Embrace Your PD Role

hatsTeacher librarians wear many hats, and some hats cross many roles listed in a job description. In our daily school library hustle and bustle, we may not think of ourselves as professional developers for our colleagues, but indeed we wear that hat in many ways.   This is not a radical new idea, but merely a recognition that providing access to new information, new literature, new technology,  and new pedagogy for teachers in our schools, has always been part of our mission, and is based in a collaborative model. As Ken Haycock has said, teacher librarians lead from the middle, not from a position of power, but through social influence. (2010, 2)

So let’s take a minute to focus on the myriad ways we interact to share access to information and ideas with our teaching colleagues, and to be intentional about improving and expanding our PD offerings. As you begin your new school year, set a goal to incorporate your PD hat into your other roles.  Be sure to share that goal with your administrator, so s/he will be able to see that you wear a PD hat!

This month BACC bloggers have opened up a discussion about reaching out to our colleagues with PD opportunities-the why and how.  Judi emphasized the necessity for building personal and professional relationships as a foundation for credible PD, and she shared the experience of  Becky McKee, a District Librarian in Texas.  Both Judi and Karla spoke about the curriculum connections that are at the heart of our work with our colleagues.  That’s our ticket into the game!  Karla introduced a metaphor for the teacher librarian as a  lighthouse, a beacon to guide our fellow educators to new professional learning. Karla suggested multiple access points to provide PD.  Both have shared many excellent ideas, all with the aim of collaborating for student success in our schools.

Goal setting for integrating PD through collaboration

Step 1: Self Assess: Think about your daily, weekly, monthly schedule-as an instructional partner, curriculum specialist, technology integrationist, educational leader, and teacher.  Ask yourself:

  • What do I know about the various school improvement initiatives in my school district? How does my SLP support both student and teacher success? How can I help?
  • How do I know what teachers need to help improve student learning in the various content areas?  How do I/can I find out? Do I wait for them to come to me, or do I approach them with a new idea about teaching and learning, or new resources? How do I build relationships?
  • What do I do well?  What activities have worked well for sharing meaningful professional development opportunities? One to one, small group, team, PLC, PLN, or CoP? Face to face, online learning management system? Virtual library website resources? Where do I look for new PD ideas?
  • What are some new (or underused) curricular resources in the library collection that meet the initiatives in the district? What is the best way to introduce them? How will I engage teachers who are in their silos?  How can I make the learning interactive? How can I provide a feedback loop? How can I make it fun? How can I be the guide on the side?
  • How can I model new technology applications and ways to integrate 21st Century skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration) for both educators and students? How can I provide meaningful connections to their interests and passions?

Step 2: Make plan to try something new.  Gather resources, outline a framework and timeline for your activity.  Provide for continuous feedback to monitor success.  Design the activity with individual choice and engagement in mind. Learning should be fun! Give it a go!

Step 3: Evaluate and reflect on strengths and challenges. Make adaptations for the next time.  Encourage others to share and reflect.  Hand out badges or rewards-recognize effort and results. Take photos, and share through social media!

Work cited:

Haycock, Ken. “Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change.” Ed. Sharon Coatney. The Many Faces of School Library Leadership. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2010. 1-12. Print.

Image:  Judy Kaplan Collection

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Reading… for Professional Development

professional_capital2Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan earned the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Education for their book Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. In an education environment that hones the national focus on educator quality as a predictor of student achievement on standardized tests, these authors provide concrete strategies for helping teachers improve their craft in order to build “professional capital” in every school.

It is no surprise to educators who have served in collaborative culture environments that collaboration is a cornerstone of their vision for transforming teaching.

“The most common state in teaching used to be one of professional isolation: of working alone, aside from one’s colleagues. This state of isolation still exists in more than a few schools today, where teaching is not the ‘Show Me’ state, but the ‘Only Me’ state. Isolation protects teachers (librarians) to exercise their discretionary judgment in classrooms (libraries), but it also cuts teachers (librarians) off from the valuable feedback that would help those judgments be wise and effective” (Hargreaves and Fullan 2012, 106). (Parentheses added.)

These authors challenge educators to develop “social capital” in schools built on trust and based on shared conversations and interactions related to instruction. By combining “human capital,” the credentials, experience, and teaching ability of faculty members, and “social capital” educators can create and sustain an effective learning environment.

As instructional partners, school librarians are perfectly positioned to be leaders in building human and social capital in our schools. Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning outcomes, we break down the isolation that prevents innovations in teaching and learning from spreading throughout the school. When we coassess our instructional effectiveness with our coteaching partners, educators move toward Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan’s vision of schools with strong professional capital.

Read this book. Meet your principal for coffee this summer. Give it to her or him and make plans to be coleaders on a team that can transform your school.

Work Cited

Hargreaves, Andy, and Michael Fullan. Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. New York: Teachers College Press, 2012. Print.

Connecting With Administrators

In the upcoming Building a Culture of Collaboration webinar, our co-bloggers invite you to connect with us for a lively discussion about sparking and sustaining collaboration with stakeholders in our schools and communities. Last week, Judi proposed some self assessment questions about collaborating with students.  This week I will add a few questions about collaborating with administrators.  We encourage you to be ready to share your ideas with us on May 19th.

Riddle for the week:

Galaxy (1)

 

 

What do the solar system, a skeletal system, an economic system, an ecosystem, and a school system have in common?   On the surface-maybe not so much, but they all fit the definition of a system as “a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.”  Now that’s a big idea!

School systems, not matter how large or small, are complex systems, and administrators are leaders who are charged with synchronizing all the interrelated and interdependent parts to provide a quality education for children in local communities. Successful administrators, (superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum and technology directors, business managers, and principals and other leaders in individual schools)  engender a big picture view of all the moving parts necessary to fulfill the mission for public education established by local school boards, within state and federal laws.  That’s a huge job, and an awesome responsibility.

The school library program is one of the interdependent parts of a complex system, and how are teacher librarians prepared to connect and collaborate with administrators on all levels?  How can we demonstrate that our expertise and knowledge of curriculum, resources, information and communication technologies (ICT), and teaching pedagogies are key elements of the complex whole? How can we reach out to assist them, and in return give them a chance to see the benefits of a strong school library program?

Here are some questions to ponder:

1. How have you communicated with your superintendent (or someone in his/her office), or your principal in the last two months?  Has it been a relationship building experience?

2. Have you invited administrators to visit and celebrate student learning in your library media center?

3. How well do you understand the district or school action plan that sets priorities for educational achievement?

4. Is your mission statement for your SLP aligned with the larger mission of the district or the school?  Is your mission statement visible for all to see in your physical space or your virtual space?   Do you have a brand that supports the “complex whole?”

5. How do you develop yearly goals that enhance the overall direction of the administration? How do you let them know that you are doing that?

6. Do you have an up to date job description and an evaluation system that reflects your various roles?

7.  Are you a member of a leadership or curriculum team or committee?

8. How could you reach out to offer your expertise for administrators?  Have you offered professional development for administrators or office staff?

9. Administrators are responsible for legal aspects of school operation and curriculum.  Have you reached out to clarify policies that are central to the SLP such as intellectual freedom, ethical use of information, internet privacy and filtering, and so on, that have the potential for disruption in a school district?  Better to be proactive, than reactive.

Bring your ideas to the table, so that we can learn from one another. See you on May 19!

 

Image: http://www.davidreneke.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Galaxy.jpg

Library-Powered Students

Our_Library_Hands_Raised_crop_sizedAs my piece of the May 19th Building a Culture of Collaboration Webinar, I will share and invite you to share the many ways school librarians can collaborate to support powerful student learning in our schools. As a former school librarian at every instructional level, I have served in schools with as few as three hundred students and as many as eighteen hundred. Regardless, I always made relationships with students a top priority in my work in the place we called “our” library.

Student library aides, drop-in students, before school, lunchtime, and after school “regulars” may respond to the library’s welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Student clubs, formal or informal, may choose library spaces for their meetings. School librarians have the opportunity to reach out to the students who frequent the library to build caring and supportive relationships with them.

Through coteaching with classroom teachers, we can show caring and support in other ways. We can advocate for real-world, relevant research and inquiry learning, for thoughtfully integrating technology tools and devices, for student choice in reading and topic selection. When we coplan, coimplement, and coassess student learning, we have a great deal to contribute to student success.

I invite BACC readers and Webinar attendees to conduct an environmental scan of the physical and virtual spaces of their school libraries. Here are some questions to consider:

1. What would a member of your community who hadn’t been in a school library in years see when she/he walks through the door or happens upon your school library Web site?

2. Where is student input reflected in various learning and social spaces in the library or on the library Web site?

3. Where is student learning evidenced in the library? Are final projects on display or linked to the Web site?

4. Are students participating in reader’s advisory by contributing book talks and trailers that are on display or accessible to schoolmates via QR codes, the library catalog, or the Web?

Bring your self-assessment to the Webinar on May 19th. Learn what others may be doing to build a culture of collaboration in their schools through their work with students.

Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer.” 7 Sept. 2008. Flickr. 29 Apr. 2015. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493/>.

Elevator Speech: Reflections on What I Teach

ElevatorThis month the BACC co-bloggers will reflect on the “what” and the “why” of our roles as educators of future school librarians.

Any educator at any level can benefit from reflecting on what and why she or he teaches. Last Saturday, I participated in the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Leadership Meeting at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. One of the activities we engaged in during the meeting was writing elevator speeches. Over the years, I have written many of these speeches from the perspective of a practicing school librarian…

But before last weekend and although I have been teaching at the university level for two decades (!), I had not written an elevator speech from the perspective of a school librarian educator. Although it is a work-in-progress, I share it here as a starting point for a discussion of the purpose of library science graduate education.

I, Judi Moreillon, prepare future school librarians to be 21st-century literacy experts and leaders who coteach with classroom teachers to help children and youth from all backgrounds and with various abilities to become critical, creative thinkers and lifelong learners who contribute to and thrive in a global society.

In my role as a school librarian educator, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside enthusiastic graduate students. These educators have chosen to expand their classroom teacher toolkits to add the knowledge and skills of school librarians to their repertoires—including the information-seeking process, reading comprehension strategies, and digital tools for motivating, learning, and creating new knowledge. School librarian candidates learn to design instruction and teach these skills and strategies as coteachers along with classroom teachers and specialists.

Over the course of their graduate program, these librarian candidates learn to embrace a global view of the school learning community and have the opportunity to consider their potential to serve as leaders in their schools. Using professional standards and guidelines I aspire to enculturate school librarians into a profession or community of practice (Wenger 1998). To that end, I also model professional practice to show candidates how to serve.

Works Cited

d3designs. “pb210160.jpg.” Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 01 Feb. 2015. <http://mrg.bz/iqhhRc>.

Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.

We are Not Alone!

 

Eifel Tower

 

A recurring theme that we have explored in this blog has to do with establishing an environment for collaboration within a school community.  Who should be the leader?  What should it look like?  What is our role?  How do we define collaboration?  Who does it benefit?

We are not alone.  These are not questions that are unique to the teacher librarian perspective, but are being asked again and again by others who are trying to shift the paradigm in teaching and learning.   Moving from an isolated classroom to co-teaching in a variety of learning spaces requires rethinking possibilities for instruction.   Derek Hatch, a contributor to the Connected Principals Blog, posted on Feb. 7, 2014, “True collaboration is a very important skill and it is something that I believe we need to teach our students…both directly and by example.”  As an administrator, he lays out his vision of nine components present in true collaboration, and they all sound very familiar. Adults lead by modeling, shared vision, trust, time, flexibility, understanding roles, commitment, shared leadership, and risk taking. For teachers to teach students to collaborate, they need to talk the talk, and walk the walk.

One of the most important things that an administrator can do to improve collaborative practice within a school is to establish a shared vision, and secondly, to allow time and flexibility for all teachers, not just classroom teachers, to explore and refine ideas about collaboration. Without the time to really delve into collaborative teaching, and the flexibility in schedules and expectations, teachers will find it hard to move forward on the other components that Hatch lists. That is a real challenge, and the commitment needs to be there to build and continue collaborative relationships over time, not just one year.

As Melissa suggested last week, the 7 Spaces for Learning should also be part of that vision. Let’s get out of the classroom and into the world, physically and virtually.  In this day and age, we are not confined by four walls, learning happens in multiple places and dimensions.  There are many exemplars to guide the way.  Just look for successful collaborative teaching projects that are shared through school websites, Youtube videos, Twitter and other social media.

Here’s an example of a school where collaboration is valued and celebrated.  Find out how a whole school in rural Vermont took a trip to Paris, France.  Enjoy the tour!

 

References:

Hatch, Derek. (2014). “More on Collaboration: Essential Ingredients.”  Connected Principals (weblog) Feb 7, 2014.  http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/10189  

Kelly, Julie. “Welcome to Paris.” (2014).  WCAX News. Feb 20, 2014 http://www.wcax.com/story/24778900/welcome-to-paris 

Image: Classroom Clipart c.2011

 

 

 

Collaboration in the News, Part II

school_new_collaborative_culturesEarlier this week, I quoted literacy educator Regie Routman from an International Reading Association publication. I mentioned that the National Council of Teachers (NCTE) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) are also calling for collaborative school cultures.

In this week’s NCTE’s InBox: News, Views, and Ideas You Can Use email blast kicked off the week’s communication with a link to the National Center for Literacy Education Survey and this information:

“77% of Educators Surveyed: Literacy Is Not Just the Responsibility of English Teachers. This is the #1 finding in a survey of 10,000 educators from all roles, grade levels, and subject areas, who agreed that literacy is one of the most important parts of their job.”

School librarians who have developed strategies for coteaching reading comprehension and other literacy skills can help colleagues at all grade levels and in all disciplines hone effective instruction in literacy. Meeting teachers’ self-identified needs can firmly establish the school librarian’s role in the academic program of the school.

When ASCD selected their “Best of 2012-2013” articles from the publication Educational Leadership, Rick DuFour and Mike Mattos’s article “How Do Principals Really Improve Schools?” made the cut. As long-time award-winning principals and researchers, DuFour and Mattos combine their testimonials and research when they attest that the most powerful strategy for focusing on learning is creating “the collaborative culture and collective responsibility of a professional learning community (PLC).”

These are the questions they pose for PLC team members:
• What knowledge, skills, and dispositions should all students acquire as a result of the unit we’re about to teach?
• How much time will we devote to this unit?
• How will we gather evidence of student learning throughout the unit in our classrooms and at its conclusion as a team?
• How can we use this evidence of learning to improve our individual practice and our team’s collective capacity to help students learn, to intervene for students unable to demonstrate proficiency, and to enrich the learning for students (DuFour & Mattos, 2013, p. 38).

School librarians who are skilled at instructional design and evidence-based practice are positioned to be leaders on PLCs. When your principal calls for team leaders for this year’s PLCs, will you be one of the leaders at the table?

References

DuFour, R., & Mattos, M. (2013). How do principals really improve schools? Educational Leadership, 70(7), 34-40.

NCTE. (2013). NCTE InBox: News, Views, and Ideas You Can Use. September 4, 2013.

Newspaper Clipping Created at Fodey.com

Job-embedded Professional Development

Job-embedded Professional Development: That’s what preservice school principals have been taking away from presentations I have been making at a preservice Professional Development and Supervision course. Thanks to my TWU educational leadership colleague Dr. Teresa Starrett I have had three opportunities in three different semesters to talk with three different classes of principal candidates.

In the one-hour workshop, we look at research and standards and most importantly of all, we demonstrate the potential impact of classroom-library collaboration for instruction on students’ learning outcomes and educators’ teaching.

Serving in the role of school librarian, I model cooperation and contrast it with a collaborative coplanning session with a classroom teacher. On November 5th, one of the preservice principals role-played a middle school social studies teacher. While we cooperated and collaborated, the class made notes about the benefits to students, educators, or principals. This week, I will post the results for each of these library stakeholders.

The photo above shows the “benefits to principals” identified by one group. All three times I have offered this workshop, preservice principals have noted “job-embedded professional development” as the number one benefit to principals. Yes, they are in a course in which this aspect of their future jobs is being stressed, but this also shows me that principals are seeking support in this area. To know they have someone in the library who is working closely with all the teachers in the building to improve instructional practices is a godsend.

They are also aware of the importance of building relationships in order to develop a positive school climate. (And I hope they have the goal of building a culture of collaboration in mind as well.)

If you are a school librarian, if asked, what would your principal say is your greatest contribution to the learning community in your school and how does your principal benefit from your work?

Collaboration as Inquiry

October was a whirl of a month that ended with a mega storm that swept me off course for a couple of days. I finally feel like I have landed and have some time to pull together some of the big ideas I heard at the AASL Fall Forum, the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring and the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) Conference.   Audrey Church, Gail Dickinson, and Ann M. Martin gave the keynote address at VAASL on leadership.  Each provided an overview of their journey and cited theories that had inspired them.  Reference was made to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that struck a theme tying together one of the big ideas related to collaboration that I have culled from all of these events: Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And a related correlate:  when someone else is speaking, are you really listening, or are you waiting for a turn to speak?

The Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, sponsored by The Compact for Faculty Diversity was an amazing gathering of minority doctoral students, mentors and faculty.  The purpose of the Institute is “to provide scholars with the skills necessary to succeed in graduate study and to prepare them for success as faculty members at colleges and universities.”  Several sessions were offered for faculty mentors, and in one: “The Internationalization of Mentoring as an Opportunity to Challenge Cultural Assumptions” the presenter, Stacy Blake-Beard, Associate Professor of Management at Simmons College made the remark that we should practice “inquiry not advocacy.”  Since inquiry and advocacy are two major buzzwords in school librarianship, I was struck by her meaning.  Dr. Blake-Beard was talking about cross-cultural understanding and I would argue that this is a productive way for school librarians to approach collaboration with teachers: as bridging the two cultures of the school library and the classroom. Diversity strengthens an organization because it provides for a much richer approach to problem solving and decision-making. Collaboration is different from cooperation because it doesn’t seek to smooth over our differences but rather to leverage these differences. This is particularly important when we are attempting to solve complex problems; and education is a complex problem.  As we struggle to create a “culture of collaboration” in our schools, we should first seek to understand (inquiry) rather than to be understood (advocacy).

Judy Kaplan has provided an outstanding overview of the packed AASL Fall Forum on Transliteracy.  One of the exercises that we did at our tables led by Barbara Jansen and Kristin Fontichiaro was to brainstorm possible questions that we might use in planning with teachers.  Jansen provided the example of asking teachers if they were concerned that a particular assignment might encourage students to copy and paste.  Asking this as a question invokes inquiry rather than advocacy, and provides a space for teachers to reflect on the purpose of their assignment and to possibly engage in a conversation about improving the assignment.  This question doesn’t require that the assignment be abandoned. It might be that the teachers and librarian would decide to front-load this assignment with explicit instructions about how to take notes, give attribution to sources, and synthesize. Or, the assignment might be altered to become more creative and to encourage students to develop a product that is unique and individual. The question asks everyone to pause and consider alternatives without passing judgment.

Jean Van Deusen (1996) found in her case study of a school librarian collaborating with teachers that the school librarian provided leadership as an “insider-outsider” and that she asked challenging and often naïve questions that provoked thoughtful reflection on practice.  As a practicing school librarian, I always took advantage of this position as an outsider to the classroom.  I could ask questions like “what does that look like in your classroom?” or “what does this standard mean for second graders?” or “how have you taught this before?”  Some questions led to deep discussions about student learning and assessment such as “What does this standard really mean?” “What do we want students to be able to do at the end of this lesson?” or “How will we know they have learned that?”  Other questions led to co-teaching or sharing the work of delivering instruction. “Could we do that better if there were two of us? “ “Suppose I take half of your class while you take the other and then we swap?”  “Would that be better with small groups?”  Sometimes questions helped to integrate instruction.  When teachers and I were trying to plan a lesson in science or social studies, I would often ask, “What skills are you going to be teaching in writing (reading, math)?  Often I could find a book or other resource that met objectives in two or more content areas.

“Inquiry not advocacy” also suggests that we carefully listen to the answers.  Inquiry is about more than asking good questions; it is about seeking understanding from diverse sources.  In collaboration with teachers, inquiry involves listening to teachers as they talk about the diverse needs of their students, the meaning of their curriculum, and the nature of their practice.  For brand new school librarians, or school librarians who have moved to a new school, this is good news.  You don’t have to have the answers and you aren’t expected to know how things are done in this teacher’s classroom or in this school.  You can ask the naïve questions and you can spend time listening and observing.  Those of you who have been in a school for several years can still take this position as new initiatives/standards/textbooks are adopted, as new teachers join the staff, and as every school year starts anew.  First, seek to understand rather than be understood.  It’s not only good inquiry, it’s good mentorship, and good leadership.

Common Core Collaboration

A couple of weeks ago one of the featured articles in Education Week highlighted how the Common Core Standards are providing opportunities for school librarians to partner with teachers. This is something I have been continually preaching to my students for the past two years. I truly believe the Common Core Standards (CCS) provide an opportunity for school librarians to demonstrate that they are teachers and a valuable part of the educational process, and hopefully step up as instructional leaders in their schools. The inquiry-based learning that is central in the Common Core Standards is also at the foundation of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (AASL, 2007). The research process is integrated throughout the CSS and we as school librarians know a little something about this process! But are you making sure that the teachers in your school know this?

Yesterday as I opened my new issue of Knowledge Quest I was pleasantly surprised to see the editorial by the ever-current Buffy Hamilton (2012) discuss “how a participatory culture and learning [can] bolster implementation of the Common Core Standards” and the importance of reading and writing. The whole issue looks at innovative ways the school librarians can design learning experiences that not only engage students, but also address the CCS. What innovative ideas have you come up with to work with teachers to design innovative and meaningful learning experiences?

AASL has even created the Common Core Crosswalk, which presents a very useful quick reference tool on how the CCS and the AASL Standards mesh and the lessons in the AASL Lesson Plan Database also are aligned to the Common Core. Are you utilizing these resources to create standards based instruction?

The Education Week article goes a step further and says that the Common Core Standards are thrusting school librarians into an instructional leadership role. I disagree – I say they are providing us the opportunity and it is now up to each of us to step up into a leadership role. So the opportunity is there – what are you doing to take advantage of it? Are you stepping up?

References

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2007). Standards for the 21st-century learner. Chicago: American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/ aasl/aaslproftools/learningstandards/standards.cfm

Hamilton, B. (2012). Participatory culture in the school library. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 6-7.