Instructional Leadership Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Educational Leadership Cover courtesy of ASCD

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 1

If you have been following my blog for the past year, you are aware that I have a professional book that is currently in the publication process. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I will be using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning

“In a school that learns, people… recognize their common stake in each other’s future and the future of the community” (Senge et al. 2012, 5).

Taking a systems thinking approach helps school leaders effectively connect the pieces of the teaching and learning puzzle. Systems thinking involves taking stock of the whole system before attempting to change any part of it (Senge et al. 2012, 8). Systems thinkers closely examine the interdependent relationships among people and practices. They identify what is working and where they can improve in order for their school to reach full capacity. In collaborative culture schools, systems thinkers use their shared commitment and individual talents to collectively solve the dilemmas that hinder students from achieving success.

Systems thinking has the potential to revolutionize the way school librarians interact with administrators and classroom teacher colleagues. School librarians who seek to be leaders in their schools, districts, and beyond benefit from taking the education ecosystem into account. They understand how their work aligns with the beliefs of education thought-leaders and leading education organizations, and education transformation initiatives. When school librarians have a deep understanding of the education ecosystem, they can make connections to the priorities of their administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, and decision-makers in their district and state.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A rationale for taking a systems thinking approach to school transformation;
2. A proposal for the components of future-ready learning: literacies, competencies, and dispositions;
3. Visions for schooling that are being advanced by notable education thought-leaders and organizations;
4. The components of a collaborative school culture;
5. Responsibilities of school librarians; and
6. Strategies for school librarians to build connections for learning and leading.

As the blog logo illustrates, principals, school librarians, and classroom teachers collaborate in order to build a culture of learning in their schools. School librarians have a unique role to play in supporting the success of administrators who are leading their schools through a transformation process. Classroom-library collaboration for instruction is one central strategy that helps school librarians position their work and the library program as the hub of academic and personal learning in the school. As instructional partners, school librarians provide professional learning opportunities for colleagues and improve their own teaching practice in the process.

Chapter 1 frames the entire book by situating school librarian leadership and classroom-library collaboration for instruction within a collaborative school culture. In this empowered learning culture, school librarians, principals, and other school leaders work together to optimize the success of coteaching inquiry. reading comprehension, deeper and digital learning.

At the end of each chapter in the book, readers will find three discussion questions, three group activities, and three sample reflection questions. This study guide approach is intended to support cadres of school librarians, school faculties, and others in using this book as a book study selection.

Works Cited
Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. New York: Crown Business.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

 

#AASLstandards Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Book Jacket copyright by AASL

 

Find Your Why, Part 2

Last week, I posted Part 1 of a professional book review for Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker’s Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. The information in last week’s post focused on the first sections of the book. I found “discovering your personal why” valuable, but the information below was why I was eager to read this book.

Co-creating, nurturing, and sustaining a shared “why” is a theme running throughout my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA, June, 2018). I believe school librarians can be leaders in this process. As Sinek, Mead, and Docker write: “The why is a tool that can bring clarity to what which is fuzzy and make tangible what is abstract… The WHY can help set a vision and inspire people. The WHY can guide us to act with purpose, on purpose” (26).

Nested WHYs
Sinek, Mead, and Docker compare organizations to trees—with roots, trunk, and branches that form various subcultures. If the organization and the subcultures within it must be clear about their why in order to attract the “right” birds (new employees and leaders). Groups that pay attention to purpose and beliefs “tend to have the highest morale, are the most productive and innovative, have the best retention rates and over time are some of the highest performing groups in the company (school or district)” (87).

One reflective exercise related to embracing a nested why is for an employee (educator) to think about to the time when she/he joined the organization (or school). “What inspired you most? What inspires you to remain in the organization?” Another is to tell a specific story about a time when you were proud to work for this organization (school/district). How did this action better the lives of others?

The Tribe Approach
The authors offer a strategy for discovering a nested why. This strategy involves inviting an outside facilitator who is known and trusted by members of the “tribe.” A facilitator must be objective and a superior workshop leader.

The authors note that people should work for companies (schools) where they “fit the culture.” If an employee (faculty member) shares the values, believes in the vision, and the shared purpose of the organization, then their individual why will serve the company’s (the school’s) overarching why.

“The opportunity is not to discover the perfect company (school) for ourselves. The opportunity is to build the perfect company for each other” (19). For most of us in education, we will not have the luxury of hand-picking our coworkers. In K-12 schools, principals and colleagues will come and go.

But if we have a strong school culture with a shared purpose, we will help our new colleagues nest their whys into our learning community. They will choose to join our faculty because they share our values and seek to further their own why alongside us. I believe school librarian leaders have an essential role to play in discovering, developing, and sustaining (collaborative) school cultures.

Using Hows to Achieve Our Best Work
Sharing core values makes colleagues part of a team. Expressing those values in terms of how we achieve our values helps our teams consistently do our best work. “Hows” can help us become a “tribe.” For example, as a school culture, we may value “collaboration,” but why and how we act on that value is equally important.

Rather than a “Collaborate!” sign in our faculty lounge, we might want to post: “We coteach with one another in order to meet the needs of future-ready students while we continually improve our own instructional expertise.”

Now that’s a culture where my personal why will fit comfortably, and I will be able to contribute to the purpose of such a school. It is also a culture that is focused on growth. “If every member of a team doesn’t grow together they will grow apart” (195).

As the AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries motto, Think, Create, Share, Grow, suggests, school librarians will accomplish our whys and create joyful, sharing learning communities when we grow together alongside our colleagues, administrators, students, and families.

Work Cited

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

Leadership Shapes the Shore

My husband and I just returned from a two-week visit to England. During our trip, I took an almost complete technology-free sabbatical, answering only the most pressing email and not engaging with social media at all. My goal was to take a break from thinking about my book revisions (the result of the title change and plans to include the new AASL national standards) and my place in the great scheme of school librarianship. I wanted to know if other thoughts would occupy my mind.

Still, I seemed to find messages in the scenery that spoke to me about our profession. (I guess I have found my true “why”! Okay, so I didn’t give up reading on the trip. Read my take-aways from Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why in next week’s post.)

After we hiked the Jurassic Coast from the Chesil Beach in West Dorset (just one of the four gloriously sunny days we enjoyed during our travels), we drove to the seaside town of Seaton in East Devon.

This photograph shows one of two metal sculptures that demarcate the entrance to the boardwalk.

“The shore shapes the waves.”

A photograph of the other sculpture is below.

At first, these two complementary ideas spoke to me about how school librarians must respond to and interact with “the shore,” the ever-changing environment in which we live and work. Our actions within this environment are “the waves.”

There are positive aspects to being mindful of our school, district, state, and national trends and priorities. When we situate our work within those larger contexts, we align the library program with other people’s goals and may be able to reach our capacity to influence teaching and learning toward a future-ready direction.

This may be especially true for future ready librarians who are serving in school districts that have taken the Future Ready Pledge. A commitment to change, growth, and improvement in instruction presents leadership opportunities for these librarians. The waves they make land on a hospitable shore – an environment and school culture where they have support for enacting future-ready learning.

On the other hand, for far too many of school librarians, “the shore” can act as an impediment to such progress. Understaffing, fixed schedules that prevent school librarians and library resources from meeting the just-in-time learning needs of students and colleagues, the lack of collaborative planning time during contract hours, inconsistent or non-existent leadership at the district level, and more can create an undertow that limits our opportunities to make positive change. Such a shore can undermine our opportunities to change, grow, and lead.

“The waves shape the shore.”

To my mind, for most of us, this idea is a stronger metaphor for future-ready school librarian leadership. Rather than being at the effect of our environment, school librarians must be proactive in building a continuous learning environment and culture in our schools.

Through our work as leaders we must shape the shore. We must design library programs and guide our schools and districts as well as our state and national associations in shaping learning environments that “work for” students and educators.

Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows are engaged in the first of four leadership courses. In the current course, participants “identify an issue in their school or program that is important to their school, district, or state’s priorities, examining and planning practical and tangible ways the school library program can help address the issue. They will identify new ways of thinking about their library programs and how they can lead in change efforts at the building-, district-, and state-levels.”

This requires transformational change—not merely tinkering but targeting our “waves” to shape “the shore.” Our future leans more toward this message. We must use the force of our unique areas of expertise, our waves, to collaboratively create a receptive shore for change. This requires us to build connections between the library and the classroom, between curriculum and resources/tools, between and among educators, between school, home, and community.

School librarians must be proactive in offering ever more relevant, engaging school-based learning opportunities for future-ready students and in supporting the teaching and professional growth of our future-ready colleagues and administrators.

Image Credit:
Photographs from Judi Moreillon’s Personal Collection

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/.

Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read (and re-read!) many professional books. This is the tenth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your professional reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

I read Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari’s book Guided Inquiry Design®: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School when it was first published in 2012. In 2012-2013, I was part of the Denton Inquiry for Lifelong Learning Project. We conducted a year-long study centered on this book. Our goal for the study was to increase the understanding and practice of inquiry learning among the various stakeholders in the Denton literacy community. Our collaborators included school librarians from Denton Independent School District, the Denton Public Library, the university libraries and graduate library schools of Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas.

There are eight phases in the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Process: open, immerse, explore, identify, gather, create, share, and evaluate (2). Reflection and assessment are embedded throughout the process as a way for students and educators to monitor learning and ensure success.

The GID is intended to be co-facilitated by an inquiry team that includes two or more educators, including a classroom teacher or specialist and the school librarian. Throughout the phases, educators have shared responsibilities for designing learning experiences and collaborating with students to make school-based learning authentic, personally meaningful, and relevant to students’ lives. Educators also share responsibility for monitoring student progress and assessing student learning outcomes.

In co-facilitating inquiry learning, educators can practice and students can experience the creativity that comes from “two (or more) heads are better than one.” In addition to integrating the rich resources of the school library into inquiry learning, educators have expanded opportunities to launch the open phase creatively. With two or more educators facilitating student engagement with resources and identifying questions, students and inquiry groups will receive more personalized feedback throughout the process. With two or more educators monitoring student learning and providing interventions as needed, student success will be more assured.

Educators will also benefit personally by lowering the stress of guiding “messy” inquiry learning. They will practice reciprocal mentorship throughout the process and have the opportunity to improve their own teaching practices. They will have someone to share the joys and challenges and celebrate students’ success.

The GID clearly aligns with privileging the instructional partner role of the school librarian, my raison d’être!

How does inquiry learning align with your state standards? Although the term “research” rather than “inquiry” is used, one benefit Texas educators have is that the English Language Arts and Reading standards specifically include learning standards that align well with the phases of the GID. These include students developing open-ended questions, a “research plan,” revising research questions, applying information literacy skills (authority, reliability, validity, bias), resolving discrepancies in information, presenting their learning, and more.

When classroom teachers and school librarians coplan and coteach inquiry learning, educators can seamlessly and authentically integrate content-area, digital, and information literacies, competencies such as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), and dispositions, such as persistence and flexibility, into students’ learning experiences.

If you do not yet guide inquiry learning in your school, please read this book. Check out the model lesson plans offered at the end of each chapter focused on each phase of the GID.

If you have been teaching another inquiry or research process, compare it to the GID. I believe you will find that the GID offers you, your colleagues, and your students with a framework for guiding future-ready learning in your school.

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. (Or the 2nd edition published in 2015)

For Further Reading

Guided Inquiry Design. http://guidedinquirydesign.com

Guided Inquiry Design Blog. http://52guidedinquiry.edublogs.org

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2015.

Start with Why, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources
EveryLibrary.org. Newsletter Subscription.

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

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

 

 

 

 

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 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.