Happy holidays from your friends here at the BACC Blog!

family ties

Today’s Can Do Attitude

Across the country, the story about education financing is a variation on a theme.  Since the recession, budgets for public schooling have been on a downward spiral in most communities.  The reasons are multifaceted and many, but the bottom line is that fewer dollars are stretched, and stretched again to cover the challenges of teaching and learning in today’s schools.  Education is expensive and labor intensive, and dedicated teachers are working harder than ever to assure that young learners have opportunities to reach their potential.  During December my co-bloggers have been sharing the good news about how creative educators and teacher librarians have been maximizing scarce resources through collaboration on many fronts.

Judi highlighted ways that schools and public libraries can work together to bring richer service and resources to their common patrons, as well as to partner with non-profits in community service learning. Lucy had some exciting ideas about the benefits of sharing HUMAN resources, in essence, people to people collaborations that are meaningful and create community bonds. Melissa gave insight about ways that Open Education Resources (OER) can provide cost effective materials and access to information that reduces financial outlays.

Some key takeaways from their postings are that creativity, ingenuity, and resilience go hand in hand in problem solving, and working on common goals with other community members is a win for all.

Well, it also does help to have money for programs and resources for learners. The traditional sources- PTAs, book fairs, cake sales-you get the picture- have  provided  reserve funds, but there are other potential sources to tap, too.  There are foundations, and charitable organizations locally and statewide that are willing to fund programs and provide resources that enhance their mission within the community. It may be that there are folks in your school district who write grants, and you should talk with them, first. Many schools don’t have someone on staff, so grab your can do attitude and jump in.  It does take a bit of investigation to ferret out the possibilities and then to find a partner or collaborator who will work on a plan to apply for a grant or a donation.

When seeking funds for active learning projects, from a well known foundation or a local business organization, you have to prepare an action plan with a detailed description of goals, outlines of activities, needed resources, expenses and evaluation. Successful plans have an innovative twist and involve connecting student learners or school with the local or global community for a mutually beneficial purpose. While grant writing may not be listed in your job description, action planning should be essential to move your school library program forward. The process for identifying a problem or gap, and coming up with creative ways to transform learning in your school or district really depends on a clear understanding of the unique mission of your program, data collection and articulation, and how to work within a collaborative team.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities to access ideas for grant writing and action planning success, and also clearinghouse information for possible foundations and businesses.  Look no further than social media for crowdsourced ideas. Try a search using Livebinders, Pinterest, Scoopit! or any of your other favorites.

Here’s a couple that I have found to be quite comprehensive:

Sources for grants (Here are a few that are national, but you can find ones particular to your state or local community, also):

wildlife quiltFamily Ties at Founders School

In my own experience, a cross-disciplinary group of teachers-classroom, art, music, library, tech integrationist- collaborated on a three year project that transformed standards based learning units and curriculum.  As we developed our plan, we incorporated many community resources and applied for funds through grants and direct donations to bring visual and performing artists to the school, museum visits, and funds to self publish a series of student writings.  It was a major success within the community, because staff, students, parents, businesses, local cultural organizations, and  media outlets became united in a school wide theme titled “Family Ties.”  The images included here are from one of the  three self published books.  The collaboration team worked creatively and diligently to connect content curriculum, arts programs, and community resources to make learning exciting and meaningful for all students.  The culture of collaboration was in high gear, and the results were amazing-and lots of fun, too!

Images: Collection of Judith Kaplan


Innovation-Disruptive or Sustainable?

surfer_riding_wave_34Are you riding a wave of innovation in your school, or are you caught in the curl and drowning in the surf?  In today’s world, innovation is a buzzword that appears universally across topics and disciplines, and the field of education is no exception. Melissa shared a definition of innovation in her post earlier in November, and encouraged readers to embrace emerging technologies to enhance innovative thinking in STEM curriculum. Judi looked at innovative delivery of professional development for educators in her posts.  Advances in technology have opened the possibilities for unleashing new ways to rethink teaching and learning, and this is a good thing!  The not so good thing is the lack of time and support for professionals to incorporate these possibilities into their pedagogy. In order to bring about meaningful change that will benefit students, educators have come to realize that collaboration is a critical component that enables sustainable innovation.

Sustainable change does not happen overnight.  Educators learn from each other and are connected across the hallway, the town, the globe. Ideas need to be pondered and discussed, tools need to be sampled, lessons designed and differentiated- all with the goal of engaging students in deeper learning.  Educators also learn from students, especially by allowing them to follow their passions and interests.  Innovative learners are curious, flexible, and open to taking risks and making mistakes.  It’s hard work, but fun.  The rewards are in student success and lighting the fires of learning for both teachers and learners.

School districts implementing new initiatives don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but can tailor local plans for sustainable change by examining existing programs that have a track record of innovation for learning.  The best models promote teacher leadership and a culture of collaboration to solve identified problems and impediments to student success.  Administrators, educators, parents, and community members are all stakeholders together.

In Vermont, middle schools have an opportunity to partner with the Tarrant Institute for Innovation in Education at the University of Vermont.  Funded in part through a generous grant from the Tarrant Foundation, experienced educational leaders provide:

  • A variety of services to help schools make the transition to engaging, technology-rich teaching and learning.
  • In exchange for their substantial commitment to a new vision for teaching and learning, we offer our partner schools intensive professional development, leadership preparation and planning, and small grants for innovative technologies — all free of charge.
  • To the broader community, we conduct extensive research, evaluation, dissemination and outreach.    (http://www.uvm.edu/tiie/)

Since 2006, the partnership has grown and evolved as a model for bringing systemic change in middle school education. A variety of Vermont schools, from large inner city urban to small rural schools have taken advantage of the opportunity to develop a new vision of education within their communities.  The learning has gone both ways-from the professional development facilitators to the partner schools, and back from teacher partners and students who embrace and run with the innovations.  The leaders of the project have shared ideas and challenges in a series of articles and by presenting at local and national conferences.  Take a close look at the website to see samples of student work, and to follow the blog.  A recent blog post features the mindset of one of the Tarrant educators, Mark Olofson. Check out his reflection on the reiterative process of analyzing a new app as a classroom option for learning. It gives us a glimpse at innovative problem solving, and is very refreshing.  Even the experts question themselves and can revise their ideas!

As our educational system evolves from a 20th Century factory model, to a system that personalizes learning for students in the information age, new ideas, technologies, processes, and learning theories will continue to bring about changes to the physical and virtual frameworks of schools in the future.

Do you have some suggestions for innovative schools that you would like to share?

Social media is great way to follow the progress of innovation at many schools.  You can follow The Tarrant Institute happenings by using the Twitter hashtag @innovativeEd, Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/innovative.ed ,Instagram http://instagram.com/innovativeEducation, and Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/105653617605343762368/posts

Next month, I will report on the impact of innovations from partner school participants, and look at the challenges and benefits as they continue to move towards sustainable, renewable  change.


Olofson, Mark. “Monster Physics and the importance of careful consideration.” Innovation: Education. (Weblog) Nov. 22, 2014 http://tiie.w3.uvm.edu/blog/monster-physics-importance-careful-consideration/

Image: Classroom Clipart.com

October Connections…


Segueing from Melissa’s recent post about tips for becoming a connected teacher librarian, I have a few examples of collaboration that demonstrate a shift from the individual (library) classroom to the global stage.  This shift is possible due to the willingness for educators to share best practices for effective teaching and learning through social media, as we have continued to highlight in this blog.

According to Tom Whitby, in a post on Edutopia in early October 2014, connectedness begins with collaboration. “The idea of collaboration requires a mindset of believing there is room to learn and grow. It is also a belief that we are smarter collectively than individually.”  Technology has made collaboration much easier than in the past, and “a teacher who benefits from collaboration tends to appreciate its effect, and will use it in his or her own methodology.”

One of the core beliefs that Whitby uses to describe the connected educator, really resonates with me.  “A relevant educator is willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.”  Every day, when I check my Twitter, Feedly, or Google+ feeds, I am amazed at the exchange of ideas in the global and local school library network.  It is like a fire hose, so I have to sort through and choose that which I need, and save others for future reference in my Diigo files-with just a click of the mouse, or a tap on the smartphone or tablet.

Here are just a few of the many “relevant” opportunities to explore, question,and elaborate ideas that I have appreciated in October through my social media/real world:

  • Connected Librarian Day, October 7: Hosted by the Library 2.0 website, an international gathering of librarians, educators, and library supporters took place in a virtual environment.  If you did not have time to tune in, not to fear, recordings of all the sessions are available, along with links to other resources.  Many speakers are shining stars in the school library field, so have a listen, learn, and leave a comment.
  • AASL Fall Forum Oct. 17-18:  School Librarians in the Anywhere, Anytime Landscape. To get an idea of how ideas were explored, take a look at the AASL Blog and the SLM Blog for several posts from different points of view.  It was an ambitious task to collaborate via teleconferencing between sites around the United States. Lots of great reviews for Best Websites 2014. Read the blogs and follow the links to see some of the unique ways ideas were shared, both face to face and virtually.  Twitter Hashtag #aasl14.
  • Buffy Hamilton, The Unquiet Librarian, has been sharing her collaborative journey with a co-teacher in her blog.   Throughout the month of October, she has been posting the step by step lessons that she and her colleague are using with high school students to introduce them to the inquiry and research process. Photos, videos, and sample strategies for self selecting and narrowing topics are explored. Buffy’s honest reflection of the successes and challenges of  each day’s tasks are well developed and we can all learn from their collaborative expertise.  Each time she posts, I am excited to see what happens next-sort of like being a fly on the wall!

I know that there have been many other events that get the brain juices flowing in October, and I’d like to hear from you about an event or a learning opportunity that you have enjoyed recently-in any dimension.  How about sharing some ideas here?  Leave a comment, I‘d love to learn more!


AASL Fall Forum, American Library Association, Oct 17, 2014.  (Website) http://www.ala.org/aasl/conferences/fall-forum (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

“Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2014.” American Association of School Librarians. (Website) http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best-websites/2014#media (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Brennan, Lindsay. “AASL Fall Forum-First-time Attendee Reports,” AASL Blog. (Web log) October 17, 2014.  http://www.aasl.ala.org/aaslblog/?p=5114 (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

“Connected Librarian Day, Oct. 7, 2014.” Library 2.0 (Website) http://www.library20.com/page/connected-librarian-day (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Diaz, Shelley. Scenes and Resources From the Summit,” School Library Journal. (Website) http://www.slj.com/2014/10/resources/scenes-and-resources-from-the-summit-slj-summit-2014/  (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Hamilton, Buffy. “Inquiring with Students: What Do or Can ‘Good’ Research Projects Look Like?” Unquiet Librarian. (Weblog) Sept. 29, 2014. http://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/inquiring-with-students-what-do-or-can-good-research-projects-look-like/ (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Morris, Rebecca. “AASL Fall Forum,” School Library Monthly Blog. (Web log) Oct. 18, 2014. http://blog.schoollibrarymedia.com/index.php/2014/10/18/aasl-fall-forum/ (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

“SLJ Leadership Summit Fire it Up: Sparking Creativity and Motivating Students, Oct. 25 & 26,  2014.“ School Library Journal. (Website)  http://www.slj.com/leadership-summit/ (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Valenza, Joyce. “Live From the Summit,” The Neverending Search. (Web log) Oct. 25, 2014. http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2014/10/25/live-from-the-summit/ (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Whitby, Tom.  “The Connected Educator: It Begins with Collaboration,” Edutopia. (Weblog) October 1, 2014. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/connected-educator-begins-with-collaboration-tom-whitby (Accessed Oct. 27, 2014)

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

Beyond the Choir


Are we just preaching to the choir?  Collaboration, co-teaching, information and digital literacy, technology integration, deep Web… ideas we have explored from month to month here in the BaCC Blog. Social media provides an opportunity to reach audiences who have similar interests, but it also opens opportunities to connect with folks who may not know what they don’t know.  For those of us who have been immersed in the education world, specifically from a library POV, we tend to communicate in terms and concepts that make sense to us, but maybe not to others.   Dare I say that we are a bit insular…  and maybe we need to rethink how we can frame our conversations in real world vocabulary that demystifies the work we do.

This epiphany moment occurred to me as I was collaborating with a group of school, public, and academic librarians who were grappling with the wording of a proclamation to send to the governor of Vermont to sign about Information Literacy Awareness Month in October. The NFIL (National Forum on Information Literacy) is organizing and encouraging all states to join the parade and focus on information literacy as a critical component for lifelong learning and digital citizenship.  We know that this is true, but in the general public, who has information literacy on the radar?  And what the heck is digital citizenship?

As we struggled with the wordsmithing, we realized that we could not assume that our target audience (everyone in the state) had any idea what we were talking about.  So we went back to square one-a definition of information literacy, and we articulated it in commonsense language-what it is and what allows learners to do.  Of course, we added how libraries were  involved as physical and virtual spaces for promoting information literacy, too. Speak plainly-this is how we can move the needle on a common understanding of the big ideas that all citizens can embrace and support.

Not only do we have to define our terms and concepts, but we have to show and model what we mean.  That’s another strong suit for social media platforms such as flickr, googlesites, Pinterest, Scoopit!, Twitter, YouTube, and so many others. In Vermont, we want to show examples of information and digital literacy in action, so the Vermont Department of Libraries is curating a site that will showcase what is happening in schools and libraries throughout the state as a public awareness campaign. Instagram @your library! What is happening in your state?

October is also Connected Educator Month-for several years running. “Helping Educators Survive in a Connected World,” is the tag line.  Here is another opportunity to connect with an expanded choir, if you have not discovered this valuable resource already.  What is a connected educator, you might ask? How can you be a connected educator, if you are not already? Are you talking the connected educator talk and walking the connected educator walk? Check out the website to learn more.  Organizations that support the ideas and goals of the Connected Educator crowd source professional development  ideas and best practices for connected learning across all content areas and the world. There’s an impressive list of contributors and supporters from a range of organizations-both business and professional. (I was surprised to note the absence of AASL, though.)  Each day during the month of October there are opportunities to network and participate with others who are finding new ways to embrace the potential for technology innovations to impact personal learning and teaching.  Spend some time exploring the website and especially the Connected Educator Starter Kit (free pdf download).   Here is a forum to find people and experiences that will expand your own toolbox of ideas, and opportunities to lend your voice from the library media world.

October is a time for choir practice in a connected world. What shall we sing about today? Loud and strong!


Connected Educators. Website. http://connectededucators.org/

National Forum on Information Literacy. Website. http://infolit.org/

Image: Microsoft ClipArt




Sense of Wonder and Possibility

giant water bug


As another school year takes shape, with teachers organizing classrooms and lessons, I remember the anticipation for welcoming new and returning students to my library learning space.  I couldn’t wait to share new books and other resources with my fresh faced learners.  From the first day, I welcomed their questions, and made sure that they knew that the media center was their space for learning.  It belonged to them, not me!  I said, “Think of it as a candy store for your brain, a space for tinkering with new ideas, and exploring the world.  My job is to help you develop a passion for learning, whatever your interests.”

A few years ago, not long after the first week of school, my commitment to a sense of wonder and curiosity was put to the test by an eager third grader who rushed in at 8 AM with several of his friends.  He was carrying a plastic container and inside it was the largest, ugliest, most monstrous dead (fortunately for me anyway) insect I had ever seen.   The questions came at me fast and furious. “What is it? What does is eat? Is it poisonous?  What killed it? Why did I find it in a parking lot? Does it live around here, or how did it get here? “

Talk about your teachable moment!  This was the start of something big-a chance to capitalize on student centered motivation for learning.  The student and his friends were encouraged by the classroom teacher to spend some class time discovering the answers to their questions.  For the next few days, the small group met with me in the media center, and the inquiry took off.  The questions that they answered led to more questions and more inquiry.  We contacted entomologists, did internet searches, consulted field guides, and encyclopedias.  Their interest exceeded their reading levels, but that did not hold them back from learning.  It was amazing to observe their natural collaboration. They divided up tasks, reported back to each other, kept track of their findings, and then did a short presentation to their classmates.  All I did was to guide them a bit to resources and to facilitate questions that required some reflection about their learning.

If we promote the school library space as a learning environment, not just a room with four walls and print resources, we also have to promote inquiry.  The two go hand in hand.  Students need opportunities to follow their interests and passions, and professional teacher librarians are trained as information and literacy specialists who can accommodate both planned and just in time learning.  With increased emphasis on teaching to standards, many schools have less time in the daily schedule for individual inquiry projects, so here is an opportunity for those of us in the field.   Providing space, resources, and guidance for inquiry, teacher librarians can collaborate with colleagues to assure that students have the chance to activate their sense of wonder.

Recently, educational websites and bloggers have been focusing on excellent tips for teachers in a new school year.  There are many wonderful and powerful ideas that we can find through social media. I really appreciate that Kristin Fontichiaro is willing to share her presentations and professional development work through her blog, Active Learning.  She has given access to the slides and support materials on inquiry based learning (with Debbie Abliock) for a school district in Texas.  Even if you did not attend, you can get some ideas for adapting inquiry to your own curriculum, and it is a great resource. I am including the link here.  Be sure to check out her past posts, too!


Meanwhile, what do you see, think, and wonder about that big scary bug?



Fontichiaro, Kristin.   Hello, Denton ISD!    Active Learning. (Aug. 20, 2014). Weblog.  http://www.fontichiaro.com/activelearning/2014/08/20/hello-denton-isd/

Image: giant water bug.jpg http://life.illinois.edu







Competition or Collaboration?


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…




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





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

Summer “Time”

Tropical beach scene on a sunny day in Oahu, Hawaii

As a teacher or teacher librarian, how often have you heard, “Oh you are so lucky, you have the summer off!”?  Of course those are the folks who are on the outside looking in. Those of us in the trenches know otherwise.  Summer time is just a different wavelength for many in the field of education.  In fact, most teachers I have known, are juggling family time, recreational adventures, and personal professional learning in the few weeks between the wrap up for one school year in May or June, and the preparation for another that may start in the first weeks of August.  The idea that educators are basking in a long summer hiatus is a pipe dream.

Even in the reboot and recharge mode, teachers are thinking ahead to the challenges of a new set of students, and how to meet their individual needs. Time without required meetings, committees, and assessments is time to reflect on the big picture. What has been successful and what needs improvement?  That kind of time is precious during the crush of the school schedule, and summer provides an opportunity for R and R-and collaboration.  As teacher librarians we have to make those connections with our colleagues.

In a recent AASL Blog, Brooke Ahrens asks, “When is the best time?”  In her post, Let’s Get Together Thursday, (June 12, 2014)  she shares the experience of working with colleagues in her district in curriculum and program planning just after classes ended for the year.  As she says, working together beyond the constraints of standards and grades was refreshing, but mental fatigue influenced their progress. She wonders if August would be better, but realizes that time is problematic also.  Collaboration and input are important, but what are some possible alternatives to make it happen?

During my years as a teacher librarian, I found that July was a great month for collaborating informally with my colleagues.  I would sneak into school early a couple of mornings a week to get my book orders in, unpack books and supplies, or revamp a section of the collection. More often than not, a teacher friend would pop in to say hello. Then the conversation would segue to the upcoming school year and what the teacher wanted to accomplish, and how I could help. Without the pressure of a packed schedule, we could tease out projects that we could plan ahead.   Asynchronous collaboration through Google and other social media applications make planning that much easier now.

My school district offered summer incentives for curriculum planning, and I often participated as a resource person in science, social studies, and language arts.  College credit for curriculum work was available for participants. Laptops or other new devices were provided  for developing curriculum units integrating technology.  Stipends were offered for teacher leaders who trained others in a train the trainer model.  When I signed on to take part, I often found that other teachers saw me as a true colleague, and I felt part of the team. I understood their challenges, and they understood mine because we had a chance to have deep discussions and share expertise.  In mid summer, when most of the teachers had a few weeks to unwind, we found mental energy to be creative and innovative.  That energy and planning carried us through during the implementation of our ideas in the next school year and beyond.

So, in July, take advantage of the summer mind of your colleagues. It may be the best time for initiating collaboration.  Join a district summer work group if it is available. They usually only work for a week or so. See if any of your colleagues are lurking in their classrooms when you are at school, too.  Laugh, chat, and make a plan.  Send out some ideas for new books or resources via email, or your blog or website. Stay in touch through Twitter and Facebook.  Find a new application that you can share.  Screencast a tutorial or find one on YouTube.  Cultivate your garden of ideas and invite your friends to the harvest.


Happy summer!  And don’t forget your recreational reading!



Ahrens, Brooke. (2014, June 12).  Let’s Get Together Thursday-What is the Best Time?  AASL Blog. (weblog) http://www.aasl.ala.org/aaslblog/?p=4688

Image: Microsoft ClipArt



Big Questions Need Answers

I see you

On April 5, 2014 Education Quality Standards were adopted by the Legislative Rules Committee of the Vermont Legislature. You may ask, “What does that have to do with me, or collaboration-the theme of this blog?”  The bigger question is, “In my state, are there administrative guidelines for establishing school library programs led by certified school librarians that support state education statues?”  The answer to this question varies across the country. You may be surprised when you start to do some digging. What’s happening in your neck of the woods? How can you find out?

 A year ago, the draft document for Vermont State Board of Education, Education Quality Standards (EQS), omitted any language that pertained to school libraries, or certified professional teacher librarians.  That’s when the collaborative team of volunteers from the Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) went into action mode.  Last September in this blog, I posted some details about our plan to insert appropriate language into the document.  It has taken time to work through the whole process, but we are delighted that our collaborative efforts have made a difference.  Now public school districts using the EQS to meet  state law requirements have guidelines for school library programs and staffing that are embedded within the big picture of educational programs and services in Vermont.  The document itself reinforces a commitment to equitable student centered learning, and is quite progressive.

The takeaway from our experience highlights the power of collaboration, and the need for continued advocacy at many different levels.  We have to be able to show and tell the value of a school library program for students.  Recently on this blog, we  have been focusing on ideas for collaboration, not only with our co-teachers, but also with our principals.  The grassroots approach builds influence, acceptance, and support for our programs and our positions.

 In Vermont, we have been asking the question, “Does your principal know what you do-really know and understand the complexities of your job?”  Heidi Huestis, Professional Concerns Chair of VSLA, and I  conducted a short survey of members to get a picture of existing job descriptions and evaluation systems in schools across the state.  The results, based on responses from almost 40% of active members have led us to ask more questions.  We will use this information and future surveys and other research to plan for advocacy as an organization.

 Earlier this month, we presented the findings from the survey at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.  Our presentation was titled-Under the Radar: Teacher Librarian Job Descriptions and Evaluations, and here’s a link to the slides, and the full survey is included on the resources page.  We were especially pleased that Joyce Valenza, one of the keynote speakers at the conference, was there to share some ideas, too.

 Job descriptions and evaluations are opportunities for starting conversations with principals and administrators.  If you don’t have either, or if they are not updated, you are under the radar- not a good thing!  If important stakeholders don’t know what you do, you are wearing an invisibility cloak.  As Susan Ballard and others have said, “If you are not at the table, you may be on the menu.”


Dynamic Landscapes, May 16, 2014-Under the Radar: Teacher Librarians Job Descriptions and Evaluations https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/10BPsnIZC86WY17Bqodv3YHnEbXnaneZsRvZESkDccoA/edit#slide=id.g33504c028_034

Education Quality Standards, Vermont State Board of Education (Sections on staff and resources, 2121.2, 2121.3 and 2121.4) http://education.vermont.gov/state-board/rules/2000

Image: Microsoft Clipart


Principal All-Stars

Soccer Player Going for the Goal


When administrators appreciate the value of a school library program, led by dynamic and knowledgeable teacher librarians, they understand that collaboration is the root of successful teaching and learning for the school community.   They also understand the return on investment in the multiple roles of the school librarian-in literacy, professional development, technology integration, and instruction.  Usually that one person collaborates on many levels with everyone, students and educators, at one time or another. Teacher librarians are masters at the spinning plates act-and are passionate about their work.

Other administrators are not always sure what teacher librarians do, so how can we begin to shift that paradigm?

Joyce Valenza, in a recent post on her Neverending Search Blog (April 5, 2014) featured a film titled “Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School.”  Dr. Judi Moreillon and Dr. Teresa Starrett at Texas Women’s University collaborated to create this powerful message.  The film and Joyce’s interview with Judi provide a scenario for reaching administrators in pre-service programs.  Testimonials by principals across the country reflect the ongoing day to day contributions of teacher librarians in the field, not just theoretical research.  (There is plenty of that elsewhere, too!)

Support for ongoing school library programs requires conversations about the benefits of a school library program, among all stakeholders.  Principals, superintendents, curriculum directors, and other school district leaders who begin these conversations while they are in training, come to administrative positions better prepared to make educational decisions about school library programs.

Another potential value of this film is for advocating the value of school libraries with school boards, local district administrators, and other community members.    Be sure to bookmark the links from today’s post, so that you can have them at your fingertips for future advocacy.  Keep building that advocacy toolbox!


Valenza, Joyce. (2014, April 5)  Principals know: school librarians are the heart of the school.  Neverending Search.  (weblog) http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2014/04/05/principals-know-school-librarians-are-the-heart-of-the-school/

Image: Microsoft Clipart





Swiss Army Knives: Teacher Librarians


Looking for some cool tools in your classroom?  Think about the utilitarian roles of the teacher librarian-think Swiss army knife.  That’s how one teacher describes the impact of the teacher librarian in schools.  In a recent blog post on Edutopia, Josh Work, a middle school teacher from Maryland, shares his take on collaboration that is at the heart of his daily practice in his school.  That collaboration in teaching and learning is with the teacher librarian. This blog is a must read for all of us who strive every day to become embedded in the educational fabric of schools as teacher librarians/media specialists.

From Josh’s experience, he sees the teacher librarian as a leader in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and technology integration.

“I have found the most valuable school-based resource for brainstorming, discussing, planning and implementing anything to do with technology has been my school’s media specialist.”

“…Media specialists are an amazing building-level resource for anyone that takes the time to collaborate with them.”


As in many cases, the collaboration began in simple ways, with a quick face to face conversation that grew over time to brief meetings, and then later to include co-planning and co-teaching curriculum. He also goes on to give some advice to other teachers about enlisting help from the building media specialist/teacher librarian.

Whether or not the Swiss army knife is an image you have of yourself, it’s great to learn about successful collaborations with teachers from another perspective. In fact, the metaphor does represent the multiple facets of our morphing role, so let’s embrace it.

Hearing from colleagues such as Josh who understand and appreciate the expertise and knowledge that we provide, is refreshing, and affirms the work that we do. It also gives us incentive to try harder, even in the face of budget cuts and increasing demands on teachers’ time.  Together, we all can make the shift in instructional design and practice if we continue to embrace partnerships to meet the challenges of teaching and learning in today’s world.

Thank you, Josh, from the bottom of our hearts.  We think you are sharp, too!



Work, Josh. (2014)  “The Shift: Media Specialists and the Common Core.” Edutopia  (weblog) March 18, 2014. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/media-specialists-and-common-core-josh-work

Image: Clkr.com: Swiss army knife