Curiosity in Spring

I love spring! All of the clichés are true. Spring is the herald of new beginnings and new growth. Spring offers promises; it invites hope.

Even in my Sonoran Desert home where the signs of the season can be a bit subtler than in lush green places, the spring blooms on the prickly pear and saguaro cacti are welcome sights to desert eyes.

When I served as a school librarian, I especially loved spring in the elementary library. (While I also enjoyed the feeling of spring in secondary school libraries, some of that feeling was not as conducive to academic learning…)

In spring, primary-age students noticed nature in a way they may have set aside over the winter months.

Students looked to the sky and remarked on cloud formations. They observed the effects of rain on plants. They felt and welcomed the change to warmer temperatures. They captured insects on the playground. And most exciting for their teachers, they brought their questions about the natural world into the classroom and into the library.

“Curiosity starts out as an impulse, an urge, but it pops out into the world as something more active, more searching: a question” (10).

The image above shows a child observing the bright orange caterpillars he found in a neighbor’s yard. Why were they that color? Didn’t the color mean that birds would see and eat them? He learned to harvest the plants on which he found the caterpillars and wondered whether or not they needed water as well as food. He learned about metamorphosis and asked questions about how these creatures would change their form. When he observed the chrysalis in the terrarium, he wondered if what he was seeing could possibly be what he had learned from asking questions.

It wasn’t until the butterfly emerged that he believed this process was real.

“Curiosity is a form a power, and also a form of courage” (15).

Through curiosity and questioning, he was motivated to learn more. He experienced the power of change—both in the caterpillar and in his own understanding of metamorphosis.

He also had the courage to do what he knew was “right.” He set the caterpillar turned butterfly free—free to be its transformed self.

Students’ curiosity and questioning are the driving forces in inquiry learning. In some schools, student-led inquiry is practiced in primary grades only; in a few schools, it is practiced throughout the grades.

In many schools, secondary students conduct traditional “research” projects that may not spring from students’ interests and as a result, fail to motivate and engage them. For some secondary students, their “senior project” may be their first K-12 learning experience prompted by their passion to pursue a personally meaningful question. It may be the first school-based learning experience that inspires them to take action in the world based on their new knowledge.

When school librarians aspire to coteach empowered learners, we show respect for students’ minds. We show that we trust them to be curious, to ask questions, to seek answers, to learn, and to take action in the world. We believe in the power of knowledge to transform students and the world.

Here’s to the opportunity spring affords us. Let’s see students’ learning and our instructional practice through fresh eyes. Let’s trust in the learning process—students’ and our own.

Let’s be curious – together – and reach for a “bigger life”!

Work Cited

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Image Credit: From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon, Used with Permission

Coteaching Inquiry and Reading Comprehension: A Perfect Match

PM_logo_3_sizedToday, I am facilitating a half-day preconference workshop titled: “Coteaching Inquiry Learning and Reading Comprehension Strategies: A Perfect Match.” I am a long-time practitioner and staunch advocate for the school librarian’s instructional partner role.

In this workshop, I bring together two areas of teaching and learning about which I am passionate: inquiry learning and reading comprehension strategies (RCS). These two processes can be aligned in order to increase students’ success with both. Inquiry and RCS are metacognitive processes that invite learners to think about their thinking. They can help learners grow their ability to “learn how to learn.”

And both processes are best taught with a coteaching approach. In the workshop, participants will review these processes, complete a puzzle that spotlights how they are aligned, and practice coteaching close reading with literature that can lead to an inquiry unit of study. Coteaching RCS builds on the school librarian’s strengths in teaching information literacy skills and makes a more successful learning outcome for students.

When classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians combine their knowledge, skills, and talents, everybody wins!

This workshop is based on my previously published books regarding coteaching RCS as well as one that I am authoring: Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy (ALA Editions 2016).

The AASL Conference is just getting underway today. If you are not in Columbus and attending this event, check it out on Twitter at #aasl15, on the Knowledge Quest Blog, and on the AASL Facebook page.

P.S. Since I am not able to be at Treasure Mountain this morning, I am sharing my thank-you note video to Dr. Loertscher via the BACC.

Word cloud created at Wordle.net

Elevator Speech: Reflections on What I Teach

ElevatorThis month the BACC co-bloggers will reflect on the “what” and the “why” of our roles as educators of future school librarians.

Any educator at any level can benefit from reflecting on what and why she or he teaches. Last Saturday, I participated in the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Leadership Meeting at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. One of the activities we engaged in during the meeting was writing elevator speeches. Over the years, I have written many of these speeches from the perspective of a practicing school librarian…

But before last weekend and although I have been teaching at the university level for two decades (!), I had not written an elevator speech from the perspective of a school librarian educator. Although it is a work-in-progress, I share it here as a starting point for a discussion of the purpose of library science graduate education.

I, Judi Moreillon, prepare future school librarians to be 21st-century literacy experts and leaders who coteach with classroom teachers to help children and youth from all backgrounds and with various abilities to become critical, creative thinkers and lifelong learners who contribute to and thrive in a global society.

In my role as a school librarian educator, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside enthusiastic graduate students. These educators have chosen to expand their classroom teacher toolkits to add the knowledge and skills of school librarians to their repertoires—including the information-seeking process, reading comprehension strategies, and digital tools for motivating, learning, and creating new knowledge. School librarian candidates learn to design instruction and teach these skills and strategies as coteachers along with classroom teachers and specialists.

Over the course of their graduate program, these librarian candidates learn to embrace a global view of the school learning community and have the opportunity to consider their potential to serve as leaders in their schools. Using professional standards and guidelines I aspire to enculturate school librarians into a profession or community of practice (Wenger 1998). To that end, I also model professional practice to show candidates how to serve.

Works Cited

d3designs. “pb210160.jpg.” Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 01 Feb. 2015. <http://mrg.bz/iqhhRc>.

Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.

Resource Sharing for Manpower

Hello everyone! Before delving into my first blog post, I would like to thank Judi Moreillon, Melissa Johnston and Judy Kaplan for inviting me to be a part of “Building a Culture of Collaboration”. I have followed this blog and shared it with students and future school librarians for quite some time now, and I am honored to be a part of this project.

I first became a school librarian (without a library clerk) at a middle school located in a large urban district. Due to the district’s size and centralized format, our students benefited from a giant inter-library loan system, plenty of connections with the city public library system, and nearby universities. Consequently, I did not think about resource sharing in terms of books or materials. I thought of it in terms of manpower. How could one person implement all of the instructional partnerships, programs, and academic support systems that I dreamed of implementing? Resources and experiences I knew our students, many of whom were economically disadvantaged, desperately needed? I quickly realized that HUMAN “resource sharing” had to become a part of my library program in big way. Over the years, my library program shared HUMAN resources with neighborhood churches that adopted our school (helping to shelve and check out books); Paws Across Texas – a wonderful organization that brought in therapy dogs and volunteers to help struggling readers on a weekly basis, and local businesses that provided incentives and rewards (many times at no cost) for student reading achievement. These folks helped extend my time and ability to focus on collaborating with teachers for student achievement.

Years later, I moved to a middle school in a small, rural town. HUMAN resource-sharing became more important than ever! There I partnered with the local radio station that broadcast a show from the school library helping to boost family attendance at library literacy nights. The local newspaper regularly agreed to run short notices on the new books and materials we received to help promote the school library’s resources. There is no doubt in my mind that HUMAN “resource sharing” significantly amplified my ability to provide a stronger school library program, and consequently, a higher level of collaboration with teachers, students and parents. My program developed a reputation for being able to network with “out-of-the-box” resources. A science teacher and I connected with a northern university to study the phases of the moon. A language arts teacher and I established a partnership with a Native American reservation that resulted in several years of cultural exchange and rich book study experiences for her 6th graders.

Now, there are even more opportunities for HUMAN resource sharing! Science museums with educational outreach programs, virtual project based learning communities that can connect your students with real-world, authentic issues, after school coding clubs, even a thriving HUMAN resource sharing example spearheaded by the mayor of Nashville! The possibilities for HUMAN resource sharing are mind-boggling (and extremely exciting). When thinking about ways to HUMAN resource share, consider how you can enrich the partnerships you are fostering with classroom teachers. What HUMAN resource can you connect them to? Can you Skype in an expert? Can you involve a community member such as a medical professional or local business owner as a part of your guided inquiry team? Are there untapped HUMAN resources in your area that could provide an authentic audience for student projects? I encourage you to consider HUMAN resource sharing as a way to enrich your school library program, expand the expertise and resources you can offer teachers when collaborating, and maximize your impact on student learning.

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided inquiry: School libraries in the 21st century. School Libraries Worldwide16(1), 17-28.

Resource Sharing with Non-profit Agencies

icon_teamAssets-based community development is a way of thinking about how libraries can embed their work within their community rather than waiting for the community to walk through their doors. School librarians who consistently reach outside the walls of the library to integrate resources found in the community can increase the real-world relevance of their cotaught lessons. They can go the extra step to build collaborative partnerships that take the literacy learning expertise of the school librarian and resources of the school library program out into the community.

Situating their inquiry in the real world of their community can increase students’ motivation and help ensure that the questions they ask are authentic, real-world questions. This can also help learners identify a target audience that will actually care about their findings. Engaging in this level of “professional” work may be most important for high school students who are considering their workforce and educational options after graduation.

With ubiquitous Web-based information, students (most?) often search for non-print resources when conducting inquiry projects. Non-profit and governmental agencies that publish online information can be a rich source of data for students, particularly secondary students who seek to learn more about their communities as they pursue topics of personal interest. School librarians can assist students and teachers by connecting them with resources in the community with which they are unfamiliar.

For example, in a course in human geography, high school students may be asked to explore various aspects of their community. Non-profit agencies such as chapters of the United Way regularly gather data on demographics, income levels and economic opportunities, education attainment, physical and mental health, and other aspects of their immediate community. School librarians can create pathfinders to support students’ learning as they learn more about the community in which their inquiry questions are situated.

Here is a sample pathfinder I created for the Denton (Texas) Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning project: http://tinyurl.com/di4ll-9-resources. It includes links to data from the Denton Chapter of the United Way as well as “Engage Denton,” an online community forum, and nationwide resources that collect data on U.S. communities.

Depending on students’ inquiry questions, all types of community agencies may be able to provide information. A school librarian who has connections in the community may help individual or small groups of students connect to experts and data that may not otherwise be known or available to them. In the process, community agencies learn more about the learning in which students are engaged. This knowledge can lead to stronger connections, collaborative projects, and can also build school library advocates.

As David Lankes argues, “it is time for a new librarianship, one centered on learning and knowledge, not on books and materials, where the community is the collection, and we spend much more time in connection development instead of collection development” (9). Bringing the resources of the community into students’ learning and students’ learning into the community are places to begin “connection development.”

Works Cited

Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning. Sept. 2012. Wikispaces. Web. 04 Dec. 2014 <http://dentoninquiry4lifelonglearning.wikispaces.com>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.

Image Credit: Prawny. “Icons-icon-team.jpg.” Morguefile. Web 01 Dec. 2014 <http://mrg.bz/EtES83>.

Joint Professional Development Works

gid_sizedWhen the school year ended in Denton (Texas) Independent School District (DISD), the Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning Project (DI4LL) sponsored a two and a half day workshop with Dr. Leslie Maniotes, coauthor of Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Your School (Libraries Unlimited 2012). The workshop, which was funded by a grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), was designed for preK-12 DISD school librarians to build on the book study they had conducted. School librarians were asked to invite their classroom teacher or specialist colleagues to participate with them, and most of the librarians who attended came with one or more colleagues. I attended as the DI4LL educational consultant.

Not since the heady Library Power days of the mid-1990s have I been as impressed with professional development that involved school librarians and classroom teachers sitting side by side to learn, to identify and solve curricular challenges, and plan inquiry learning lessons and units for student success. As a professional developer, I always ask if classroom teachers are free to attend the workshops I provide for school librarians. And the answer is always the same. The teachers are in the classroom or engaged in some of type of professional development at the time of the workshop so the school librarians are meeting separately. These are missed opportunities.

The DI4LL Inquiry Design Workshop is a testimony to why joint professional development should be the rule rather than the exception. Thanks to Dr. Maniotes and her workshop design that included blocks of time for teams to talk and collaboratively plan, all of the classroom teacher-school librarian teams left the workshop with plans for teaching standards-based inquiry lessons or units of instruction.

Building relationships and instructional partnerships during professional development activities can support educators in enacting their professional development learning in their daily practice. In fact, it almost guarantees it. With shared undersandings, vocabulary, instructional goals, learning objectives for students, and teaching strategies, educators can more easily enact their learning with a colleague who will coteach with them.

Professional development that supports coteaching works. It creates opportunities for school librarians to positively impact student learning alongside classroom teachers. There is no better way for the skills and expertise of two or more educators to improve educators’ teaching and students’ learning.

Congratulations to the DISD classroom teacher/specialist and school librarian teams and to Dr. Maniotes for facilitating their outstanding collaborative work. Thank you also to TSLAC for funding this joint classroom teacher-school librarian professional development opportunity.

Work Cited

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

Inquiry Summit II

Inquiry_SummitAlong with school librarian leaders Liz Deskins, Violet Harada, La Dawna Harrington, Paige Jaegar, Mary Keeling, Annette Lamb, Rebecca Morris, Olga Nesi, Rachel Wadham, and Joyce Valenza, I had the privilege of participating in the second annual Inquiry Summit sponsored by ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited. Sharon Coatney, senior acquisitions editor, facilitated the meeting, and her colleagues Marlene Woo-Lun, Kathryn Suarez, and Jen Psau provided support.

One of the activities in which we engaged was small group brainstorming to respond to three questions: 1. What are the best strategies for implementing inquiry learning in schools? 2. How do we train K-12 educators/administrators? What materials do we need? 3. How are the Common Core State Standards changing the need/intent to implement inquiry learning?

For me, the responses to the first question were the most relevant to the topics we discuss here on the Culture of Collaboration blog. Those in the room seemed to agree that working within a coteaching structure provided the best support for inquiry learning. This structure allows educators to model the process with and for each other as well as for students. All educators involved must have a shared inquiry learning vocabulary that can best be taught, learned, and reinforced in coteaching situations. Educators must also share a value for the time that inquiry learning takes. Educators and students must have permission to experiment, fail or succeed, and try again with new evidence or in new contexts.

Our colleagues, be they librarians, educators serving in other roles, or administrators, must see inquiry in action in order to understand it and experience the value of this process. As school librarians, we must demonstrate the need for inquiry learning as a lifelong learning process that students can and will transfer to other learning environments and apply in their careers, family, and civic life. We must also help others value the lifeskills and dispositions that students learn and practice as they engage in the deep learning afforded by inquiry.

In Thursday’s post, I will share an example of an effective professional development opportunity facilitated by Dr. Leslie Maniotes earlier this month for the Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning Initiative. Please stay tuned.

STEM + Inquiry=Collaboration

00439573Sue Kimmel posted recently about finding ways to connect and collaborate with teachers using the Common Core Math Standards and literacy. This week I want to encourage reaching out to make connections around science initiatives, too, by looking at citizen science.

Citizen scientists ignite a passion for science and inquiry through participation in authentic projects that actively make a difference in scientific knowledge on large and small scales.  With the current emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in many school districts across the nation, the citizen scientist collaborative model for collective inquiry, gathering and analyzing data, and problem solving can be used to generate enthusiasm and curiosity in science classrooms.

Here is an opportunity for teacher librarians to become acquainted with the Common Core ELA Science Standards 6-12, and the Next Generation Science Standards, and to bring some fresh ideas and resources for developing curriculum units with other classroom teachers.

As an instructional partner, and co-teacher, we have to continue to build our teaching toolkit with pedagogy and content knowledge.  For students to become citizen scientists in their schools and communities, teacher librarians and teachers collaborate to design meaningful learning opportunities that engage curious minds, require action and reflection, and help solve real world problems.     Or, you could also get your students interested in a citizen science club that could have a physical and virtual presence in your library media center!

What is “citizen science?” you might ask.  How does technology play role in the collective capacity of amateur scientists all over the world, or in your own community? How can you develop a unit of study that replicates or enjoins some of the authentic work that is done by citizen scientists?

Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling with both teachers and students:

Recommended reading:

  • Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns presents an approachable overview about the impact of citizen science for young people.  It’s a great introduction to some of the current projects around the world and shows how global citizenship is enhanced by making connections and contributions by individuals.  As an example of narrative non-fiction, is can also serve as a model for Common Core Reading and Writing Standards.

Edutopia website has a couple of related blog posts:

Youtube videos that present examples of authentic science inquiry:

  • “Digital Fishing on Citizen Science Cruise,” shares the educational program of the Crystal Cove Alliance in Newport Beach (CA) that immerses Students in the science of marine protected area management.http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=u6m2tqZMD3s
  • “Technology creates Citizen Scientists” relates the critical role that technology plays in allowing citizen scientists to help solve real world problems at local and global levels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81hhecI0p5k

Websites:

  • “Scistarter: Science We Can Do Together” offers many projects and ideas for scientific inquiry and citizen scientists. http://www.scistarter.com/

Calling All Citizen Scientists!

I’m sure there are many opportunities in your local school and community for getting your student citizen scientists involved in helping to solve problems.  Catch the STEM wave that is a natural fit for your library program!

 

References:

Burns, Loree Griffin (2012). Citizen scientists. NY: Square Fish. http://us.macmillan.com/citizenscientists/LoreeGriffinBurns

Brunsell, Eric. (2010). A primer on citizen science.  Edutopia (2010, Oct.13). Weblog.  Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/citizen-science-eric-brunsell.  .

Common core Initiative: English Language Arts:  Science and Technical Standards (2011). Website.  Retrieved from: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/9-10. .

Digital fishing on citizen science cruise. (2012, Sep. 25)  Newport Beach, CA: Crystal Cove Alliance. Video.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6m2tqZMD3s.

Next Generation Science Standards. (2013). Website.  Retrieved from: http://www.nextgenscience.org/.

Phillips, Mark. (2013, April 17). Teaching and the environmental crisis: resources and models. Edutopia . Weblog.  Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-environmental-crisis-resources-models-mark-phillips.

Scientific American: Citizen Science. Website.  Retrieved from:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/.

Scistarter. Website.  Retrieved from: http://www.scistarter.com/.

Technology creates Citizen Scientists. (2012, Aug. 16) California Academy of Science.  Video.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81hhecI0p5k.

This thing called science part 6: Citizen science.  (2013, May 23). TechNyouvids. Video.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6eN3Pll4U8.

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The Role of Tempered Radicals in a Culture of Collaboration

I have really been encouraged by Judi’s posts regarding what pre-service principals saw as the benefits to students and the benefits to educators of the school librarian as a collaborative partner with teachers.  I was particularly struck by the observation that lessons co-planned, co-taught, and co-assessed with the school librarian “pushed instruction to a higher level” and provided the kinds of targeted, formative assessment essential to an evidence-based practice.  The school librarian holds a pivotal position in a school’s learning culture. He or she works within the school structure to nudge instruction, assessment, and ultimately student learning to a higher quality. This type of “embedded professional development” works at a subtle, but powerful level to fundamentally change the culture of a school into a learning community.
School librarians serve in a role that might be characterized as that of “tempered radicals,” a phrase introduced by Stephanie Meyerson (2001)and recently revisited by Peter DeWitt in an Education Week blog post entitled “Education needs more tempered radicals.” Tempered radicals are those who work within the system to create small but potentially pervasive changes to the system.  Working within the system, they retain their legitimacy as an insider, yet introduce difference and provoke learning.  As Dewitt suggests:

Tempered radicals are those educators on the inside who make subtle changes every day. Whether it’s the way they educate students (i.e. seamlessly using technology, parent communication, grading, etc.) or how they make changes to a building through shared decision making and listening to the needs of their stakeholders. Perhaps it is a principal who gives their teachers more autonomy or someone who sends out researched based articles on instruction and discusses them at faculty meetings so they can make changes in instructional practices.

Sound familiar?  School librarians are in an ideal position to serve as tempered radicals since they are recognized as members of the school staff by teachers and administrators, yet their work allows them to be in spaces of influence throughout the school as they plan with classroom teachers, converse with administrators and parents, and interact daily with students.  Meyerson suggests a tempered radical “brings an entirely new set of perspectives, asks different questions, and might pose different solutions to problems” (p.17).  School librarians are tempered radicals who create a climate of inquiry for administrators and teachers to “bounce ideas off of” leading toward an “evidence-based practice” focused on student learning.
Schools should be learning organizations where all members of the community value and engage in continuous learning.  School librarians embedded in the fabric of the community as they co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess instruction and learning are essential catalysts for the kinds of inquiry into practice that lead the learning of both educators and those they educate.  Inquiry offers a tempered approach to change because it raises essential questions and invites others to join in an exploration of answers.  It’s invitational, tempered, and relational. Collaboration and inquiry are essential partners in school reform and the goal of becoming a learning culture.

References

DeWitt, Peter (Dec. 13, 2012).  Education needs more tempered radicals [web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/12/education_needs_more_tempered_radicals.html

Meyerson, Stephanie (2001).  Tempered radicals: How people use difference to inspire change at work.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Collaboration as Inquiry

October was a whirl of a month that ended with a mega storm that swept me off course for a couple of days. I finally feel like I have landed and have some time to pull together some of the big ideas I heard at the AASL Fall Forum, the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring and the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) Conference.   Audrey Church, Gail Dickinson, and Ann M. Martin gave the keynote address at VAASL on leadership.  Each provided an overview of their journey and cited theories that had inspired them.  Reference was made to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that struck a theme tying together one of the big ideas related to collaboration that I have culled from all of these events: Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And a related correlate:  when someone else is speaking, are you really listening, or are you waiting for a turn to speak?

The Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, sponsored by The Compact for Faculty Diversity was an amazing gathering of minority doctoral students, mentors and faculty.  The purpose of the Institute is “to provide scholars with the skills necessary to succeed in graduate study and to prepare them for success as faculty members at colleges and universities.”  Several sessions were offered for faculty mentors, and in one: “The Internationalization of Mentoring as an Opportunity to Challenge Cultural Assumptions” the presenter, Stacy Blake-Beard, Associate Professor of Management at Simmons College made the remark that we should practice “inquiry not advocacy.”  Since inquiry and advocacy are two major buzzwords in school librarianship, I was struck by her meaning.  Dr. Blake-Beard was talking about cross-cultural understanding and I would argue that this is a productive way for school librarians to approach collaboration with teachers: as bridging the two cultures of the school library and the classroom. Diversity strengthens an organization because it provides for a much richer approach to problem solving and decision-making. Collaboration is different from cooperation because it doesn’t seek to smooth over our differences but rather to leverage these differences. This is particularly important when we are attempting to solve complex problems; and education is a complex problem.  As we struggle to create a “culture of collaboration” in our schools, we should first seek to understand (inquiry) rather than to be understood (advocacy).

Judy Kaplan has provided an outstanding overview of the packed AASL Fall Forum on Transliteracy.  One of the exercises that we did at our tables led by Barbara Jansen and Kristin Fontichiaro was to brainstorm possible questions that we might use in planning with teachers.  Jansen provided the example of asking teachers if they were concerned that a particular assignment might encourage students to copy and paste.  Asking this as a question invokes inquiry rather than advocacy, and provides a space for teachers to reflect on the purpose of their assignment and to possibly engage in a conversation about improving the assignment.  This question doesn’t require that the assignment be abandoned. It might be that the teachers and librarian would decide to front-load this assignment with explicit instructions about how to take notes, give attribution to sources, and synthesize. Or, the assignment might be altered to become more creative and to encourage students to develop a product that is unique and individual. The question asks everyone to pause and consider alternatives without passing judgment.

Jean Van Deusen (1996) found in her case study of a school librarian collaborating with teachers that the school librarian provided leadership as an “insider-outsider” and that she asked challenging and often naïve questions that provoked thoughtful reflection on practice.  As a practicing school librarian, I always took advantage of this position as an outsider to the classroom.  I could ask questions like “what does that look like in your classroom?” or “what does this standard mean for second graders?” or “how have you taught this before?”  Some questions led to deep discussions about student learning and assessment such as “What does this standard really mean?” “What do we want students to be able to do at the end of this lesson?” or “How will we know they have learned that?”  Other questions led to co-teaching or sharing the work of delivering instruction. “Could we do that better if there were two of us? “ “Suppose I take half of your class while you take the other and then we swap?”  “Would that be better with small groups?”  Sometimes questions helped to integrate instruction.  When teachers and I were trying to plan a lesson in science or social studies, I would often ask, “What skills are you going to be teaching in writing (reading, math)?  Often I could find a book or other resource that met objectives in two or more content areas.

“Inquiry not advocacy” also suggests that we carefully listen to the answers.  Inquiry is about more than asking good questions; it is about seeking understanding from diverse sources.  In collaboration with teachers, inquiry involves listening to teachers as they talk about the diverse needs of their students, the meaning of their curriculum, and the nature of their practice.  For brand new school librarians, or school librarians who have moved to a new school, this is good news.  You don’t have to have the answers and you aren’t expected to know how things are done in this teacher’s classroom or in this school.  You can ask the naïve questions and you can spend time listening and observing.  Those of you who have been in a school for several years can still take this position as new initiatives/standards/textbooks are adopted, as new teachers join the staff, and as every school year starts anew.  First, seek to understand rather than be understood.  It’s not only good inquiry, it’s good mentorship, and good leadership.