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, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership 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, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership 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, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership 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.

Teach Like Finland, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

Educators Chat about Making Notes

Dedication: To the Moderators and Participants in #txlchat and #cvtechtalk

As a now “retired” educator and an advocate, I made a pledge to myself to spread the word about the expertise of school librarians in non-school library circles. I believe that school librarians’ potential to positively impact student learning outcomes has not yet been fully realized. Sharing and showing how school librarians can lead through building instructional partnerships with classroom teachers has long been my raison d’être.

Last week, I stumbled upon the #cvtechtalk. Coincidentally, they were talking about “notetaking” – one of my all-time favorite topics. I share this experience here because one of the on-going issues in school librarianship advocacy is that other educators do not know what we can do to support their teaching and help their students learn effective information literacy strategies.

Even though I arrived when participants were on question #4 of their 8-question chat, I jumped in:

CactusWoman: A.4 Let’s call it “notemaking” rather than “taking.” “Making” implies Ss questions/connections/own ideas count! #cvtechtalk just dropped in

I got some likes, retweets, and replies and decided to stay. (This is my personal measure of whether or not a chat group is “listening” and learning from one another or simply broadcasting. See the dedication below.)

I followed up with:
CactusWoman: A4 #FutureReadyLibs #schoollibrarians r trained in notemaking skills > Classroom-library collaboration 2 teach essential skill #cvtechtalk

Then a reply/question about students using Twitter for notemaking:
CactusWoman: A5 Yes! @_____ I 2 use Twitter 4 notemaking when involved w/webinars/conference presentations, etc. have not tried w/6-12 Ss #cvtechtalk

(Note that should have been *w/8-12 Ss* – Twitter “suggests” participants should be 13 and up.)

Then:
CactusWoman: A6 When Ss compare notes they may c that one person’s “main ideas” do not match the others’ > convers abt determining importance #cvtechtalk

Since this was a “tech” group, they shared many electronic tools for notemaking. When one person noted she had read somewhere that hand-written notes were more effective, I shared a research-based article about the possible differences between handwritten and electronic notes in terms of student learning.

CactusWoman: A6 My concern copy/paste/highlight does not = learning: Article about notemaking by hand vs computer: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away … #cvtechtalk

According to my Paper.li report, the article was accessed (read?) by several #cvtechtalk chat participants. (Like all librarians, I enjoy sharing research/knowledge that can make a difference in educators’ practice and in students’ learning/people’s lives.)

CactusWoman: A.7 Creativity bcomes more important w/what Ss DO w/notes: What do notes mean 2 Ss? Does info inspire creative response/action? #cvtechtalk

The final question was perfect and one that I believe all Twitter chat groups should adopt. “Based on tonight’s talk, how will you empower students in note-taking?” (or whatever the topic).

CactusWoman: A.8 Encourage Ts #schoollibrarians collaborate 2 teach Ss notemaking strategies (reading comp) & create/do something meaningful #cvtechtalk

One person posted this:
A8 Will start #notemaking w/ Ss asap! Can’t handle guilt after these great ideas! Will intro #Sketchnoting & bulleting key ideas #cvtechtalk https://twitter.com/techcoachjuarez/status/862500760981983232 …

Cha-ching!

CactusWoman: Gr8t ideas on notemaking 2nite 5/10 when I dropped in on #cvtechtalk #FutureReadyLibs #txlchat #tlchat >opportunities 4 classroom-lib collab

It was interesting to me that many educators noted they would NOT model notemaking strategies for students and were “anti-direct instruction” for this skill.

As someone who connects notemaking with the reading comprehension strategy of determining main ideas, I believe that is a mistake. In my experience, if students are not taught several strategies from which they can choose or use as models to develop their own strategies, they will opt for copying/highlighting everything. They will not pass the information through their own background knowledge and purpose for reading and make their own connections, write down their questions, and their own ideas related to what they are reading. (Notemaking strategies include Cornell notes, deletion-substitution, trash ‘n treasure, and more…)

I created a Storify archive of the chat’s final question for my review and for yours if you are interested.

I know I will drop in on #cvtechtalk again when I can on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Pacific (?). They are an active, caring, and sharing group of educators. I appreciate what I learned from listening and participating in their chat.

If you are a school librarian who is participating in non-school librarian chats, I hope you will add a comment to this post. Readers may appreciate knowing what you perceive as the benefits or drawbacks of those professional learning experiences.

Dedication: This post is “dedicated” to #txlchat. This chat’s home base is in Texas, but more and more school librarians from across the country are joining in. In 2014-2015, I had the opportunity to conduct a research study of #txlchat. Thanks to #txlchat moderators and participants, I was welcomed into their learning space and learned about the norms and benefits of their chat culture. I continue to connect and learn with #txlchat whenever I can get online on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Central. Y’all are invited, too!

Twitter Chats

What does a Sonoran Desert tortoise have to do with a twitter chat? Thanks to Aesop, tortoises have a reputation for being “slow but steady.” Online professional development (PD), particularly a “slow Twitter chat” may result in the slow and steady progress we all want to experience in our personal learning networks (PLNs).

Online PD is a trend that meets the test of aligning with library and my personal values. The Web allows near and distant colleagues to get together in real time or asynchronously. We can share our questions and challenges, successes and missteps. We can interact with others with particular areas of expertise. We can respond to shared readings and current events. In short, we collaborate to expand our knowledge and improve our individual and collective practice.

Twitter has become a go-to PD platform for many state-level, university-based, and independent groups of school librarians. Through regular contact with one another, participants in these chats “learn from one another, develop shared meanings through exchanging ideas and information, and enculturate one another into the ever-evolving profession of school librarianship” (65).

Developing a strong PLN is one important way to stay current in the field and freshly energized in our practice.

In the 2014-2015 school year, I had the pleasure of being a participant observer studying the #txlchat. This Twitter chat meets during the academic year on Tuesdays from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Central Time. Members post using the hashtag throughout the week as well. I set out to learn about the #txlchat culture and the value participants place on this online PD experience.

The #txlchat cofounders and core group members have created a “democratic” context for the chat. They are committed to ensuring that participants’ voices are heard. Everyone I interviewed and those who responded to the survey noted the benefits they receive from learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and experience with the group. “@debramarshall summed up her experience this way: ‘I am a better librarian because of Twitter’” (68).

Chats can also be an excellent way to get out a message and share resources. The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation is currently exploring the use of Twitter chats to promote school-public library collaboration and the toolkit we created.

Currently, I am participating in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Supervisors Section (SPVS) book discussion. We are using the #aaslspvschat to discuss the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. SPVS Chair Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) is posting questions for our consideration over a five-week period.

This is my first experience with an intentional “Twitter slow chat” and my first experience with a total focus on a shared book reading. I think the slow chat format will help us take time respond to the moderator’s questions, savor each other’s tweets, reply to one another, and reflect on our discussion throughout the course of the slow chat.

Whether or not you’re a school librarian supervisor, check out the hashtag and check in to note how the discussion is progressing. This “slow chat” may be a model for a book study or other conversations with your PLN.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self-Regulated Professional Development Online.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, 2016, pp. 64–69.

Image credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon

Future Ready Librarians Build Instructional Partnerships

“Future ready” is catching fire. In the education landscape, “future ready” denotes students, educators, and school districts that are being effectively prepared or are preparing learners of today for the challenges of tomorrow. The emphasis on digital learning is at the core of this movement. Fortunately, many educational decision-makers are recognizing that school librarians and libraries are important components in future ready teaching and learning as the image from Follett’s Project Connect attests.

A growing number of school districts across the country are joining Future Ready Schools® (FRS). According the FRS About page, the FRS goal is “to help school districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by (1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while (2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize learning in the classroom.”

Launched in 2014 with the Future Ready Pledge, the Alliance for Excellence in Education has collected more than 3,100 school superintendents’ signatures. According to the Future Ready Web site, this means that the learning of 19.2 million students and their teachers’ teaching are being impacted by the framework for this initiative.

In June, 2016, FRS announced the Future Ready Librarians piece of their effort. (Note the links on this page to additional articles that spotlight the work of school librarians.) This movement toward the transformation of teaching and learning is inspiring many school librarians to self-assess their own future readiness and prepare themselves for partnering with administrators and teaching colleagues to implement the eight principles of the Future Ready Librarians (FRL) Framework.

For me, one of the most exciting FRL principles involves school librarians in building instructional partnerships in order to directly impact curriculum, instruction and assessment. The FRL “partners with educators to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation and the active use of technology.” (See the FRL Fact Sheet.)

The Future Ready Librarians Facebook Page is one source of professional development for school librarians. This is a closed group and participants must request access. Searching Twitter with the #futureready and #FutureReadyLibs hashtags are additional ways to be connected.

This groundswell of support for the role of FRL and school libraries should energize the school librarian community. It should prompt and inspire professional development. School librarian Michelle Luhtala, Vancouver Public Schools library administrator Mark Ray, and Sara Trettin from the U.S. Department of Education provided a FRL Webinar via edWeb last October. You can view the archive.

On February 14, the Alliance is hosting another Webinar focused on FRL: “What’s Not to Love?” This time, Shannon McClintock Miller will join Mark RAy and Sara Trettin. Check it out!

Image Courtesy of Follett’s Project Connect

Reflections on Professional Learning, Part 2

library_values_2This post is a continuation of last week’s reflection on my take-aways from the 2016 Arizona Library Association Conference.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

One of the reoccurring connections for me on the second day of the conference Friday, November 4th, was the importance of library values. This word cloud captures just some of the values embedded in the competencies for librarians as codified by our professional organizations: the American Library Association Core Competences, Association for Library Service to Children’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, ALA/AASL Standards for the Initial Preparation of School Librarians, and the Young Adult Library Services Association Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best.

Jessica Jupitus and Lori Easterwood provided the “Libraries Transform, But How?” opening keynote on Friday, November 4th.  When Jessica and Lori worked together a four-year goal of the Sacramento (CA) Public Library’s strategic plan was to increase positive public awareness about library services and increase participation in library programming. At the time, Jessica and Lori were young adults themselves. They used deliberately provocative titles, such as Punk Rock Aerobics and Heavy Metal Yoga, to attract 18 to 28-year-olds to programs. For me, their program connected to the library values of inclusion and diversity.

In my presentation “Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories,” I invited participants to reflect on their library values and connect their values with a program or service and an audience they would like to bring into the library. Participants used a graphic organizer to develop a meme, one-sentence theme, think about the needs of their target audience, and identify some free or low-cost Web 2.0 tools to create their stories. On the resource page for the presentation, I shared examples of school and public library digital promotions. After the session, I added an example that participant Claudine Randazzo shared with the group. The testimonials in the video on behalf of the Coconino County bookmobile tell the story of this service so well!

As always, I was inspired by the values in action of those who received awards at the AzLA service and author awards luncheon. Congratulations to TLD’s own Patty Jimenez for her Follett School Librarian of the Year Award. I believe that at least one award recipient embodied each of the values in the word cloud above.

Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) librarians Kate Street, Jennifer Flores, and Fran Stoler presented “Extreme Library Makeover: Making Spaces for Student Creation and Collaboration.”  They shared their journey in “creating a digital age library in a 1970s space.” Their Web page includes a timeline, floor plan (for Sunnyside High School), movable furniture, and flexible spaces. For me, their “Extreme Makeover” work connects with the library values of freedom of expression, empowerment, and literacies.

Some of the renovations included smart tables, mobile whiteboards, kiosks, “Nemo Trellis” (new to me) and more. Kate, who is the librarian at Sunnyside High School, reported that the library’s new sound studio has been the most successful aspect of their renovation in terms of student creativity and ownership. Fran, who is the Desert View High School librarian, noted that the positive attitude of the librarians, students, teachers, and administrators was as important in their renovation efforts as were the renovations themselves.

As noted in last week’s post, Sunnyside is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! Jennifer, who is the librarian at Los Amigos (Elementary) Tech Academy, shared some low-cost, low-tech strategies for library renovation, including painting walls and tables with whiteboard paint, board games, and freshly painted walls. Los Amigos uses a 50/50 model with students engaged with tech 50% of the time and interacting face to face (f2f) 50% of the time. Jennifer’s goal is to increase community involvement during the f2f time — to bring in the funds of knowledge in the community to mentor and teach the students.

As Miguel Figueroa noted, for librarians, a societal trend is simply “trendy” unless we view it through the lens of our library values. If we examine the signals in society that confirm a trend exists, we should then explore that trend to see if it aligns with our library values. When it does, librarians can work together to create library services and programs that will meet the current and future needs of our communities. Thoughtful librarians can take action to develop innovations that matter.

Every professional learning experience provides opportunities to meet new colleagues and to get to know long-time colleagues better.  At the TLD Mixer on Thursday night, I enjoyed the conversation with Jean Kilker, Patty Jimenez, Cindy Reyes, and Leslie Preddy. It was rewarding to connect with former University of Arizona graduate students and know they are doing great work in libraries across the state.

I left the conference hopeful for the future of librarianship. I know there is no shortage of work to ensure that our libraries continue to work with our community members to improve lives. I also know we can do it. Yes, we can!

Post-election comment: I believe it is especially critical that librarians rededicate ourselves to practicing and promoting the core values of our profession

Image Credit
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net