Teach Like Finland, Part 1

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the first in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Since 2001, many educators in the U. S., including yours truly, and around the world have wondered why Finnish students continually rank as top scorers on the international PISA exam. I recently read Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. This is some of what I learned.

Before I even opened the book, I reflected on the use of the word “joyful” in the subtitle. In my work as a school librarian which included thirteen years at all three instructional levels between 1992 – 2009, I cotaught with classroom teachers in their classrooms as well as in the library, computer labs, and out in the field. I had the pleasure of working in many “joyful” classrooms, libraries, and even one very joyful school!

I agree with Teach Like Finland author Timothy Walker that joy is one of the too-oft missing ingredients in schooling today. Walker organizes his book into the four elements of happiness — belonging, autonomy, master, and mind-set — identified by Rag Raghunathan author of If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? To these Walker adds “well-being.”

There were many other aspects of the Finnish education culture that “spoke to me.” Children start formal schooling at age seven. Elementary schools, in particularly, strive for a holistic, child-focused curriculum that addresses all subjects evenly. All subjects including art and music as well as what U. S. schools consider “core” subjects get equal time. Finnish schools apply the research that has shown art contributes to innovative thinking and music knowledge can help learners grasp mathematical patterns. The holistic model gives children opportunities to cultivate multiple aspects of their personalities and talents.

The average time that Finnish educators spend in actual instruction is also shorter than U. S. teachers per week (18 hours versus 26.5 hours). Finnish students and teachers have 15-minute breaks after every 45-minutes of instructional time. Collaborating with colleagues is one way that educators use that “free” time every day. (See below.)

Walker identified six strategies Finnish educators use to approach their work: seek flow, have a thicker skin, collaborate over coffee, welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy. All of these are well worth considering.

Seek Flow
As a writer and educator, I know and strive for that feeling of flow when my mind and body are totally focused and I do my best work. Walker writes: “Being teachers who seek flow, not superiority, is something that’s not just good for us; it’s also good for our students. Our students are watching us, and if they see that we’re seeking to do our best work, free of comparing ourselves to others, I’m confident that this kind of example will foster a noncompetitive culture in our classrooms… This positive change we want to see—as is so often the case in teaching—starts with us” (Walker 173).

Have a Thicker Skin
Having a “thicker skin” that allows us to give, receive, and respond to constructive criticism is another important strategy. Principal leader and author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Couros just last week posted “It’s Okay to Be the ‘Boss’” to his blog. The thicker skin strategy totally aligns with Couros’s idea about providing adults with feedback.

Couros writes: “As long as people know that you are both on the same page (that you want them to be successful), they will accept the feedback. For some, it is harder than others, but when they know it is because you want them to be better, it is a much easier pill to swallow.”

Walker goes on to write about how he uses journaling to work through anxieties and challenges in teaching. He also writes about how noting “gratitudes” can boost happiness and giving thanks can strengthen relationships.

Collaborate Over Coffee
Of course, the aspect of daily life in Finnish schools that jumped off the page at me was educator collaboration. Walker interviewed several Finnish teachers and asked: “What brings you joy as a teacher, and what brings your students joy?”

One of the most popular answers was collaboration! He noted that nearly 50% of the lessons he taught during his time in Finland were cotaught.

“Teachers in my school were not just collaborating in the traditional sense, by planning and teaching lessons together—they were truly laboring together, sharing the burdens of teaching with each other. They were helping each other track down the resources they’d need for an upcoming lesson. They were discussing better ways to support needy students. They were analyzing curriculum together. They were talking about how to improve recess for the kids. They were grading tests together. They were offering tech support to each other. To my surprise, this work often happened in between sips of coffee, during those fifteen-minute breaks throughout the day” (Walker 178-179).

His comment made me think about what I mean when I write about collaborating in the “traditional sense.” I believe coteaching involves all of the aspects that Walker describes, but maybe others, who have not experienced classroom-library coteaching between equal partners, do not perceive the same depth of partnership that I have experienced.

In the course of coplanning and coteaching, classroom teachers and school librarians are analyzing curriculum together. They are sharing resources and providing technology support to one another. They are strategizing how to differentiate to meet the needs of all students. And in the most effective partnerships, they are assessing students’ work together and using assessment to adjust their instruction.

Walker writes: “More than anything, I think collaboration is all about mind-set. If you truly believe that you are a better teacher when you are working in concert with others, then I think you will naturally find small, simple ways of collaborating… Their work together seemed like a by-product of their teaching mind-set” (181).

Bravo! And yes! To a mind-set that believes collaboration is the key to better teaching.

I will reflect on the other three strategies next week: welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “It’s Okay to Be the ‘Boss.’” The Principal of Change blog. 18 May 2017, http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7360 Accessed 20 May 2017.

Raghunathan, Rag. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? New York: Penguin, 2016.

Walker, Timothy D. Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.

Re-commitment to Collaboration

Like many of you, I reflected on my most satisfying accomplishments and my incomplete projects of 2016 before settling on my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Although I am big on setting short-term achievable (daily/weekly) goals, it’s helpful for me to have a year-long big picture plan as well.

This year, I will re-commitment my professional work to collaboration within school learning communities and outward into the larger local, state, national, and international communities as well. As they have for more than twenty-five years, my resolutions focus on the literacy work of school librarians and school library programs.

In 2017, I will:

  • complete my forthcoming book Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. In the book, due to my editor in mid-June and scheduled to be published at the end of 2017, I will make the case with all library stakeholders for adopting a systems thinking approach to classroom-library coplanning and coteaching;
  • write, blog, make presentations, and generally shout out about the inquiry learning and reading comprehension foundations of the book and the potential of these responsibilities and a systems perspective to create opportunities for future ready school librarians to increase their impact on teaching and learning;
  • continue to work with the Arizona Library Association and the Teacher Librarian Division to advocate for inclusion of the essential roles of school librarians and libraries in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan. Once in place, I will advocate for the return of school librarian positions across Arizona, focusing first on districts in and around my home in Tucson;
  • continue to serve on committees of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and promote and support the worthy work of the association (including the celebration of AASL’s 65th anniversary);
  • work with practicing school librarians to support their collaborative work within their schools and in their collaborative work with community agencies and organizations. I will write about and promote their success; (See my 12/30/16 ALSC blog post “Gimme a C (For Collaboration!) that features a school-library public-library collaboration for summer reading.)
  • expand my thinking about how school librarians and school library programs can make a difference in family literacy, particularly for babies and preschool children. Helping our communities prepare children for formal schooling is an investment in each individual’s long-term life choices and in the health of our neighborhoods and cities;
  • continue to honor and promote the work of public library and healthcare providers who are making a difference for families through books for babies programs. Yesterday, in Tarrant County, Texas, the Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their 2017 initiative to give a copy of my book Vamos a leer/Read to Me to every new mother. In 2017, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health Systems are continuing their program “Books for Dallas Babies,” which began on January 1st, 2016;
  • and I will enact my library values in my professional and civic life.

There is much work to be done to promote equity and justice.

With a huge thank-you to author-illustrator Melissa Sweet for Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, my pick for the most outstanding 2016 information book for children, I set my resolve with an excerpt from a letter E.B. White wrote in 1973:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day” (White, cited in Sweet 132).

And I would add: Let’s work together for equity, social justice, and the betterment of all!

Work Cited
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Twibbon courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians’ “It’s in Our Hands” 65th-anniversary Celebration

Flexible Scheduling = Time for Learning

flick-gator_cheerleadersDuring the SLC Connection “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th, several participants asked questions about library scheduling. Some of us stayed online after the hour to talk a bit more about scheduling for classroom-library collaboration.

This has long been a tension for school librarians, particularly those who serve in elementary schools. Without a flexible schedule is it difficult to collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists and provide students with deeper learning opportunities.

In fact, a week later during Leslie Maniotes’ “Guided Inquiry Design in Action” Webinar on October 27th, Leslie noted the importance of classroom-library collaboration and stressed the inquiry phases needed before students formulate their questions: open, immerse, and explore. Thorough preparation for successful inquiry learning takes time.

In my experience, inquiry phases should occur over a reasonably short period so that students’ passions are engaged. This helps them become self-motivated as they begin their inquiry and supports them in making a commitment to their learning. Fixed library schedules were school librarians are working with students at one set time each week, usually for 30 to 50 minutes, simply does not lend itself to classroom-library collaboration for guided inquiry.

Roger Grape, school librarian at Blackshear Elementary in Austin, Texas, created at a digital advocacy story to promote flexible schedules: “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” In his Animoto video, Roger notes that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) promotes flexibly scheduled school libraries as a best practice.

“Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher who is the subject specialist, and the librarian who is the information process specialist” (AASL). See the entire AASL Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.

As Roger says, “You need the best from every member of your team” (Grape). Librarians with flexibly scheduled libraries have the opportunity to serve students and teachers at the point of need. They have the opportunity to engage students and collaborate with teachers to guide deeper learning.

As I suggested in the “Coteaching” Webinar, school librarians can find a friend on the faculty, or one who teaches an age-level or in a discipline in which you have a particular strength, or approach a colleague who has expertise you lack and form a collaborative relationship. If you are working in a fixed schedule, ask that person to “give up” her/his planning time in order to coplan and coteach and build a case with administrators and colleagues for the efficacy of classroom-library collaboration supported by flexible scheduling.

Side note: If you are attending the Arizona Library Association Conference in Tucson this week, please considering participating in my session: Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories. You, too, can make an effective advocacy video like Roger’s; his has over 800 views!

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.” American Library Association. 17 July 2014, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/flex-sched.

Breeze, Chris. “Flick-Gator Cheerleaders.” Wikipedia: Cheerleading, 25 Jan. 2009, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheerleading#/media/File:Flick-Gator_Cheerleaders.jpg.

Grape, Roger. “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” YouTube.com. 20 Mar. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWo3FWmQVhM

Collaborative Lesson Planning

Cameron_collabplanning2The theme of the October issue of Educational Leadership is “Powerful Lesson Planning.” I especially appreciate the article by Michelle Bauml, associate professor in early childhood education at Texas Christian University: “The Promise of Collaboration.” She writes “effective collaboration is generally characterized by shared goals, good communication and equitable contributions by all participants” (60). She goes on to stress that collaboration doesn’t “automatically yield effective lessons.”

Applying the principles of effective lesson design is essential. Effective educators base instruction on assessment data. They collect evidence of student learning during and after the lesson. They also use observations and these data to inform the instruction in process and future instruction. These principles can support educators as they work together to codesign effective lessons in which learning objectives, tasks, and assessments are aligned.

Dr. Bauml notes, “Just as students don’t automatically know how to work in groups, teachers can’t be expected to magically make collaboration work” (60). This is where school librarians’ experiences as instructional partners can be particularly valuable in the school learning community. When school librarians develop their expertise by working with individual faculty members and teaching teams, they can serve as effective collaboration guides.

Coimplementing coplanned lessons was missing from the article because even after coplanning many classroom teachers do not have the opportunity to coteach those lessons. When two classroom teachers coteach, they must find a space large enough to accommodate doubling the class size. And they miss out of one of the important benefits of coteaching, namely lowering the student-to-educator ratio.

When classroom teachers coteach with the school librarian, they can truly experience job-embedded professional development. They can learn with and from each other in real time, make adjustments to instruction informed by two (or more educators), and comonitor students’ guided practice. Then when they follow up by coassessing student learning, they both bring their first-hand knowledge of what happened during the instructional intervention.

Coplanning, coimplementation, and coassessing student learning and the instructional itself may be the best form of professional development for all educators.

Dr. Bauml cites instructional specialists, paraprofessionals, school administrators, and special education teachers as possible collaborative planners with individual, pairs, or groups of classroom teachers (59). While I trust all school librarians aspire to be seen as “instructional specialists,” I will praise the day when more articles are published in education journals in which school librarians are specifically mentioned as collaborative instructional partners.

And to build on that vision, thank you to 230 school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, university faculty, and others interested in education who attended my Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” on Thursday, October 13th. If you were among the almost 800 who signed up and were unable to attend, you can link to the archive on edWeb.net.

You can also access resources from this SLC @theForeFront Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Let’s keep on improving our instruction through coteaching.

 

Work Cited

Bauml, Michelle. “The Promise of Collaboration.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 58-62.

Image Caption: Former school librarian now school librarian supervisor Stacy Cameron, an ELA teacher, and technology integration specialist coplanning (Used with permission)

Instructional Role of the School Librarian

moreillon_coteaching_imageIn August, 2016, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) posted the “Instructional Role of the School Librarian” position statement online.

According to the statement, “As educators and instructional partners school librarians are critical to teaching and learning in the school community” (“Position Statements”).

It is through my thirteen-year experience as a school librarian and twenty-one years as a school librarian educator that I know this is true. I have served at and observed the practice of school librarians at all three instructional levels. When school librarians serve “as leaders in literacy and technology, school librarians are perfectly positioned to instruct every student in the school community through both traditional and blended learning” (“Position Statements”), they can be essential contributors to students’ well-rounded education.

My experience tells me, and research supports it (Moreillon), that the most effective way for school librarians to serve as leaders in their schools is through collaborative instructional partnerships with classroom teachers and specialists. Working with the classroom teacher and through classroom curriculum ensures that the school librarian’s instruction has the potential to positively impact the learning needs of all students while it meets classroom teachers’ and school administrators’ objectives.

This is an open invitation to school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, parents, and anyone interested in education to participate in my upcoming Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success.” It will be held on Thursday, October 13th at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

You can read about it on the School Library Connection Blog or register at edWeb.net.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Coteaching: A Strategic Evidence-based Practice for Collaborating School Librarians.” School Library Connection, vol.1, no. 6, 2016, pp. 48-50. http://tinyurl.com/slcblog100716

“Position Statements: Instructional Role of the School Librarian,” American Association of School Librarians. 6 Aug. 2016, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements

Image Caption: Teacher Kathi Stalzer and school librarian Debra LaPlante, Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral School, Phoenix, Arizona, coteaching a strategy lesson with 4th-grade students

Effective School Library Programs

aasl_def_effect_slpIn the September/October 2016 issue of Knowledge Quest, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) published the definition for an effective school library program (4-5). AASL President Audrey Church and AASL Executive Director Sylvia Knight Norton introduced this statement by putting the definition in the context of the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

ESSA includes AASL’s definition. The KQ article/position statement notes: “The definition of an effective school library program provides guidance to administrators, school boards, and school librarian in implementing ESSA” (5).

The goal of effective school library programs is to prepare students for college, career, and community. The statement emphasizes the need for a state-certified school librarian serving in an adequately staffed library as essential to meeting the objectives of an effective program. Some of these objectives are equitable access to resources, including technology, a dynamic environment that links to real-world events and enables academic knowledge and deeper personalized learning.

As a long-time advocate for classroom-library collaboration, I was heartened to see the definition includes collaboration as the third fundamental component. The effective school library program “provides regular professional development and collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarians” (4). AASL defines collaboration is this way: “Working with a member of the teaching team to plan, implement, and evaluate a specialized instructional plan” (5).

The instructional role of the school librarian includes working with classroom teachers to develop “information literacy and digital literacy instruction for all students” (5). Building relationships in the school learning community is the foundation on which school librarians lead an effective school library program. Collegiality and trust are necessary for classroom-library coplanning and coteaching, including coassessing student learning outcomes.

To support you in developing your effective school library program, I am inviting all school librarians to participate in my upcoming Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success.” It will be held on Thursday, October 13th at 5:00 p.m. EDT and is sponsored by ABC-CLIO and Libraries Unlimited.

It is critical that school librarian leaders embrace and practice this definition in order to demonstrate to education decision-makers, school administrators, classroom teachers and specialists, students, families, and community the essential role of the school librarian and library program in educating future ready students.

BACC blog readers can access all of the AASL position statements, including the “Definition for Effective School Library Program” and “Instructional Role of the School Librarian” at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements

Work Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “Definition for Effective School Library Program.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 1, 2016, pp. 4-5. Online at: http://tinyurl.com/aasldefslp

Word cloud created at Wordle.net

Banned Books Week Projects

muniz_img_2403_thumbnailAs AASL President Audrey Church notes: “Intellectual freedom and the right to privacy have been with us throughout the history of school librarianship. The issues are the same, but the formats, the situations, and the contexts have grown” (qtd. in Adams, 41).

During Banned Books Week, every school librarian has the opportunity to involve students, colleagues, administrators, and families in projects related to the Freedom to Read (http://ftrf.org).

Celia Muniz is the library media specialist at Harlingen High School in Harlingen, Texas. She created a flyer to spotlight her school’s week-long observance of Banned Books Week.

On Monday the Harlingen Information Literacy Center (ILC) kicked off the school’s observance with a display of books and projects created by English language arts (ELA) teacher Mrs. Huerta’s students. (Ms. Muniz sweetened the deal by giving those who stopped by the library circ desk and joined the fight against censorship a candy treat.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Mrs. Huerta’s students and the ILC offered Banned Books Week presentations to other classes on a sign-up basis. Today, on September 29th, Ms. Muniz is taking photos in the ILC of staff and students wearing super hero t-shirts and capes. Finally, on Friday Ms. Muniz is distributing “Defending the Right to Read Banned Books” stickers in the cafeteria during both lunch periods.

Similarly, Erikka Adams, head librarian at the Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, set out to involve the entire campus in Banned Books Week. She created a school-wide, campus-based banned books scavenger hunt, which she kicked off with a school-wide announcement. She followed up the announcement with details via email.

All of the banned books in the hunt had a sheet inside explaining why they are banned and a QR code to a video talking about banned books in general.  She posted the scavenger hunt clues on the library’s social media accounts; students and faculty had to follow/like/friend to get the clues.

Anyone who finds one of the challenged books, snaps a selfie holding the book, and posts the photo using these hashtags (#bannedbooksweek #proctoracademy #proctorreads) will be invited to the post-banned books book swap and pizza party.  Finally, during a school-wide assembly, some students will share the title of the books they found, why each has been banned or challenged, and how students found that particular copy.

Danielle Lewis, middle school librarian at the United National International School (UNIS) in New York, New York, sent this message to the school learning community: “The right to books, libraries, and information is a human right embedded in the UNIS Mission, the Charter of the United Nations and the 2030 SDGs.  I want to start a conversation that helps middle school students explore how our diverse stories enrich the human community — and why we need to celebrate and protect everyone’s right to read and write.”

In collaboration with advisors and subject area teachers, Ms. Lewis opened a discussion with the entire middle school community.

  • There has been a “pop-up” library with banned books and poster-making materials in the middle school lounge during lunch over the past few weeks.
  • The school’s book clubs have dedicated their opening meetings of the year to exploring banned books, censorship, and the freedom to read and think for themselves.
  • In addition, Ms. Lewis has been speaking about intellectual freedom with ELA and advisory classes.  Last Thursday, she spoke with one grade level as a whole group during Drop Everything and Read time.

After students were introduced to the issue of intellectual freedom, they were encouraged to participate in a variety of activities including making a poster, taking a “banned book shelfie,” participating in a virtual read-out, and reading diverse banned books. Ms. Lewis created this presentation to support this call to action.

Seanean Shanahan, who shared Banned Books Week activities in Monday’s “Freedom to Read” blog, snapped photographs of ELA teachers wearing their “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie” t-shirts.

Involving classroom teachers, staff, and students in these week-long projects is one way for Ms. Muniz and the Harlingen High School ILC, Ms. Adams and the Proctor Academy Library, Ms. Lewis and the UNIS Library to diffuse conversations and learning about censorship and First Amendment rights throughout their school buildings.

Brava to these four leader school librarians. If you have questions about their work, you can contact Celia Muniz (@celiamuniz2), Erikka Adams (@LovetheLovejoy), and Seanean Shanahan (@Librarytalker) using their Twitter handles.

And hurray for all of the school librarians who remain defenders of students’ intellectual freedom.

 

Work Cited

Adams, Helen. “65 Years and Counting: AASL and School Librarians—Still Champions of Intellectual Freedom.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 1, 196, pp. 34-41.

Image courtesy of Celia Muniz, Library Media Specialist, Harlingen (TX) High School

Take Time for Collegiality

clock_learnArticles in the September issue of Educational Leadership offer strategies and a great deal of support for nurturing relationships with students.

But to be honest, I was disappointed when an issue titled “Relationships First” did not address the relationships between and among adults in school learning communities.

Student-educator relationships are formed and informed within a school culture. In a collaborative culture school in which building trust through relationships is a norm, all relationships benefit from working within a system of support.

Last month, former principal and author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Couros published a blog post titled “Ten Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #SchoolCulture as a Principal This Year.”

All ten of these tips could also be accomplished by a school principal and school librarian team. If school principals see their school librarian as a coleader in creating a culture of collaboration, they may increase their odds of achieving their desired goal—a positive school culture.

Under Tip #4 “Twitter videos of awesome things that are happening in classrooms,” Mr. Couros reminds principals to “make sure you share what you see with others constantly and consistently.” From the school librarian’s perspective, make sure you share what you do with other educators. When you make others the star of your story, you put a spotlight on their achievements—a great way to build collegial relationships.

Mr. Couros adds to the list of ten and notes: “Don’t be the principal that needs an ‘appointment’ to connect with others.  You have the mobility to move around the school in ways that many staff cannot, and it is important that you are visible.”

The same can be said of school librarians. Approaching others with an open heart and helping hand and being approachable by others is one hallmark of an effective school librarian. School librarians who don’t reach out and stay in the library are simply not as visible as they need to be.

Take time to get out of the library. Take time to meet formally and informally with all members of your learning community. Show that you care for your adult colleagues as well as for the students and families who are your shared responsibility.

Take time for collegiality and co-create an optimal work environment for yourself as well as for others.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “Ten Easy Ways to Create an Amazing #SchoolCulture as a Principal This Year.” GeorgeCouros.com. 27 Aug. 2016 Web. 14 Sept. 2016 <http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6627>.

Geralt. “Time to Learn.” Pixabay.com. 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2016 <http://pixabay.com/en/learn-clock- clock-face-time-hours-415341/>.

Lasting Impressions

footprint-506986_1280Some people come into our lives,
leave footprints on our hearts
and we are never the same.
Franz Schubert

In early August, Elyse S. Scott posted “On the Very First Day (Be the Best You Can Be)” to the MiddleWeb blog. Whether or not you teach at the middle school level, her words of advice are important for all educators: “Those initial days in the classroom can be the catalyst for building community and ultimately a collaborative learning environment, and it all starts with that first impression!” (Scott). Building student-educator relationships is an essential foundation for learning. Regardless of our age, we all learn best from people we respect and teachers who “see” us—recognize who we are and what’s important to us.

We all can remember teachers who made an impression on us because they shared who they were as people. They sang a song or recited a poem they wrote (as Elyse Scott does). They told a funny story or shared something about their lives outside of the classroom that we remember to this very day. Memorable (and effective) educators share their hopes and dreams. They show their students their humanness.

Sharing who we are and showing our humanity is equally important for school librarians as we reach out to get to know our classroom teacher colleagues. Whether we or they are new to the building, returning after a leave, or simply returning from summer break, we should always extend the hand of friendship.

While it is de rigeur for school librarians to share the children’s and young adult books that we love, sharing an adult read, film, or theater performance that we enjoyed may give our colleagues more clues about who we are. Telling a funny story about our own children or the misadventures on a trip we took over the summer can show our foibles and make us more approachable to our colleagues. When we show a genuine interest in our colleagues’ children as well as in their students we can connect more deeply with the educators with whom we seek to establish instructional partnerships.

As you get into full swing this school year, take the extra few minutes to connect with individual colleagues as well as individual students. Share yourself and encourage others to share who they are with you. And please don’t forget to make those essential connections with your principal(s), too.

Works Cited

Párraga, Rafael. “Footprint Sand Beach Foot.” Pixabay.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Sept. 2016 <http://goo.gl/6gDjk2>.

Schubert, Franz. VeryBestQuotes.com. 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 8 Sept. 2016 <http://goo.gl/hbMyiE>.

Scott, Elyse S. “On the Very First Day (Be the Best You Can Be).” MiddleWeb Blog. 9 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 Sept. 2016 <http://www.middleweb.com/31784/on-the-very-first-day-be-the-best-you-can-be/>.

Classroom-Library Collaboration for STEM Learning

bulls_eyeOne way that school librarians are responding to STEM/STEAM/STREAM is to house makerspaces in the physical space of the library. Involving students in hands-on opportunities to practice the creativity and critical thinking that can lead to innovation is a timely goal. In fact, and however, school librarians who have been effectively integrating technology tools into teaching and learning have been providing students many of these opportunities for decades.

The difference with today’s makerspace movement seems to be the emphasis on the types of tools students use in their making plus a greater emphasis on experimentation/trial and error rather than on creating final products to demonstrate learning. Some makerspaces operate in isolation from the classroom curriculum and could be described as “free play” centers that are neither constrained nor bounded by curriculum. These spaces may be facilitated by the school librarian working in isolation. Other makerspaces are integrated into the published curriculum and may be facilitated by a team of educators that includes the school librarian.

In Texas, Robin Stout, district-level Media Services and Emerging Technologies Supervisor (@BeanStout), Jody Rentfro, Emerging Technologies Specialist (@J_O_D_Y_R)  and Leah Mann, Library Media Services Instructional Specialist (@LMannTxLib), are spear-heading an initiative in Lewisville Independent School District (#LISDlib). LISD school librarians are piloting a Mobile Transformation Lab that moves beyond traditional “making” to address STEM/STEAM through collaborative lessons based on content area standards and district curriculum.

The team partners with campus librarians, classroom teachers and members of the curriculum department in collaborative planning meetings. The group examines the essential questions for the curriculum topic and decides which technologies from the Mobile Transformation Lab will best support the learning. Jody and Leah bring the agreed-upon resources to campus and co-teach lessons with campus staff for an entire day. They also participate in planning extension or follow-up lessons with the campus group.

You can see this process in action here:
http://goo.gl/znnvyn
http://goo.gl/wtjf8L

The Library Media Services and Emerging Technologies department offers an ever-growing repository of lessons from this project and tools to support librarians as they implement STEAMlabs with their students: http://hs.moodle.lisd.net/course/view.php?id=1010

This initiative has the potential to position school librarians as co-leaders in STEM/STEAM/STREAM learning. With an emphasis on collaborative classroom-library lesson plans, school librarians can achieve the hands-on creativity and critical thinking goals of makerspaces while school library programs remain at the center of their schools’ academic programs.

This is a makerspace strategy that is a win for students, classroom teachers, and school librarians, too.

Copyright-free Image by pippalou accessed from the Morguefile <http://bit.ly/1ccKDO1>.