Positive Messages

mora_blog-poem-2Poet, author, and literacy advocate Pat Mora sent her poem “Light” as an invitation to her friends and colleagues to “nurture justice and joy” in the new year.  She also posted it to her blog. While Pat’s poem captures the heart-felt sentiments of many as 2016 draws to a close and 2017 begins, her words are also a call to action.

Last week, NPR’s Steve Inskeep published “A Finder’s Guide to Facts.” Inskeep notes: “Facts have always been hard to separate from falsehoods, and political partisans have always made it harder. It’s better to call this a post-trust era.” (Inskeep) In his article, Inskeep gives his tips for how to dig dipper to investigate, even interrogate, “facts” – some of them similar to those suggested on the blog, “Fake “News” in a “Post-truth” World.”

How can educators work in collaboration to build trust? How can we start with our immediate school community and extend our message out into the larger world?

These are just three examples of positive messages that students, educators, and organizations are sharing. As leaders, school librarians can collaborate with other members of their school learning communities to broadcast positive messages—messages of kindness, inclusion, and connectedness.

Project #1: “Kindness Counts”
2014-2015 fifth-grade students at Collier Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona raised funds and designed a “legacy mural.” It was installed in a prominent place for all learning community members to see on the front of the school building. Students chose the title and theme for the mural: “Kindness Counts.” See the YouTube video about their project.

Project #2: “Positive Messages”
In his December 10, 2016 post “On the Other Side of the Screen” former principal, author, and blogger George Couros encourages educators and young people alike “to go out of our way to make a positive impact on the lives of others” (Couros).

In his post, Couros shared a way that Pulaski Middle School in Pulaski, Washington is using their twitter account to share positive messages. Using the hashtags #positivepcms and #raiderstrong, school community members publicizing sincere praise and positive comments about individuals and concepts such as ability, motivation, and attitude.

Project #3: “Start with Hello Week”
The Sandy Hook Promise Web site is dedicated to protecting children from gun violence. In February, 2017, they are organizing a national observance of “Start with Hello Week

During the week of February 6 – 10, 2017, participants will raise awareness and educate students and the community through “Start with Hello” trainings, advertising, activities, public proclamations, media events, contests and school scholarship awards. “Start with Hello Week” will bring attention to the growing epidemic of social isolation in our schools and communities. Their goal is to empower young people to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school or youth organization.

If you are an educator who is searching for a way to make a fresh and positive start in the new year, ask yourself these questions:
•    Who are my most trusted colleagues?
•    How can we inspire and support each other and students in increasing the positive messages in our classrooms, libraries, schools, and communities?
•    Do any of the above examples give us an idea how our school can make a commitment to kindness, inclusion and connectedness?

“Learning the truth is not a goal, but a process” (Inskeep). The process involves keeping our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open and thinking critically. It also involves making a commitment to bring more caring, truth, and justice into the world.

If you need any further inspiration for what the world needs now, read Karim Sulayman’s sign and watch his “I Trust You” video.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “On the Other Side of the Screen.” The Principal of Change. 10 Dec. 2016, http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6916

Inskeep, Steve. “A Finder’s Guide To Facts.” NPR, 11 Dec. 2016, www.npr.org/2016/12/11/505154631/a-finders-guide-to-facts?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

Sandyhook Promise. “Start with Hello Week.” Sandyhook Promise.  n.d. http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/startwithhelloweek

Pat Mora’s Poem “Light” Used with Permission

Muted Holiday Greetings

For the past few months, our joint blog has highlighted the importance of collaboration for teacher librarians in schools.  Collaboration, defined in many ways and present in various manifestations, frames the TL role as an instructional partner with classroom teachers and other learning specialists to improve students’ learning.  We need to keep current with pedagogy and technology, so we can talk the talk and walk the walk.  Collaboration provides a path for leading from the middle, and sharing responsibilities for decision making and teaching.  All of this sounds very professional, antiseptic, and laden with educational jargon, at times.  At the true heart of collaboration are the personal relationships that are built on trust and respect, as we work together to create new learning opportunities for kids.  We want to make a difference together, not alone.  Collaboration leads to friendships, built on common interests, either about content or with concern for the struggles of individual students.  With new partners or continuing partners, we share the day to day joys and challenges of people who really care about kids and education.  We become a family, a community with deep bonds.    When I think about collaboration, I think about my teacher friends, and so when I heard the reports about the shooting in Connecticut, I despaired for the lost lives and the lost friendships, something of which I experienced first-hand several years ago.

I have been trying to wrap my mind around the compelling event at Sandy Hook.  How can we make sense of carnage in elementary classrooms where bright smiling faces of eager students are struck down in a blizzard of bullets?  Those of us who have experienced the joy of teaching and learning along with our students are shaken to see other teachers and administrators killed in the line of duty.  That phrase is usually heard about police officers, or fire or military personnel, but as educational community members we have to help kids be safe, and sometimes the reality is overwhelming.  How do we reassure our students and ourselves that the school is a safe haven from an often unstable world? How do we return to that sense of normalcy that helps everyone move forward once again?

When I heard of the unspeakable tragedy unfolding in Connecticut, I was immediately taken back to a day in August 2006. Teachers in my school district were spending a typical in-service day, in meetings and preparing classrooms for the new school year. There was excitement and anticipation in the air.  Stories were being shared about the summer, and ideas for new projects were being presented as reinvigorated teachers swapped ideas. Suddenly, the principal came over the intercom and told us to proceed to the cafeteria, we were being locked down. Then the bad news came crashing in, there had been a shooting at the other elementary school, a mile away. And it was devastating to our community.  A domestic dispute boiled over into the school and two of our colleagues, our friends, were shot, one fatally.  Who could imagine that? What would have happened if it had been a regular school day?  The next few weeks were a blur, a community reeling from pain and suffering, but coming together to share and support one another to get through one day at a time.  For the teachers, the concern was not just for our pain, but how to make our students feel safe, and to bring hopeful happiness back into the schools.

Concentrating on the kids, and helping each other as the days went by, eased the loss a bit, but that day changed us all forever. The point I would like to make here is that the connections forged in the classrooms and in the schools, between educators, administrators, parents and community members provide the glue that holds a community together in the good times and in the bad times, too.

Right now, the horrific situation in Sandy Hook has cast a somber shadow over the holiday season across the country.  That community will never be the same, but time and dedicated educators, parents, and community members will collaborate to find a path for the survivors to reclaim their schools, and rethink safety for all, so that students and teachers can get back to the business of learning-the best business of all!

Wishing you lots of quality family time in the next few weeks,