On the Horizon

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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?

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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>.

 

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>.

 

Collective Capacity

SONY DSCThis fall, I have been doing a great deal of reading about the concept of distributed leadership. The Distributed Leadership Study led by Jim Spillane at Northwestern University’s School of Education & Social Policy Web site has a wealth of resources and information to explore this topic.

In my experience serving in two different states, four different school districts, and seven different schools, I have worked with several principals who have practiced this model. As an educator in these schools (in these cases as a school librarian), I knew that my work “counted.” I was empowered to take risks, make a difference, learn, and contribute to the good of the whole.

Michael Fullan is another scholar and researcher in this area whose work has influenced my thinking. I especially resonate with his idea of “collective capacity” that allows groups of people to accomplish more together than they ever could accomplish working on their own. Fullan says there are two reasons for this. First, “knowledge about effective practice becomes more widely available and accessible on a daily basis” and secondly, “working together generates commitment” (Fullan, 2010, p. 72). I believe this is the promise and the potential of building a culture of collaboration—spreading effective practices and fostering commitment to the success of the enterprise.

Let the migrating wild geese be our guides. It seems like every few years someone publishes their video version of Dr. Robert McNeish’s 1972 story “Lesson from Geese.” At this time of year when many of us are scrambling around to finish up the semester, it may be especially good to pause and reflect on the many benefits we derive from teamwork.  I enjoyed this “(Updated) Lessons from Geese” version from weeblemeister. Take two minutes. Maybe you will, too.

References

Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole school reform.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2010.

Gabor, Karpati. Geese. Digital Image. Morguefile.com. http://mrg.bz/UJe6zj

Weeblemeister. (2012). (Updated) Lessons from Geese. YouTube.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGY9i8iJu94

 

 

Adult Learners in the Learning Commons

Indian ElephantOne of the resources that I learned about at the 19th Treasure Mountain Research Retreat “The Learner in the Learning Commons” was a video: “Connected Learning: Hands-On, Learner-Focused, Life-Long.” The idea of helping learners learn how to learn, to be flexible and adaptable, to address real-world problems made a strong connection for me with the engagements school librarians and classroom teachers can design with an inquiry learning model.

In the video, members of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub (DML Research Hub) speak eloquently about how educators are asking the wrong question. Rather than asking “what do we want students to learn?” we could/should be asking “what experience do we want students to have?” (Connie Yowell, Director of Education, MacArthur Foundation).

For me, Dr. Yowell’s question is the essential question around which inquiry learning educators/facilitators develop student learning engagements. In an inquiry framework, outcomes are not the “facts” noted in the standards, but the processes that are also indicated in the standards such as developing a research plan, asking meaningful questions, identifying resources, and so on. These transferrable standards encompass the very processes that lead learners to active engagement with the ultimate goal of learning how to learn.

As inquiry guides, educators begin by motivating students and immersing them in content before students pose authentic and personally meaningful questions. Inquiry educators help learners identify resources, including mentors who can support their learning, sift and sort through information, construct and present new knowledge, and reflect on their learning process throughout the experience.

As long as we have a place called “school” with adults called “educators” who guide students’ learning, it’s my opinion that we must address the learning needs of educators. For me, our challenge in education is to take action to improve the practices of the “Adult Learners in the Learning Commons: The Elephant in the Room.” (Hence I published a paper with that title in the Treasure Mountain Research Retreat Proceedings.)

As Dr. Hay notes and I concur, school librarians are perfectly positioned to be facilitators of adult learning (while they themselves improve their own practices in the process). This culture of collaboration is essential for more engaged and meaningful student learning as well as for improving instructional practices and ensuring the sustainability of the school librarian profession.

Note: The DML Research Hub is concerned with an “equitable, participatory, and effective ecosystem of learning keyed to the digital and networked era. We are a collective of researchers, practitioners, and policyshifters analyzing the impact of the Internet and digital media on education, politics, and youth culture. The hub is part of the University of California’s systemwide Humanities Research Institute and is supported by the MacArthur Foundation” (quoted from their Web site).

To stimulate your thinking about the possibilities for education transformation, I recommend all of the videos found on the DML Research Hub Vimeo channel.

References

Askew, Nic. 2012. Connected Learning: Hands-On, Learner-Focused, Life-Long. Vimeo video, Posted by DML Research Hub. https://vimeo.com/37639766

Elephant image accessed from Microsoft Clipart

The iCentre: Australia School Libraries “Learning Commons” Concept

iCentre_iii_cropAt the 19th Treasure Mountain Research Retreat “The Learner in the Learning Commons” held in Hartford, Connecticut last month, keynoter Dr. Lyn Hay presented “An Anatomy of an iCentre.” Dr. Hay who teaches at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia has long held the belief that school libraries must be the information-technology hub of learning and that school librarians must provide curriculum leadership and bring all of the school/library stakeholders together in a collective, collaborative effort to transform teaching and learning. In the digital age, the iCentre model is a path toward sustainability for school libraries. These are my take-aways from Dr. Hay’s talk.

The leadership in the iCentre is shared among the librarian, IT faculty, curriculum coordinators, and more. Together, they have a shared commitment to bringing the technology that people use outside of the school walls and integrate it into school-based learning. Dr. Hay calls this “digital normalization.” (See The School Evolutionary Stages: The Concept of Global School Evolution blog.)

“The form the school library takes reflects the function” (Hay). Dr. Hay described the three “i’s” in the iCentre: information, immersion, and innovation. In the physical and virtual spaces of the library, school librarians teach individual learners as well as small groups and whole classes. They coteach with teachers to facilitate the iCentre’s information-technology convergence through the large flexible space and fluid design of the physical library.

If principals and architects bring a “bricks and mortar approach” to the library space redesign, it is essential that school librarians help them see the necessity of breaking out of traditional school library models. The role of the librarian should be of a leader who helps “fuse the work” of teaching and learning across the curriculum. School librarians must be key information, technology and learning leaders who combine their work with their colleagues’ efforts and reconcile various approaches to inquiry across the disciplines.

With a commitment to service, a core value of librarianship, school librarians can change library stakeholders’ expectations for their role. iCentre leaders can provide a strategic and operational framework for integrated learning that motivates and guides a whole school agenda. As such, the iCentre becomes an “innovation machine” in which students, teachers, specialists (including technology integrationists) see their roles blending and building in order to transform learning and teaching.

What impressed me most about Dr. Hay’s presentation was her focus on the adult learner leaders in the iCentre. Without the collaborative and innovative efforts of the schools’ adults, students will not have access to on-going transformative learning experiences. Check out Lyn Hay’s blog: Students Learning through School Libraries

Image created by Judi Moreillon in Microsoft Word with Scramble Font

Advocacy=Collaboration+Leadership

worldThe collective capacity of a group of like-minded folks is amazing.  In past posts, we have spoken about the benefits of belonging to professional organizations, at both the national and local levels, and I would like to share how the Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) has been responding to a situation that emerged recently.  Members of the organization are working together to make a difference and bring about change in a positive manner.  In a way, these actions have been a wake up call for all of us to understand the need for ongoing advocacy for school library programs.

A little background:

Since 2000, the Vermont State Statutes that define School Quality Standards have included language that describe staffing and school library resources. Throughout the state, school districts hired school librarians and supported school libraries as a result of the legislation. At the time that these standards were established, there was a school library media consultant at the Vermont Department of Education.  During reorganization in the early 2000’s, the position was eliminated.  Administrators and school librarians had guidelines, but no one to consult for questions that concerned school library programs.  The Vermont State Librarian who oversees public libraries took schools under her umbrella, and provided many resources that have continued to be helpful, and we have been fortunate to have that commitment and support.

Now:

In October 2012, a committee was formed by the Vermont Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education to revise the School Quality Standards to update changes in educational policy that reflect current goals and practice-now called Education Quality Standards.   The members of the committee worked diligently for months to describe an educational system that meets the needs of today’s learners in Vermont.  School leadership, professional learning, curriculum and instruction, collaboration, and personalization of learning are detailed in the document, but with no one at the table to explain the school library program and its impact on all of these  topics, language about school libraries and the role of school librarians was eliminated from the document.

Enter VSLA.  While the process was unfolding, a group of members worked together on suggested language that could be included in the document, and submitted it to the committee.  When the final document was approved by the committee, there was still no direct mention of school library programs or staffing.  The next step is for the State Board of Education to review and prepare the document for legislative action. Meanwhile, the executive board of VSLA appointed a group (of volunteers) to advocate for our proposed language.  In a meeting with the Secretary of Education, we have been assured that there was no intent to leave out school libraries, and that appropriate language would be included in the next phase. We are continuing to use this opportunity to raise awareness about how school library programs contribute to transforming learning in schools.

As a group of volunteers who have busy work and family lives, we have added another role-full time advocates for what are passionate about. The trick is to remain positive, upbeat, and to collaborate with our stakeholders.  We want our students, parents, colleagues, and administrators to think about aspects of the school library program that improve their lives.  We are encouraging them to share their thoughts with the State Board of Education through comments at public hearings, email, and letters during the month of October.  This is all happening on the fly as we develop a strategy for advocacy as a group. What we realize now is that this is a continuous process, not just for VSLA, but for each and every teacher librarian in every school, every day.

What we have learned is that collaboration for advocacy is more important than ever.  In Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), the various roles of the school librarian have been updated to reflect the changing landscape of education in today’s world.  Leadership is a mantle that we may not willingly take on as teacher librarians, but one which we all need to embrace, and when we work towards common goals, and speak with a unified voice, change can happen.

Next week: Resources for Advocacy-Collaborating to Build the Plan

References:

Empowering Learners.  Chicago: ALA/AASL, 2009.

Microsoft Clipart