Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 3

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning

“Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity. Curiosity is the technique that gets to innovation” (Grazer and Fishman 2015, 62).

Inquiry learning can spark students’ curiosity and ignite their passions. Inquiry puts learners in the driver’s seat and leads them to invest in and care about the literacies, competencies, and dispositions they develop during the process. As students pursue the answers to personally meaningful questions and engage in real-world projects, they learn how to learn and build their confidence.  Hands-on, minds-on inquiry learning experiences help prepare young people to problem solve when confronted with the inevitable learning and living challenges that will characterize their futures.

Educators are responsible for creating the conditions in which inquiry learning can flourish. Inquiry doesn’t just happen; it must be expertly designed. Building connections between required curriculum and students’ interests is essential. When two or more educators plan for inquiry, they increase the resources and knowledge at the collaboration table. They push each other’s creativity and codevelop more engaging learning experiences for students.

When school librarians and classroom teachers coplan, coteach, and comonitor students’ inquiry learning process, they create opportunities for students to increase their content knowledge. They help students develop future-ready skills and strategies that are transferrable to other learning contexts—both in and outside of school.

In this chapter, I provide a rationale for applying a research-based model for inquiry learning. Guided Inquiry Design (GID) is based on the findings of Kuhlthau’s information-seeking process research. GID provides a structure in which a team of educators share responsibility for launching, guiding, monitoring, and assessing learning outcomes. During curriculum-connected inquiry, students take responsibility for and reflect on their own learning process and products.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A Recipe for Inquiry Learning Graphic
2. Learning Phases in Various Inquiry Models
3. Guided Inquiry Design Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012)
4. Inquiry Learning Subskills (*Tested on Standardized Tests)
5. Inquiry as a Strategy for Professional Learning

School librarians can be leaders in codeveloping, coimplementing, and sustaining a culture of inquiry in their schools. When school sites or entire districts adopt and practice a single inquiry model, students and educators can rely on multiple opportunities to experience deeper learning. When educators use an inquiry model to explore their own questions about teaching and learning, their understanding of the process and their confidence in their shared findings strengthen a culture of learning and improve teaching in their schools.

Works Cited

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. 2015. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image credit: Word cloud created at Wordle.net

School-Public Library Partnerships Toolkit

Bravo to AASL/ALSC/YALSA for last Friday’s publication of the Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit.

The toolkit process and final product are an example of how AASL and our sister divisions can work together to create a useful resource for the benefit of all librarians who serve the literacy needs of children, young adults, and families and co-create empowered literacy communities. The toolkit opens with an explanation of how it was created. These are the five chapters that follow:

Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Why School-Public Library Partnerships Matter
Chapter 3: Successful School-Public Library Partnerships
Chapter 4: Continuing the Partnerships
Chapter 5: Templates and Additional Resources

The information in Chapter 1 provides strategies for identifying potential collaborators and reinforces the critical importance of building relationships as the first step in collaboration. This chapter lists ALA initiatives that provide springboards for school-public librarian collaborative work, such as ALSC’s Every Child Ready to Read® year-round initiative and annual Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week.

Chapter 2 includes research related to the process and results of collaborative work. As background information, this chapter includes a brief explanation of evidence-based practice and the Understanding by Design planning framework. Readers will want to review some of the highlighted research support for the benefits of summer reading on children and youth. Digital literacy and early childhood literacy are two additional areas that provide research support for collaboration. To further inspire you, this chapter includes testimonials from school-public library collaborators on the positive impact of their collaborative work.

For Chapter 3, the toolkit writers spotlight exemplary school-public library collaborative programs—both at the branch and school-site levels as well as system-wide examples. From assignment alerts and book collection/kits programs to book clubs and STEM programs, librarians will want to consider how they might work with colleagues to adapt one of these for their service population or use them as inspiration for creating an original program for their community. There is a summary for each example and contact information for one or more principal collaborators should you have questions or need more details.

Chapter 4, titled “Continuing the Partnership,” offers strategies for building on and sustaining successful collaborative work. In addition to all-important communication, there is specific information to help librarians understand the resources, priorities, and challenges in reaching across the aisle to work with their school or public library counterparts. This chapter also includes information about evaluation and sharing results. This critical step can make the difference between ending the collaboration with a one-off program and developing an on-going series of programs or more highly impactful programs based on data. Evaluation provides feedback for the librarian collaborators as well as for administrators who will want to ensure programs are successful (and that they deserve more support and funding).

Chapter 5 includes templates and additional resources to support librarians in successful collaborative work. From introductory email and educator card application templates to sample collaborative planning forms, the resources in this chapter are intended to help librarians hit the ground running once they have identified promising partners.

The AASL Strategic Plan calls for a focus on building a cohesive and collaborative association as a critical issue. This toolkit is an example of AASL reaching across the aisle to colleagues in the other two ALA divisions focused on children’s and young adult services. The committee that created the toolkit is composed of representatives from all three divisions and demonstrates that AASL is growing and strengthening its community.

In the introduction to the toolkit, you will learn this work involved a three-year process: planning, drafting, and finalizing for publication. It has been my pleasure to serve for the last two years with colleagues from all three divisions who collaborated successfully to draft, revise based on feedback from the AASL/ALSC/YALSA leadership, and submit the “final” initial toolkit. The online toolkit is intended to be a starting point for future revisions as more and more successful school-public librarian collaboration examples and research become available.

Please make time to check out the toolkit and use it as a starting point for a conversation with a school or public librarian who can become your next friend and collaborative partner in supporting literacy in your community.

Images courtesy of AASL/ALSC/YALSA

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 2

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 2: Job-embedded Professional Development

“A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other” (Sinek, Mead, and Docker 2017, 104).

Professional learning embedded in the everyday practice of educators is an effective way to transform teaching and learning. In this chapter, I focus on the school librarian’s role as a learner and a professional learning leader. School librarians enact this role in a number of ways: through providing formal staff development; by serving as a member or team leader in one or more professional learning communities (PLCs); and through classroom-library collaboration, which involves trusting colleagues in coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing learning outcomes.

While all of these contributions to professional learning are important, collaboration for instruction gives school librarians the optimum opportunity to learn with and from their colleagues. Coteaching is personalized learning for educators. It is aligned with adult learning theory that puts educators in the driver’s seat—controlling the content and context of their learning while they solve self-identified instructional problems.

Planning for instruction is teacherly work. It requires connecting curricula with students’ interests and motivation and making learning experiences relevant. It involves determining goals, objectives, and assessments. It includes identifying compelling resources and effective instructional strategies. Through the hands-on implementation of coplanned lessons or units, educators monitor student learning and the success or areas for improvement in their instruction.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A rationale for coteaching as an effective job-embedded professional development practice;
2. A description of four classroom-library coteaching approaches;
3. A matrix that ranks levels of library services and instructional partnerships;
4. A graphic and an explanation of the Diffusion of Innovations model based on the work of Everett Rogers; and
5. A coplanning and coteaching self-assessment instrument.

Coteaching offers educators the opportunity to hone their craft while teaching “actual students in real time, with the taught curriculum, available resources and tools, and within the supports and constraints of their particular learning environments” (Moreillon 2012b, 142). School librarians add value when they co-collect evidence (student learning outcomes data) to demonstrate the effectiveness of their teaching in terms of what is important to colleagues and administrators. Data points the way toward continuous instructional improvement. Coteaching also creates the opportunity for school librarians to co-lead in a culture of (adult) learning in their schools.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2012. “Job-embedded Professional Development: An Orchard of Opportunity.” In Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers, edited by Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet Harada, 141-156. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

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: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

#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

International Day of Peace

This week, on September 21st, the United Nations will once again celebrate the International Day of Peace.  On this day, we join together around the globe to advocate for non-violence and strengthening peace among people and nations.

This year’s theme is: “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

As a children’s book author, I am a member of Artists and Illustrators for Children (AIC). The motto of AIC is: “We create children’s books because we care—that’s why we’re dedicated to a free, truthful, and safe America for all children.”

This year, AIC members Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle initiated a Padlet project where AIC members can share writing, art, and classroom activities related to peace.

I contributed a classroom-library-literacy coach-art classroom cotaught inquiry unit under the “Peaceful Activities for the Classroom” category.

During the 2001-2002, I served as a literacy coach at an elementary school in Tucson Unified School District. Along with a third-grade classroom teacher, the school librarian, and the art instructor, I codesigned and cotaught an inquiry unit focused on peace: Peace Poems and Picasso Doves.

We introduced this unit of study by reading Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace, Peace Begins with You written by Shelley Moore Thomas, illustrated with photographs by Eric Futran and selections from The Big Book for Peace edited by Ann Durell and Marilyn Sachs.

We asked students to share their personal responses to readings with partners or with the whole class. These were the questions we used to frame students’ responses:
1. What do individuals do to find peace?
2. What do communities do to create peace?
3. What are some symbols for peace?

The collaborating educators developed a text set of resources, which students explored as they began to develop their own questions, thoughts, and feelings related to peace. The students’ literature circle discussion around the book Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz were particularly powerful. Students studied and wrote poetry and learned about Pablo Picasso’s peace dove artwork. In their final products, the students’ peace poems and Picasso doves captured the personal meaning they ascribed to the word and concept of peace.

There is an undeniable link between peace and social justice. Expanding out from the personal to peaceful communities based in social justice is a logical next step. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child can help young people see the connection. With primary age students, I have used the child-friendly version and the book For Every Child: The Rights of the Child in Words and Pictures offered by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. For older students, in particular, the possibilities for connections to historical and current events is limitless.

If you have not yet read it, please see Loretta Gaffney’s Knowledge Quest blog post “Hate Has No Home Here: The Post Charlottesville School Library” (9/13/17). Loretta provides us with much to think about and excellent resources for educating for social justice.

School librarians who curate resources and codesign and coteach lessons and units of instruction have an essential role to play in making connections for learning between the classroom and library and across disciplines. We also have an obligation to “make important interventions in a political climate of hatred” (Gaffney).

In your daily practice of librarianship and this week, in particular, I hope you will look for ways to increase the peace and inspire conversations about social justice in your learning community. If  you tweet, please use #peaceday to share your work this week.

Work Cited

Gaffney, Loretta. “‘Hate Has No Home Here’: The Post-Charlottesville School Library.” Knowledge Quest, 13 Sept. 2017, knowledgequest.aasl.org/hate-no-home-post-charlottesville-school-library/.

Image Credit:
Peace Dove Artwork by Elise – Used with Permission

Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read (and re-read!) many professional books. This is the tenth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

I read Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari’s book Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School when it was first published in 2012. In 2012-2013, I was part of the Denton Inquiry for Lifelong Learning Project. We conducted a year-long study centered on this book. Our goal for the study was to increase the understanding and practice of inquiry learning among the various stakeholders in the Denton literacy community. Our collaborators included school librarians from Denton Independent School District, the Denton Public Library, the university libraries and graduate library schools of Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas.

There are eight phases in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Process: open, immerse, explore, identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate (2). Reflection and assessment are embedded throughout the process as a way for students and educators to monitor learning and ensure success.

The GID is intended to be co-facilitated by an inquiry team that includes two or more educators, including a classroom teacher or specialist and the school librarian. Throughout the phases, educators have shared responsibilities for designing learning experiences and collaborating with students to make school-based learning authentic, personally meaningful, and relevant to students’ lives. Educators also share responsibility for monitoring student progress and assessing student learning outcomes.

In co-facilitating inquiry learning, educators can practice and students can experience the creativity that comes from “two (or more) heads are better than one.” In addition to integrating the rich resources of the school library into inquiry learning, educators have expanded opportunities to launch the open phase creatively. With two or more educators facilitating student engagement with resources and identifying questions, students and inquiry groups will receive more personalized feedback throughout the process. With two or more educators monitoring student learning and providing interventions as needed, student success will be more assured.

Educators will also benefit personally by lowering the stress of guiding “messy” inquiry learning. They will practice reciprocal mentorship throughout the process and have the opportunity to improve their own teaching practices. They will have someone to share the joys and challenges and celebrate students’ success.

The GID clearly aligns with privileging the instructional partner role of the school librarian, my raison d’être!

How does inquiry learning align with your state standards? Although the term “research” rather than “inquiry” is used, one benefit Texas educators have is that the English Language Arts and Reading standards specifically include learning standards that align well with the phases of the GID. These include students developing open-ended questions, a “research plan,” revising research questions, applying information literacy skills (authority, reliability, validity, bias), resolving discrepancies in information, presenting their learning, and more.

When classroom teachers and school librarians coplan and coteach inquiry learning, educators can seamlessly and authentically integrate content-area, digital, and information literacies, competencies such as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), and dispositions, such as persistence and flexibility, into students’ learning experiences.

If you do not yet guide inquiry learning in your school, please read this book. Check out the model lesson plans offered at the end of each chapter focused on each phase of the GID.

If you have been teaching another inquiry or research process, compare it to the GID. I believe you will find that the GID offers you, your colleagues, and your students with a framework for guiding future-ready learning in your school.

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. (Or the 2nd edition published in 2015)

For Further Reading

Guided Inquiry Design. http://guidedinquirydesign.com

Guided Inquiry Design Blog. http://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2015.

Teach Like Finland, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

Mothers, Educators, and Literacy

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day and this week is Teacher Appreciation Week. There is a strong connection between mothers and educators, home and school. We are essential partners in family literacy.

As a former elementary school librarian, I enjoyed meeting kindergarten children and their families. From their first day in the school library, I could tell which children had been read to in their homes and which had not. The lucky children came to school excited about stories. They knew how to hold books and turn the pages. They had already taken their first steps on the path to reading for enjoyment and learning.

You have heard it said that “parents are their child’s first teachers.” Nothing could be truer. In addition to feeding, sheltering, and clothing a child, literacy is another essential aspect of parenting. There is no one in a better position to do that than a child’s parents and caregivers.

Parents who talk, sing, play, and read to their infants and young children prepare them for success in school and in life. “Read to me and watch me grow/tell me all the tales you know.” Young children who hear more words spoken and say more words in conversations with others are better prepared to read. A research study showed that some children already have a 30 million (!) word gap by the age of three.

No one wants their child to start school behind in language development. High-quality early childhood preschool experiences are important. But in those first two or three years before some children start preschool, a great deal of brain development is already occurring. Talking and singing to an infant from birth is a gift of love and an investment in the child’s future learning.

In addition to talking and singing with a child, reading is a fun and effective way to build a child’s vocabulary. “In picture books and nursery rhymes/fairy tales from other times.” Making meaning from pictures is a baby step on the path to being a reader. Older readers engage young children by pointing to the pictures and talking about what is happening in the book. They ask children questions that are first answered by pointing. Later, a child’s answers will be single words, phrases, and finally full sentences. When children can ask questions about what is being read, they are well on their way to becoming motivated to learn to read.

When children are enfolded in a parent’s arms while reading a book together, they experience reading as an act of caring. “Read the pictures, read the lines./Words to nourish hearts and minds.” Children who are read to develop positive feelings toward books and stories. These feelings help children grow curious about words. Positive feelings about reading support them in making meaning from words as well as pictures.

“Read to me and plant the seed./Make me want to learn to read.” Parents can be very busy and may be unable to provide early literacy learning experiences on a daily basis. That’s when brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other caregivers can step in to make sure the young child is nurtured in these essential ways.

Parents are truly their children’s first teachers. But literacy is a lifelong skill that needs a strong beginning and support throughout students’ schooling. When libraries partner with families, caregivers, health and community organizations, we can elevate literacy in our community.

One shining example of such a partnership is the “Books for Texas Babies” initiative.

This effort began as a collaborative project of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health and Hospital System. In 2016, they gave 12,000 copies of Vamos a leer/Read to Me to families of newborns and are continuing the project this year. Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their “Books for Tarrant County Babies” partnership in 2017.

Working together, we can ensure that all children have the literacy skills they will need to expand their life choices—skills that are the foundation for college, career, and community readiness. With a shared responsibility and commitment, let’s engage every child in experiences that show literacy is simply an essential part of life.

Note: The quoted rhymes in this blog post are from my book Read to Me.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. Read to Me. Cambridge, MA: Star Bright Books, 2004.

Image Credit: From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon. Used with permission.

Unleash Your Passion for School Library Programs

April is School Library Month. This is a time of year when school librarians across the country spotlight the transformational learning and teaching that is happening through school library programs.

School librarians who continually improve their expertise and collaborative skills build effective school library programs. Their exemplary programs are the foundation they need for advocacy. In her chapter entitled “Becoming an Expert Teacher,” Hilda Weisburg writes this: “Many librarians have struggled with getting teachers to work with them but you (school librarian) will never be regarded as a leader if you work alone in the library” (47).

From my personal experience, students’ learning experiences can be especially empowered when they are cotaught in collaboration with classroom teachers and specialists. When educators coteach, they learn from one another and provide more feedback to students, more timely interventions, and support student success. In all ways, two heads and four hands are better than one! (And working with a trio—or more—of educators increases student support exponentially.)

In support of preservice school librarians’ understanding of and commitment to the power of classroom-library coteaching, I curated a collection of video testimonials of classroom teachers and specialists talking about their positive experiences collaborating or coteaching with their school librarian.

Along with Teresa Starrett, preservice principal educator colleague at Texas Woman’s University, I crowdsourced a video of principal testimonials about the essential work of their exemplary school librarians: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”

While it is ideal for students, classroom teachers, principals, parents, and other library stakeholders to advocate for school librarians and school library programs, it behooves school librarians themselves to unleash their passion for the difference their work and the resources and environment of the school library make in empowering students’ learning and teachers’ teaching.

At the invitation of Jennifer LaGarde, school librarians from across the country are providing testimonials about their understanding of future-ready school librarianship. Reedy High School (Frisco, Texas) librarian Nancy Jo Lambert submitted a video response to the question: “What is a future ready librarian?” I believe that Nancy Jo’s response is brilliant because she confirms her focus on curriculum and classroom-library collaboration in order to positively empower student achievement. Brava, Nancy Jo.

Please view Jennifer’s crowdsourced flipgrid and get an idea of how your future-ready colleagues express their future-ready roles.

Here’s to all the school librarians who shout out about the privilege of learning with and from awesome students and collegial educators. Here’s to the librarians whose stakeholders shout out about the indispensable role school librarians and school library programs play in the education of future-ready students.

Happy School Library Month!

Work Cited

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

Image credit:

Howard Lake. “Speak Up, Make Your Voice Heard.” n.d. Flickr.com, https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5260/5540462170_d5297d9ce8_b.jpg

Logo courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians