less and delivering more sounds like a trust and confidence-building proposition that could be applied with good results in any area of our lives.

Thank you to the Lilead Project Team, all of the Fellows, and our special guests for making my/our Lilead learning impactful.

Works Cited

Rath, Tom. 2008. Strengths-based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow. New York: Gallup.

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. 2017. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin.

Image Credit: Logo created by Robin Ellis for Judi Moreillon’s Use

#AASL17 Conference Takeaways

The release of the new AASL National School Library Standards created an extra buzz to the energy at the conference. As always, it was wonderful to see long-time friends and colleagues and make new school librarian colleagues from across the country.

I had the added pleasure of reconnecting face to face with one of my former high school principals (@AZHSPRIN), who is a rock star school librarian advocate. I also reconnected with Cecilia Barber, one of my former graduate students from the University of Arizona, who is serving as a school librarian in her tribal community in Shiprock, New Mexico; it’s gratifying to know the positive impact she is making. I also met Dr. Karen Reed who used my coteaching reading comprehension work in her dissertation and presented a session on Friday that included that work.

These are just a few of my conference takeaways.

Jaime Casap’s keynote on Thursday was one of the highlights of my professional learning. Jaime (@jcasap) is the Chief Education Evangelist at Google, Inc. If you were unable to attend Jaime’s keynote or did not attend the conference, check out his YouTube and TEDx Talk videos.

Jaime shared his passion for the potential of digital technologies and Google tools to improve pedagogy and enable powerful learning. Andy Plemmons (@plemmonsa) wrote a Knowledge Quest blog post about Jaime’s talk: “Shifting Our Culture: An Opening Keynote with Jaime Casap.”

In addition to Andy’s report, there were two comments that Jaime made that really struck a chord with me. He noted that it is essential that we change the paradigm of teaching from a “solo sport” to a collaborative one. We know it takes teams of educators working together to keep schooling relevant and dynamic for today’s students. I totally agree and understand that in many ways, it is easier to work with students than with our adult colleagues.

This presents a leadership opportunity for school librarians. I believe that we have a key role to play in creating a high-impact collaborative culture in our schools through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing learning.

At the end of his talk, Jaime said this (and this is a direct quote to the best of my memory): “At the end of the day, the most important person in the classroom (or maybe he said ‘school’) is…” He then he paused.

While I “heard” 90% (or more) of the school librarians in the room thinking “the student,” I immediately thought of Ken Haycock’s words related to this perspective.

Then Jaime broke the silence and said, “the teacher.” And I “heard” almost everyone in the room think, “Yes! I am the teacher.”

But that is not what I heard. I heard the classroom teacher. I heard yet another call to action for school librarians to be leaders who build capacity by collaborating with our colleagues to improve classroom teachers’ and our own craft of teaching.

Here’s what Ken Haycock said, “Whom do you serve? Most (school librarians) would answer students, yet the primary clientele in terms of power, impact, and effect would be teachers” (2017, 3).

School librarians who were fortunate to attend #AASL17 in Phoenix and learn with and from colleagues have an obligation to take their learning home. Share what you learned with your administrators, classroom teachers, and school librarian colleagues. Discuss the ideas and strategies that were part of your conference learning.

Which leads me to thank the participants in the “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians” and “Investing in Social Capital Counts” concurrent sessions. In both, I made a plea for school librarians to step up their leadership by collaborating with colleagues in every aspect of their work from reading promotion, reading comprehension and writing strategy instruction, inquiry learning, and technology-enabled learning. Any one or all of these could be the “problems” we are helping our colleagues solve. Or as Kristin Fontichiaro (@active learning) vividly described them in the “Leadership” session: our colleagues’ “pain points.”

School librarians demonstrate leadership and added value when we work collaboratively with other educators to help them solve their instructional challenges and when we work together to help students meet their learning needs.  For school librarians, “collaboration is the single professional behavior that most affects student achievement” (2007, 32).

What did you take away from the conference? I invite you to share here on the School Librarian Leadership blog.

Note: I have uploaded the slides and handout from “Investing in Social Capital Counts” on the session wiki.

References

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

_____. 2017. Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change. In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., ed. Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 1-12. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image Credit: Created at Wordle.net

AASL National Conference

is coming to Phoenix! The AASL National Conference & Exhibition is held every other year in locations around the U.S. This year the conference will be held from November 9th – 11th. It will bring about 4,000 members of our profession, authors, vendors, and school library advocates to the Grand Canyon State.

AASL conferences are exemplary professional learning opportunities for school librarians, school librarian supervisors, school administrators, and others who are committed to preparing preK-12 students for their future.

School librarianship has always been a dynamic profession. But with more pressure on educators to prepare future-ready students, the increasing spread of information and misinformation, and the proliferation of technology resources and devices, school librarians and effective school library programs are needed now more than ever.

One-hour concurrent sessions are the backbone of AASL conferences. Check out the schedule of opportunities to learn from colleagues from across the country and link to “concurrent sessions” at various times throughout the conference.

On Friday, November 10th, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., I will be part of a panel presentation: “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians.” The presenters are the editors and five of the chapter authors from The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (ABC-CLIO 2017): Sharon Coatney, Vi Harada, Debbie Abilock, Helen Adams, Kristin Fontichiaro, Deb Levitov, and yours truly. We will share further ideas from the book in room North 125A.

On Saturday, November 11th, from 3:10 to 4:10 p.m., I will share “Investing in Social Capital Counts.” My session focuses on strategies to make connections and build the relationships (the social capital) school librarians need to diffuse innovations throughout their learning communities. Building instructional partnerships is an essential way school librarians enact leadership and maximize their impact on learning and teaching. The session will be held in 132AB

If you are attending the conference, please consider joining me at either one or both of these sessions. If you are unable to attend Saturday’s session, you can find out more information on the Web at: Investing In Social Capital Counts.

And if you are not able to make the trip to Phoenix, follow the conference on Twitter: #AASL17.

The fact that this year’s conference is being held in Arizona hones a spotlight on the state of the profession in Arizona. Tragically, the vast majority of Arizona students and classroom teachers lack the support of state-certified school librarians. Please read my op ed that appeared in the November 3rd issue of the AZ Daily Star: Missing school librarians means lost literacy learning.”

If you are a national colleague, join me in my commitment to continually improve my practice of librarianship. In addition, if you live in Arizona, please work with me to restore school library programs in our state. Both commitments are for the benefit of our students, educators, families, communities, and nation.

Image Credit: Provided by AASL

The Phoenix and AASL

Perhaps like me, you have imagined, practiced, and reimagined your professional work over a number of years. This past year has been a transition period for me. Actually, I am still in a period of ambiguity and although I have been here before, it’s not the most comfortable place for me to be.

Fortunately, I prepared for my “premature” retirement by beginning to write my forthcoming book before leaving my associate professor position. Once again, writing “saved” me! (And when writing doesn’t reading does!) Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published in early spring 2018.

In the meantime, I am living the myth of the Phoenix and thinking about the connections between my professional life and the upcoming AASL Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Like the mythical Phoenix from Greek mythology, I consider myself a “long-lived” bird – member of the school librarian profession. I have been cyclically born and reborn through my service as a school librarian at all three instructional levels in six school libraries in three different school districts. Each administrator, faculty member, student population, and community presented learning opportunities and challenges. Transitioning between levels and schools always felt like a mini-death and rebirth.

My service to AASL has also be an essential and cyclical aspect of my professional life. From serving on AASL’s @your library® Committee, chairing the School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force, serving on the 2009 Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force, serving on and then chairing the Knowledge Quest Editorial Review Board, to present time serving on the Interdivisional School-Public Library Collaboration Task Force and chairing the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Task Force.

Like the Phoenix, I have always felt stronger in my knowledge and practice and more empowered in each successive position and committee appointment.

The same can be said for my work over a 21-year-period as an adjunct instructor, clinical assistant professor, and most recently a tenure-track faculty member. Each new group of students, each new course, each new semester presented a fresh opportunity to be regenerated.

Like the Phoenix, this blog, too, is experiencing a re-beginning. For four years along with fellow faculty members from across the country and last year as a solo blogger, we/I blogged on the Building a Culture of Collaboration @Edublogs.org site. Now with my own domain, I will continue to share the news, research, and musings that have always been the focus of this Web presence.

And to further the Phoenix connection, AASL will be rolling out the new standards and guidelines—another opportunity to re-energize our profession. The conference will be held in Phoenix from Wednesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 11th.

As I prepare for my rebirth as a full-time consultant, I am excited to have the opportunity to present an AASL conference session “Investing in Social Capital Counts” (Saturday, 11/11 at 3:10 p.m.) and serve on a panel “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians” (Friday, 11/10 at 10:10 a.m.). For me, the fact that “Beyond the Horizon” will be held in Phoenix creates a full-circle synchronicity with my professional life since I began my career as a school librarian and as a school librarian educator in Arizona and now live once again full time in the Sonoran Desert.

I hope you have also registered and are making your travel plans to attend the conference. In addition to this year’s official rollout of the new standards, AASL conferences are always a golden opportunity to learn and network with colleagues from across the country.

Next Monday, September 18th, AASL will hold the first Twitter chat focused on AASL’s “National School Library Standards.” To participate, follow #AASLStandards beginning at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.

Wishing you an exciting professional rebirth this academic year and looking forward to the chat next Monday…

Image Credit:
Leunert, Elisabeth. “Phoenix Bird.” Pixabay, 7 June 2016, pixabay.com/en/phoenix-bird-fire-bright-red-swing-1440452/.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

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

Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is a must-read for anyone seeking to change the behaviors of a group of people. I also found this book helpful for thinking about changes in my personal and family life as well.

During the months of March and April, 2017, I had the pleasure of participating in a slow Twitter chat with the school library Supervisors’ Section (SPVS) of the American Association of School Librarians. Our hashtag was #aaslspvschat. Thank you especially to Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) for organizing the chat and posting the question prompts. Lori’s questions and chat participants’ responses furthered my thinking about Switch.

My experience: In every role I have held in education, I “worked” to change other educators’ thinking and behaviors. I served as a school librarian in six different schools at all three instructional levels. In each school there were administrators, educators, or parents who had no experience of the school librarian as an equal instructional partner with classroom teachers and specialists. As a district-level school librarian mentor, I was responsible for K-12 professional development for close to one hundred K-12 school librarians. As a literacy coach in an elementary school, I was charged with elevating the literacy teaching and learning practices in a high-needs school where a large number of students were English language learners. I also taught preservice school librarian graduate students for twenty-one years—many of whom were already serving in school libraries but did not come to coursework with a value for instructional partnerships—the professional hill on which I will die…

Connections to Switch: I literally have thousands of examples that affirm Heath and Heath’s statement: “For individuals’ behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds. The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently” (5).

In Switch, the authors offer a three-part process for helping people make behavioral changes. They describe these as “directing the Rider” (the rational mind), “motivating the Elephant” (the emotions), and “shaping the Path” (the environment). They note that each person has both a “rider” and an “elephant” side that leaders must consider and successfully reach in order to influence behavior. “If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy” (8).

Change agents are also responsible for ensuring that there are no obstacles in the path that would keep people from actualizing the desired change. Shaping the path can also involve helping people establish new habits and making the target outcomes contagious among group members.

In my experience, I have found this to be true: “When change efforts fail, it’s usually the Elephant’s fault, since the kinds of change we want typically involve short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs” (7). So much of what we are about in education requires the long view.

Heath and Heath offer this advice:
Direct the Rider: Provide crystal-clear directions.
Motivate the Elephant: Engage people’s emotional sides.
Shape the Path: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem (17-18).

One way to “direct the Rider” is to point out “bright spots.” These are examples of where the change is underway and working well. In my experience, to be effective, this type of sharing has to happen in a non-competitive, sharing faculty culture, or in what George Couros calls a culture with “competitive collaboration” where educators push one another to improve.

For example, if coteaching is the change we want to see, administrators can point to the classroom teacher-school librarian instructional partnerships that are “working.” They can share data that points to coplanning, coimplementing, and coassessing learning as the path to increased student motivation and improved learning outcomes. They can point out that coteaching educators are continually learning, less stressed, and are more fulfilled in their work.

The problem of teacher isolation has a long tradition in schools. School librarians who begin to break down the walls between classrooms and libraries by coteaching with just a few teachers may feel as though they are not doing enough… when in fact they are “shrinking the change.” They are also helping the administration to “engineer early successes” (141). These successes give hope which is “precious to a change effort. It’s Elephant fuel” (141).

By coteaching with a few willing partners, school librarians are helping to gradually move the faculty forward toward job-embedded professional development in a culture of collaboration—one educator, one grade level, one discipline department at a time. Administrators and their teaching partners should assure school librarians that “big problems (like teacher isolation) are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over weeks, sometimes over decades” (44). In the example of building a culture of collaboration, hopefully not decades!!!

As noted I noted in the slow chat, my number one takeaway was from Switch was this:

Tweet: Change requires leader(s) 2 act differently 2 direct Rider/motivate Elephant/Shape path (all 3 required!) #aaslspvschat

Chip and Dan Heath have also coauthored Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007). I highly recommend both of these books for anyone exploring the change process in their professional or personal lives.

Work Cited

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. New York: Broadway Books, 2010.

The Innovator’s Mindset

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

I don’t remember when I first heard about George Couros. As soon as I did and before I read his book, I began reading his The Principal of Change blog, receiving his daily email blasts, and following him on Twitter (@gcouros).

One thing I especially admire about Couros is that he exemplifies an administrator/educator/leader who has a well-developed growth mindset. He shares his experiences—both his successes and missteps—and reflects on their significance in his learning. Couros is also able to communicate clearly and precisely. His mindset and his communication style pack a double punch…

…as does his book The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. On the paperback book cover, these keywords appear in red font: “innovator’s” (bold), “learning,” “talent,” and “creativity” (in an artistic font). With bolded and branded #InnovatorsMindset insets through the 232-page book, Couros’s book is a thoughtful, accessible book–one that school leaders will turn to again and again.

Couros makes a strong case for his premise: “There is a clear need for innovation in education” (4). He divides his book into three parts: a discussion of innovation, the foundation for a culture of innovation, and acting in an environment where change is possible. With a nod to Simon Sinek, George Couros clearly states his “why.” He believes “education’s why is to develop learners and leaders who will create a better present and future” (18). Couros goes on to define what he means in using the terms “learners” and “leaders.” All school stakeholders—young or more seasoned, students or educators—must inspire innovation both as learners and as leaders.

I use Couros’s definition for “innovation” in the book I am writing: “Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” I especially appreciate his emphasis on innovation as “a way of thinking” rather than a thing, task, or tool. An innovator’s mindset impacts school culture.

I part with Couros a bit on his assessment that “establishing an innovative culture doesn’t require transformation” (20). I do think it may very well take something “dramatic” in many school cultures that seek to “develop and sustain systems that support ‘optimal learning experience’” for all stakeholders. I wonder if small tweaks and nudges are enough to respond to the urgency for change that many educators, students, families, and community members feel.

Couros believes that it is “not that teachers don’t want to change, but they sometimes lack clear guidance and support to make the desired change” (47). I share this belief and it makes a strong connection for me with the book Switch: How to Make Change When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (to be reviewed later this summer on this blog). Educators, like students, require leaders who clear the path and model the change they expect to see.

Couros lists “8 characteristics of the innovator’s mindset” (pp. 48 – 58). He notes these characteristics can apply to everyone involved in education: empathetic, problem finders/solvers, risk takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient, and reflective. He also provides a similar set of characteristics for innovative leaders (pp. 88 – 90).

I am in total agreement with Couros (and Sinek whom he cites). We need to place a higher priority on the caring relationships within our schools/organizations. “The three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing” (68). This was also one of my take-aways from Timothy Walker’s book Teach Like Finland. The caring relationships among the people within an organization are everything. (Hence the title of this blog and the title of my forthcoming book.)

Couros discusses creating a vision, using technology as an accelerator, and effective professional development for educators. He includes “8 things to look for in today’s professional learning” and notes that “understanding the learning opportunities that we would like to create for our students begins by immersing ourselves in similar experiences” (185). I could not agree more!

Each chapter in Couros’s book ends with questions for discussion. His book and online resources provide a compelling book study selection for individuals and Professional Learning Communities. As Couros writes in his introduction, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing” (3).

If you’re someone who is open to change and don’t know where to start, begin by reading this book and then talk about it with your colleagues. It will inspire you!

Work Cited

Couros, George. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, 2015.

Teach Like Finland, Part 2

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

Timothy D. Walker, author of Teach Like Finland, 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. I wrote about the first three last week.

Welcome the Experts
Walker was not comfortable at first with welcoming colleagues or other experts into his classroom. After he visited other classrooms where he saw this modeled, he became a convert. Walker writes: “I found that the more I welcomed experts into my classroom, the more I began to view myself as a resource manager who could design great learning experiences for my class by tapping into talents outside my own” (183).

School librarians have a long tradition of inviting guests into the library. We regularly invite authors, illustrators, scientists, politicians, and local experts of all kinds to share via the library program. (And it’s important to remember that all educators may not be as comfortable with this practice.) The very best of these presentations are directly aligned with classroom curricula and are coplanned and cofacilitated with classroom teachers and specialists.

Two of the most successful expert presentations during my time at Sabino High School were visits by Arizona Daily Star editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and our then Arizona State Representative Marian McClure. In both cases, I worked with the social studies classroom teachers to prepare students for their visits and to follow up afterward. Editorial cartoons became the topic for “questioning” reading comprehension strategy lessons. (See lesson 5-2 in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact.) In addition to civics information, the connection with Representative McClure provided advocacy for school librarianship at the state legislature.

While school librarians are adept at bringing in outside experts, they may not be as experienced with using the human resources in the library and on campus. School staff and faculty have abundant expertise and talents to share. As school librarians build relationships in the school community, it is incumbent upon them to uncover the lights that are hiding under barrels in their own buildings—lights that could make a difference for students’ enthusiasm for curriculum-based learning as well as their pursuit of independent learning.

In a recent Knowledge Quest blog post titled “Library as Incubator,” Mark Dzula wrote about how he supported the school library paraprofessional aide in sharing her language and culture expertise with students during a weekly lunchtime drop-in Arabic program. Mark wrote: “She was motivated to share her love of the language to help expand students’ worldview and to overcome any social stigma that the students may have encountered in association with Arabic.” A dozen students attended and were very inspired in various ways to pursue more information about Arabic language and culture. With support from the World Language Department, one student is taking an independent study in Arabic with the library assistant next year.

Vacate on Vacation
According to Walker, Finnish teachers “literally” vacating during the summer. Shocking! This practice is in sharp contrast with the summer practices of most U.S. educators. In the summer, most teach summer school, work another job outside of education, or prepare for the next school year. (Some even time their pregnancies so they can give birth in the summer in order to return to the classroom in the fall.) Walker, who feels the “vacate on vacation” strategy is too extreme, says he prefers a hybrid approach. In the summer, he dedicates a “healthy chunk of time for disconnecting and a healthy chunk of time for professional development” (186).

The pace of life for most U.S. educators is intense during the academic year. Relaxing during the summer (and regularly throughout the school year) seems to be the healthiest choice. Making time in the summer for extended periods of reflection can be an excellent use of one’s “free” time. Interspersing professional books with other types of reading (adult novels, YA literature, and school curriculum-oriented reading) is one strategy some school librarians use to find balance. Extending conference attendance to include touring new parts of the country or visiting with friends and relatives is another way to combine professional learning with personal interests.

Some would suggest that regular technology holidays could also improve one’s ability to relax. In his book, Walker offers a summary of a study conducted by the Harvard Business School. The study involved two groups of consulting firm workers. One group worked 50+ hours per week. didn’t take vacation time and was always connected via their electronic devices. The other worked 40 hours per week, took vacations, and coordinated unconnected time with their coworkers so they could be disconnected without worry or guilt. The team that took time off reported higher job satisfaction, better work-life balance, increased learning, improved communication with their team, and were more efficient and productive in their work (187).

By “vacating” the always “on” culture for selected days, weekends, or even months might also prioritize engaging in enriching face-to-face interactions with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. One thought-provoking book to consider on this subject is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. She proclaims: “It’s time to put technology in its place and reclaim conversation. That journey begins with a better understanding of what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in the way” (25).

Don’t Forget the Joy
This adage could be the overarching theme for Teach Like Finland. According to Walker, in 2016, Finnish comprehensive schools implemented the newest core curriculum, “where joy is being practiced as a learning concept” (189). When I read this, my U.S. educator mind sadly went directly to these questions: Is joy measurable? How will it be tested? (Ugh!)

There is a palpable feeling of excitement in a joyful learning environment. I once served as the school librarian in a truly “joyful” preK-5 school. Our school was led by a joyful principal whose most often heard phrase was “what a wonder!” With a positive school climate and a commitment to a culture of collaboration, faculty, staff, and families made our school a joyful place to be—every day of the academic year (and in summer programs, too).

Joy begins inside of each individual and from there can spread out to all members of our learning communities. Walker notes that prioritizing joy may not be easy for many U.S. educators but regardless of where he teaches, Timothy Walker commits to remembering and prioritizing joy. The last line in his book: “How about you?”

Note: This photograph of our seven-month-old puppy Pearl playing with her friend Vicka captures (for me) the pure spirit of joy. (Pearl is the poodle.) Every morning when we awake, she reminds us there is a truly joyful way to greet each day.

Works Cited

Dzula, Mark. “Library as Incubator.” Knowledge Quest Blog. 18 May 2017. http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/library-as-incubator/ Accessed 26 May 2017.

Moreillon, Judi. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2012.

Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

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

Educators Chat about Making Notes

Dedication: To the Moderators and Participants in #txlchat and #cvtechtalk

As a now “retired” educator and an advocate, I made a pledge to myself to spread the word about the expertise of school librarians in non-school library circles. I believe that school librarians’ potential to positively impact student learning outcomes has not yet been fully realized. Sharing and showing how school librarians can lead through building instructional partnerships with classroom teachers has long been my raison d’être.

Last week, I stumbled upon the #cvtechtalk. Coincidentally, they were talking about “notetaking” – one of my all-time favorite topics. I share this experience here because one of the on-going issues in school librarianship advocacy is that other educators do not know what we can do to support their teaching and help their students learn effective information literacy strategies.

Even though I arrived when participants were on question #4 of their 8-question chat, I jumped in:

CactusWoman: A.4 Let’s call it “notemaking” rather than “taking.” “Making” implies Ss questions/connections/own ideas count! #cvtechtalk just dropped in

I got some likes, retweets, and replies and decided to stay. (This is my personal measure of whether or not a chat group is “listening” and learning from one another or simply broadcasting. See the dedication below.)

I followed up with:
CactusWoman: A4 #FutureReadyLibs #schoollibrarians r trained in notemaking skills > Classroom-library collaboration 2 teach essential skill #cvtechtalk

Then a reply/question about students using Twitter for notemaking:
CactusWoman: A5 Yes! @_____ I 2 use Twitter 4 notemaking when involved w/webinars/conference presentations, etc. have not tried w/6-12 Ss #cvtechtalk

(Note that should have been *w/8-12 Ss* – Twitter “suggests” participants should be 13 and up.)

Then:
CactusWoman: A6 When Ss compare notes they may c that one person’s “main ideas” do not match the others’ > convers abt determining importance #cvtechtalk

Since this was a “tech” group, they shared many electronic tools for notemaking. When one person noted she had read somewhere that hand-written notes were more effective, I shared a research-based article about the possible differences between handwritten and electronic notes in terms of student learning.

CactusWoman: A6 My concern copy/paste/highlight does not = learning: Article about notemaking by hand vs computer: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away … #cvtechtalk

According to my Paper.li report, the article was accessed (read?) by several #cvtechtalk chat participants. (Like all librarians, I enjoy sharing research/knowledge that can make a difference in educators’ practice and in students’ learning/people’s lives.)

CactusWoman: A.7 Creativity bcomes more important w/what Ss DO w/notes: What do notes mean 2 Ss? Does info inspire creative response/action? #cvtechtalk

The final question was perfect and one that I believe all Twitter chat groups should adopt. “Based on tonight’s talk, how will you empower students in note-taking?” (or whatever the topic).

CactusWoman: A.8 Encourage Ts #schoollibrarians collaborate 2 teach Ss notemaking strategies (reading comp) & create/do something meaningful #cvtechtalk

One person posted this:
A8 Will start #notemaking w/ Ss asap! Can’t handle guilt after these great ideas! Will intro #Sketchnoting & bulleting key ideas #cvtechtalk https://twitter.com/techcoachjuarez/status/862500760981983232 …

Cha-ching!

CactusWoman: Gr8t ideas on notemaking 2nite 5/10 when I dropped in on #cvtechtalk #FutureReadyLibs #txlchat #tlchat >opportunities 4 classroom-lib collab

It was interesting to me that many educators noted they would NOT model notemaking strategies for students and were “anti-direct instruction” for this skill.

As someone who connects notemaking with the reading comprehension strategy of determining main ideas, I believe that is a mistake. In my experience, if students are not taught several strategies from which they can choose or use as models to develop their own strategies, they will opt for copying/highlighting everything. They will not pass the information through their own background knowledge and purpose for reading and make their own connections, write down their questions, and their own ideas related to what they are reading. (Notemaking strategies include Cornell notes, deletion-substitution, trash ‘n treasure, and more…)

I created a Storify archive of the chat’s final question for my review and for yours if you are interested.

I know I will drop in on #cvtechtalk again when I can on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Pacific (?). They are an active, caring, and sharing group of educators. I appreciate what I learned from listening and participating in their chat.

If you are a school librarian who is participating in non-school librarian chats, I hope you will add a comment to this post. Readers may appreciate knowing what you perceive as the benefits or drawbacks of those professional learning experiences.

Dedication: This post is “dedicated” to #txlchat. This chat’s home base is in Texas, but more and more school librarians from across the country are joining in. In 2014-2015, I had the opportunity to conduct a research study of #txlchat. Thanks to #txlchat moderators and participants, I was welcomed into their learning space and learned about the norms and benefits of their chat culture. I continue to connect and learn with #txlchat whenever I can get online on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Central. Y’all are invited, too!