Next Steps

Dear Maximizing School Librarianship Readers and Blog Post Followers,

We/I have come to the conclusion of a ten-month cycle of book study blog posts to support my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) (ALA 2018). When I wrote the book, composing posts and podcasts related to each chapter in the book was a commitment I made to myself and to readers. I planned for blog posts by interspersing four pull quotes in each chapter. After the introductory posts, I have based each blog post on a pull quote. The content of the podcasts evolved beyond my own recordings to include interviews with selected school librarian leaders.

This photograph was taken at a California beach in May, 2019. The smaller footprints belong to my grandson who was fifteen months old at the time. The larger footprints belong to his dad, my son-in-law. This image came to me when I was walking with them on the beach and thinking about this final MSLL blog post. I knew I wanted to address “next steps” but it wasn’t until I saw their footprints that I realized how I could so.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Small First Steps
It has often been said that change agents should start small; that the best strategy to sustain long-term improvements is to take measured steps. When you come to the realization that it is time for you and the library program to move forward in a new direction, you are ready to begin a change process. Aligning your steps with the goals of your administrator, school, or district is the most effective way to make sure that your “library” goals will help others succeed. Remembering the charge to serve others serves school librarians well.

Having a plan helps you chart and measure your progress. Developing your plan with school library stakeholders is a wise choice. As a team, you may take two steps forward and one step back, but if you keep your goals in mind, you will always be able to see your reality in terms of forward progress (see Chapter 9: Figure 9.3: Your Plan and Reality.) When missteps and reversals happen, having a supportive team can give you encouragement and ideas for taking a new step and moving forward again.

Each step you take—with purpose—is one that leads to your goal. Your goal may be related to students’ or classroom teachers’ equitable access to the resources of the library and your expertise. Your goal may be a flexible schedule that offers students opportunities for deeper learning through the library program. Your goal may be increasing access to and the effective use of technology tools for learning and teaching. It may involve informal or formal professional development, or grant writing, or an advocacy campaign. Whatever your goal, each step along the way can get you closer to your desired outcome.

“Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap;
you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Crossing Chasms
Great leaps are possible. These steps require courage; they also require a community of support. Large-scale change in any school should be led or colead with the school principal. Again, aligning “great leaps” with initiatives underway at the site or district level gives “library initiatives” a leg up.

One leap that many elementary librarians have taken involves scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows for school librarians to reach their capacity as leaders, instructional partners, information specialists, and teachers. A flexible schedule based on classroom-library collaboration for instruction makes deeper learning for students possible. It also helps school librarians measure and document their impact on student learning outcomes. Without this evidence, school librarians’ value may not be recognized.

One leap that secondary librarians have taken involves classroom-library collaboration for instruction; it involves coteaching with classroom teachers in more than one subject-area department. Classroom teachers and school librarians plan for learning from an interdisciplinary perspective. “Each disciplinary perspective contributes specific concepts or findings as well as specific modes of thinking to shed light on a particular problem” (Wineburg and Grossman 2000, 27). This type of learning design mirrors they way people work and live outside of school (see also Chapter 5: Figure 5.1: Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questioning Matrix).

The “size” of your steps forward may be irrelevant. Their impact on teaching and learning depends on the culture and goals of the community you serve. Only you, along with library stakeholders, can decide if a step is a small one or a big one. Plan, take action, reflect, revise, and repeat in order to bring your vision into reality.

Advocacy and the School Librarian Leadership Blog
Each school librarian is the representative of the profession for the students, educators, administrators, families, and community members they serve. In your daily practice, you show others why a state-certified school librarian is an essential member of every school faculty. With your expertise and extensive literacies toolkit, you have the opportunity to fill a niche that would otherwise be lacking to the detriment of students, colleagues, and families.

The blog posts I have authored and the podcasts I have published to support a year-long book study are available and linked from the menu at the top of School Librarian Leadership. com. These resources will be available for future MSLL book readers. In many ways, for me, this feels like the end of an extra long teaching semester.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University, I often pulled out and posted this quote at the end of each semester. (It is one that I had hanging in our library office when I was a practicing school librarian.)

“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

In your role as a school librarian leader, I know you will build bridges/connections for learning with the students, colleagues, and families you serve. I know you will reach out into the wider community of librarians and library stakeholders to move our profession forward. The school librarian profession is in good hands with professionals such as you who are continuously developing their craft, deepening their knowledge, and growing their leadership.

I invite you to use the MSLL book study posts and podcasts in any way that supports your work. I also invite you to continue following this blog. My posts from June 10th on will be aligned with the courses I’m teaching, research, events, and issues related to effective professional school librarian leadership.

Thank you for reading and listening and most of all, for leading.

Work Cited

Wineburg, Sam, and Pam Grossman. Eds. 2000. Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Challenges to Implementation. New York: Teachers College Press.

Advocate for What Students Need to Succeed

While it is all educators’ responsibility to advocate for what students need to succeed in their futures, school librarians can use their leadership and instructional partner roles to advocate for authentic, relevant, and challenging curricula. They can colead and advocate for initiatives that result in transforming teaching and learning.

School librarians’ overarching goal is to prepare students for lifelong learning. It could be said that preK-12 educators have always prepared the next generation for their lives after high school. But the speed of technological and other change in today’s society make it more difficult to predict those needs. Education organizations have suggested various skills and competencies for educators to consider as they guide future ready students’ learning. (Competencies are applied skills; all of the standards cited in this post are intended to be applied in authentic learning experiences.)

Among those skills are the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity), the International Society for Technology in Education’s Student Standards, NextGen Science Standards, National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, and more including the National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018).

In Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, I draw connections between leadership and advocacy. Both are essential behaviors of school librarians if we are indeed positioning our work at the forefront of innovation, change, and reform in education.

Leadership
“Leaders maintain an understanding of what the mission and goals of an organization are and how these can be fulfilled” (Riggs 2001). Leaders inspire and influence the thinking and behaviors of others. From the global view provided by the library—the largest classroom in the school—school librarians are stewards of the widest range and variety of resources. Their job is to develop a collection of resources that meet the needs of the learning community.

In their daily work, school librarians connect books and other resources with students in order to help them develop as strategic readers, who enjoy and choose to read for pleasure. Strategic readers use comprehension strategies to think critically, to understand an author’s purpose, separate fact from fiction, news from propaganda. They also ask probing questions, seek credible answers, and develop new knowledge that helps them make sense of the world.

School librarians connect books and other resources to the curriculum by working with classroom teachers and specialists. They help other educators extend student learning beyond the textbook and offer resources on curricular topics at multiple reading proficiency levels to help all students build their reading skills. School librarians advocate for learning experiences that give students voice and choice and set them on the path of lifelong learning.

School librarians are on the constant lookout for resources that will spark students’ curiosity while supporting classroom teachers’ required student learning objectives. In many schools, school librarians are stewards of the most up-to-date technology tools and have expertise in marshaling the power of technology to improve student learning. They have expertise with digital information, including databases. They teach digital citizenship and help students understand the implications of the digital footprint they are creating today and how it may affect their futures.

Advocacy
“Collaborating school librarians have the potential to influence teaching and learning for every classroom teacher and every student in their building. To embrace a leadership role is an opportunity to co-create a collaborative school culture of learning that truly transforms education” (Moreillon 2019). Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning alongside classroom teacher colleagues, school librarians have the opportunity to advocate for effective instruction, relevant learning tasks, and meaningful inquiry-based learning experiences that improve student learning outcomes. This work supports administrators’ goals for their schools and their district.

“Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to: Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Defend and safeguard their rights. Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives” (SAEP n.d.). When school librarians advocate for future ready students, they are advocating for students’ voices and agency, their rights, and their empowerment to pursue learning that will make a long-term impact on their readiness for college, career, and community life.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. In your way of thinking, how are leadership and advocacy linked?
  2. Describe how your passion for school librarianship, your role as a school librarian, and the role of the library in future ready learning has led you to advocating for future ready students.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online: https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

Riggs, Donald E. 2001. “The Crisis and Opportunities in Library Leadership.” Journal of Library Administration 32 (3/4): 5-17.

seAp.org. “What Is Advocacy?” https://www.seap.org.uk/im-looking-for-help-or-support/what-is-advocacy.html

 

 

 

 

 

#AASL, #ESSA, and #NEAToday’s Report

On Saturday, February 25th, #AASL executive director Sylvia Norton presented an #ESSA workshop for members of the Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA). AASL offers a strong collection of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) resources for all concerned school librarian/library advocates.

At the meeting, TLD was able to report that Arizona’s ESSA Plan, which was submitted for federal approval in January, mentions school librarians twice. School libraries are not mentioned at all in the plan. See below.

As noted in my January 30th post “Advocacy and Collaboration Support ESSA,” AzLA’s Legislative Committee and Leadership helped support TLD’s advocacy effort.

In Arizona, our challenge going forward is how to encourage school districts to include school librarians and libraries in their ESSA plans and grant proposals. As clearly demonstrated in the recent National Education Association’s (NEA) report “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report” school librarianship is in desperate straits in Arizona.

These are just a few alarming Arizona data points from the NEA study report. “Those states reporting the fewest percentages of schools with library/media centers are Arizona, Massachusetts, and Alaska, (79.6%, 77.3% and 74.5%, respectively)” (19). “States reporting the fewest [school librarians] are California and Arizona (54.5% and 64.1%, respectively)” (40).

For at least a decade, educators in Arizona have only been required to pass a test in order to become state-certified school librarians. According to the NEA report, 24.5% of practicing Arizona school librarians have earned M.L.S. degrees compared with 51.85% at the national level. And I suspect that many M.L.S. school librarians are on the verge of retiring. (An M.L.S. was required in Arizona when I started my graduate program in 1990.) In districts across this state, there are minimal salary incentives, if any, to earn a Master’s degree.

With so few professional school librarians in practice, no incentives to be fully prepared for the role, and no school librarianship course work offered at a reasonable tuition in the state, it is difficult to image how Arizona school librarian/library advocates can capitalize on the ESSA opportunity. Still, for some Arizona school districts that fund (at least) half-time librarians in every school, support may be within reach via grant funds for school librarian professional development or finessing the reinstatement of full-time positions (!). Then the question will be from where will these professionals come and how will they be prepared to serve?

The view from the Grand Canyon state may be bleak but thankfully, there are bright spots on the national level that offer encouragement for the future of our profession. In Pennsylvania and Nevada, there are efforts to require full-time, state-certified school librarians in every public school.

If you have an ESSA update to share, please do so by adding a comment to this post.

Arizona’s ESSA Plan
“Section 5.2: Support for Educators
A. Resources to Support State-level Strategies. Describe how the SEA will use Title II, Part A
Improve quality and effectiveness: The Arizona Department of Education continues to support, leveraging Title II-A funds, many initiatives and projects to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers and principals including, but not limited to:…
School librarians to share professional learning for colleagues and disseminating the benefits of new techniques, strategies and technologies” (41).

“Section 6: Supporting All Students
6.1 Well-Rounded and Supportive Education for Students
When addressing the State’s strategies below, each SEA must describe how it will use Title IV, Part A funds and funds from other included programs, consistent with allowable uses of fund provided under those programs, to support State-level strategies and LEA use of funds…
B. The State’s strategies and how it will support LEAs to provide equitable access to a well-rounded education and rigorous coursework in subjects in which female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, or low-income students are underrepresented. Such subjects could include English, reading/language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, or physical education.

LEA curriculum and instruction, as required by Arizona Revised Statutes §15-701, will be aligned to challenging academic standards. Through alignment to Arizona standards, all Arizona students will be provided equal access to a challenging, well-rounded instructional experience. Struggling learners will be addressed through intervention strategies while advanced learners receive acceleration and enrichment based on individual student needs. Gifted learners will receive appropriate gifted education services and support in accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes § 15-779, 15-779.01 and 15-779.02. In addition, school librarians support rigorous personalized learning experiences supported by technology and ensure equitable access to resources for all students” (50).

Works Cited

Arizona Department of Education. “ESSA State Plan Final Draft – Federal Submission,Azed.gov, https://cms.azed.gov/home/GetDocumentFile?id=58780e64aadebe183c5d5dc9. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Tuck, Kathy, D. and Dwight R. Holmes. “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report, 2016,” NEA.org, http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/Trends%20in%20School%20Library%20Media%20Centers%20Full%20Report.pdf. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Image credit: Pennywise. “HandReach,” Morguefile.com, http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/156694. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

 

 

Summer Reading…

creative_educationSummer is for reading—not just for students but for teachers and librarians, too! This month, the BACC co-bloggers will be sharing our summer reading—pleasure reading, reading with curriculum connections, and reading for professional development.

To update and hone my knowledge of current publications in the field of education, I have been reading a number of thought leaders’ most recent titles. In his latest book coauthored with Lou Aronica, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, Sir Ken Robinson continues to advocate for teaching (and modeling) behaviors and dispositions that inspire and support youth in developing their curiosity and exercising their imaginations.

“Every school is a living community of people with unique relationships, biographies, and responsibilities. Each school has its own ‘feel,’ its rituals and routines, its own cast of personalities, its own myths, stories, in-jokes, and codes of behavior, and its many subcultures of friends and factions. Schools are not sanctuaries that are set apart from the turmoil of everyday life. A vibrant school can nourish an entire community by becomes a source of hope and creative energy” (Robinson and Aronica 2015, 63-64).

The theme of schools as communities of learners is a strand throughout Robinson’s work. I had the pleasure of attending his talk at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference in 2012. One of his quotes that I have kept in mind since then is this: “Being a creative teacher doesn’t mean you do all the work. It means you recognize we all teach each other.” He meant educators (and experts in the field/parents/and community members) teaching each other as well as students teaching students.

Yesterday at the ALA Annual Conference, the Educators of School Librarians Section (ESLS) and the (School Library) Supervisors Section (SPVS) had a productive joint meeting. We discussed how to identify and mentor future librarians who will possess and/or develop the skills and qualities needed to serve the needs of today’s students and teachers. ESLS’s members on the panel shared what their universities are doing to recruit the best candidates to fill the many vacancies in school libraries in their states. We will continue the conversation about how we can attract the best possible candidates to our profession.

In the context of Robinson’s book, I hope we can attract more and more school librarians who can co-lead the kind of transformation he describes. We need creative, resourceful, flexible educators in libraries and in classrooms who can collaborate with the adults and students in the learning community to transform teaching and learning.

If you haven’t viewed it, I highly recommend Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: “Do schools kill creativity?” With almost 34 million views, his talk is the most often viewed of all the TED videos to date. (Summer viewing is important, too!)

On Thursday, I will share a bit about Professional Capital, the new book by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan.

Work Cited

Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. New York: Viking, 2015. Print.

Models for PL and CBE in Practice

Reaching for SuccessA View from Northern New England

Right now, I am posting from Old England (London) where I am visiting family and trying to find spring flowers and green grass. I have deserted New England, which is still waiting for snow to melt and to turn the mud into something that indicates that spring has arrived-and not just on the calendar.

Last week I explored the changes that are on the horizon in school systems across the nation, and this week I will share some of what’s happening in Northern New England with a different take on collaboration.

New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont are in various stages of implementing competency based education policies that have been adopted recently. New Hampshire (2005) has led the way, Maine (2012) is close behind, and Vermont (2013) is catching up. What these states have in common, besides snow and ornery natures, is a reverence for self-determination.

Competency based education has been defined at the state level (a bit differently within each state), but the framework for implementation is being developed at the district and school level. Instead of top down, it is happening bottom up. The state education agencies are providing resources to help districts develop implementation plans. The three states are collaborating to explore best practices and to provide professional development so that educators can learn from one another. The progress is faster in some places than others, but there are shining examples for possibilities to improve educational experiences for now and next gen students. The League of Innovative Schools is one of the opportunities for professional development across the region.

Find out more here: “Innovative Schools turning Around Lives in New England,” http://www.centralmaine.com/2013/05/20/innovative-schools-turning-lives-around_2013-05-21/

If you are interested, here are a few snapshots of what’s happening around the northern NE states

New Hampshire: PACE-Performance Assessment of Competency Education

Maine: Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan to Put Education First

Vermont: Act 77: Flexible Pathways

One School’s Journey

Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School (Mt. Abe) in Bristol, Vermont has been headed down the personalization path for the past ten years.  In order to keep high school students in school and to make learning relevant for those who were at risk of dropping out, educators developed a program, “Personal Pathways to Graduation.”  It has been one of the choices that high school students can make as an alternative to the traditional course based track for graduation. Other high schools have developed similar models to meet the varied goals and needs of diverse students.

In the personalized learning program, students set goals and makes plans that are meaningful for their future. They take selected regular academic classes combined with apprenticeship opportunities. Some may take online courses or enroll in college classes, and go to other schools for classes.  There are about 23 full time students in the program and up to 50-70 others, who cycle in and out part time.  Two full time coaches lead participants and keep them on track in school, and also in outside school learning experiences.

Now, with the Act 77 timeline, all 7-12 schools in Vermont should have a system in place by 2017 that reflects the Flexible Pathways Initiative. The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (home of Mt. Abe) is in the process of formulating plans, and providing professional development for educators that is modeled on the personal pathways program success.

Mt. Abe has an innovation team that has been offering professional development and training in personalized learning pedagogies for district educators,  and has been helping set up record keeping systems and portfolios for students and teachers to coordinate progress. Students move toward mastery of knowledge and skills within areas of competency, rather than to take a course and get a grade.   The personal pathways program is now a model for changing the traditional path to graduation that incorporates personalized learning opportunities for all students. It is a paradigm shift that will not happen overnight, so there is ongoing support for teachers to adopt and adapt.

Lauren Parren, the Innovation Coach for the school district, heads up the Instructional Coaching Services Team. The team includes other content specialists and consultants, and is located in a flexible learning space within the school learning commons area. The team works one on one or with small groups of teachers and students, or can embed in the classroom to encourage and model best practices in personalized learning. They have a very busy schedule.

Laura Mina, the high school library media specialist, is one of the team consultants. Her role is central to the work of the team, as the expert on information services.  She has been renovating the library learning space for the past few years, and has a powerful virtual library that uses LibGuides as an organizational tool.  https://sites.google.com/a/mtabevt.org/library/

Laura has compiled various resources and pathfinders for both teachers and students who are involved in creating personalized learning plans or developing curriculum. She is available for just in time teaching and learning, or for more formal classes, workshops, or other training opportunities.

If you would like to learn more about the progress for personal pathways at Mt. Abe, follow Lauren’s blog or join her, Barbara Bray, John Parker, Jon Tanner, Kathleen McClaskey, and Pat Lusher who will be speaking at the ISTE Conference on June 29 and July, 2015.

Off to do some sightseeing-Cheerio!

Image: Microsoft Clipart

 

On the Horizon

ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU

This month, Judi and Lucy have highlighted some ways that school libraries and teacher librarians have continued to provide resources and instruction that support the variability of all learners in a diverse school community. At the heart of our mission is the concept of equitable access to information and the freedom to read a range of literature in many formats. Another part of the vision for library service is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for active learning for contemporary learners to “Think-Create-Share and Grow.”

On a personal level, teacher librarians get to know learners’ individual reading tastes, interests, strengths, and challenges in a setting other than the classroom. Often, we have a longer view of student growth over time because the school library space is a constant from year to year. We develop relationships with students that extend through their time in elementary, middle, or high school as we see their talents and personalities evolve. I always found that to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

As Lucy has said, “to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly update our skills and keep up with the movements and trends affecting our practice.” Now there is a new/old opportunity on the horizon for teacher librarians in the emerging field of personalized learning, and we should be ready to collaborate with our teaching colleagues in a shift from teacher centered learning to student centered learning that has the potential to change teaching practice now and in the future.

Emerging technologies and new pedagogies focused on learners and learning have already brought about tremendous change in the traditional classroom, and there is more to come.

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is a term that is used to describe many approaches to customizing instruction in the field of education. The term is used in multiple ways to describe an approach to learning that gives students voice and choice in their own learning. When learning is personalized, teachers help students set goals based on their interests, knowledge, and skills. As “guides on the side,” teachers help them to develop learning plans to achieve the goals, and monitor progress. The objective is for students to master competencies and demonstrate evidence of learning through performance. Self-assessment and reflection are integral to student success in mastering learning. Gradually, students will be able to take responsibility for their own learning and chart their own pathways for the future.

Personalization of learning, personal learning plans, and performance portfolios will impact the way that students will be using classroom and library learning spaces, and how teachers and teacher librarians interact with students. Students will be trained to set personal goals, and to develop a system for designing what, why, and how they learn.  Teachers will become coaches, and provide instruction as needed, and how this will impact the traditional way that schools and curricula are designed is in transition.

Why should teacher librarians be at the PL table?

When you look at Standards for 21st Century Learners (AASL 2007), the dispositions and competencies in the document align with concepts for personalized learning. These are the standards that teacher librarians use to guide their daily practice in designing learning for students. Along with Common Core State Standards, or other state standards as frameworks to guide curriculum, teacher librarians collaborate with colleagues to create meaningful and engaging performance tasks that provide authentic learning opportunities. Teacher librarians are already in the business of partnering with students in their inquiry, problem, project, and place-based learning assignments, so personalized learning is an extension of their professional practice.

Across the nation, there are 41 states and the District of Columbia that are in various stages of exploring, developing, or implementing competency based education policies that are driven by personalized learning for students. The state legislation or education rules already in effect or being proposed provide “flexible pathways” for determining graduation requirements from high school. Instead of using the Carnegie Unit (time), there can be alternative ways to evaluate performance through mastery of competencies, and local school districts are charged with developing systems for tracking individual performance, and mastery. This is a major paradigm shift in educational delivery models, as well as a change in school culture. There is lot to talk about, and teacher librarians should be part of the conversation, too.

How can I learn more about personalized learning?

There are journals, websites, and professional texts that are excellent resources for gaining understanding about the concepts and challenges for shifting the way we approach teaching and learning for our increasingly diverse learners in an age of information and ubiquitous technology.

Here some recommendations that you can share with your colleagues to get the discussion rolling:

  •  Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Make Learning Personal. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2015. Website: http://www.personalizelearning.com/
  • John H. Clarke. Personalized Learning: Student-Designed Pathways to High School Graduation. Thousand Oaks, CA: 2013.
  •  Allison Zmuda, Greg Curtis, and Diane Ullman. Learning Personalized-The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2015.
  • Competency Works website:
  1.  State Policy Resources http://competencyworks.pbworks.com/w/page/67261821/State%20Policy%20Resources
  2. A Snapshot of Competency Education Policy Across the United States http://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/inacol_competency_snapshot_oct_2013.pdf

It’s time to get personal!

 Next week-A look at models for PL in practice.

Image:

http://www.birdclipart.com/bird_clipart_images/ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU.jpg

 

Setting the Bar: Reflections on Why I Teach

kid_jump_cropI set the bar high for myself and for the graduate student candidates I teach because the stakes are so high for our preK-12 students and teachers. As educators we understand that all children deserve a first-class education—an opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve the most they can in order to live healthy, productive, and satisfying lives. Classroom teachers and specialists also deserve a coteacher with whom to navigate the ever-changing requirements for their work and ever-increasing needs of our shared students. The school librarian can be that educator—that coteacher.

Last week, I attended the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Conference. This year’s theme was: “Mirrors and Windows: Reflecting on Social Justice and Re-Imagining Library Science Education.” The term “social justice” is related to the fair distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in a society. People who enact the principles of social justice work to ensure that all individuals have opportunities to contribute to society and receive the full benefits of societal membership.

Social justice is a thread that is woven into the professional values of librarians. Concepts such as “equal access,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” are central tenets of librarianship. School librarians have the opportunity and responsibility to help educate ALL young people, particularly those who are members of social, cultural, and racial subgroups.

Teaching for social justice reflects an essential purpose of teaching in a democratic society and involves advocacy for social change (Sleeter and Grant). With an ever-increasing number of children and youth living in poverty, without healthcare, and/or who are homeless, the need for activism to address inequities is also ever-increasing. Literacy education and access to information are pathways for underserved young people and families to improve their life circumstances.

I believe that all educators, and school librarians in particular, who understand the power of literacy and knowledge can become activists who have a calling to work toward removing societal barriers and inequities. That is why I set the bar high for myself and for the graduate students I teach. Together, with passion, compassion, knowledge, and understanding, we can advance equality and democracy and help our nation’s youth empower themselves through literacy.

Works Cited
DeduloPhotos. “DSC_0042.JPG.” Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 02 February 2015. <http://mrg.bz/ziIMjB>.

Sleeter, Christine. E., and Carl A. Grant. Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Competition or Collaboration?

DSC02287

The recurring question in American education for the past 20 years has focused on how to improve learning outcomes for students.  The drumbeat of reform has been especially loud since NCLB (2001), the adoption of Common Core State Standards (2009), and the Race to the Top initiatives (2009).  In contrast to the competitive nature of these “reforms” that are determined through high stakes testing and punitive measures, ongoing educational research continues to document the impact of collaborative cultures that promote teaching and learning for student success in schools.

Educators in the field, and aspiring pre-service teachers should take heart from the evidence that shows that community and collaboration are key factors in student achievement.  Competition affords a false equivalency in education, and increases potential for failure for schools and students.

In this blog, we are committed to demonstrate how building collaborative cultures can be accomplished at the individual, local, district, state, and national level.  There are many challenges to impede progress, but we must continue to find the silver linings, and act on them!

I’d like to share two items (of the many) I read recently, about the benefit of collaborative cultures that are in the best interests of our wonderful students and talented educators.  Teachers know that working together is smarter and that students also need opportunities to learn collaboration skills for real life success.

Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommen Professor of Education at Stanford University and the Faculty Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education recently described the results of the 2013 TALIS  survey (Teaching and Learning International Survey) which was conducted by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in schools throughout the world.  The focus of that survey was on teaching and learning, not on test scores of students.

In a June 30, 2014 Huffington Post article, “To Close the Achievement Gap, We need to Close the Teaching Gap,” she provided some insightful conclusions about the state of American education, from the perspective of teachers and how they are supported in their professional roles.  This should be required reading for educational policy makers and administrative leaders.    Among the results is the fact that in the United States, teachers work longer hours, and have less opportunity for feedback and collaboration with peers.  High performing countries on the PISA test use teacher collaboration as an indicator that leads to student success.  The equitable distribution of resources for education in other developed nations is another indicator for student success.   Disadvantaged students in the U.S. have fewer resources than comparable developed nations, particularly in large urban systems and other areas of poverty.  Read the post for her suggestions, and think about how we can use the results from this survey to raise awareness of inequitable educational policies in our own state and districts.  Here’s an opportunity for school librarians to stand with colleagues and community members to refocus the discussion about teaching and learning, and how to measure performance.

Justin Minkel, a second/third grade teacher in Arkansas pens a blog, Teaching for Triumph, and he was invited to lunch with three other teachers from high poverty districts to tell President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the challenges that they face in the classroom.  He has posted a report of that meeting, “What We Shared with Obama.”  In it he recalls the salient points that the teachers made about teaching and learning.  One of the key factors for success is the collaborative culture within their schools.  The three other points he also makes get to the heart of the commitment that teachers have for all their students, not just those who are destined for success.  Take time to read his blog and you will be inspired.  Let’s hope that the President and the Secretary were listening, and will think about supporting collaboration, not competition…

 

References:

 

Darling-Hammond, Linda.  “To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap.”  Huffington Post (June 30, 2014). Weblog.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-darlinghammond/to-close-the-achievement_b_5542614.html

Minkel, Justin.  “What We Shared with Obama.”  Teaching for Triumph: Reflections of a 21st Century ELL Teacher(July 10, 2104). Weblog. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_for_triumph/2014/07/what_we_shared_with_obama.html

 

 

 

Image:

Judith Kaplan Collection: Carole Renca and friend-used with permission

Joint Professional Development Works

gid_sizedWhen the school year ended in Denton (Texas) Independent School District (DISD), the Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning Project (DI4LL) sponsored a two and a half day workshop with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, coauthor of Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Your School (Libraries Unlimited 2012). The workshop, which was funded by a grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), was designed for preK-12 DISD school librarians to build on the book study they had conducted. School librarians were asked to invite their classroom teacher or specialist colleagues to participate with them, and most of the librarians who attended came with one or more colleagues. I attended as the DI4LL educational consultant.

Not since the heady Library Power days of the mid-1990s have I been as impressed with professional development that involved school librarians and classroom teachers sitting side by side to learn, to identify and solve curricular challenges, and plan inquiry learning lessons and units for student success. As a professional developer, I always ask if classroom teachers are free to attend the workshops I provide for school librarians. And the answer is always the same. The teachers are in the classroom or engaged in some of type of professional development at the time of the workshop so the school librarians are meeting separately. These are missed opportunities.

The DI4LL Inquiry Design Workshop is a testimony to why joint professional development should be the rule rather than the exception. Thanks to Dr. Maniotes and her workshop design that included blocks of time for teams to talk and collaboratively plan, all of the classroom teacher-school librarian teams left the workshop with plans for teaching standards-based inquiry lessons or units of instruction.

Building relationships and instructional partnerships during professional development activities can support educators in enacting their professional development learning in their daily practice. In fact, it almost guarantees it. With shared undersandings, vocabulary, instructional goals, learning objectives for students, and teaching strategies, educators can more easily enact their learning with a colleague who will coteach with them.

Professional development that supports coteaching works. It creates opportunities for school librarians to positively impact student learning alongside classroom teachers. There is no better way for the skills and expertise of two or more educators to improve educators’ teaching and students’ learning.

Congratulations to the DISD classroom teacher/specialist and school librarian teams and to Dr. Maniotes for facilitating their outstanding collaborative work. Thank you also to TSLAC for funding this joint classroom teacher-school librarian professional development opportunity.

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Maniotes, Leslie, and Caspari, Ann. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2012.

Equal Access to Professional Development

Growing_SchoolsJust as students deserve equal access to information resources and the services of a professional school librarian, classroom teachers also benefit from working with a professional school librarian. In “How some California schools are overcoming school librarian shortages” written for EdSource: Highlighting Strategies for Student Success  (spotlighted in the previous post), reporter Lillian Mongeau quoted Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy 3rd-grade teacher Laura Todorow: “I feel a school librarian is a non-negotiable necessity in any school.”

School librarians align the library collection with curricula and provide engaging books and electronic resources that support teachers’ teaching. They coplan and coimplement instruction to integrate literature and information into the classroom curriculum. Along with classroom teachers, they model and promote the behaviors of lifelong learning.

The National Education Association image “collaboration is everything” is spot on. When classroom teachers and school librarians coplan and coteach, they provide job-embedded professional development for one another. Teaching together in real time with real students, curriculum, resources, supports, and constraint helps educators become more proficient at their craft. Having a peer to bounce ideas off of and problem solve with is a growth opportunity that every educator should experience.

However, in schools without professional school librarians, classroom teachers, principals, and students may be unaware of what they are lacking. For educators who have not experienced the job-embedded professional development benefits provided by collaborating school librarians, I highly recommend Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers (Abilock, Fontichiaro, and Harada 2012). Chapters in this book written by library practitioners and researchers alike highlight some of the many ways school librarians contribute to school improvement efforts.

School librarians can help the school learning community reach capacity. Through providing on-site professional development through coteaching, one-on-one faculty mentoring, and ongoing faculty workshops, school librarians are positioned as leaders who can assist principals in achieving their school improvement initiatives and reaching their academic goals for their schools.

All educators improve their instructional practices through working side by side with colleagues. On-site, job-embedded professional development is a win-win-win-win model for students, teachers, librarians/specialists, and administrators.

All educators deserve this kind of support for their own professional development. With so much pressure on teachers to improve student achievement, having real-time access to professional learning with a school librarian is a social justice issue for educators as well as for students. As Dr. Lankes states, “The greatest asset any library has is a librarian” (29). A professional, 21st-century, collaborating school librarian should be a non-negotiable necessity for every school.

Works Cited

Abilock, Debbie, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet H. Harada. Eds. Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. Print.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.

Mongeau, Lillian. “How some California schools are overcoming school librarian shortages.” EdSource: Highlighting Strategies for Student Success. 26 May 2014. Web.  2 June 2014. <http://tinyurl.com/CA-lib-staffing>.