A Conversation with Calvert County School Librarians

Last week, I had the pleasure of an online conversation with a cadre of outstanding Calvert County Public School (CCPS) school librarians and their district-level Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning Jennifer Sturge. This team of librarians serving students in Maryland, led by their colleague Monique, were in the process of a professional book study focused on Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy.

After last week’s blog post “School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 2,” their voices from the field were critical to furthering my understanding of ways to increase school librarians’ service to their learning communities—whether or not our physical library facilities are open. Note: Selected indicators interjected into this post are from the 6/15/20 post and demonstrate the roles effective school librarians fill in their learning communities as leaders, instructional partners, teachers, information specialists, and program administrators.

Photograph of a reflection in a pond sending ripples out from a single pointAs a way to engage in reflection, I launched our conversation by posing a “what if” question: “If you are serving your school learning community remotely in fall 2020, what would you do differently from your practice this past spring?” The librarians’ responses fell into four categories: getting physical books in the hands of students, increasing rigor through inquiry learning, communication and collaboration, and working with principals. Although more than one librarian addressed these topics, I have identified one or two people who took the lead in the discussion in each area.

Book Checkout
Many school librarians across the country and around the globe did not have the opportunity to plan for the best ways to get physical books into the hands of K-12 students before schools closed. Theresa shared how she is strategizing some effective ways to checkout and deliver/send books directly to students, especially if they cannot access the physical space of the library. I suspect all of us in the “room” agreed that getting high-quality, diverse books into the hands of youth helps keep their minds engaged in learning and growing as thinking and empathic people. (If you haven’t yet seen it or if you need another smile, checkout Nashville Public Library’s PSA “Curb Side, Baby” | What You Need to Know about NPL’s Curbside Service.”)

For me, this goal reinforces a key indicator in “Reading and Information Literacy Instruction:”

  • Promote reading for information and for personal enjoyment.

Inquiry Learning
Inquiry learning is a core practice in CCPS. High school librarian Donna would like to see increased rigor in remote learning through a greater emphasis on inquiry. School librarians have a strong commitment to inquiry learning as a way to honor student choice and voice. As authentic learning, inquiry prepares young people for lifelong learning. Classroom-library collaboration for instruction and shared responsibility for guiding students’ inquiry projects could improve student success even more when teaching and learning are conducted online.

Promoting inquiry in the online classroom/library is an essential aspect of “Integrated, Collaborative Teaching;”

  • Coteach with other educators whether face to face or online to engage students in critical thinking and deep learning.
  • Co-assess student learning outcomes with other educators to improve instructional strategies and resources and ensure continuous improvement for students and educators.

Communication/Collaboration
Mary Brooke shared her experience of the importance of school librarians communicating with a collective strong voice. She talked about the previously planned lessons that were ready to implement when learning when online. In addition to the lessons created by CCPS librarians, we talked briefly about accessing published lessons and units of instruction in order to fast-track instruction when time for planning is even shorter than usual.

Later in the conversation, we talked about the challenges of carving out collaborative planning time. While most educators agree that time is in short supply, using online tools for collaborative work is essential whether our academic program is face to face or virtual. School librarians who have developed strategies for using online tools to plan may have been ahead of the curve in meeting the needs of colleagues in spring 2020. In addition, educators must encourage school principals to create dedicated planning time for classroom and classroom-library collaboration, which in turn establishes a value for collaborative teaching.

For me, this conversation reinforced the indicators under “Collaborative Planning:”

  • Reach out to teaching teams and attend face-to-face and virtual team meetings to support colleagues’ teaching goals.
  • Reach out to classroom teachers and specialists to coplan and integrate the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum.

Working with Administrators
Again, I believe everyone in the room understood the importance of positive and strong relationships between principals and school librarians. Both Anne and Monique shared their value for working with administrators to address the teaching and learning needs of faculty and students. This spring, many principals and other decision-makers may have been overwhelmed. Anne noted the importance of sensitivity to other people’s stress and monitoring one’s communication accordingly. Monique shared how she worked collaboratively with classroom teachers online this spring. In the process, she created advocates for the library program who may be poised to speak up for the impact of classroom-library collaboration on student learning outcomes.

For me, this is an excellent example of “Library Advocacy & Support:”

  • Collaborate with administrators to assess students’ and classroom teachers’ needs and develop and implement plans to address them.

Learning from Spring 2020
A belief attributed to John Dewey based on this writing in Experience and Education (1938) can be our guide as we prepare for the 2020-2021 academic year: “We do not learn from our experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” Reflecting on our practice as school librarians is essential and the change and challenge thrust upon educators in spring 2020 created a golden opportunity to learn from our reflection.

Thank you to Jen and the Calvert County Public School Librarians for sharing your reflective process.

Image Credit

From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 2

Image: Equity spelled out in Scrabble letters.I believe a high-quality education is a human right, and literacy is the foundation for all learning. From my perspective, every student and educator in every school across the country and around the globe deserves to have a literacy learning leader in the person of a certified school librarian. However, lack of funding and misplaced priorities at the state-, district-, and school-site levels have resulted in fewer and fewer professional school librarians and a loss of equitable education for all.

Over the past decade, and in some cases longer, many state legislatures have chipped away at district public school funding. (For the unconscionable situation in my state, see the Arizona Center for Economic Progress’s 5/27/20 “K12 Budget Webinar.”) With ever-shrinking funds, school districts have been put in the position of making difficult choices and far too many times school librarian positions have been seen as “extras” and have been eliminated.

In addition, and as unfortunate, our local reliance on property tax-based funding for public schools undermines an equitable education for all. This perpetuates a system that results in “have” and “have not” districts. Districts with less tax revenue struggle to provide complete academic programs, including well-resourced, fully-staffed school libraries, up-to-date technology tools, art, music, and more.

Site-based hiring practices have also negatively impacted school librarian positions. Without leadership from district-level leaders, far too many site-level administrators fail to understand the value of having a professional educator guiding the literacy learning that takes place through the largest, most well-equipped classroom in the school—the school library. If cutting librarians is based on their poor job performance, then the appropriate response would be to put them on plans of improvement or replace them rather than depriving students, educators, and families of professional library services.

What Is a Librarian to Do?
The school closures of spring 2020 created an opportunity for school librarians to demonstrate to administrators, colleagues, and families their many contributions to student learning outcomes whether or not anyone had access to the physical space of the library.

It is in that context that I share indicators that demonstrate the roles effective school librarians fill in their learning communities as leaders, instructional partners, teachers, information specialists, and program administrators. In these five roles, they:

Leader
Culture of Learning

  • Create a sense of belonging, ownership, and inclusion in the physical and virtual spaces of the library.
  • Design a welcoming and universally accessible online library presence.
  • Provide and advocate for equitable access to diverse resources representing all cultures/identities and divergent points of view in multiple genres and formats.

Library Advocacy & Support

  • Collaborate with administrators to assess students’ and classroom teachers’ needs and develop and implement plans to address them.
  • Communicate clearly and frequently with library stakeholders (students, other educators, administrators, families, and greater community) in order to share the impact of school library resources and the library program on student learning.
  • Seek learning community support for library initiatives to improve student learning.

Instructional Partner and Teacher
Collaborative Planning

  • Reach out to teaching teams and attend face-to-face and virtual team meetings to support colleagues’ teaching goals.
  • Reach out to classroom teachers and specialists to coplan and integrate the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum.

Integrated, Collaborative Teaching

  • Coteach with other educators whether face to face or online to engage students in critical thinking, deep learning, and the ethical use of ideas and information.
  • Co-assess student learning outcomes with other educators to improve instructional strategies and resources and ensure continuous improvement for students and educators.

Reading and Information Literacy Instruction

  • Promote reading for information and for personal enjoyment.
  • Coteach how to locate, find, analyze, and use information.
  • Coteach making meaning from texts in all formats (reading comprehension).

Information Specialist
Information Access and Delivery

  • Reach out to colleagues to support educators’ and students’ use of digital devices and tools and electronic resources.
  • Integrate the paper print and virtual resources of the library into the school’s face-to-face and remote academic learning program.
  • Provide instruction to support students and educators in using electronic resources ethically and safely whether from home or from school.
  • Provide online tutorials to support students and educators in using electronic resources effectively.

Program Administrator
Library Management

  • Align the library vision, mission, and goals with those of the school and the district.
  • Use library management software to generate reports and use data to improve library services.

In-School and Remote Collection Aligned to Curriculum, Classroom Teacher, and Student Needs

  • Assess and develop the paper print and electronic library collection to meet the instructional needs of colleagues.
  • Assess and develop the library collection to meet the academic and personal reading needs of students.

Funding & Budget Management

  • Write grants and seek funding to provide students and other educators with resources, including technology devices and tools.
  • Manage the library budget responsibly and help guide district-level purchases to meet the academic program and personal learning needs of students, educators, and families.

Taking Action
Serving as an effective school librarian is a complex job. It requires a passion for learning and literacy and a steadfast commitment to serve the entire learning community. There are exemplary librarians serving at this high level across the U.S. and around the globe. For two examples, see last week’s post School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 1.

If you are an effective school librarian or other educator, please share with me what I missed. If you are a school administrator or school librarian educator, consider how we can shore up the school librarian profession to ensure that all students, educators, and families have equitable, high-quality library services.

Image Credit

Wokandapix. “Equity Fairness Equitable Letters.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/equity-fairness-equitable-letters-2355700/

School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 1

Perhaps like me, you are an educator who believes that part of achieving restorative social justice in the U.S. involves creating and supporting a high-quality public school system that is equitable and relevant for all preK-12 students regardless of where they live. Such a system would require at least one state-certified school librarian in every public school across this country.

It is in this context that school librarians and our state-level organizations and national association have conducted surveys, held meetings, and worked to develop flyers, posters, and other marketing tools to share how school librarians support student learning—even when the physical space of the library is shuttered and its paper print resources are, for the most part, inaccessible to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

In times such as these, it is important that we look for the bright spots of success that flourish across the U.S. and around the globe as we describe school librarianship in the time of coronavirus and adapt exemplary practices to our own teaching and learning situations.

Two Brilliantly Bright Spots
Last Friday, I attended “Building Strong Partnerships with School and District Leaders,” a webinar sponsored by Future Ready Librarians®. The teacher librarians and administrators from two distinctly different districts shared how they met the challenge of school closures.

Van Meter Community School District (VMCSD) (IA) Superintendent Deron Durflinger and Shannon McClintock Miller, Future Ready Librarians® spokesperson and VMCSD K–12 district teacher librarian shared how their digital learning efforts align with the district’s vision, mission, and culture. Shannon noted that the district was able to build on the communication and collaboration practices that began when they implemented a 1:1 program eleven years ago and fine-tuned in the last few years. In VMCSD, they attribute their success to a focus on empathy and “being there” for their classroom teachers, students, and families. They also noted that having confidence in the support they would receive and “being in it together” gave educators the essential right to fail, learn, and grow.

Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) (WA) teacher librarian Traci Chun and Jeremy Tortora, Associate Principal and Athletic Director, shared how they partnered with one another and their faculty, staff, students, and families to meet the needs of their learning community during the shutdown. Although VPS has had a modified 1:1 program for ten years, it wasn’t the devices alone that Mr. Tortora attributed to their success. He noted that the district and the schools in the district focus on sustaining a culture of collaboration supported by teacher librarians. As Mr. Tortora noted, librarians know the strengths of individual educators and what they need. In addition to tech support, this knowledge helped Traci and other school leaders provide social emotional support for educators.

Both Shannon and Traci shared how the curation tools they had developed with classroom teachers and used with students prior to the pandemic were instrumental in ensuring that students, educators, and families had access to resources and were comfortable using these pathways. In both districts, teacher librarians and administrators were careful not to overwhelm classroom teachers. They provided information and support but enacted the “less is more” concept in terms of covering curriculum and implementing new digital tools.

Reoccurring Themes
As readers of this blog know, I listen and light up when I hear the words “collaboration” and “coteaching.” This webinar did not disappoint. The focus on communication and listening in both districts provided a foundation on which to build their collaborative work. At the building level and at the district level, Shannon, Traci, and all teacher librarians can share their global perspective of the learning community to support educators transitioning to remote learning as well as guide district-level tech tool purchases.

Communication was another reoccurring theme. In both districts, teacher librarians and administrators listened to other educators’ needs and responded promptly and with sensitivity for where the teachers “were at.” They monitored the frequency of their communications and carefully considered the level of support they offered based on individual educators’ needs and capacity to utilize new strategies and tools.

The emphasis on relationship building in a culture of collaboration and clear communication in both districts were in evidence throughout the webinar.

Adapting Practices
Clearly, school closures highlighted the grave injustice created by the inequitable distribution of technology devices and resources needed for students to conduct learning from their homes. In the webinar, moderator Mark Ray noted that some librarians and others listening to this webinar would be thinking about how to adapt the practices in VPS and VMCSD to their own learning environments. I was one of those.

When schools closed in Arizona, 100,000 or more students were without the necessary devices to engage in remote learning. In Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), 18,000 lacked these tools. With about 40,000 students, TUSD, the second largest district in the state, serves an urban, high-needs student population. The district scrambled to provide devices to all students and families. For more on the specifics of the situation in our state, see my 5/15/20 op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star: “What the pandemic has taught us about K-12 schooling in Arizona.”

In light of this situation, my big take-away from the FRL webinar was how many years VMCSD and VPS had been (unknowingly?) “preparing” for the pandemic. While they were ramping up their 1:1 programs and their technology tools support for students and educators, they were focused on the big picture—their districts’ vision and mission and developing a culture of learning and collaboration that carried them through this spring’s school closures.

Bottom Line
It was in this network of communication, caring, and sharing that their efforts succeeded. It was collaboration at all levels—among students, educators and teacher librarians, administrators, and families—that made their move to fully online teaching and learning a success.

Collaboration is the difference we can make… with the support of our administrators. Shannon McClintock Miller

Say, yes! and “be brave before perfect.” Traci Chun

Thank you, Shannon and Superintendent Deron Durflinger, Traci and Associate Principal Tortora for sharing your exemplary work. Thank you, Mark Ray, for moderating this webinar. I highly recommend that all school librarians view this webinar and reflect on their capacity for leadership as they plan and go forward into the 2020-21 academic year.

Image Credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon

Spotlight on #AASL19

Perhaps you are packing your bags today or about to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, for the American Association of School Librarians Conference and Exhibition. Or perhaps you’ll be learning from the conference via #AASL19, Facebook, or other social media.

The School Library Journal Staff posted a blog article last week to spotlight Attendee’s Top Picks. It is my privilege to be involved in three of these picks as well as additional conference learning experiences that I will highlight here (in chronological order).

Thursday, November 14, 2019
On Thursday morning, the Educators of School Librarians Section (ESLS) will hold a Research Symposium from 8:30 a.m. until noon in M103 in the convention center (KICC). One of the presenters, Dr. Daniella Smith wrote about it on the Knowledge Quest blog last week: “Let’s Talk about Research.” I was invited to kick off the symposium with a review and discussion of “Researching and Educating for Leadership.” You can access the research base for the discussion and learn more about my part in the event on my presentation wiki archive.

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a part of my day sharing an author visit with K-4 children at the Walden School in Louisville. Being with children (and teens) reminds me why this work is so important to me. Thank you to Walden for inviting me.

Thursday evening after the exhibits close, Drs. David Loertscher and Blanche Woolls are co-hosting “Symposium of the Greats: Wisdom from the Past and a Glimpse into the Future of School Libraries.” The event will be held at the Seelbach Hotel, 500 S. 4th Street, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The evening will be divided into two one-hour sessions. The first will be focused on the papers submitted for the proceedings; the second hour will focus on table top discussions on future thinking for the profession. My paper is entitled: “School Librarians as Teachers of Reading.”

Friday, November 15, 2019
From 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
, we will share “Taking Our Case to Decision Makers: Effective State- and District-Level Advocacy.” Room L017-018, KICC. I will be on a panel with Kathy Lester, from Michigan, Christie Kaaland, from Washington State, and Pat Tumulty, from New Jersey. I will be sharing information about the Tucson Unified School District School Librarian Restoration Project. Deborah Levitov will be our panel moderator.

Other events on Friday include meeting with the School Library Connection Advisory Board and the AASL School Leader Collaborative, where I will represent the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association.

Saturday, November 16, 2019
From 10:10 – 11:10, I have the privilege of sharing: “Collaborate! To Build Influence.” Room L013, KICC.  The content and activities we will discuss during the session come directly from my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018), which will be on sale at the ALA Store. (Thank you, ALA Editions.)

From 1:10 PM – 2:10 p.m., I have the pleasure of moderating a session for school librarian supervisors from the Lilead Project. The session is called “Collaborate, Evaluate, Advocate: Tales from the Trenches in Assessing Readiness for Change!” Room L007-008. The presenters/authors contributed articles in the January/February, 2019 issue of Knowledge Quest: “Evaluation and Assessment for Learning.” In addition to moderating, I will follow up my KQ article with a look at a Coplanning/Coteaching Checklist from my book.

Attendees and Followers
Attendees can download the conference app. The entire program book for the conference is available online.

If you are unable to join us in Louisville, please be part of the #NOTATAASL Crew. Jane Lofton wrote a blog post to help virtual attendees get the most out of their conference experience: “Unable to Come to Louisville for #AASL19– Join the #NOTATAASL Crew as a Virtual Attendee.”

Whether in person on social media, I look forward to sharing this ultimate school librarianship learning experience with you.

Truly,
Judi

Classroom-Library Coplanning

Through coplanning, school librarians and classroom teachers engage in reciprocal mentorship. They learn with and from one another during the planning process. As they negotiate learning objectives, they identify alignment and connections between classroom curriculum, state and national standards, and literacies, including information literacy skills. They approach their collaborative work as equal partners who share responsibility for gathering resources and materials, developing and analyzing formative and summative assessments, modeling strategies, and guiding students through the learning process.

Coplanning Forms
I have found that coplanning forms can be quite useful in guiding school librarians and classroom teachers through the collaborative planning process. These forms help educators apply the Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) as they plan with the end in mind. From objectives to assessments and all of the components in between, forms help educators cover all the bases.

Elementary Collaborative Planning Forms

Secondary Collaborative Planning Forms

Coteachers will identify various subskills such as notemaking that students will need to learn, review, and practice. They may create graphic organizers to scaffold student learning. These scaffolds guide students and help educators identify areas of mastery and areas where students need more instruction, guidance, and practice. These formative assessments as well as summative assessments that measure student achievement at the end of the learning event are important to prepare in advance or prepare with students so that students’ path to success is supported and clear from the beginning.

Responsibilities in Coteaching
Educators’ roles during direct instruction will likely need to be discussed in advance of lesson implementation, especially if one or the other educator is new to coteaching. When school librarians coteach, they may be engaged in direct instruction alongside classroom teachers. One or the other may take the lead in teaching specific subskills.

Direct instruction involves educators in sharing information and modeling strategies and tasks to help students learn and meet learning targets. When two educators coteach during direct instruction, they can authentically demonstrate various pathways for thinking using think-alouds. They can model collaboration, communication, discussion, debate, and other skills. For example, if educators are coteaching/teaching questioning strategies, notemaking skills, website/information evaluation, ethical use of information/citation, and more, they may take different roles such as question poser and responder or note identifier and recorder.

Both educators will monitor student practice and conduct inquiry/reading/writing conferences with individual students or small groups. Lowering the student-to-educator ratio offers coteachers the opportunity to interact with more students and offers students more individualized interventions.

Co-Assessment Responsibilities
Direct instruction is followed by formative assessments that help school librarians collect and analyze data on students’ progress as well as on the effectiveness of their teaching. Two or more educators look for gaps in comprehension and reteach individuals, small groups, or whole classrooms of students, if necessary. They also use summative assessments to measure students’ overall achievement in terms of the learning objectives and the overall success of the unit of instruction.

As equal partners in planning and implementing instruction, school librarians must be equal partners in assessment.

Engaging Relevant Learning Opportunities
In my experience, coteachers inspire and energize each other’s instructional planning and teaching. They bounce ideas off one another. They may push each other to take calculated risks to stretch their teaching and students’ learning. During instruction, they may take a playful attitude and demonstrate that wondering, puzzling, and problem solving is fun. They model communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in an authentic context.

School librarians have an important role to play in guiding the planning and teaching process toward involving relevant questions, challenging problems, exciting resources and tools, and increased opportunities student-led learning.

Coplanning with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to influence curriculum as well as instructional practices. This is leadership work. Misti Werle, school librarian supervisor in Bismarck, North Dakota, and I created a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” matrix. School librarians and classroom teachers in her district are using it to co-assess and chart their understanding of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Their goal is to increase classroom-library coteaching in their district.

You can access the matrix as a Web Extra or find it on page 28 in the book.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your role in recording ideas and decisions made during coplanning?
  2. Why should school librarians share their coplanning activities with their administrators?

Reference

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

#TxLA18 Winning with Instructional Partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Cited

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

Logo © 2017 Judi Moreillon

 

Grit, Complacency, and Passion

Last summer, I published a series of professional book reviews. The titles were some of the books I read as I prepared my forthcoming book. At that time, my LM_NET colleague and friend Barb Langridge, who blogs at A Book and a Hug and recommends children’s books as a regular guest on WBALTV Channel 11 in Baltimore, sent me an email asking if I had read Tyler Cowen’s book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I had not but said I would do so. Cowen’s book made be think. It also invited me to reflect on two previous books I read. (So, finally, this post is for you, Barb.)

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth makes a compelling case for people to follow their passion and learn perseverance. (I referenced her work in my 2018 New Year’s Resolution post.) She defines “grit” as self-discipline wedded to dedicated pursuit of a goal. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). If you haven’t yet take her online test, you can access her “grit scale” on her Web site.

One of her findings that was particularly meaningful to me is this. “Grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life. Higher scores on purpose correlate with higher scores on the Grit Scale” (Duckworth 2016, 147). People, such as school librarians, who have a moral purpose to serve others can be some of the grittiest people in terms of persevering to follow their passion. For me, this portends success for our profession.

School librarianship is complex. The exemplary practice of effective school librarians requires a wide range of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and dispositions, such those in this word cloud:

Duckworth elaborated on the Finnish concept of “sisu spirit.” Having this disposition means you understand your setbacks are temporary learning opportunities. You will tackle your challenges again no matter what. Setbacks won’t hold you back. “Grit is who you are!” (Duckworth 2016, 252). Just as the Finns do, Duckworth says we must model for and teach young people how to approach life with a “sisu spirit.”

Tyler Cowen in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream presents readers with a U.S. culture very much in need of “sisu spirit.” Cowen’s thesis is that Americans have lost “the ability to imagine an entirely different world and physical setting altogether, and the broader opportunities for social and economic advancement that would entail” (Cowen 2017, 7). He writes that the main elements of our society are driving us toward a more static, less risk-taking America.

In terms of our young people, Cowen notes (most?) schools occupy them with safest possible activities, most of all homework. We also classify students more thoroughly through more and more testing (Cowen 2017, 19). Low-level, low-risk “activities” in K-12 schools result in students who are averse to risk-taking and unable to problem solve. They will lack the social emotional learning necessary for an entrepreneurial spirit, for a “sisu spirit.”

I believe that Duckworth’s “grit” is the answer to Cowen’s complacency prediction. Inquiry learning (see 2/22/18 post) and activism are also pieces of the puzzle.

Serving as a school librarian is not for the faint of heart. For many school librarians, their work involves bumping up against a system that may not be serving students, educators, and families well. It means influencing others through leadership—an effort that takes passion, purpose, risk-taking, and perseverance. We must have the necessary dispositions to succeed, and we must model these and co-create with classroom teachers opportunities for students to practice them.

As a current example, Carolyn Foote, district librarian for Eanes (Texas) Independent School District and Lilead Fellow, created a Resources for Planning a Peaceful March Padlet to support youth and educators who are organizing protests related to gun violence. She invited Future Ready Librarians to add resources and share this information in their learning communities.

The fact that young people across the U.S. are speaking up and out is sending a strong message to our representatives in Congress. These young people are displaying grit and passion. They are anything but complacent. It is our responsibility as educators and elders to support them and join with them in raising our voices and creating positive change.

As Randy Kosimar writes: “Following your passion is not the same as following your bliss. While passion is a font of expressive, creative energy, it won’t necessarily deliver pleasure and contentment at every moment. Success, even on your own terms, entails sacrifice and periods of very hard work” (2000, xiv).

Let’s get to work!

Works Cited

Cowen, Tyler. 2017. The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Kosimar, Randy. 2000. The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Crafting a Life While Making a Living. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Image Credits: Collage created at Befunky.com, Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

2018 Resolution Message

In December, Carl Harvey, Topic Center Editor for School Library Connection (SLC), asked SLC Advisory Board members and SLC authors to share our “2018 resolutions for school libraries.” In response to Carl’s request, I decided to use my “WHY” (Sinek 2009, 2017), the 27-9-3 messaging strategy, and Angela Duckworth’s definition of “grit” to craft a 2018 resolution for my role in and contribution to the school library profession.

My WHY
At the Lilead Project meeting held just before the AASL Conference, I worked with Elissa Moritz to further refine my “WHY.” (See my previous posts about Simon Sinek’s work.) After sharing five professional stories with Elissa, she helped me clarify my purpose as it relates to my professional work. This is a revision of what we crafted together:

My purpose is to use my school librarianship experience, knowledge, skills, and service to share my passion and sense of urgency for the joy and power of school librarians to maximize teaching and learning in their schools through building partnerships.

Yes, it’s a bit wordy but it covers all the bases… It also implies several of my strengths from the Gallup StrengthsFinder activity we engaged in to prepare for the Lilead meeting. For me, it summarizes more than twenty-five years of commitment to our profession.

My 27-9-3 Message
At the Lilead Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, last June, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org reminded us of or taught us a messaging strategy called “27-9-3.” This is a way to hone your message to twenty-seven words that can be spoken in 9 seconds—a message that includes just three main points.

You can read about this strategy on an advocacy planning site called Power Prism: Developing Your Persuasive Message: “The 27-9-3 Rule.”  (This page includes a downloadable graphic organizer.) Patrick Sweeny also has an article on it on the DEMCO Ideas and Inspiration Blog: “Library Advocacy, Part 2: Creating an Effective Message.”

This is my 27-9-3 message to school librarians.

Empowered school librarians:
1. maximize the impact of their teaching, expertise, and library resources;
2. by building connections, partnerships, and capacity;
3. on their joyful leadership journey.

Grit
For those of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset,” Angela Duckworth’s work with the concept of “grit” may be an additional way to view learning, teaching, and success. Dr. Duckworth’s research grew out of a reoccurring theme in her own upbringing. Her father was known to tell young Angela and her siblings: “You know, you’re no genius!” (Duckworth 2016, xiii).

Although “no genius” in her father’s eyes, it was Dr. Duckworth’s great honor to be awarded a 2013 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. Her research centered on the relationships among talent, grit (the combination of interest/passion/purpose and perseverance), and success. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). You can access her “grit scale” on the Web site.


2018 Resolution

Combining my “WHY,” my 27-9-3 message, and my take on “grit,” I shared this resolution for my work with and for school libraries in 2018:

In 2018, I resolve to marshal a sense of urgency to support empowered school librarians and strengthen school librarianship by growing and sharing my passion, experience, knowledge, skills, and service to maximize our leadership and help our profession reach its capacity to transform teaching and learning in our schools.

Thank you for asking, Carl.

Thank you especially to the Lilead Project and Fellows and John Chrastka for supporting my professional learning in 2017. I am looking forward to continuing our learning journey in 2018.

Wishing all the best to the school librarians across the country and around the world who are doing critical work with administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families every day…

I invite you to share your #schoollibrarianleadership resolution in the comments below.

All the best in 2018,
Judi

References
Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Sinek, Simon. 2009. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

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: Wordle.net

#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

 

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/.