Leading Learning: Advice from the AASL School Leader Collaborative

Last Friday, American Association of School Librarians (AASL) past-president Kathryn Roots Lewis posted “Celebrate Your Influence!” on the Knowledge Quest blog.

This is a must-read, seriously consider, reflect upon, and take action guide for all practicing school librarians, librarian candidates, and school librarian educators.Word Cloud in the letters W and ELeaders and Instructional Partners
The responses from five of the seven School Leader Collaborative (Collaborative) members reinforce the critical actions school librarians have taken during the pandemic. The school librarian’s role as a leader and the Collaborate Shared Foundation (and action taken during the role of instructional partner) are dominant threads throughout the Collaborative members’ comments. These principals and superintendents know the school library can and should be at the center of the academic program and that school librarians can and should lead from the heart of the school.

Although many school librarians have been serving as leaders and instructional partners for decades, the necessity of leadership and classroom-library collaboration came into acute focus during school closures, hybrid and remote learning. These practices must continue into the future if we are to demonstrate our value and reach our capacity to influence teaching and learning in our school communities.

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership
I believe that the testimonials of the Collaborative suggest that educators thrive in a positive school climate characterized by a can-do spirit. In their comments, they ask school librarians to be adaptable and flexible, intentional and effective communicators who practice grace and patience, and serve as outcomes-oriented coteachers who can be assertive team players.

School librarians must be coleaders in building and maintaining a collaborative culture of learning. “Leaders must communicate optimism to their followers. Optimistic leaders support people in taking the first and then the next steps in a change process. School librarians can be coleaders who positively affect school climate and culture through successful classroom-library instructional partnerships” (Moreillon 2018, 130).

Advocacy
From the perspectives of these administrators, the positive results of (more) school librarians serving as leaders and instructional partners has been a “good thing” for students, educators, and administrators.

This MUST become the new normal for our profession!

Publicizing the work of the Collaborative creates an opportunity for advocacy for all of us. But first, it is incumbent upon all school librarians to take action to work toward the highly influential role of instructional coleader in our schools.

After we have taken on that responsibility, sharing the understandings, experiences, and suggestions of these school leaders can help school librarians influence the actions of administrators in their schools and districts. Combining exemplary practice with administrator support will help us achieve our rightful place at the center of teaching and learning.

Coming Soon at the AASL Conference
Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and I have just completed a research study of content created by the Collaborative. We will be presenting “The Influence of Standards on School Administrators’ Priorities for School Librarians” during a “Research Into Practice” session at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City in October, 2021.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi, 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Image Credit

johnhain. “We Unity Cooperation Together.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/we-unity-cooperation-together-566327/

Classroom-Library Collaboration with the Global Oneness Project

School Library Month, Part 4

I have been following the work of the Global Oneness Project (GO Project) since it began in 2006. “We aim to connect, through stories, the local human experience to global meta-level issues, such as climate change, water scarcity, food insecurity, poverty, endangered cultures, migration, and sustainability.”

I believe that connecting the GO Project’s work with school-based learning can strengthen students’ opportunities to experience their roles as global citizens who take action to positively support the interconnectedness of all living things.

Being part of a global learning community is a thread woven through standards for students, including the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018). Being involved in a GO Project is one way for students to understand their global citizenship role and share their knowledge with a global audience.

Earth Day, Every Day
As a follow-up to last week’s post focused on classroom-library collaboration for Earth Day, the Global Oneness Project is currently sponsoring a contest for students 13 years of age and up: “The Spirit of Reciprocity: Student Photography and Original Illustration Contest.” Student contestants’ work must be focused on the GO’s mission statement: “Planting seeds of resilience, empathy, and a sacred relationship to our planet.”

Reflecting on one’s relationship with the natural world, this contest centers on the five statements from the work of Robin Wall Kimmerer. botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and author of the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed 2015).

In addition to the earth and other sciences, art, and photography curricula connections, the contest participation includes an artist’s statement and components that support the ethical use of ideas and information, including seeking permission from any people who appear in the work and parental permission to participate. I hope you will check it out!

Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming Award
I was delighted to read last month that middle school librarian Amy Harpe, who earned the 2017 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming Award, has involved students in her school with the Global Oneness Project. (Amy also serves on the Educator Advisory Committee for the GO Project.)

In her 3/1/21 Knowledge Quest blog post “Connecting to Cultures and Communities through Story,” she shares her work helping students begin their understandings of cultures and community through a study of their own community. Making local connections is a necessary step before reaching for global connections.

A summary: Amy launched a GO Project unit for third-grade students with the video Marie’s Dictionary, a powerful 9-minute video about a Wukchumni woman who is the last fluent speaker of her American Indian language. Building from that background of how cultures change, Amy guided students in looking at local cultural artifacts and art: sweetgrass basket crafts of the Gullah people, hula dancing, bluegrass music, and storytelling. Students learned to finger knit as a way to understand craft. They compared various dance forms and learned some steps. They played the spoons in the context of learning about the banjo and other instruments.

To further their study of how communities change over time, Amy expanded the library collection to include books and information related to their community’s history. She invited a local historian to speak with students.  Amy also guided students in examining (copies of) primary source photographs after which they created replicas of buildings in Minecraft. When students ended the unit with a walking tour of their town’s historic district, they had a great deal of background knowledge to spur on their questions for the historian guide.

To learn more about the Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award for Exemplary Humanities Programming Award, please visit the ALA website. This award is for given to a school librarian serving a K-8 population; the award is $5,000. The deadline to apply is May 5th.

Image Credit
Photograph from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

Classroom-Library Collaboration for Earth Day

Image of Global Map imprinted to two hand palms

School Library Month, Part 3

As a global citizen who has deep concern about the health and future of the planet and the safety of her human, animal, and plant inhabitants, I have participated in Earth Day activities since they began in 1970. The official Earth Day website offers a history that may surprise today’s youth in terms of the origin of Earth DAy, how it led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and evolved from a national U.S. event to a global one in 1990.

Earth Day will be held this week on Thursday, April 22nd. This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth™.”

This theme and a study of climate change go hand in hand. In this post I share how I suggest using resources from the School Library NJ resource portal and a tool and guide from the Washington Digital TeachKit to co-launch an elementary or a middle school Guided Inquiry Design® (GID) unit into a school-based celebration of Earth Day followed by a service project.

This GID would be co-designed, co-taught, and co-evaluated by a school librarian and one or more classroom teachers.

Open: I found Jeanette Winter’s picture book Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet (Beach Lane 2019) to be the ideal read-aloud to launch this inquiry for upper elementary and middle school students.

“You are never too small to make a difference.” Greta Thunberg

Many students will have heard of climate change, Greta Thunberg, and protests for environmental protections so they will be able to connect their background knowledge to the information in this book. With few words, Jeanette Winter’s text follows Greta Thunberg’s awakening to the climate crisis. The illustrations powerfully show Greta’s concern, courage, commitment, and success in building a global movement of young people. The final page of the book reads:

“What Will You Do?” Greta Thunberg

After a discussion, the educators would propose the purpose for this inquiry (connected to earth science and civics education curricula): Determine the “best” way for students at our school to celebrate Earth Day and use the celebration as a launch for a community service project.

Invite students to brainstorm some keywords and concepts.

Immerse
We would share a video and lead students in a discussion to further increase their investment in the purpose for the inquiry.

For upper elementary students and 6th-graders: “Earth Day 2021 & Beyond | 8 Ways to Celebrate (I bet you don’t know the fact in #1)” by Kid Conservationist

For 7th and 8th graders: “Earth Day 2020” by Culture Collective

If the timing was right, I would also promote students tuning in with their families for this year’s National Geographic Earth Day Eve, a celebration with Dr. Jane Goodall and others and musical headliners Yo-Yo Ma, Ziggy Marley, and Willie Nelson (4/21/21 at 8:30 EST).

Explore
I used some of the elementary and middle school search tools and resources from the School Library NJ portal to identify the possibilities that follow.

I accessed Newslea from the News & Current Events page of the Middle School section to identify several articles about Greta Thunberg (grades 5-8).

Screenshot of Newslea.com articles about Greta Thunberg

I had not previously used Sweet Search (from the Elementary Search page) and wanted to test out the site before recommending it to students.

Using search terms “Earth Day” and “climate change,” my collaborator and I could identify sites similar to these four for elementary or middle school students to explore in small groups. (We would model these searches when students begin to gather their own resources.)

NASA Climate Kids: Definitions and connections to climate change

Earth Day: EPA Earth Day: The site includes projects and ideas for youth.

The Nature Conservancy: Earth Day 2021: #SpeakUpForNature 2021 Virtual Event will be held on 4/22 at noon EST.

United Nations: International Mother Earth Day: The strength of this site is its global perspective.

Identify
In this phase, students would begin to form their ideas for answering the overarching question: What is the best way for our school to celebrate Earth Day and launch a service project?

Using Flipgrid (as described by the WA Digital TeachKit) could allow individual and small groups of students to make PSA announcements to identify team members, seek feedback, and gather support for their idea. See Flipgrid in the Tools section and the Guides section under Student Interaction.

Using Resource Portals
The School Library NJ resource portal would be useful for this guided inquiry project. In terms of resources, I was able to find useful sites for the Explore phase, AND I still had to do my homework. When entering the Gather phase, student searchers would find a number of dead ends when sites they predicted would be useful turned out to be a bust, which was also true for me. (An alternative would be for the educators to use the portal to develop a pathfinder that included searching strategies as well as fruitful sites and databases. The Middle School section offers Crash Course Research Tips videos.)

The WA Digital TeachKit would help educators provide students with a menu of possible sharing tools to use to promote their “best” idea, present their new knowledge, and further their service learning project.

Let’s celebrate Earth Day 2021 and School Library Month in collaboration with our students and classroom teacher colleagues! Their future (and ours) depends on it.

References

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

School Library NJ. https://schoollibrarynj.libguides.com/home/

WA Digital TeachKit. https://sites.google.com/view/wa-digital-teachkit/home

Winter, Jeannette. 2019. Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet. New York: Beach Lane Books.

Image Credit
stokpic. “Hands World Map Globe Earth.” https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-world-map-global-earth-600497/

Civic Education with Kidizenship

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John DeweyI believe that civic education has never been more important than it is today. In January just before President Biden was inaugurated, the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson’s daily newspaper) asked readers to submit what they expect for the next four years. My letter to the editor was published in the Star on January 20, 2021:

Civic Education Expectations for the Next Four Years

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John Dewey

Many educators across the U.S. are reconsidering how to teach civic education in our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. It is clear that youth and adults alike need:

  • to hear an unambiguous message about the critical importance of voting in a participatory democracy and a clear understanding of the electoral process;
  • to know the provisions of the First Amendment and be able to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech;
  • to know how to engage in civil dialogue and learn to have respectful conversations about controversial topics; and
  • to learn multiple ways to positively and nonviolently enact change in classrooms, schools, and communities.

It is my fervent hope that civic education for youth and adults alike will lead to a national electoral process that honors the votes of all citizens and is characterized by confidence and trust in our democratic process.

Kidizenship
You might imagine that I was thrilled to learn shortly thereafter about a new (to me) civic education organization called Kidizenship.  Kidizenship was founded by Vanderbilt University professor and Bloomberg columnist, Amanda Little.

From a grades 5-12 perspective, I especially appreciate their motto: “You may be too young to vote, but your voice is powerful. We want to hear it. Enter a contest, Show us YOUR America.”

Designed for tweens and teens, Kidizenship is a non-partisan, non-profit media platform for youth to share their voices beyond the classroom. The combination of civics education with creative self-expression and community action is especially powerful.

Speech Contests
Kidizenship is using social media to promote and share their contests. Their latest nationwide creative civics contest invites 8- to 18-year-olds to compose and perform a 2-to 3-minute presidential speech. For the “Make Your Speech” contest, young people are asked to step into the Oval Office and take on the responsibility of serving as President of the United States. They are to tell their constituents about their vision and values for our country and what they will accomplish in the next 4 years.

The contest is co-hosted by YMCA Youth and Government programs nationwide and will be judged by actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Obama White House speechwriter Jon Favreau, Representative Will Hurd of Texas, and civic leader Baratunde Thurston. The deadline for submitting speeches is April 16th.

This contest will be judged in two age categories 8-12 and 13-18. There are cash prizes for first-, second-, and third-place winners.

Classroom-Library Collaboration Opportunity
Classroom teachers (civics, ELA, history, social studies, and more) and school librarians can collaborate to plan and implement a mini-research (or inquiry if you have more time) and writing series of lesson plans to support students in developing, recording, and submitting their speeches. The connections between classroom curriculum standards and a host of digital and information literacy standards is limitless. Plus the open-ended nature of the project supports student voice and choice.

Research could include listening to and analyzing presidential speeches in terms of the vision and values they represent. Here are two of many possibilities.

  • The American Rhetoric Speech Bank has a searchable database that includes many U.S. presidents’ speeches—both recordings and transcripts.
  • The Library of Congress has recordings of historical presidential speeches with an accompanying lesson plan.

Writing, Presenting, and Recording

  • Students could collectively brainstorm and discuss their visions for the country as well as the values on which their visions are founded.
  • As they are composing their speeches, students’ peers and both educators can offer writing conferences to help speechwriters hone their ideas and fine-tune their speeches.
  • In small groups, students can present their speeches orally to classmates and seek feedback before polishing, video capturing, and submitting their speeches.

And if you are ambitious, you could organize your own local contest to complement the one sponsored by Kidizenship.

I look forward to hearing the speeches of the winners and following Kidizenship’s future opportunities to expand civic education beyond the classroom, the library, and out into the community.

March Is Reading Month

Although every day, every week, and every month of our school librarian work lives revolves around reading, March is “reading month,” and an excellent time to reconnect with a literacy habit and skill that is the foundation for all learning. Students at every grade level and when studying every discipline must have access to reading materials and the ability to apply their reading toolkits to enjoy and use texts.

Photographs of Ali Schilpp, Bridget Crossman, Kristin Fraga Sierra, Melissa Thom, and Stacey Rattner

If you were unable to attend on February 24th, ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection offered an OverDrive Education sponsored must-view webinar for any and all school librarians looking to inject collaboration, innovation, and power into their reading promotion activities.

How to Keep Reading Social during Hybrid Learning” will be available to all viewers until March 10, 2021. Please make time to learn from these outstanding school librarians.

These are my takeaways from their presentations, but for the full impact of this professional development opportunity, do not rely on my connections and reflections. I also encourage you to follow these school librarians on Twitter and continue to learn and share with them.

Bridget Crossman, Elementary School Librarian @bcrossm85
Bridget is the elementary school librarian in the Lake George School District, New York, and founder and director of the not-for-profit children’s literacy organization B.O.O.K.S. (Books Offer Opportunities, Kids Succeed). She shared three “joyful, engaging” literacy learning opportunities for the students and/or families at her school. Each one involved one or more partnerships with members of the school or local community. (Bridget is the author of Community Partnerships with School Libraries: Creating Innovative Learning Experiences, Libraries Unlimited, 2018).

Partners included a coffee shop in her community, the PTO, and the “specialists” in her building. The latter helped her offer a drive-thru book fair on the bus loop.

Books were part of these activities. In addition, Bridget gave a shout-out to Teaching Books for a choral reading and all of their resources.

Melissa Thom, Middle School Librarian @MsThomBookitis
Melissa is a middle school librarian at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Melissa shared ideas about how to maximize the impact of virtual author visits. She used Google Meet to invite students from across her district to take advantage of the visits. Melissa also offers a KidsLit Club every Monday where some authors drop in for twenty minutes to increase their outreach to and connections with readers.

With a keen eye and ability to find and buy multiples copies of books at reduced cost, Melissa also offers “Free Book Fridays.” Each week about half the books on her give-away cart are snatched up by readers. For more on Melissa work, see her School Librarians United Podcast “Virtual Culture of Reading.”

Kristin Fraga Sierra, High School Librarian @lincolnabesread
Kristin is the high school librarian at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. She is also the founder of Lincoln High’s Project Lit Book Club Chapter: Building a Community of Readers and Leaders at #AbeNation. Kristin began her part of the presentation by noting that before the pandemic resulted in school closures Lincoln High had a strong reading culture that focused on reading, leadership, and providing service in their community.

The racial unrest in the late spring and summer of 2020 motivated the club to focus their reading and service on books that dealt with racial injustice. They collaborated with an independent bookstore, developed a K-12 wish list, gained media attention, and successfully raised the funds to stock little free libraries in their community. In another project, they filled backpacks for a Boys & Girls Club.

Kristin noted that student leadership is an essential ingredient in this work. She noted that students are looking for connection to other students and opportunities to work as a team while having fun with their friends. Watch the video to learn more about the high-impact service projects and engaging events of the LincolnAbesRead Club.

Sidenote: Kristin is a co-author with TuesD Chambers of the advocacy chapter in the forthcoming book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Stacey Rattner, K-5 Librarian @staceybethr
Stacey is the librarian at Castleton Elementary School in Albany, New York. She collaborated with author Steve Sheinkin (@SteveSheinkin) to co-develop an exciting new YouTube project called Author Fan Face-Off (AFF). Wow!

I watched Author Fan Face-off Episode #5: Cece Bell/EL DEAFO. 6th-grade student Noa and Cece Bell tied at six points each after competing through the bonus round. Noa’s excitement (as well as her memory for details) was a wonder.

I have been thinking about how to answer Stacey’s question: How can educators use AFF in their work? If you have an idea, please message her on Twitter.

Be Inspired
Thank you to the presenters and also to Ali Schilpp (@AliSchilpp) school librarian at Northern Middle School, Garrett County, Maryland, for moderating this exciting panel.

If you’re looking for a March Is Reading Month PD opportunity focused on reading promotion, look no further! This is it!

And remember, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, is Read Across America Day. For more information, see the National Education Association’s website.

Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action February 1–5, 2021

Wage justice. Wage Peace. Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action: February 1-5, 2021Dear Colleagues,
Considering historical as well as events of the past year and most shockingly this past week, I believe it behooves all school librarians to collaborate with classroom educators to confront racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter at School Week is being held the first week of Black History Month, February 1-5, 2021. This is an opportune time to co-design curriculum for the unique students in your school.

Black Lives Matter at School
#BLMatSchool is a national coalition of “educators, students, parents, families, community members fighting for racial justice in school!” You can follow them on Twitter or access their website. You can contribute to the network by posting what you’re doing in your school/community to achieve racial justice.

Founded in 2016, #BLMatSchool has designated the first week of February as their week of action. On their website, educators, students, and supporters will find a “starter kit,” 13 principles, “The Demands,” and curriculum resources.

The 13 guiding principles are described on the site. “The Demands” are intended to ensure safety and equity in schools:

  1. End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
  2. Hire more Black teachers
  3. Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
  4. Fund counselors not cops

Allyship
Since our education and library professions are predominately White, Black educators, students, families, and administrators need White allies who will work alongside them to achieve these demands. As allies, we must have a mindset that doing this work is not for our Black colleagues and students but is an essential part of our own liberation from White privilege and racial injustice.

To learn more about allyship, please read the “How to Be an Ally” article on the Teaching Tolerance.org website.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has published another helpful set of resources for educators leading discussions with students about politics, civic engagement, and uncertainty.

These articles may be a place to begin your curriculum conversation with your instructional partners, grade-level or disciplinary teams, or at the whole-school level.

Curriculum Resources for Your Consideration from #BLMatSchool
Freedom Reads is a video series designed to help parents and teachers select children’s books through a multicultural, social justice lens at SocialJusticeBooks.org.

They have published lessons for online use from their Second Annual Teach Central America Week and the Civil Rights Teaching website.

The Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools)  hosted an online teaching series on Teaching the Black Freedom Struggle.

Additional Resources
As librarians and educators, we know that responding to children’s and young adult literature can create a context for exploring deeply personal as well as universal themes. Skilled educators, who listen, ask thought-provoking questions, and display empathy can create the necessary open and safe spaces for these conversations. Combined with the participation of trustworthy peers, students can explore essential truths about our nation’s history and current culture and express their hopes and willingness to work for a just and peaceful future.

On my wiki, I have organized resources to support your curriculum development: https://tinyurl.com/jmBLMatSchool

  1. Virtual Book Discussions and Programming

2. Downloadable Book Head Heart Literature Circle Discussion Guide (adapted from Beers and Probst, 2017).

3. Links to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Books and Resources

In addition, the American Library Association offers Black History Month Graphics, including bookmarks and posters with messages and quotes to frame your curriculum.

Hard Conversations
School librarians can be leaders when we create spaces for students and educators to engage in difficult conversations. I hope you and one or more of your colleagues will make time to design a thoughtful, respectful, and unifying curriculum to involve students in taking action during Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. I also hope you will share your work on their website.

Wage justice. Wage peace.

Launching the New Year with Inquiry Learning

Welcome to School Librarian Leadership 2021!

On this blog, I share research and musings, news and views with the hopes of prompting critical thinking regarding coteaching and collaboration between school librarians, classroom teachers, specialists, school administrators, and others involved in deeper learning and effective teaching.

A Dialogue Centered on Inquiry Learning

Screenshot of Judi Moreillon and Barbara StriplingLast month, I had the pleasure of participating in an interview with long-time friend and colleague Barbara Stripling. In addition to writing for School Library Connection (SLC) magazine, Barb is engaged in collecting video interviews to share on the SLC website. Over our years in school librarianship, Barb’s path and mine have intersected many times. We have many beliefs, values, and recommended practices in school librarianship in common, but inquiry learning may be the thread that connects all of them.

Student Motivation and Inquiry: A Conversation
In my experience, inquiry is a pathway that leads directly to deeper learning. When students ask personally meaningful questions that are relevant to their own lives, they are motivated to learn and will be invested in their learning outcomes. When students practice agency, they grow as independent thinkers, active participants, and knowledge contributors who express curiosity, demonstrate persistence, and build the foundation for lifelong learning.

“In this video, educators Barbara Stripling and Judi Moreillon discuss ways to motivate students and help them engage in deeper inquiry. As Moreillon points out, it’s not easy: ‘Today, students, and all of us adults, we want things to be quick and easy, and inquiry is anything but quick and easy. It’s messy. It takes commitment. It takes work. So, motivating people of all ages to ask questions and pursue knowledge and facts can be challenging.’ Both Moreillon and Stripling have risen to this challenge, and share their insights here (in this video)” (2020).

The video will be freely available until January 31, 2021 and then will be accessible to SLC subscription holders. Barb and I invite you to view the video and share your questions and comments here on my blog.

Connecting Research and Practice
As both a practitioner and a researcher who writes for practicing school librarians as well as school librarianship educators and researchers, I am always looking to make connections between research and practice. Coincidentally and also in December, Edutopia published an article by Youki Terada and Stephen Merrill, in which they list and provide abstracts for the “10 Most Significant Education Studies in 2020.”

Although I recommend practicing school librarians review all ten of these studies, there was one on the list that directly supports making inquiry learning a top priority in our teaching: “Students Who Generate Good Questions Are Better Learners.” It’s number six on Terada and Merrill’s list.

Although this study was conducted at the university level, the results and recommendations can be applied from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Students who participated in the study scored an average of 14 percentage points higher on a test than students who studied their notes or reread classroom material. “Creating questions, the researchers found, not only encouraged students to think more deeply about the topic but also strengthened their ability to remember what they were studying” (Ebersbach, Feierabend, and Nazari 2020).

Having engaged graduate level students in inquiry learning, I have learned that far too many students get to higher education without ever having had the opportunity to engage in inquiry learning. They do not even know the term or what inquiry entails. Far too many have only had experiences of teacher-led research projects that involved them in answering the teacher’s or the textbook’s questions and writing a report that simply restated the “facts.” While many of these students have been “successful” as compliant learners, they have not developed a passion for discovery and have not experienced all of the joys and challenges of the learning journey.

In my humble opinion, these students have not been prepared for life. Students should have inquiry experiences beginning in the early grades that set an expectation for student-led learning (See Edutopia’s video: “Inquiry-Based Learning: From Teacher-Guided to Student-Driven” – Ralston Elementary School is creating a culture of inquiry to nourish 21st-century learners.)

Launching 2021 with Inquiry Learning
School librarians and other educators can reach their goal of developing lifelong learners through guiding students in the inquiry process until youth are able to design their own learning process and pursue a question independently. Through classroom-library collaboration for instruction, educators can ensure that all K-12 students experience the competence, autonomy, and relevance that inquiry learning affords (see 11/30/20 Inquiry Connections blog post).

Let’s position our school libraries as hubs for inquiry learning. Let’s build instructional partnerships with classroom educators and spread the inquiry model in every classroom at every grade level and in every discipline in our schools.

Now that’s one high-impact 2021 New Year’s Resolution!

Works Cited

Ebersbach, Mirjam, Maike Feierabend, and Katharina Barzagar B. Nazari. 2020. “Comparing the Effects of Generating Questions, Testing, and Restudying on Students’ Long-term Recall in University Learning.” Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acp.3639

Stripling, Barbara K., and Judi Moreillon. 2020. “Student Motivation and Inquiry [19:18].” School Library Connection, December, https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2259724?topicCenterId=2252404

Terada, Youki, and Stephen Merrill. 2020. “The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2020.” Edutopia.org, December 4, https://www.edutopia.org/article/10-most-significant-education-studies-2020

SLJ Summit Recap

Image of Laptop with Bookshelves on the ScreenI appreciate School Library Journal for organizing a purely virtual 2020 Summit. The line-up of content was outstanding with many familiar as well as new (to me) and diverse voices represented. The interface was easy to use. My only regret is that my schedule did not allow me to attend all of the live sessions in real time, which were not recorded for later access.

CORRECTION: The live session recordings are now available! Please don’t miss the recording of “In Conversation with Patrisse Cullors” moderated by Erika Long!

Reimagining School
After a Zoom social and welcome remarks, the opening session “Reimagining School” was a perfect way to launch the day-long conversation about challenges faced and solved for successful remote learning, equitable access to resources, and serving underserved students and families.

The presenters were Susan Gauthier, Director, Library Services, East Baton Rouge Parish School District, Dr. Jacqueline Perez, Assistant Superintendent, Equity, Access & Community Engagement, Riverside (CA) Unified School District, Brian Schilpp, STEM Supervisor, Garrett County (MD) Schools, Marlon Styles, Jr., Superintendent, Middletown City (OH) Schools; the session was capably moderated by Kara Yorio, SLJ News Editor.

Each of these presenters shared their unique teaching and learning environments and highlighted that a one-size-fits-all response to remote, hybrid, or in-person learning during a pandemic is not recommended or even possible.

Susan Gauthier expertly presented the pandemic worldview from the school librarianship perspective in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. With over 41,000 students, Susan and her librarians’ biggest challenge was scaling their digital collections to meet the needs of all students, educators, and families. She wisely started planning for the closure this fall with a stakeholder survey; the results showed that no one wanted physical book checkouts and all resources would be delivered electronically. Here are the highlights of what Susan shared:

  • Promoting and using e-resources exclusively meant the district had to rethink their reading culture, including orientations to the virtual library, reader’s advisory, and reading challenges.
  • Expanding adoption of e-resources from broad acceptance at middle school to the entire K-12 community was essential and a leadership opportunity to school librarians.
  • The district had benefited from FEMA hurricane funds and built on their “weather resistant” collections, including expanding into nonfiction and titles in Spanish.
  • District librarians made a concerted effort to collaborate with the public library to ensure all students had e-cards that provided access to the public library’s digital collection.

Susan thanked the vendors who provided their district with free e-resources, including MackinVia, TeachingBooks, ABDO, and Follett’s Lightbox.

Here’s one takeaway from each of the other presenters:

Jacqueline Perez stressed the critical importance of taking an asset-based view of each individual student in terms of addressing their needs and engaging them in learning. (Another asset-based view in Riverside district involves the community and volunteers in organizing and staffing learning hubs particularly for homeless or other students who lack adult support.)

Brian Schilpp noted that “aggressive” professional development for educators must be individualized—meeting educators “where they are” is essential. (The district’s drive-in movie theater set-up for sharing information with families is brilliant.)

While all of the presenters talked about the importance of building on the relationships they had formed with students, families, and community, Marlon Styles, Jr. reinforced this truth in all of his comments. His best quote: “Creativity is free!” (Co-creating individual reading plans with students and families is an outstanding way to gain support for youth from the adults in their homes.)

After the session there was a post-panel discussion in Zoom where participants crowdsourced ideas and resources.

I have watched two previously recorded sessions so far.

Nick Glass, founder of TeachingBooks, spotlighted the amazing digital resources offered on the site—232,000+ and rising! In addition to the TeachingBooks search tools, the site offers a Diverse Books Toolkit, Reader’s Advisory, and Library Programming. As an added benefit, particularly during remote learning, sharing tools allow librarians and other educators to connect TeachingBooks resources to their learning management systems.

Watching this resource evolve over the past twenty years has been amazing. If you don’t know and use TeachingBooks, be sure to sign-up for the free trial offered to SLJ Summit attendees.

I also viewed “Vote Woke: Empower Students to Vote with Books and Community Support” by Cicely Lewis, 2020 School Librarian of the Year and founder of Read Woke. (To learn more about Read Woke, connect with Cicely’s blog). In this session, Cicely shared how she engaged high school students in registering themselves and their friends to vote. She stressed how students took the lead in all of the voting initiatives launched at her school. Cicely recommended The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (2020) as a must-read title for engaging youth in discussions around voting. She earned a $5,000 MTV Virtual Program Grant and her students had the distinct pleasure of a private Zoom call with former First Lady Michelle Obama and Jenna Bush Hagar.

Cicely was joined by Ron Gauthier, Branch Manager of the Grayson Public Library in Gwinnett County, Georgia. He shared how he and his team have partnered with public schools and the community to provide supplemental materials and programs tailored to their needs. This public library – school library collaboration is admirable and should be replicated across the county.

Sadly, for me, I was unable to attend the final live session of the Summit: “In Conversation with Patrisse Cullors.” Patrisse is an artist, activist, and educator; she co-founded Black Lives Matter in 2013. The movement, now an international organization with dozens of chapters around the world, campaigns against anti-black racism. Patrisse’s memoir When They Call You a Terrorist was a New York Times bestseller. Tennessee school librarian Erika Long moderated the conversation. Erika was part of the ALA Presidential Initiative: Fight for School Libraries, AASL Presidential Initiative Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and is a co-contributor to the “Equity” chapter in the forthcoming book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

I turned to Twitter colleagues to get their takeaways from their session (with thanks to them):

Lindsey Kimery @LindsKAnderson Loved the conversation btw @erikaslong & @OsopePatrisse -Young people need to know they have the capability to be leaders right now. Educators need to be on the front lines of supporting the voice and vision of young people- Patrisse Cullors. #blm #sljsummit #mnpslibhack #tasltn

Jennifer Sharp @JenniferSharpTN – “Young people need to know that they have the ability to be leaders right now.” “There is a vibrancy to this moment that is very different than 2016 and everybody feels it.” Loving these thoughts about the activism of young people, @OsopePatrisse and @erikaslong Raising hands Clapping hands sign #sljsummit

Sara Kelly Johns @skjohns Just watched a powerful session at the @SLJ Summit with @erikaslong facilitating a conversation with Patrice Cullors, author of When They Call You a Terrorist. Whew! I am going back for another listen. #sljsummit #BlackLivesMatter

Kathy Ishizuka @kishizuka – An inspired and hopeful note to end on. @erikaslong @OsopePatrisse Peace, and remember to #vote #sljsummit #thankyou

Thank you again, SLJ, for this fine learning opportunity. I intend to make time this week for taking greater advantage of what you have generously offered.

Image Credit
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

Innovation and Leadership During Challenging Times

In writing an op-ed on the topic of the Invest in Education Act (Arizona ballot initiative Prop. 208) “Our Opportunity to Repair (Arizona) Public Education,” I wanted to be sure that I was accurately representing the work of Arizona school librarians during closures or hybrid teaching.

I connected with several Arizona school librarians and compared their testimonials to the Back-to-School Survey data collected by the American Association of School Librarians and to my conversation with North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) Leadership Academy members.

I am proud to report that school librarians across the country have been and continue to be innovative leaders during remote and hybrid teaching and learning.

Last month, I had the opportunity to think and share with NCSLMA Leadership Academy members during an hour-long Zoom meeting. They had spent several months reading Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

Our September conversation focused on the challenges they have faced as librarians delivering library services outside the physical spaces of libraries. We framed our conversation with quotes from George Couros’s The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity (2015).

These are some of my takeaways from our conversation organized around the quotes that guided our discussion.

Leadership: “Leaders, whatever their role, will more easily change if they allow others to see them taking risks, failing, recovering, and risking all over again” (Couros 2015, 59).

When we were classroom teachers, we took daily risks with our students. While students are still the primary “audience” for our teaching, school librarians work in fishbowls. When we take risks, we have witnesses: students, classroom teachers, student and adult library aides and volunteers, and administrators, too.

Remote teaching and learning during the pandemic have upped the ante. With libraries closed or in a hybrid model, we often have parents and caregivers who are supporting their children in the (Zoom) “room” just like today’s classroom teachers do. This may test our willingness to take risks, fail, recover, and risk all over again.

The NCSLMA school librarians shared their experiences with taking risks during school closures. They realize that their ability to be vulnerable has been tested in these challenging times. Those who shared expressed that their confidence has grown as they have tried new strategies for serving their learning communities remotely.

Innovation: “Innovation is not about changing everything; sometimes you only need change one thing” (Couros 2015, 60).

Striving for equity can lead to innovation. Spring semester 2020 required thinking outside the box, especially when technology devices and access to broadband were unequally distributed among our students and families. We talked briefly about how the Washington (D.C.) School District, led by Washington Teachers Union President Elizabeth Davis delivered 100% teaching via TV when they learned that 38% of students had no devices or connectivity.

One elementary NCSLMA school librarian talked about collaborating with art, music, and PE teachers to develop televised presentations that could reach all their students. This powerful experience with collaboration could provide the experience these educators need to continue offering topical or thematic connections among their disciplines into the future.

NCSLMA school librarians who were experimenting with curbside pick-up for students expresses the age-old concern of all librarians: will the books come back?

One NCSLMA high school librarian solved the equity problem at her school. She gathered all of the computers that remained in the building and set up an appropriately distanced Internet café in the auditorium. Students who lack/lacked devices or connectivity in their homes signed up to use these workstations to continue their learning.

Technology: “Technology invites us to move from engaged to empowered. It provides opportunities to go deeper into our learning by giving us the ability to consume, and, more importantly, create” (Couros 2015, 140).

The NCSLMA school librarians discussed the problem posed by an emphasis on consumption over creation in face-to-face or remote teaching and learning.

One NCSLMA school librarian mentioned a professional development plan she created in conjunction with her new principal. Their goal is to engage students in inquiry learning using “Applied Digital Skills with Google.”  The outcome and deliverable she has proposed is for 4th/5th grade students to create tech-enabled learning products.

One challenge NCSLMA school librarians identified is that when learning went remote last spring many devices were sent to students’ homes. With the return to hybrid or in-person learning, the resources that were previously in school are now dispersed.

As a result, we asked these questions: What do teaching and classroom-library collaboration look like when all the tech is in students’ homes? Could this be a return to “slow” hands-on learning? How will students respond to using pens and pencils to physically write and to use tactile materials to create learning products?

We talked about the potential of real “hands-on” learning and students working in collaborative small group pods as strategies for helping them rebuild social skills they may have lost when they had little or no face-to-face contact with their peers. We talked about how engaging small groups of students in projects such as writing and performing scripts and music could benefit the whole child/student.

We also mentioned the idea of an “emotional café,” a physical or virtual space, where school librarians can help classroom teachers stay grounded in today’s reality with its current affordances and constraints. We all agreed that leading the social-emotional health of our learning communities is important work for school librarians and other school leaders.

Collaboration: “To truly integrate new learning, it is critical to carve out time for exploration, collaboration, and reflection to allow educators to apply what they are learning. It is the application of learning that breeds innovative ideas and practices that work for your unique context and begin to make an impact for the learners across schools and classrooms” (Couros 2015, 182).

In meeting other people’s needs, school librarians are in a position to build strong collegial relationships that lead to collaboration and build advocates for the contributions we make to the learning community. Through learning with our colleagues, we will be able to apply innovative ideas and practices. We will be able to analyze the results, modify our practices, and engage in continuous improvement as we explore and integrate our own professional development.

Leadership and Vulnerability
I just finished reading Senator Kamala Harris’s autobiography, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey (2019). While I highly recommend the entire book, the “Test the Hypothesis” section near the end connected with the NCSLMA Leadership Academy conversation and with other school librarians navigating these challenging times for teaching and learning.

“Innovation is the pursuit of what can be, unburdened by what has been. And we pursue innovation not because we’re bored but because we want to make things faster, more efficient, more effective, more accurate… We expect mistakes; we just don’t want to make the same mistake twice. We expect imperfections; it’s basic for us… We know that the more we test something, the clearer we’ll understand what works and what doesn’t, and the better the final product or process will be” (Harris 2019, 253).

Thank you to the NCSLMA Leadership Academy school librarians for sharing your experiences, questions, and plans with each other and with me. I leave you with a parting quote: “Leadership requires confidence and vulnerability” (Harland and Cellucci forthcoming). You will be able to achieve a high-level of leadership if you continue to take risks, remain vulnerable, and continually increase your confidence through practice and reflection as you lead students, colleagues, and families through this challenging time.

References

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

Harland, Pamela, and Anita Cellucci. 2021. “Leadership.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. J. Moreillon. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Harris, Kamala. 2019. The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. New York: Penguin.

Image Credit

Pixabay. “Abstract Blackboard Bulb Chalk.” Pexels.com, https://www.pexels.com/photo/abstract-blackboard-bulb-chalk-355948.

More School Librarian Advocacy 2020

Megaphone with words: School Librarian AdvocacyCongratulations, SLRI!!!

Last week, the School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) Section of the Rhode Island Library Association published a one-minute trailer and a fifteen-minute video to promote the critical contributions school librarians make in today’s learning environments.

Both the trailer and the video are accessible on this page: “Overdue: The Value of School Librarians.” (Hurrah for the title, too!)

Access them directly with these links: Trailer or Video

The goal of this short documentary-style advocacy film is to show the value of school librarians. The film, directed by Alex DeCiccio, follows five Rhode Island school librarians as they teach rural and urban students of all ages, collaborate with teachers, and take on vital leadership roles in their schools.

The SLRI has made the trailer and Creative Commons public license 4.0 film available to anyone who would like to share it with their own library stakeholders. The video was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

From the landing page, SLRI has provided additional resources such as a sample letter to stakeholders, a screening and film discussion guide, and an advocacy letter template. You can also read about the project in their press release “Rhode Island School Librarians Recognized as Essential in the Short Documentary ‘Overdue: The Value of School Librarians.’”

Here are a couple excerpts:

In the film, Tasha White, a Providence elementary school library media specialist, says. “My goal is to make library as cool as gym class and recess.” Tasha’s principal Brent Kerman extolls library media centers as places “to learn twenty-first century skills” and school librarians as “key educators in raising up the culture of the entire school.”

Library media specialist Kristin Polseno who serves Mount St. Charles Academy says, “We live in a society where there is this ever-growing sea of information, and then somebody in a position to make decisions about education comes to the decision that a librarian is a luxury. That doesn’t add up for me.”

The film sets out to ask and answer this question: “When you think of a school librarian, what comes to mind? Shushing or a compassionate educator?” “Overdue: The Value of School Librarians” responds by pushing back against stereotypes that school libraries (and librarians) are quiet/shushers, boring, or non-essential.

The testimonials in the video do not pull punches. Librarians openly share the impact of their schedules, multiple school assignments, and the barriers they overcome to do their best work for the benefit of students, other educators, administrators, and families.

The video closes with a series of research-based statements about the critical contributions of school librarians to student learning and the tragic loss of school librarian positions nationwide.

The video makes a connection to one of my all-tie favorite quotes and a likely motto as we strive for social justice.

“Do the best you can do until you know better. When you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

When we create and promote our one-way public relations messages, we intend for all school librarian advocates, including students, education colleagues, administrators, and families, to take up our cause. We need advocates to help us do the work we are passionate about and have trained to do—to make literacy learning opportunities accessible and equitable for every young person in our schools.

“Overdue” has hit its mark.
Check it out and share it widely!

See also:

Administrators Partner with School Librarians” created by the AASL School Leader Collaborative or read about it in my May 4, 2020 blog post.

Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School” crowdsourced by Yours Truly and Teresa Starrett

And then please, please, please advocate on!

Image Adapted from:

Tumisu. “Megaphone Loud Scream,” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/megaphone-loud-scream-loudspeaker-911858/