Instructional Leadership Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Educational Leadership Cover courtesy of ASCD

#AASLstandards Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Book Jacket copyright by AASL

 

Everybody Is On Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide

In July, I posted a two-part professional book review for Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Part 1 and Part 2). While traveling in the U.K. earlier this month, I slowly read and worked through Sinek’s follow-up book: Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. He coauthored this book with David Mead and Peter Docker.

I was eager to read Find Your Why because of a nagging question from the previous title. While I truly believe everyone must find her/his own personal “why,” I also believe a “shared why” is an essential component of collaborative culture schools.

In the past, I have served in schools where faculty have a shared sense of purpose. These have been the most productive, effective, and satisfying work experiences in my career. I have also worked (hard) as a member of a faculty with no shared why. Such an environment does not foster trust, collaboration, or innovation and results in a dysfunctional environment for growth and change.

Find Your Why begins with connecting readers with the why/how/what content of the first book. In the introduction, the authors write this: “Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it” (7). These ideas spoke to me, and I kept them in mind throughout my reading. Subsequent chapters include discovering your individual why, two chapters on strategies for “why discovery for groups,” a chapter on “hows,” and the final chapter about taking a stand for your/your tribe’s why.

Discovering Your Individual Why
Sinek, Mead, and Docker offer a compelling strategy for discovering one’s own why. It involves identifying ten impactful stories from your personal and professional life. (I used the two weeks of travel to consider, reconsider, and identify my top ten stories). The authors offer two strategies to help you select your stories: peaks and valleys and memories prompts.

After you are satisfied with ten, you identify a partner to help you explore the themes that inform and connect your stories. Your trusted partner in this process must be able to be objective (not a relative or very close long-time friend).

As you share your stories, your partner will encourage you to focus on how you felt as the events in your story were taking place. Your partner can ask questions such as “What is it about that story that really matters to you?” (51). Together, you and your partner draft your why statement: to ________ (contribution) so that ________ (impact). The authors suggest you validate your draft statement through individual conversations with friends until it feels just right. (Note: The book includes an appendix of partner tips for supporting an individual’s why discovery.)

Next Steps for Me
My ten stories are ready for prime time. Of course, I see themes and think I could compose my draft why statement today. However, I intend to follow the authors’ process. I have a short list of people to ask to serve as my partners to listen, to make notes, and to see the themes from their perspective that connect my stories. I am excited to learn what she/he sees that may be the same or different from my view.

Next week, I will reflect on the “nested WHY” information in the book. “The goal is for each individual to work for a company (with a school faculty) in which they fit the culture, values, believe in the vision and work on a team in which they feel like they are valued and valuable” (85).

Please stay tuned!

Work Cited

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

The Phoenix and AASL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start with Why, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is part two of the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Before participating in the Lilead Project Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, I had no intention of extending my review of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. (See Part 1 published on 7/17/17.)

But last week, twenty Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows, four Cohort 1 speakers and other supporters, the Lilead Project Team, and five mentors  (of which I am one) spent four days thinking and talking about, writing and revising our “whys” in terms of the Fellows’ Lilead projects.

Throughout this process of connecting the purpose and value of school librarianship to goals for their projects, Fellows had support for pushing their thinking and connecting their “whys” to their personal and professional values and to their school districts’ priorities.

During the week, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary shared information and strategies related to the importance of political literacy, particularly in terms of the Fellows achieving their project goals. (EveryLibrary is registered as 501(c)4 social welfare organization and supports library organizations around the country in achieving their goals.) John said this, “Our concern is on the basics: fix the disconnect in districts that say they want successful schools and fully prepared students but don’t fund their libraries or hire qualified librarians.”

John noted that for many library supporters a librarian “who cares (about other people’s literacy needs and welfare) is a proxy” for supporters’ own desire/need to care. These people comprise the “library party” and believe that the library is a transformational force in their communities. Everyone in the room agreed that passionate librarians are “true advocates for lifelong learning.” These connections apply directly to the “whys” Lilead fellows are addressing with their projects.

The Fellows were asked to write about their values related to education and librarianship, their vision for their school/district, why they do this work, and what happens if they don’t do it. All of these thinking activities connected and reconnected to their “whys.”

When the Fellows were asked to share the key ideas that frame their projects, the similarities in their “whys” were very exciting. This is what I heard in terms of key concepts: issues (access/budget/resources/staffing) related to equity (7), cultural responsiveness (2) a subset of equity, librarians as instructional/digital leaders/building capacity (5), advocacy/changing perceptions/increasing visibility (3), K-12 curriculum (2), and increasing future-ready learning spaces (1).

To “see” the Fellows’ “whys” expressed in these ways leads me to believe that the school library profession can coalesce around a shared overarching “why.” With a collective “why,” the “what” we do and “how” we do it may look different in different schools and districts but the benefit of an overarching “values-based approach” (John Chrastka) can help school librarians work within a shared values framework. It can help us identify and build coalitions. It can help the Fellows elevate their projects because they are based on authentic truths—on the school library profession’s shared values.

Thank you to Simon Sinek for giving us the “why” prompt as a stimulus to our thoughts, discussions, and the feedback we shared with and received from one another.

Thank you to John Chrastka for teaching us about political literacy and helping us apply these principles to help us achieve our goals for and with our library stakeholders. We look forward to learning more with you.

Thank you to Roger Rosen, president of Rosen Publishing, for joining us in Norfolk and for sponsoring our learning with John. We are grateful.

Resources
EveryLibrary.org. Newsletter Subscription.

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

Sweeney, Patrick PC, and John Chrastka. Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Although I had previously listened to his TEDTalks, I did not read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action until it was assigned to the Lilead Project fellows. As a Lilead mentor, I am reading and learning along with the fellows.

Beginning with the dedication, I have a deep appreciation for the message Simon Sinek communicates in this book (bold added).

“There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire us.

Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those
Who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.

This is a book for those who want to inspire others and
for those who want to find someone to inspire them” (np).

There are many in education, yours truly included, who hope to inspire others, and I, too, am always on the lookout for others who inspire me. Simon Sinek is someone who inspires me. One reason he inspires me is that I often agree with him about the critical importance of “whys,” “whats,” and “hows.”

As a former school librarian, librarian and classroom teacher educator, and now as a consultant, I truly believe that each individual must start with her or his own “why.” That said, my experience tells me that arriving at a “shared” why is a challenging proposition in many (professional) organizations and for preK-12 school faculty cultures, in particular. After reading Sinek’s book, I believe more fervently than ever that school librarians must arrive at a shared “why” in their learning communities at the site-, district- and national levels as well. I believe our profession must come to consensus on a shared “why.”

Since the school library profession does not have one single charismatic leader with an immutable sense of “why” (backed up by a flexible menu of “whats” and “hows”), arriving at a single “why” is more challenging in our organization(s).  I would like to believe our profession could come to a shared understanding – a shared “why” – a shared value that aligns with the values of other educators, administrators, and educational decision-makers and stakeholders. That “why” could speak to potential advocates and would encourage them to act on our behalf.

One of the tensions I feel is that the “what” (description of what we do) and “how” we do it different (or as Sinek says “better”) from classroom teachers is not shared by all members of our profession. There are those who are still printed books and reading promotion only school librarians. There are those who are technology above all else school librarians. The “hybrids” are growing in number but expectations in various schools and districts may contribute to this polarization that muddies our identity and the perception of others regarding our “whats” and “hows.” From my perspective, our “why” has to be larger than the resources and tools we use.

My “why” for school librarianship was born during my M.L.S. program and was crystallized during the heady days of the National Library Power Project in Tucson Unified School District (1993-97). For me, school librarians’ purpose is to colead with principals to ensure that their school communities are dynamic environments for nurturing continuous development and growth in order to improve teaching and learning.

For me, school librarians’ instructional partnership role is the most direct, assured, and documentable path to leadership. It is “how” we achieve our “why.” School librarians lead when our commitment to improving our own and our colleagues’ instructional practices builds a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in our schools. “What” we do is develop expertise and mastery with our colleagues in order to improve student learning outcomes. Why do we do this? Because “teaching is too difficult to do alone!” (from a Library Power poster, circa 1994).

With a global view of the learning community and a flexibly scheduled program based on access at the point of need, the resources of the library and the instructional expertise in their toolkits, school librarians occupy a unique niche on a school faculty. They must embody the behaviors of risk-takers and continuous learners. They must serve as models because they have the potential and responsibility to impact the learning of every member of their school learning communities—students, educators, administrators, families, and external stakeholders. They must help other reach their capacity.

I totally agree with Sinek: “Passion may need structure to survive, but for structure to grow, it needs passion” (184). I believe there is a great deal of passion in our profession, but I’m not sure we have yet developed the structure we need to help it grow. I think the Lilead Project (and Library Power before it) provide some of that structure. I think Project Connect and Future Ready Librarians are promising initiatives that provide structure. The new AASL standards and guidelines that are set to be rolled out next fall also have that potential. (I would like to think that the book I am authoring could provide some structure as well.)

As Sinek writes: “It’s the decision to never veer from your cause, to hold yourself accountable to HOW you do things; that’s the hardest part” (65). In my experience, collaborating with adults is a thousand times harder than collaborating with students. If we want to hold each other accountable for forming effective instructional partnerships that build an effective teaching force and improve student learning, we have set the bar high.

Many in our ranks continue to work in isolation from their classroom teacher and administrator colleagues. I believe what Sinek writes is true: “The only way people will know what you believe is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say or do, no one will know what you believe” (67). School librarians cannot say they are instructional partners if they still prefer to work alone—if they still refer to the library as “my” library, the collection as “my” collection, the instruction they provide as “library lesson plans.”

“A WHY is just a belief; HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief; and WHATs are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived” (85). I aspire to lead a professional life where all three are in balance. I aspire to be a part of a profession where all three are in balance—where there is a shared why and trust among the members and our value as leaders is widely perceived in the education field and beyond. I want to be part of a profession that “walks its talk.” And I will do my part to stay the course.

I am indebted to Sinek for a way I used his framework to organize Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. I begin every chapter in my forthcoming book with “why” that topic is essential in building a culture of collaboration. In each chapter, I specify the “what” and “how.” Although the “whats” and “hows” were always there, I strengthened the “whys” after reading Sinek’s book.

What is your “why?” How does it align with that of your site- and district-level administrators’ “whys”? How does it align with those of your classroom teacher colleagues, families, and community? Does your shared “why” make effective “whats” and “hows” possible?

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

Additional Resources
Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” TEDTalk. September 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Sinek, Simon. “First Why, and Then Trust.” TEDxMaastricht. 6 April 2011. https://youtu.be/4VdO7LuoBzM

 

Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the seventh in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

On June 12, 2017, I attended an ASCD Webinar presented by authors Eric C. Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray. (If you missed it, I highly recommend the webinar archive.) Their presentation was centered on their hot-off-the-presses book Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. After the webinar, I preordered a copy of their book and read it as I was completing my own manuscript.

This book focuses on creating a culture of innovation and leading change. In reviewing their table of contents, I found so many parallels between their book and mine that I was, at first, reluctant to read it… until after I had submitted my manuscript. However, my curiosity won out. And I am glad it did. Reading their work at the 11th hour in my process gave me an opportunity to further develop my thinking, reflect, and include some quotes from their book in mine.

In Learning Transformed, Sheninger and Murray identify “eight keys for intentional design.” They are:
1. Leadership and school culture lay the foundation.
2. The learning experience must be redesigned and made personal.
3. Decisions must be grounded in evidence and driven by Return on Instruction.
4. Learning spaces must become learner-centered.
5. Professional learning must be relevant, engaging, ongoing, and made personal.
6. Technology must be leveraged and used as an accelerant for student learning.
7. Community collaboration and engagement must be woven into the fabric of a school’s culture.
8. Schools that transform learning are built to last as financial, political, and pedagogical sustainability ensure long-term success (24-27).

I could not agree more about the importance of leadership and culture in creating the context for educational transformation. I believe future-ready librarians are positioned to be leaders and culture-builders in their schools.

For those of us in the school library profession, “inquiry” is the process that we promote for redesigning learner-centered/personalized learning. Sheninger and Murray offer thoughtful strategies for leaders to make student agency a reality in their schools. Among them are standards-aligned learning activities and assessments, student mastery of selecting the right tool for the task, portfolios as authentic assessments, student involvement in rule making, and participation in feedback loops—choice and voice (76-77).

Decision-making based on evidence also resonates with school librarians who develop library programs using evidence-based practice. One term that Sheninger and Murray use with which I was previously unfamiliar was Return on Instruction (ROI). They used this term in relationship to the funds and time spent on the latest technology tools and devices and ROI, evidence of improved student learning outcomes.

I found the parallel between ROI and Return on Investment an important one. School librarians who serve as technology stewards evaluate and field-test digital resources and tools based on sound pedagogical practices and learning goals can be leaders in their schools in ensuring a positive ROI. School librarians also provide formal professional development and job-embedded personalized learning for colleagues through coplanning and coteaching.

School librarians who have developed a learning commons model in their school libraries may be particularly interested in the chapter entitled “Designing Learner-Centered Spaces.” I suspect they will echo the authors’ contention that flexible spaces that “provide areas for movement, and promote collaboration and inquiry” (25) are needed if students are to explore creativity and reach for innovation.

As a reader, I found the format friendly, quotes thoughtful, and examples from the field compelling. I suspect many readers will compare their teaching and learning environments to those described in the book. It would be important to find as many similar assets with these sites and explore how your own school could further expand its areas of strength.

As an author, I was impressed by the endorsements Sheninger and Murray received for this book. Sir Ken Robinson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Daniel H. Pink, Robert Marzano, Michael Fullan, and many more education thought leaders have high praise for Learning Transformed.

If you are in a formal or informal leadership position in your school or district (e.g. future-ready librarians and school library supervisors), then you will want to read this book and discuss it with the decision-makers in your school and district.

Work Cited
Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2017.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Cited

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