Twitter Chats

What does a Sonoran Desert tortoise have to do with a twitter chat? Thanks to Aesop, tortoises have a reputation for being “slow but steady.” Online professional development (PD), particularly a “slow Twitter chat” may result in the slow and steady progress we all want to experience in our personal learning networks (PLNs).

Online PD is a trend that meets the test of aligning with library and my personal values. The Web allows near and distant colleagues to get together in real time or asynchronously. We can share our questions and challenges, successes and missteps. We can interact with others with particular areas of expertise. We can respond to shared readings and current events. In short, we collaborate to expand our knowledge and improve our individual and collective practice.

Twitter has become a go-to PD platform for many state-level, university-based, and independent groups of school librarians. Through regular contact with one another, participants in these chats “learn from one another, develop shared meanings through exchanging ideas and information, and enculturate one another into the ever-evolving profession of school librarianship” (65).

Developing a strong PLN is one important way to stay current in the field and freshly energized in our practice.

In the 2014-2015 school year, I had the pleasure of being a participant observer studying the #txlchat. This Twitter chat meets during the academic year on Tuesdays from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Central Time. Members post using the hashtag throughout the week as well. I set out to learn about the #txlchat culture and the value participants place on this online PD experience.

The #txlchat cofounders and core group members have created a “democratic” context for the chat. They are committed to ensuring that participants’ voices are heard. Everyone I interviewed and those who responded to the survey noted the benefits they receive from learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and experience with the group. “@debramarshall summed up her experience this way: ‘I am a better librarian because of Twitter’” (68).

Chats can also be an excellent way to get out a message and share resources. The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation is currently exploring the use of Twitter chats to promote school-public library collaboration and the toolkit we created.

Currently, I am participating in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Supervisors Section (SPVS) book discussion. We are using the #aaslspvschat to discuss the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. SPVS Chair Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) is posting questions for our consideration over a five-week period.

This is my first experience with an intentional “Twitter slow chat” and my first experience with a total focus on a shared book reading. I think the slow chat format will help us take time respond to the moderator’s questions, savor each other’s tweets, reply to one another, and reflect on our discussion throughout the course of the slow chat.

Whether or not you’re a school librarian supervisor, check out the hashtag and check in to note how the discussion is progressing. This “slow chat” may be a model for a book study or other conversations with your PLN.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self-Regulated Professional Development Online.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, 2016, pp. 64–69.

Image credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon

Professional “Gratitudes”

continental-divideEvery night for the past year, I have been recording my “gratitudes” in a journal. I began this reflective and hope-building practice after I learned that Texas Woman’s University rejected my proposal to continue in my associate professor position as a telecommuter from Tucson. (After seven years, commuting for my marriage was no longer emotionally or financially sustainable.) These daily notes to myself capture my thoughts as I negotiate this transition time in my life. This reflective practice provides me with reminders of my many blessings.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, many speak aloud of the things for which we are grateful. While I have often thought about my “professional” blessings, this may be the first time I have written them “out loud.”

I am grateful for the many friends and colleagues I have met and worked with throughout my school librarianship career. There are simply too many of you to name.

As a member of the American Library Association (ALA), American Association for School Librarians (AASL), Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and Teacher Librarian Division (TLD), Texas Library Association (TLA) and Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL), I have had the opportunity to get to know and learn with outstanding librarian practitioners, researchers, and literacy advocates.

While I have been a member and have been periodically active in education associations, my commitment to (school) librarianship has been and continues to be the overarching theme of my professional work. I am grateful for the people who lead and participate in library organizations. We share a set of core beliefs that come from our hearts and reach out as we serve children, youth, and our communities. I am blessed to be in their company; I am honored to call so many colleagues friends.

The photograph above was taken in 1998 at the 3M corporate compound at Wonewok in Minnesota. At the time, I was serving on the AASL @yourlibrary® Task Force. Those of us who participated enjoyed three days of thinking, planning, and playing that, for many of us, solidified our commitment to advocating for the professional work of school librarians.

Like many of my Wonewok colleagues, I felt “under the spell” of the Northern Lights and the incredible beauty of the grounds at Wonewok. In the above photograph, a number of us posed where the Northern (Continental) Divide intersects the St. Lawrence Divide near Hibbing, Minnesota, with waters draining to the Arctic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

I believe the school librarian profession is at another one of those watershed times in our history. In the federal education legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), school librarians are included as key faculty in educating students for the future and collaborating with classroom teachers to co-create dynamic learning spaces and opportunities for all members of our learning communities.

Thank you especially to the ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff for her tireless and unwavering advocacy efforts on behalf of school librarians. And thank you to AASL and our dedicated members who have provided 30 (!) state-level ESSA trainings in the past 60 days. Whew! You are a wonder.

Thank you to all of our colleagues for offering our expertise and care to children and educators through our professional work. As we move forward together, and to show my gratitude, I recommit myself to our mission to provide each and every student in the U.S. with a full-time state-certified school library professional who serves her/his school community as a leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator.

Image Credit
Photographer Unknown – from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

Some of those pictured: Connie Champlin, Susan Ballard, Terri Grief, Harvey, Barbara Jeffus, Doug Johnson, Carrie Kienzel, Keith Curry Lance, Deb Levitov, Eileen Schroeder, Rocco Staino, Barbara Stripling, Hilda Weisburg, Terry Young, yours truly, and ???

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/>.

“It is the time you have given…”

little_princeOne way to make professional connections and build relationships with our colleagues is to read what they are reading. Many school principals are members of ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and receive the Educational Leadership magazine. “Relationships First” is the theme of the September 2016 issue.

Since school principals’ perceptions of and support for school librarians is critical to the success of school library programs, I look forward to reading this magazine when it arrives monthly in my mailbox. (Even if you aren’t an ASCD member, you can access a few articles and the columns online for free: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership.aspx).

Educator and researcher Carol Ann Tomlinson’s column in the magazine has been one of my touchstones for many years. This month in “One to Grow On” she wrote: “Fox Taming and Teaching: The Little Prince offers a lesson on building relationships.”  I was delighted to read that Dr. Tomlinson and I share a favorite book: Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943). In fact, I quoted from the same passage in the book on the dedication page of my dissertation.

In this part of the story, the Fox is sharing his wisdom with the Little Prince, who has grown fond of a rose. The Fox tells the Little Prince that: “It is the time you have given to your rose that makes your rose so important.” The investment of time, energy, care, and attention that we give to other members of our learning communities is the mark of their value to us.

While the order of the books on the library shelves and empty book carts help students, classroom teachers, and librarians find materials more easily, it may be the time we take to listen to a student’s, teacher’s, or administrator’s story that is the most important thing we do on any given day.

This time of year when the stores begin displaying large bags of Halloween candy, I think of the mini dark chocolate candies that I always kept in my library office drawer. Offering a sweet treat can be an icebreaker. It can be a way to connect with others, to share a success or express empathy, and to start a conversation.

A library that is the hub of learning in a school can be the hub for relationship building as well. Being present for others, listening, offering a word or two of encouragement, or showing that you care is a way to “give” to your community. (And a micro chocolate bar can sweeten the deal.)

How do you show that you value relationships in your daily work?

How do you want others to “see” you and how would they describe the feeling tone of the environment you co-create in your school library?

Image Credit

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. The Little Prince. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2000. Print.

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/>.

Collegiality: A Foundation for Partnerships

thundercakeI have just moved back to my full-time home in Tucson, Arizona. Although the unpacked moving boxes are annoying, rearranging my life has had its benefits. One of them is reassessing the books on my shelves and pondering the limited space I now have for hard copy books.

In my bookshelf explorations, I came across a photo album that included some of my fondest moments as a practicing school librarian. One of them was taken at Gale Elementary School in Tucson (circa 1998) when I offered a “thundercake” beginning of the year social event for classroom teachers and specialists.

In Arizona, the new school year begins toward the end of the summer monsoon rain season. The connection to Patricia Polacco’s book gave me the opportunity to share the story and my hopes for the “ingredients” that would make our school program a success that year. During the social time, I encouraged my colleagues to share their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year.

Of course, I displayed new books and resources, but most importantly I reached out to build relationships with my colleagues. Thanks to Patricia Polacco’s book and “thundercake” recipe, I offered a tasty invitation to increasing collegiality as a foundation for future classroom-library coplanning and coteaching in the new school year.

The first few weeks of a new academic year are an ideal time to focus on building relationships. If you haven’t yet invited your colleagues into your school library for a social time, consider baking a “thundercake” and talking with them about how you can work together to create exciting and effective learning experiences for and with preK-12 students this year.

Image Credit

Polacco, Patricia. Thundercake. New York: Philomel, 1990. Print.

Note: Welcome back to the Building a Culture of Collaboration® (BACC) Blog. Over the summer months, changes in the co-bloggers life commitments have resulted in the blog becoming, at least for the time being, a solo activity for me, Judi Moreillon. I will miss reading the ideas, thoughts, and questions posed by my BACC colleagues.