School Librarians Share and Celebrate

The 2019 AASL conference in Louisville (November 14-16, 2019) was a non-stop, jam-packed learning and networking event for me. Due to meetings, a school visit, and my own presentations, I didn’t have a great deal of “free” time to take full advantage of all the conference presenters had to offer. I suspect that may be the case for you as well.

School Librarians Share!
That is why I am particularly grateful to Nancy Jo Lambert for curating presentations, notes, and links on this Google doc.

I have been dipping into this rich well of learning as I reflect on my own conference experience and further develop my understanding and practice in our profession. Thank you, Nancy Jo.

An Important Session You May Have Missed
That said, I attended a powerful session offered in the very last concurrent time slot for the conference: “Leadership Partnerships.” Misti Werle, Library Systems Innovator, Bismarck (ND) Public Schools (BPS), moderated this session that should have been spotlighted and REQUIRED for every attendee.

Misti brought BPS principals, librarians, a classroom teacher, and an instructional coach from all three instructional levels to share how they are collaborating to meet the needs of the K-12 students they serve. WOW! This is the link to their presentation.

This is what I took away from the session.

  • A whole-school approach results in the most successful outcomes for students.
  • School librarians earn the trust and support of administrators and classroom teacher colleagues by building relationships and helping others meet their instructional goals.
  • Administrators build school librarians’ confidence and leadership skills when they trust and support librarians’ change initiatives.
  • Administrators are focused on helping all educators reach their capacity. This is a responsibility of leaders and one that school librarians can support through collaboration and coteaching.

Congratulations to the “Leadership Partnerships” team:

High School:
Tom Schmidt: Principal
Michael Jacobson: Library Media Specialist
Maggie Townsend: Instructional Coach

Middle School:
Tabby Rabenberg: Principal
Kat Berg: Library Media Specialist
Jenni Kramer: Classroom Teacher

Elementary School:
Brenda Beiswenger: Principal
Alisha Kelim: Library Media Specialist
Stacy Olson: Library Media Specialist

Celebrate!
Along with you, I celebrate the amazing work you are doing in BPS. I wish everyone who attended #AASL19 could have heard your powerful testimonials on the impact the school librarian and the librarian program can have on building an empowered culture of learning and collaboration in our schools.

Thank you and keep on sharing and celebrating!

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

Assessment Twitter Chat

This fall graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” are participating in bimonthly Twitter chats. The chats are based on the pull quotes from chapters in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

We invite you to join us our chat on Monday, October 28, 2019 from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. Central Time. Chat questions are posted on this blog on the Wednesday before our Monday chats.

October 28, 2019: #is516 Twitter Chat: Assessment

“The integration of authentic learning tasks with diagnostic assessment and project monitoring is a powerful education instrument for [instructional] change and student achievement” (Moreillon, Luhtala, and Russo 2011, 20).

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

During coplanning, classroom teachers and school librarians must determine “how” knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions growth data will be collected, analyzed, and used to improve schooling for future ready students. Educators use formative and summative assessments and reflection activities to measure student growth.

Formative assessments monitor student growth and provide students with timely feedback so they can improve their work. Formative assessments also inform educators’ subsequent instructional decisions.

Educators use summative assessments at the end of an inquiry unit and are often represented as final project grades. Reflective activities integrated throughout the inquiry process help students understand their own learning process and improve their ability to transfer learning to new contexts.

Rather than using traditional standardized, multiple choice, and fill-in-the-blanks tests to assess students’ content knowledge, educators use performance-based measures to assess how students apply future ready learning in real-world, authentic contexts. The effectiveness of performance-based assessments is determined by how well students can use them to guide their learning process and self-assess their progress as well as their final product or performance.

#is516 Chat Questions
These are the questions that will guide our chat (for copy and paste).

Q,1: Why is self-assessment important for students? #IS516

Q.2: How do educators assess students’ dispositions? #IS516

Q.3: What would you ask a supervisor to observe during classroom-library collaboration for instruction? #IS516

Q.4: What are your strategies for reflecting on your own instructional practice? #IS516

Please respond with A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4 and bring your ideas, resources, experience, questions, and dilemmas to our conversation so we can learn with and from you!

For previous chat questions and archives, visit our IS516 course wiki page.

Thank you!

Work Cited

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

Digital Learning Twitter Chat

This fall graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” are participating in bimonthly Twitter chats. The chats are based on the pull quotes from chapters in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

It is fitting that we are preparing for our chat and talking about digital literacy and learning during “Digital Inclusion Week” (10/7/19 – 10/11/2019). For me, #digitalequityis fully resourced school libraries led by state-certified school librarians who provide access and opportunity to close literacy learning gaps for students, educators, and families.

Monday, October 14, 2019: #is516 Twitter Chat: Digital Learning

 “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills” (American Library Association 2013). As educators with expertise in curating and integrating digital resources and tools into curriculum, school librarians and libraries are perfectly positioned to be leaders and coteachers of digital literacy.

School librarians serve as technology stewards. Stewardship is an activity that requires one to practice responsible planning and management of the resources one is given, or over which one has authority. In school libraries that serve as hubs for resources, effective school librarians curate resources that support standards-based curricula as well as students’ needs for independent learning. Students, families, classroom teachers, and administrators rely on proactive library professionals who plan for, manage, and integrate digital learning tools and experiences into the daily school-based learning lives of students.

Access and equity are core principles of librarianship. With their global view of the learning community, school librarians have an essential role to play as digital literacy leaders who help address gaps in technology access and in opportunities to use digital resources for learning and creating.

In schools with plenty, school librarians advocate for a digitally rich learning environment for students and coteach with colleagues to effectively integrate digital resources, devices, and tools. In less privileged schools, librarians will dedicate themselves to seeking funding and advocating for students’ and classroom teachers’ access to the digital resources and tools of our times.

School librarians can be leaders in codeveloping, coimplementing, and sustaining digital learning environments in their schools. They commit to closing the gap between access and opportunity by collaborating with classroom teachers and specialists and ensuring that the open-access library makes digital learning opportunities and tools available to all students.

#is516 Chat Questions
These are the questions that will guide our chat (for copy and paste).

Q,1: What are the benefits of #coteaching digital literacy/or collaborating to integrate #digital learning tools? #IS516

Q.2: What future ready dispositions are students practicing when engaged in #digital learning? #IS51s6

Q.3: How do you or how can you serve as a technology mentor for individual Ts? #IS516

Q.4: How do you or how can you serve as a school/system-wide technology mentor? (Share a tool or website!) #IS516

Please respond with A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4 and bring your ideas, resources, experience, questions, and dilemmas to our conversation so we can learn with and from you!

For previous chat questions and archives, visit our IS516 course Twitter Chats wiki page. Thank you!

Work Cited

American Library Association. 2013. Digital Literacy, Libraries, And Public Policy: Report of the Office of Information Technology Policy’s Digital Literacy Task Force. www.districtdispatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2012_OITP_digilitreport_1_22_13.pdf

 

Inquiry and Reading Comprehension Twitter Chat Summary

On Monday, September 23, 2019, graduate students in “IS516: School Library Media Center” participated in a bimonthly Twitter chat. The chat was based on the pull quotes from Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning and Chapter 4: Traditional Literacy Learning in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

These are the four questions that guided our Twitter chat

As the course facilitator, Twitter chat moderator, and chair of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Reading Position Statements Task Force, I had a pressing reason to mine students’ thinking, experiences, and questions. While the critical role of reading competence is one of AASL’s core beliefs (AASL 2018, 4) and inquiry is one of the shared foundations described in depth in the new standards (67-74), the link between the reading comprehension and inquiry learning is not explicit.

A question posed recently on a popular school librarian Facebook group heightened my level of concern for how school librarians perceive their roles as teachers of reading and how they view the relationship between information literacy (or inquiry) and reading comprehension strategies.

These are a sampling of the students’ tweets.

Beliefs (about information, inquiry learning, and reading comprehension strategies)

@the_bees_knees
A4. Inquiry, information literacy, and reading comprehension are like a three-legged stool. Without any one of the three, we don’t really understand why we keep falling down.  #is516

@K8linNic
A.3: Common beliefs: Literacy is IMPORTANT & ESSENTIAL! Reading = foundational skill necessary for success in school/life. Literacy support is more than promoting reading #is516

@OwlsAndOrchids
A3: Both classroom T’s and #schoollibrarians highly value traditional literacies. Reading, writing, listening & speaking are core parts of learning. Without mastering these skills, students aren’t able to properly learn about other subjects or succeed in life. #is516 @iSchooK12

@bookn3rd2
A.3 SLs & Ts believe literacy learning involves giving Ss listening, speaking, writing, technology, print, inquiry, & reading comprehension strategies thru multimodal texts. SLs serve as literacy leaders in their schools. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@clairemicha4
Ts discuss all the time the transition from learning to read and reading to learn. Ss have to have solid reading skills to thrive in an academic setting. This Ts and #schoollibrarians can agree on.

@spetersen76
A.4. All (reading comprehension/information literacy/inquiry learning) require strategy and skill to be successful. With purposeful planning and teaching, Ss will learn how to critically evaluate sources, & read deeply/comprehend across various types of text/media, to be able to successfully participate in inquiry at its fullest.  #is516

@ScofieldJoni
A.3 Another common belief between both teachers and librarians is that the reading element of literacy is not the only important kind. In this day and age, digital literacy is just as important. #is516

@MFechik
A.3: They share a belief that inquiry is an important foundational skill for literacy, which leads to larger opportunities for students as they grow. They also both believe strongly in students’ right to privacy and intellectual freedom. #is516 @ischoolk12

@MsMac217
A.4 @iSchoolK12 Inquiry can’t be done w/o reading comprehension. Ss must be able to support themselves thru difficult texts in order to inquire & reach sufficient conclusions. Plus, inquiry can’t be done w/o the ability to sort thru information & determine what’s valuable #is516

Current Experience

@malbrecht3317
A1: In #Together203, our middle school science curriculum is entirely inquiry-based. There is a guiding essential question for each lesson & students come to an understanding of the world around them by participating in hands-on research labs. #is516 @ischoolk12

@karal3igh
A.1. Inquiry/Research is mostly left up to the teacher, but it is very heavily encouraged! Our math and science curriculum have geared strongly towards #inquirylearning in just the 6 years I’ve taught at my school. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@litcritcorner
A1. Our Juniors currently engage in very inquiry through their research projects. Students get to choose an independent reading book and then research a theme or question based on their book. This gives students a choice but also provides a focus. #is516 @iSchoolk12

@TravelingLib
A.1 Currently, research is used much more in our school compared to inquiry.  Inquiry is mostly seen in science and social studies, but has yet to be integrated well into other subjects. #is516 @ischoolk12

@bookn3rd2
A.1 I mostly saw traditional research in my school. Inquiry research was only done in gifted classes. Low Socio-Eco school, admin wanted classes CC & curriculum-centered. Gifted Ts got all the fun! SLs did no classroom literacy instruction #is516 @iSchoolK12

Less-than-ideal Current Practice

 @lovecchs165
I have never worked in an educational environment when Librarians/Teachers collaborate and have only seen traditional research done in the classrooms…I wonder if other teachers realize what they are missing out on by not collaborating with librarians?

@burnsiebookworm
A1 We’re pretty traditional – more research than inquiry based. Individual classes do their own lessons. For instance, ELA classes do a WW2 project in 8th grade, focused on life on the homefront. @ischoolk12 #is516

@bookn3rd2
A.1 I mostly saw traditional research in my school. Inquiry research was only done in gifted classes. Low Socio-Eco school, admin wanted classes CC & curriculum-centered. Gifted Ts got all the fun! SLs did no classroom literacy instruction #is516 @iSchoolK12

@CydHint
#is516 in the study on teacher and librarian #perceptions about #collaboration, #less than 50% of #librarians believed they should help with teaching note taking skills. #whoshoulddowhat remains an issue

Quote Tweet
@CactusWoman
A.3 Common beliefs are essential starting places for #collaboration. In my experience not all middle & high school Ts in all disciplines saw themselves as “teachers of reading.” This is also true of some #schoollibrarians who do not see themselves as “teachers of reading.” #is516

Effective Practices

@OwlsAndOrchids
A4: #inquiry is reliant on information literacy & reading comprehension. Without understanding text, the information is lost. Being able to recognize when info is needed, find it, assess it, & apply it is a fundamental part of inquiry. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@OwlsAndOrchids
The skills do seem to build upon one another and they are all necessary for total success. #is516 @ischoolk12

Quote Tweet
@burnsiebookworm
A4: Once Ss can get a handle on reading comprehension, skills like making predictions come more naturally, which allows them to move thru the inquiry process. @ischoolk12 #is516

@bookn3rd2
A.3 In the past few years Ts across disciplines within my school have started purposefully teaching reading strategies within their classes. It’d been greatly beneficial in increasing student comprehension, esp. w Nonfiction texts. #is516 @iSchoolK12

@GraceMW
A.4) #InquiryBasedLearning works best when there is a solid foundation of #infoliteracy and #readingcomprehension skills. Ts and #schoollibrarians who help foster these skills are helping curious students be stronger researchers and info seekers #is516 @iSchoolK12

@burnsiebookworm
A4: Reading comprehension is paramount. We use the making #textconnections strategies in ELA classes. Being able to connect to a text is the 1st step. @ischoolk12 #is516

@rural0librarian
A.4  #inquiry, info literacy, & reading comprehension are all tools and strategies that allow Ss to build their knowledge, encourage deeper learning, and become personally and academically competent #is516 @iSchoolK12

Reading Proficiency: A Foundational Skill
The importance of the foundational skill of reading can support or hinder a student’s ability to negotiate meaning in both print and digital texts. Readers applying comprehension strategies such as activating background knowledge, questioning, making predictions and drawing inferences, determining importance or main ideas, and synthesizing regardless of the genre or format of the text. Readers “read” illustrations, videos, audiobooks, and multimodal websites. In this environment, “school librarians can do more than promote reading. We can accept the role as instructional partners in teaching reading [and inquiry] and thrive in performing it” (Tilly 2013, 7).

These preservice school librarians agree that people can be reading proficient without being information literate, but a person cannot be information literate and engage in inquiry learning without comprehending what they read, view, or hear. It is my intention that they will take this understanding into their practice as educators and librarians.

Note: The tweets quoted here are used with permission and the whole class provided me with permission to link to our Wakelet archive (see below).

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Inquiry and Reading Comprehension Strategies. Twitter Chat #2. Wakelet.com. https://wakelet.com/wake/546a25ea-5595-4882-bc71-e883ef153e12

Tilly, Carol L. 2013. Reading instruction and school librarians. School Library Monthly 30 (3): 5-7.

 

Speak-ing of #BannedBooksWeek

This week (September 22 – 29, 2019), classroom teachers, librarians, and libraries across the country are honoring the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom’s annual Banned (and Challenged) Books Week. When I served as a secondary school librarian, this week was one of my most treasured. For those three years, I collaborated with 8th grade (one) and high school English language arts classroom teachers to spotlight the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000-2009. (I look forward to the 2010-2020 list!)

I gathered as many as possible children’s and young adult books from 100 Most Frequently Challenged list from our library and interlibrary loaned through the public library. (There were a few titles that were not appropriate for the school environment such as Private Parts by Howard Stern.) We launched the lesson by helping students make connections among these three terms and books written for youth: banned, challenged, and censored. Students who had read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 made connections and often led the discussion.

The classroom teachers and I co-read one of the picture books from the list and modeled a conversation about why the book had been challenged. Then, students working in small groups were given a short stack of books and the task of discussing each one to determine why they thought the book had been challenged. Students read picture books and book jacket information for novels to guide their thinking. Their ELA-R teachers and I facilitated these discussions by monitoring students’ conversations and asking probing questions.

Each group reported to the class by selecting the most surprising book in their stack and shared their determination for the “reason” the book had been challenged. One of the biggest takeaways from this lesson was that students had read a good number of these books in the past and where annoyed or shocked that any adult would think they were incapable of thinking critically or shouldn’t have even be allowed to read the story or information.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Books
Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak appears as #60 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 2000-2009. I have been a fan ever since the book was published… and this year read both the graphic novel version and her latest book Shout. It isn’t often that readers have such a powerful example of three texts—one novel, one graphic novel, and one free verse memoir—to compare their responses to the “same” story told by the same author. Anderson has given us all a gift with Speak (1999), Speak: The Graphic Novel (2018), and Shout: The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced (2019).

Speak, the Novel
I read this book when it was first published. In 2002, I facilitated a student book club at Sabino High School. (It was my first year as a high school librarian after serving in elementary school libraries for ten years.) The students in the club were freshmen and sophomores. I provided students with a stack of books for which I could secure multiple copies. They picked Speak as our first read. I sent home information to students’ families about the book club (we met once a month during lunch) and noted the list of nine books the students had chosen to read that year.

Of course, I suspected that Speak would be an important book for the young women in the group. Protagonist Melinda’s experience, silence, inner turmoil, and trauma were clearly and poignantly conveyed in the story. What surprised me, at the time, was that the young men in the group were equally affected by Melinda’s story. Anderson’s voice rang true and authenticity created an invitation for readers to relate to the story on an emotional level. Students’ discussion was open and frank. It was an outstanding beginning for building our caring and thoughtful community of readers.

Speak, the Graphic Novel
Emily Carroll’s illustrations in the graphic novel add another dimension to Anderson’s story that may help some readers relate more deeply to Melinda’s story. The black, white, and sepia tones of the illustrations portray the fear and suffering of a freshman girl who has been raped and shunned. Her isolation and depression are vividly drawn. When Melinda finally takes the opportunity to strike back at the rapist, the image of her punching him captures the emotional power of finding one’s courage, using one’s strength, and protecting one’s self from further harm.

The parallels with the acts of superheroes will not be lost on readers. Carroll, who is known for penning horror comics, was the perfect pick to illustrate Anderson’s modern classic. The graphic novel format with brief text, frames that sequence and chunk the text, and drawings that pack an emotional punch will bring many new (and returning) readers to this text.

Shout, the True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced
And finally, for me, Shout, the free verse memoir brings Laurie Halse Anderson’s first-hand experience with abuse, rape, and resilience into an even sharper focus. Her intimate poems about family dysfunction, microaggressions (a word I didn’t “have” when I first read Speak), and most importantly of all, ending the shame associated with sexual assault will tear at your heart. As a woman, mother, and grandmother, I wept for young women who have suffered and continue to suffer in silence and must find resilience without family or societal support.

With today’s #MeToo movement, I believe all three “versions” of Speak/Shout provide a rich literary experience for critical conversations. But from my personal perspective Shout was the most powerful of the three. For me, Anderson’s memoir presents undeniable truths from which I, the reader, could not turn away.

Thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson, for your courage in breaking the silence, for openly sharing your life experiences, and for your heartfelt truth telling.

As you honor and celebrate The Freedom to Read and The Library Bill of Rights, this week and 365 days a year, school librarians must recommit to advocating for and protecting students’ rights. Our library materials reconsideration policies are a place to begin. Please read Mona Kirby’s article that appeared in the September issue of American Libraries: “Up to the Challenge: Dealing with School Library Book Challenges Before They Happen.”

Collegiality and Teamwork

Chapter 9 Podcast: Sustaining Connections in a Collaborative Culture

Collegiality and teamwork are essential for future ready educators. In a collegial work environment, coworkers see each other as “companions” or equals. They cooperate and share responsibility for their collective goals and objectives. Collegiality implies friendship, caring, and respect for work mates. Teamwork implies that colleagues work together in an effective and efficient way to accomplish a task or achieve a goal. Members of a team may make unique contributions to the success of the work but all will take “credit” for the outcome.

Peter Senge and his colleagues note that “schools that learn” are in a continual process growth and change. As such, educators in these schools must exhibit collegiality and engage in teamwork in an open and trusting environment. Through developing shared values and common agreements, formal and informal school leaders ensure that the environment remains conducive to collective work.

Competitive Collaboration
It may seem counter-intuitive but principal leader George Couros advocates for a bit of competition among colleagues. He promotes what he calls “competitive collaboration,” in which “educators push and help one another to become better” (Couros 2015, 73). “Competitive collaboration” can help ensure that faculty learn with and from one another, cheer for each other’s achievements, support each other as team members who take risks individually and collectively, fail forward, and grow.

“Competitive collaboration” requires a high level of trust. The willingness to risk and fail in front of one’s colleagues is not easy for most adults. When principals, as lead learners, are the first to demonstrate this level of openness and transparency, it will be easier for faculty members, including librarians, to follow suit. In an environment of trust and shared commitment to each other’s growth, the result of competitive collaboration can be improved student learning and continuous improvement in educators’ instructional practices.

Sharing Data
“Along the way, faculty will share their practices and student learning outcomes data more openly. They will coplan, coteach, and collectively reflect on practice. They will build deeper and more trusting relationships in a culture of continuous learning” (Moreillon 2018, 50). If educators are to succeed at solving individual instructional challenges and schoolwide issues, they must openly share data. Again, it is not easy to actually document a misstep or failure.

Still, sharing data can be a pathway to engaging colleagues in helping individual educators reflect on their practice in new ways. Others can “show” us our teaching from another perspective and suggest strategies for revising our instruction, changing up resources, or making other improvements that can better meet students’ needs. Principals and supervisors can take this role. When we break down the walls between our classrooms and libraries, coteachers can also offer new perspectives on thorny issues.

Building Capacity
Creating the conditions in which all members of the learning community can reach capacity is a primary function of the school principal. School librarians can colead alongside their principals in capacity building. They “can serve as models for continuous learning while they engage in professional development (PD) with colleagues. School librarians help all library stakeholders reach their capacity” (Moreillon 2018, xiii).

One of the on-going challenges for school librarians is that they are not necessarily working in contexts that allow them to achieve their capacity or help students, classroom teachers, and administrators reach theirs. In a fixed schedule library where school librarians are providing planning time for classroom teachers, school librarians cannot achieve their capacity as instructional partners. School librarians who lack library staff, especially a full-time library assistant, cannot fully serve their learning communities if they spend their days doing clerical work rather than teaching. School libraries without adequate budgets cannot provide students, educators, and families with up-to-date books and resources to meet their academic and personal learning needs.

As noted in Chapter 8, leadership and advocacy go hand in hand. School librarian leaders will continuously advocate and enlist stakeholders in advocating for the most effective library scheduling, staffing, and budgets. They will use their voices and influence to build and sustain effective library programs in which collegiality and teamwork can thrive.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your response to George Couros’s idea of “competitive collaboration”?
  2. What are your/your principal’s specific behaviors that build trust in your learning community?

 

Works Cited

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

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

 

Continuous Learning, On-Going Assessment

Learners—of all ages—must “replace, modify, or eliminate established patterns of behavior, beliefs, or knowledge. Learning is not about reaching a specific target and then resting on one’s laurels. Rather, it is about a continuous process of building and tearing down and building up again. Transforming a learning culture requires change with a capital ‘C’” (Moreillon 2018, 19).

As centralized instructional partners, school librarians are perfectly positioned to model continuous learning. Along with administrators and teacher leaders, they can initiate, monitor, gather and analyze data, adjust, and propel any change initiative underway in their schools.

Principals’ and School Librarians’ Shared Roles
While changemaker school librarians can make a modicum of progress working with selected classroom teachers, they cannot achieve schoolwide success without the leadership and support of their principal(s). A school librarian’s relationship and communication with the school principal must be a primary focus if a change process is to succeed. School librarians who seek to open the library for additional hours, move to a flexible schedule, adopt a schoolwide inquiry process, improve school climate, culture, and more, must partner with their administrators.

“Together, they develop a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in their schools. While people have both fixed and growth mindsets in various contexts, principals can lead learning by modeling a continuous openness to growth” (Moreillon 2018, 12). Principals who position themselves a “lead learners” and practice distributed leadership may create the most conducive environment for school librarian leadership.

Principals and school librarians can then work together to nurture and sustain the supportive environment that Peter Senge and his colleagues call “schools that learn.” These schools are “places where everyone, young and old, would continuously develop and grow in each other’s company; they would be incubation sites for continuous change and growth. If we want the world to improve, in other words, then we need schools that learn” (Senge et al. 2012, 4–5).

Continuous Learning = Continuous Improvement
Maximizing School Librarian Leadership (MSLL) is intended to provide educators with instructional and cultural interventions that can “help create new norms that foster experimentation, collaboration, and continuous improvement” (Guskey 2000, x). As professional development, the information provided and strategies suggested in MSLL can serve to validate learning and teaching as currently practiced in readers’ schools.

For progressive school libraries, schools, and districts, MSLL may serve as confirmation that the transformation process currently underway is headed in the most effective direction to improve student learning and educator proficiency. For those readers, the book may also serve as a prompt to stretch themselves a bit further, to take another calculated risk, to gather and analyze additional data on their path to excellence.

For other school libraries, schools, and districts that are not as far along on their path to transformation, MSLL may provide targets, guideposts, or tools for self-assessment to further direct the change process. Using this book to clarify vision and mission or goals and objectives is a worthwhile outcome for a professional book study. Engaging in professional conversations around these topics can strengthen communication and relationships among faculty members. These conversations can provide a stronger foundation on which to build collegiality and common agreements.

Confidence
“School librarian leaders nurture, develop, and sustain relationships with all library stakeholders. They build their confidence by continuously improving their skill sets, including pedagogical strategies and technological innovations. School librarians develop their communication skills in order to listen and respond to the ever-evolving needs of learners—students and educators alike” (Moreillon 2019). Through relationships and communication, school librarians lead with confidence (Everhart and Johnston 2016).

School librarians, in particular, may find the information in MSLL will increase their confidence, their willingness, and their ability to lead. By increasing knowledge and improving skills, school librarians can shore up the necessary confidence to step out of their library-centered comfort zone and expand their influence throughout their school, their district, and beyond.

Schoolwide or districtwide goals will require collaboration with stakeholders and on-going assessment of the change process. School librarians who are armed with information and confidence can enlist their site and district administrators as strategic partners who ensure the central role of the school library program in the academic program of the school. They can ensure that state-certified highly qualified school librarians are leading through library programs across their district and their state. “Collaboration is an indispensable behavior of school librarian leaders who help all library stakeholders reach their capacity. Through leadership and collaboration, school librarians cocreate and colead future ready education” Moreillon 2019).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What supports are in place in your school or district that make it possible for educators to engage in continuous learning?
  2. What is your role as a school librarian in promoting continuous learning and gathering and analyzing data for on-going assessment toward school/district outcomes?

Works Cited

Everhart, Nancy, and Melissa P. Johnston. 2016. “A Proposed Theory of School Librarian Leadership: A Meta-Ethnographic Approach.” School Library Research 19.

Guskey, Thomas. 2000. Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership through Collaboration: Memes with Meaning.” School Library Connection Online. https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

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

 

Read or Die: A Book Review and a Call to Action

It seems appropriate to wrap up 2019 School Library Month with a book review. I met author Daphne Russell on Twitter and in an article printed in the Arizona Daily Star: “This Tucson educator is changing lives by giving students books they love.” When we met face to face, Daphne presented me with a copy of her memoir Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope, and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. A retired middle-school reading teacher, Daphne attributes Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief with her epiphany—she needed to “teach as though books save lives.” She changed her reading curriculum from whole class text sets to individual, targeted books to motivate, inspire, and meet the literacy needs of each student.

Individualizing Reading Promotion
All educators know that trust is the basis for authentic relationships. This is especially true for students who have been marginalized in the school system (and society). By the time they reach middle school, students who are non-readers face enormous learning obstacles. In her memoir, Daphne makes a compelling case for individualizing reader’s advisory. Read or Die is a no-holds-barred sometimes gritty, sometimes irreverent depiction of everyday life for students, educators, and administrators in an urban middle school. In her gripping story, Daphne shares how the one-on-one connection between a student and an educator (her) made the difference in growing students’ confidence and self-perception as readers.

Daphne thinks of her students as “bookthreads” – baby worms who, in the past, have been unsuccessful with books. She describes her job: “to coax, prod, goad, cheer, push, shove, and beg my bookthreads to become bookworms” (83). Most students at Mission Heights Middle School (all names in the book are pseudonyms) live at or below the poverty level. They do not have books in their homes. The students in Daphne’s classes have never read an entire book. They get “behind” in school because they can’t or don’t read, do homework, or manage in-school learning and their outside-of-school lives. They skip school or ditch class. Many will dropout before high school graduation.

Student Choice
When the book opens, Abel has just joined the class. He can read, but chooses not to. He is failing his classes. “Abel is twenty-eight days behind everyone else, and I (Daphne) need to get enough books inside him to get his lungs to work again, mend his shattered heart, and kick the shit out of apathy” (7). With compassion and a take-no-prisoners plan, Daphne guides Abel one book at a time until he is reading (breathing) on his own—until he can say of an author: “Every sentence he writes it like poetry. The book speaks to me” (208).

With student choice as the answer to the question of how she can help students chart a positive life future, Daphne performs daily triage. She invites students to sit on the stool next to her desk for individual reading conferences during which they convince her they have read and understood the books she dispenses. She references what peers are reading and encourages students to recommend books to one another.

Under Daphne’s tutelage, students in her classes come to recognize how reading books changes them. They learn they have to do the work—make the commitment to read—in order for books to work their magic. Daphne celebrates their successes and yet, “a teacher’s heart is a delicate thing, tiny pieces allotted for so many kids over so many years. People ask me how I can possibly retire, but this is why. I cannot do this forever. Abel just took a giant chunk, and it is too much for a heart to take” (209).

Sad but True
Daphne taught in a school district where I served as a school librarian for ten of my thirteen years in K-12 practice. When she and I met, I described how school librarians also strive to find the “right” book for individual students and support classroom teachers in effective reading motivation and comprehension strategy instruction. She replied, “In all my (28!) years teaching, I never had a librarian like that.”

I know for a fact that for some of those years, Daphne’s schools were not staffed by professional state-certified school librarians. While paraprofessional library assistants can be excellent at getting books into the hands of kids, others do not have the knowledge or skills to do so. In fact, it’s not in their job description. I also know that for some of those years, she served in schools with professional school librarians who must not have reached out to Daphne and her students—who missed the opportunity to maximize their influence in their schools.

Promoting books and reading and providing reader’s advisory is most certainly in the school librarian’s job description. It deeply concerns me that Daphne never had a warm, friendly book-pushing, collaborating school librarian who helped her and her students succeed.

The Math
Elementary school librarians who work in a fixed schedule library “see” students regularly for approximately 40 minutes per week. If there are 36 weeks in a 180-day school year, fixed schedule school librarians see students about 24 hours for “library time” over the course of an academic year. How much individual reader’s advisory do they have time to do when, all at once at whole-class book checkout time, an entire class of students could benefit from her/his guidance? Even if students are using self-checkout… and the classroom teacher is not present to offer reader’s advisory alongside the librarian, what kind of quality time do librarians have to spend with individual students?

Elementary classroom teachers, on the other hand, teach students up to 30 hours per week (minus other “specials”), or 1,080 hours (minus specials and testing) a year. Elementary school librarians who work on a flexible schedule with open library for book checkout will teach students for in-depth periods of learning but may go weeks between classroom-library cotaught lessons or units of instruction. The number of hours these school librarians teach students will vary widely. In my experience with an open library that allows students to access library materials throughout the day, school librarians have more time to provide high-quality individualized reader’s advisory.

At middle and high schools, classroom teachers teach students up to one hour per day for 180 days per year, or 180 hours (minus testing). Like elementary school librarians on flexible schedules, secondary school librarians will teach students for in-depth periods of learning but may go weeks between classroom-library cotaught lessons or units of instruction. The number of hours these school librarians teach students will vary widely and again; with open library the opportunities are there for individualized reader’s advisory.

My takeaway from the math: Classroom teachers and school librarians do not have a great deal of time to develop students as readers, thinkers, and people who take action to create a better world.

If school librarians at any instructional level hope to influence students’ enjoyment of reading, reading proficiency, and successful quest for accurate information, they must create opportunities for individualized reader’s advisory. They must acknowledge the greater influence of the classroom teacher on student learning. They must “let” classroom teachers be the first to bring new books into the classroom to share with students. They must coplan and coteach with classroom teachers and specialists. School librarian leaders must collaborate.

National School Library Month
The theme of this year’s National School Library Month is Everybody Belongs @Your School Library. As we come to the end of the month and this annual spotlight on school libraries, it is essential that all school librarians reflect on how their work is perceived in their school learning community.

  • Are students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families comfortable when they walk through the library doors?
  • Do school library stakeholders feel ownership in “our” library?
  • Do library policies, such as those for overdue books and library fines, set up barriers to library use?
  • Do library rules, such as those regarding food, drinks, and technology use, create the impression that youth are not welcome in the library?
  • Do classroom teachers and specialists reach out for partnerships with the school librarian?

Every school librarian must commit to meeting with their School Library Advisory Committee composed of students, colleagues, administrators, and families or commit to starting such a committee. By meeting with, listening to, and taking direction from the people we serve, school libraries and librarians may go a long way toward building the relationships and developing the policies that can propel the library into the center of the learning culture in our schools.

Bottom line: Daphne Russell made independent reading the focal point of her classroom curriculum. She also taught students reading comprehension strategies to help them become more successful independent and lifelong readers. I wonder what could have happened for the students she served if she had collaborated with one or more school librarians to share her commitment to creating a culture of reading in her classroom. I suspect that by aligning their goals, pooling their resources, and acting in concert, more lifelong readers might have been made—more students may have been saved in a school-wide culture of reading.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your commitment to reader’s advisory for individual students through the library program?
  2. How do you support classroom teachers as they engage in reader’s advisory with students?

Work Cited

Russell, Daphne. 2018. Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope, and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. Tucson, AZ: Wheatmark.

For more information, follow Daphne Russel on Twitter: @gtwybookpusher or visit her non-profit Books Save Lives website: https://www.bookssavelives.org/

 

 

 

Reciprocal Technology Mentorship

As noted in the “Reciprocal Mentorship” blog post for Chapter 2: Job-embedded Professional Development learning with and from colleagues is a way to honor the principles of andragogy (adult learning theory) and for educators to provide and receive personalized, differentiated professional development (see Differentiated Professional Development). Learning with and from empowered students in also a way to strengthen our knowledge and skills and diffuse exciting future ready uses of resources, tools, devices, and skills throughout the school building and into families’ homes as well.

Learning with and from Colleagues
Sometimes school librarians are called upon to help colleagues understand the critical importance of digital learning and the benefit of collaborating for students’ digital learning success. To that end, pointing out that the Google News Initiative is taking off and showing educators how they and their students can benefit is a way to launch a digital learning conversation and build background and shared values for coplanning and coteaching.

These are two outstanding resources that may help classroom teachers understand the critical importance of digital learning and give school librarians an entrée into collaboration.

Crash Course has partnered with MediaWise and the Stanford History Education Group to make this series on Navigating Digital Information. “Let’s learn the facts about facts!”

Here’s the “Introduction to Crash Course Navigating Digital Information #1 with Author John Green.”

Also, on the MediaWise website, you will find a link to “Media News” with categories such as “fact-checking” that provide articles to stimulate classroom discussion and collaborative planning and coteaching. There are also links to events and training that educators may want to attend together to ensure the information they learn will make a greater impact on their instruction. MediaWise’s YouTube Channel is likewise a treasure trove.

Miranda Fitzgerald who strategically selected tools and tasks for (elementary) students provides these recommendations for selecting digital tools, which can apply to educators at all instructional levels:

  1. Do not settle for educational technologies designed for drill and rote memorization.
  2. Choose tools that promote discussion and collaboration during reading and writing.
  3. Pair digital tools with rich reading and writing tasks guided by meaningful questions.
  4. Select tools that challenge students to interpret and communicate information using multiple modes.
  5. Seek tools that level the playing field for students with a range of reading and writing skills (2018, 35).

Share these wise tips with colleagues or post them on your office wall.

Learning with and from Students
Speaking of wisdom, it is also wise for school librarians to make an intentional practice of learning with and from students. In any area where students know more than the adults in their lives, young people experience empowerment – increased strength and confidence. Since working with empowered students is our goal, educators must be eager to learn from students (as well as with them).

Student geek squads and school library aides can be mentors for other students, school librarians, and other educators who must be continually upgrading their technology knowledge and skills. Cross-age student technology mentors can be especially effective in K-6 or K-8 schools. Younger students enjoy learning from older and more savvy students in schools that span the grades. We may not reflexively think of these partnerships as “instructional,” but indeed they are, and school librarians can formalize some of these partnerships for the benefit of all.

In this month’s Digital Learning podcast, Jefferson Elementary school library media specialist Louis Lauer in the Fargo Public Schools shared an example of collaborative project with fifth-grade teachers. The project focused on developing materials that educators could use to teach students about the district’s Responsible Use Policy. Not only did fifth-grade students collaboratively develop these materials, they also shared them with 2nd-grade students. Win-win-win in terms of classroom-library collaboration, inviting students to serve digital citizenship leaders, and cross-age learning with younger students.

Internet of Stings, Digital Savvy, and Citizenship
Jennifer Howard published a provocative article in The Times Literary Supplement in 2016: The Internet of Stings. It includes brief book reviews of titles that address the potholes on the Internet superhighway. This cautionary article has haunted me since I first read it and has furthered my belief that school librarians can be problem-solvers alongside classroom teachers and families in order to prepare students for learning, working, and living in the technological age.

Ms. Howard asks this, “How much privacy are we willing to give up to reap the benefits of a networked world? To live digitally is a more complex and ambivalent process than any of these books captures, and there are risks that the authors do not acknowledge – for instance, how to archive and access the public data and cultural knowledge being created in quantities never seen before. At this moment in our digital evolution, though, what worries me most is whether we can find the collective will and the technological capacity to reclaim the internet from those who use it to exploit, control and abuse, whether they are criminals, governments, or white supremacists. It would be a disaster to let this decade spiral into a tech-enriched replay of the 1930s. Fear technology if you must, but fear the people who control it more.”

Clearly, it will take all students, educators, and families working together in order to help each other develop digital savvy and citizenship. Reciprocal mentorship among all stakeholders is required.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Why is it important to learn with and from students and colleagues and share information with families in the area of technology tools use and integration?
  2. How are you currently teaching/coteaching digital savvy and citizenship?

Work Cited

Fitzgerald, Miranda. 2018. “Multimodal Knowledge Building: Meaningfully Using Digital Tools to Foster Disciplinary Learning.” Literacy Today 36 (1): 34-35.

Howard, Jennifer. 2016. “The Internet of Stings.” The Times Literary Supplement. https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/internet-of-stings/