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, 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.

Most Likely to Succeed

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

This book seems the perfect segue from last week’s review of George Couros’s The Innovator’s Mindset. In Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era authors Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith offered me a great deal of food for thought. These were some of their ideas that prompted my thinking.

“The role of education is no longer to teach content, but to help our children learn—in a world that rewards innovation and punishes the formulaic” (197). This quote relates directly to what I think is one of the core beliefs of many (school librarians) who promote future-ready learning.

Wagner and Dintersmith go on to qualify this idea with an acknowledgement that a certain level of knowledge is necessary in order for students to be creative and innovative. “You cannot teach critical thinking without engaging students in rich and challenging academic content. The goal must be to choose the academic content selectively so as to create the required foundation for lifelong learning, without letting the quest for content coverage overwhelm the development of core competencies” (224).

Although I am sure youth need content literacy/knowledge on which to build innovation, students opportunities to explore/innovate during the school day are far too limited. In a recent Future Ready Librarians’ sponsored webinar “Empowering Students as Creators,” middle school librarian Diana Rendina shared her perspective on the importance of play and how her school’s library makerspace supports play as a “legitimate” activity for students. Legitimizing play may be a tough slog, particularly in some secondary schools with a focus on “accountability” rather than “innovation.”

When play becomes part of a “learn by doing” curriculum, educators may have a more successful route to gaining support for “making” and creating the conditions for students to be innovators. Wagner and Dintersmith note: “Our opportunity—and our obligation to youth—is to reimagine our schools, and give all kids an education that will help them thrive in a world that values them for that they can do, not for the facts that they know” (222). (Bold added)

In Most Likely to Succeed, the authors offer a set of pedagogical principles that should inform student learning (and educators’ teaching). Students should:

• Attack meaningful, engaging challenges;
• Have open access to resources;
• Struggle, often for days, and learn how to recover from failure;
• Form their own points of view;
• Engage in frequent debate;
• Learn to ask good questions;
• Collaborate;
• Display accomplishments publicly;
• Work hard because they are intrinsically motivated (205).

All of these relate to my understanding of the goals of inquiry and future-ready learning. The authors recommend that student-curated digital portfolios that show evidence of these principles is an effective way to document student learning.

I agree with Wagner and Dintersmith that educators should also be evaluated using digital portfolios. Educators’ documentation could serve as personalized accountability (232-233). These portfolios could include video-captured lessons and examples of students’ work that shows improvement and the impact of educators’ teaching. They could include focus-group feedback from students with regard to how the educator did or did not achieve the principles cited above.

To relate this to school librarian portfolios, the school library Web site or blog could be one aspect of such a portfolio. Linked learning plans and the resulting student work and feedback from coteachers, administrators, and other library stakeholders could show how school librarians hold themselves accountable for improving learning and teaching in their schools.

With an understanding that internally motivated students will continue to learn new knowledge and skills throughout their lifetimes, Wagner and Dintersmith write this: “So, the first question we must ask ourselves about any proposed change in education is: Will this ‘improvement’ likely increase or diminish student motivation for learning and how will be know? And to be clear, we’re not just talking about the thrill factor of learning. We are talking about the motivations that include grit, perseverance, and self-discipline” (223).

I know this question will continue to stick with me. Without intrinsic motivation, learning simply will not happen.

Tony Wagner, an “expert in residence” at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, has authored other books, including Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap. Ted Dintersmith is a “partner emeritus” at a venture capital firm. Their collaboration on Most Likely to Succeed makes it a compelling read for those seeking to prepare future-ready students and transforming schools into future-ready learning environments.

Work Cited

Wagner, Tony, and Ted Dintersmith. Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era. New York: Scribner, 2015.

Note: I would like to acknowledge Dr. Wagner for responding to series of emails with my questions. Many authors and speakers invite that kind of follow-up but not all of them follow through. Thank you.

The Innovator’s Mindset

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

I don’t remember when I first heard about George Couros. As soon as I did and before I read his book, I began reading his The Principal of Change blog, receiving his daily email blasts, and following him on Twitter (@gcouros).

One thing I especially admire about Couros is that he exemplifies an administrator/educator/leader who has a well-developed growth mindset. He shares his experiences—both his successes and missteps—and reflects on their significance in his learning. Couros is also able to communicate clearly and precisely. His mindset and his communication style pack a double punch…

…as does his book The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. On the paperback book cover, these keywords appear in red font: “innovator’s” (bold), “learning,” “talent,” and “creativity” (in an artistic font). With bolded and branded #InnovatorsMindset insets through the 232-page book, Couros’s book is a thoughtful, accessible book–one that school leaders will turn to again and again.

Couros makes a strong case for his premise: “There is a clear need for innovation in education” (4). He divides his book into three parts: a discussion of innovation, the foundation for a culture of innovation, and acting in an environment where change is possible. With a nod to Simon Sinek, George Couros clearly states his “why.” He believes “education’s why is to develop learners and leaders who will create a better present and future” (18). Couros goes on to define what he means in using the terms “learners” and “leaders.” All school stakeholders—young or more seasoned, students or educators—must inspire innovation both as learners and as leaders.

I use Couros’s definition for “innovation” in the book I am writing: “Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” I especially appreciate his emphasis on innovation as “a way of thinking” rather than a thing, task, or tool. An innovator’s mindset impacts school culture.

I part with Couros a bit on his assessment that “establishing an innovative culture doesn’t require transformation” (20). I do think it may very well take something “dramatic” in many school cultures that seek to “develop and sustain systems that support ‘optimal learning experience’” for all stakeholders. I wonder if small tweaks and nudges are enough to respond to the urgency for change that many educators, students, families, and community members feel.

Couros believes that it is “not that teachers don’t want to change, but they sometimes lack clear guidance and support to make the desired change” (47). I share this belief and it makes a strong connection for me with the book Switch: How to Make Change When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (to be reviewed later this summer on this blog). Educators, like students, require leaders who clear the path and model the change they expect to see.

Couros lists “8 characteristics of the innovator’s mindset” (pp. 48 – 58). He notes these characteristics can apply to everyone involved in education: empathetic, problem finders/solvers, risk takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient, and reflective. He also provides a similar set of characteristics for innovative leaders (pp. 88 – 90).

I am in total agreement with Couros (and Sinek whom he cites). We need to place a higher priority on the caring relationships within our schools/organizations. “The three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing” (68). This was also one of my take-aways from Timothy Walker’s book Teach Like Finland. The caring relationships among the people within an organization are everything. (Hence the title of this blog and the title of my forthcoming book.)

Couros discusses creating a vision, using technology as an accelerator, and effective professional development for educators. He includes “8 things to look for in today’s professional learning” and notes that “understanding the learning opportunities that we would like to create for our students begins by immersing ourselves in similar experiences” (185). I could not agree more!

Each chapter in Couros’s book ends with questions for discussion. His book and online resources provide a compelling book study selection for individuals and Professional Learning Communities. As Couros writes in his introduction, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing” (3).

If you’re someone who is open to change and don’t know where to start, begin by reading this book and then talk about it with your colleagues. It will inspire you!

Work Cited

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

Teach Like Finland, Part 2

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

Timothy D. Walker, author of Teach Like Finland, 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. I wrote about the first three last week.

Welcome the Experts
Walker was not comfortable at first with welcoming colleagues or other experts into his classroom. After he visited other classrooms where he saw this modeled, he became a convert. Walker writes: “I found that the more I welcomed experts into my classroom, the more I began to view myself as a resource manager who could design great learning experiences for my class by tapping into talents outside my own” (183).

School librarians have a long tradition of inviting guests into the library. We regularly invite authors, illustrators, scientists, politicians, and local experts of all kinds to share via the library program. (And it’s important to remember that all educators may not be as comfortable with this practice.) The very best of these presentations are directly aligned with classroom curricula and are coplanned and cofacilitated with classroom teachers and specialists.

Two of the most successful expert presentations during my time at Sabino High School were visits by Arizona Daily Star editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and our then Arizona State Representative Marian McClure. In both cases, I worked with the social studies classroom teachers to prepare students for their visits and to follow up afterward. Editorial cartoons became the topic for “questioning” reading comprehension strategy lessons. (See lesson 5-2 in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact.) In addition to civics information, the connection with Representative McClure provided advocacy for school librarianship at the state legislature.

While school librarians are adept at bringing in outside experts, they may not be as experienced with using the human resources in the library and on campus. School staff and faculty have abundant expertise and talents to share. As school librarians build relationships in the school community, it is incumbent upon them to uncover the lights that are hiding under barrels in their own buildings—lights that could make a difference for students’ enthusiasm for curriculum-based learning as well as their pursuit of independent learning.

In a recent Knowledge Quest blog post titled “Library as Incubator,” Mark Dzula wrote about how he supported the school library paraprofessional aide in sharing her language and culture expertise with students during a weekly lunchtime drop-in Arabic program. Mark wrote: “She was motivated to share her love of the language to help expand students’ worldview and to overcome any social stigma that the students may have encountered in association with Arabic.” A dozen students attended and were very inspired in various ways to pursue more information about Arabic language and culture. With support from the World Language Department, one student is taking an independent study in Arabic with the library assistant next year.

Vacate on Vacation
According to Walker, Finnish teachers “literally” vacating during the summer. Shocking! This practice is in sharp contrast with the summer practices of most U.S. educators. In the summer, most teach summer school, work another job outside of education, or prepare for the next school year. (Some even time their pregnancies so they can give birth in the summer in order to return to the classroom in the fall.) Walker, who feels the “vacate on vacation” strategy is too extreme, says he prefers a hybrid approach. In the summer, he dedicates a “healthy chunk of time for disconnecting and a healthy chunk of time for professional development” (186).

The pace of life for most U.S. educators is intense during the academic year. Relaxing during the summer (and regularly throughout the school year) seems to be the healthiest choice. Making time in the summer for extended periods of reflection can be an excellent use of one’s “free” time. Interspersing professional books with other types of reading (adult novels, YA literature, and school curriculum-oriented reading) is one strategy some school librarians use to find balance. Extending conference attendance to include touring new parts of the country or visiting with friends and relatives is another way to combine professional learning with personal interests.

Some would suggest that regular technology holidays could also improve one’s ability to relax. In his book, Walker offers a summary of a study conducted by the Harvard Business School. The study involved two groups of consulting firm workers. One group worked 50+ hours per week. didn’t take vacation time and was always connected via their electronic devices. The other worked 40 hours per week, took vacations, and coordinated unconnected time with their coworkers so they could be disconnected without worry or guilt. The team that took time off reported higher job satisfaction, better work-life balance, increased learning, improved communication with their team, and were more efficient and productive in their work (187).

By “vacating” the always “on” culture for selected days, weekends, or even months might also prioritize engaging in enriching face-to-face interactions with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. One thought-provoking book to consider on this subject is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. She proclaims: “It’s time to put technology in its place and reclaim conversation. That journey begins with a better understanding of what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in the way” (25).

Don’t Forget the Joy
This adage could be the overarching theme for Teach Like Finland. According to Walker, in 2016, Finnish comprehensive schools implemented the newest core curriculum, “where joy is being practiced as a learning concept” (189). When I read this, my U.S. educator mind sadly went directly to these questions: Is joy measurable? How will it be tested? (Ugh!)

There is a palpable feeling of excitement in a joyful learning environment. I once served as the school librarian in a truly “joyful” preK-5 school. Our school was led by a joyful principal whose most often heard phrase was “what a wonder!” With a positive school climate and a commitment to a culture of collaboration, faculty, staff, and families made our school a joyful place to be—every day of the academic year (and in summer programs, too).

Joy begins inside of each individual and from there can spread out to all members of our learning communities. Walker notes that prioritizing joy may not be easy for many U.S. educators but regardless of where he teaches, Timothy Walker commits to remembering and prioritizing joy. The last line in his book: “How about you?”

Note: This photograph of our seven-month-old puppy Pearl playing with her friend Vicka captures (for me) the pure spirit of joy. (Pearl is the poodle.) Every morning when we awake, she reminds us there is a truly joyful way to greet each day.

Works Cited

Dzula, Mark. “Library as Incubator.” Knowledge Quest Blog. 18 May 2017. http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/library-as-incubator/ Accessed 26 May 2017.

Moreillon, Judi. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2012.

Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

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

Advocating for Respect and Literacy for All

If advocating for literacy for all is “political,” then a growing number of school librarians, authors, publishers, and schools are speaking up and out about the empathy and attitudes that will help ALL students become the respectful, successful native-born or naturalized citizens our country needs.  With this post, I applaud and join with them.

The following exemplary examples are just some of this work that came across my computer screen last week. I hope school librarians will follow these links and be on the lookout for other ways we can align our work with inclusion and take action for social justice.

School librarian Elissa Malespina penned and illustrated “An Open Letter to School Librarians,” which was published on the School Library Journal (SLJ) Web site. In her opinion piece, she challenges school librarians to take a firm stand about how we welcome and include students in our libraries and schools. “Every day students of different races, nationalities, and sexual orientations walk through our doors. Our libraries must be safe spaces for them, since the outside world has become increasingly unsafe.” For Ms. Malespina (and I hope for you), silence is not an option.

Young adult author Marie Marquardt wrote an equally eloquent appeal related to social justice on the Teen Librarian Toolbox (TLT) linked from the SLJ site: “Love and Justice: What I’ve Learned from Those Seeking Refuge in the U.S.” Ms. Marquardt, who lives in Georgia, has worked for more than twenty years with immigrants, most of whom were undocumented, and asylum-seeking refugees. In her piece, she wrote this: “They all made these journeys because they believed America is a place of refuge, a peaceful nation guided by such enduring values as fairness, equality, and the rule of law. Even in the face of clear injustices – blatant discrimination, inconsistent treatment in the courts – they have astounded me with their steadfast desire to participate in American life, to become American. In fact, they have taught me to see my own nation through new eyes, to affirm and celebrate our core values.”

The 2017 TLT Project is Social Justice YA Literature. Use this link to read more about this timely and essential effort. To participate in this effort on Twitter, use the #SJYALit.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 14th, Booklist, Second Story Press, and Lee & Low Publishers, are offering a free one-hour Webinar titled “Teaching Tolerance.” On the promotion for this event, the collaborators cite increased bullying in schools as an indication that educators and parents are called upon to use children’s literature to help young people increase their understanding and acceptance of “others.” School librarians can support classroom teachers and families by spotlighting these titles and integrating them into their collections and teaching.

BACC blog readers can find another resource for books about refugee and immigrant experiences on the Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services Web site. This annotated list includes forty titles for both children and teens.

This post would not be complete without a huge shout out to Luma Mufleh and an appeal for your support for the Fugees Family. Coach Luma began her humanitarian work in 2006 by offering refugee boys a free, organized soccer team. Today, the Fugees Academy is the only school dedicated to refugee education in the U.S. One hundred thirty-six boys and girls are members of the Fugees Family and participate in year-round soccer, after-school tutoring, an academic enrichment summer camp, or are full-time students at the Fugees Academy where they learn academics and build character and leadership.

Like all 501(c)(3) organizations, the Fugees Family stays afloat through grants and on-going fundraising efforts. Please consider supporting their current effort – a t-shirt that reads: “Refugees – USA – Welcome.” Support these young people and their teachers. Purchase a shirt and wear it proudly.

Thank you all for the work you do and for speaking up and out.

And I close with one additional special thank you to Nebraska assistant public library director Rebecca Corkindale who collaborated with librarians from Saline County Library in Benton, Arkansas to create “Libraries Are for Everyone” graphics. With the help of librarians from around the world, Ms. Corkindale continues to translate the text on these copyright-free graphics into many languages.

Bravo to all!

Works Cited

Jensen, Karen. Love and Justice: What I’ve Learned from Those Seeking Refuge in the U.S.: A Guest Post by Author Marie Marquardt, Teen Librarian Toolkit.com, http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2017/02/love-and-justice-what-ive-learned-from-those-seeking-refuge-in-the-u-s-a-guest-post-by-author-marie-marquardt/

Malespina, Elissa. “Open Letter to School Librarians,” School Library Journal.com, http://www.slj.com/2017/02/opinion/soapbox/an-open-letter-to-school-librarians-silence-is-not-golden-opinion/

Image Credit
Corkindale, Rebecca. “Libraries Are for Everyone,” Hafuboti.com, https://hafuboti.com/2017/02/02/libraries-are-for-everyone/

Re-commitment to Collaboration

Like many of you, I reflected on my most satisfying accomplishments and my incomplete projects of 2016 before settling on my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Although I am big on setting short-term achievable (daily/weekly) goals, it’s helpful for me to have a year-long big picture plan as well.

This year, I will re-commitment my professional work to collaboration within school learning communities and outward into the larger local, state, national, and international communities as well. As they have for more than twenty-five years, my resolutions focus on the literacy work of school librarians and school library programs.

In 2017, I will:

  • complete my forthcoming book Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. In the book, due to my editor in mid-June and scheduled to be published at the end of 2017, I will make the case with all library stakeholders for adopting a systems thinking approach to classroom-library coplanning and coteaching;
  • write, blog, make presentations, and generally shout out about the inquiry learning and reading comprehension foundations of the book and the potential of these responsibilities and a systems perspective to create opportunities for future ready school librarians to increase their impact on teaching and learning;
  • continue to work with the Arizona Library Association and the Teacher Librarian Division to advocate for inclusion of the essential roles of school librarians and libraries in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan. Once in place, I will advocate for the return of school librarian positions across Arizona, focusing first on districts in and around my home in Tucson;
  • continue to serve on committees of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and promote and support the worthy work of the association (including the celebration of AASL’s 65th anniversary);
  • work with practicing school librarians to support their collaborative work within their schools and in their collaborative work with community agencies and organizations. I will write about and promote their success; (See my 12/30/16 ALSC blog post “Gimme a C (For Collaboration!) that features a school-library public-library collaboration for summer reading.)
  • expand my thinking about how school librarians and school library programs can make a difference in family literacy, particularly for babies and preschool children. Helping our communities prepare children for formal schooling is an investment in each individual’s long-term life choices and in the health of our neighborhoods and cities;
  • continue to honor and promote the work of public library and healthcare providers who are making a difference for families through books for babies programs. Yesterday, in Tarrant County, Texas, the Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their 2017 initiative to give a copy of my book Vamos a leer/Read to Me to every new mother. In 2017, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health Systems are continuing their program “Books for Dallas Babies,” which began on January 1st, 2016;
  • and I will enact my library values in my professional and civic life.

There is much work to be done to promote equity and justice.

With a huge thank-you to author-illustrator Melissa Sweet for Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, my pick for the most outstanding 2016 information book for children, I set my resolve with an excerpt from a letter E.B. White wrote in 1973:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day” (White, cited in Sweet 132).

And I would add: Let’s work together for equity, social justice, and the betterment of all!

Work Cited
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Twibbon courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians’ “It’s in Our Hands” 65th-anniversary Celebration

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

Harmony in Difference

tt54-coverSaturday, December 10th, was the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Making the connection between human rights and finding “harmony in difference” feels like a timely post for me.

In 1992, when I was serving in my first school librarian position, my father-in-law gave me a copy of the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine Teaching Tolerance.  Founded in 1971, SPLC is a U.S. non-profit organization monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists.

Shortly after reading my first issue of Teaching Tolerance, I became a card-carrying SPLC member and have religiously renewed my membership every year since. Over the years, Teaching Tolerance has given me inspiration, encouragement, and teaching tips to make social justice a central component of my service as a school librarian and school librarian educator.

On their “about” page, Teaching Tolerance notes that their definition of “tolerance” aligns closely with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance: “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference” (UNESCO).

The Fall 2016 issue of the magazine (cover above) was published before the election. (It is downloadable.)  Read or review this issue and think about the fact that SPLC counted 867 incidents of hateful harassment in the ten days after the U.S. election. How can educators, and school librarians in particular, teach young people to find “harmony in difference?”

Read the latest from Teaching Tolerance: “New Report: School Climate Worsens in Wake of Election.” More than 10,000 educators took the survey; 90% of respondents reported that their school climate has been negatively affected by the election.

These are some tips for school librarians who serve as information specialists, instructional partners, and leaders in their schools:

1.    If you don’t already have a free Teaching Tolerance subscription, sign up for one or read the magazine online. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
2.    If you receive a print copy of the magazine, share it among your colleagues or send the link to the .pdf version to them. Encourage your colleagues to subscribe to the magazine and newsletter.
3.    Engage students and colleagues in discussions related to the articles in the magazine and newsletter.
4.    Reflect on your own practice of teaching tolerance.
5.    Reach out to colleagues to coteach lessons and units of instruction that affirm diversity.
6.    Consider following Teaching Tolerance on Twitter and Facebook.

As we approach the winter holiday season, it is especially important that our nation’s “public spaces,” including our school libraries, honor the traditions of all of our citizens and library users. Even in homogeneous communities, and maybe most especially in religiously homogeneous schools, the season for caring and giving is a time to acknowledge that diversity is, thankfully, an essential and laudable aspect of U.S. society.

Cover art by Nigel Buchanan
Magazine cover reprinted with permission of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. www.tolerance.org

Collaborative Lesson Planning

Cameron_collabplanning2The theme of the October issue of Educational Leadership is “Powerful Lesson Planning.” I especially appreciate the article by Michelle Bauml, associate professor in early childhood education at Texas Christian University: “The Promise of Collaboration.” She writes “effective collaboration is generally characterized by shared goals, good communication and equitable contributions by all participants” (60). She goes on to stress that collaboration doesn’t “automatically yield effective lessons.”

Applying the principles of effective lesson design is essential. Effective educators base instruction on assessment data. They collect evidence of student learning during and after the lesson. They also use observations and these data to inform the instruction in process and future instruction. These principles can support educators as they work together to codesign effective lessons in which learning objectives, tasks, and assessments are aligned.

Dr. Bauml notes, “Just as students don’t automatically know how to work in groups, teachers can’t be expected to magically make collaboration work” (60). This is where school librarians’ experiences as instructional partners can be particularly valuable in the school learning community. When school librarians develop their expertise by working with individual faculty members and teaching teams, they can serve as effective collaboration guides.

Coimplementing coplanned lessons was missing from the article because even after coplanning many classroom teachers do not have the opportunity to coteach those lessons. When two classroom teachers coteach, they must find a space large enough to accommodate doubling the class size. And they miss out of one of the important benefits of coteaching, namely lowering the student-to-educator ratio.

When classroom teachers coteach with the school librarian, they can truly experience job-embedded professional development. They can learn with and from each other in real time, make adjustments to instruction informed by two (or more educators), and comonitor students’ guided practice. Then when they follow up by coassessing student learning, they both bring their first-hand knowledge of what happened during the instructional intervention.

Coplanning, coimplementation, and coassessing student learning and the instructional itself may be the best form of professional development for all educators.

Dr. Bauml cites instructional specialists, paraprofessionals, school administrators, and special education teachers as possible collaborative planners with individual, pairs, or groups of classroom teachers (59). While I trust all school librarians aspire to be seen as “instructional specialists,” I will praise the day when more articles are published in education journals in which school librarians are specifically mentioned as collaborative instructional partners.

And to build on that vision, thank you to 230 school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, university faculty, and others interested in education who attended my Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” on Thursday, October 13th. If you were among the almost 800 who signed up and were unable to attend, you can link to the archive on edWeb.net.

You can also access resources from this SLC @theForeFront Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Let’s keep on improving our instruction through coteaching.

 

Work Cited

Bauml, Michelle. “The Promise of Collaboration.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 58-62.

Image Caption: Former school librarian now school librarian supervisor Stacy Cameron, an ELA teacher, and technology integration specialist coplanning (Used with permission)