Why I do what I do…

johndewey100748

 

TOM (Theme of the month)

Why do I do what I do? Why a teacher? Why a librarian?

When I asked myself these questions, I realized that learning has engaged my mind and my heart forever. Learning is about ideas and connections that help me understand or question the world around me. Learning is a never ending journey, a yellow brick road into the future. Learning is an adventure into known and unknown worlds and can be safe or risky. Learning can be solitary or social.   Learning happens through multiple experiences in many places, with many people, and many opportunities. Learning is personal and leads to self actualization and a life well lived. Learning is FUN!

These are my core beliefs and I believe that everyone, no matter age or circumstance is entitled to pursue his or her interests that lead to learning, and as teachers and teacher librarians, we are responsible for providing supportive environments, resources, and spaces to allow that to happen.  Even more so now for learners in today’s changing world.

We are at the proverbial tipping point between “school” as we have have known it in the past two centuries, and the “school” of the future.  The purpose of education is a hot topic in the ongoing debate about reform in America’s schools, and it is being played out on the national and local level. We have moved from the agricultural and industrial ages to the information age, and the future is still unclear.  Technological change is rapid, but educational change is reactive and slow. Innovation is applauded, but standards and accountability through high stakes testing are often counterproductive. As a society, we have multiple visions for the future of education.  The process will continue to unfold.

Meanwhile, educators focus on learning and learners-just doing the job, day to day.

In spite of the uncertainties, teachers and teacher librarians build their skills as professional educators. Advances in pedagogy and neuroscience provide new resources for rethinking the ways we teach and learn. There is an art and craft of teaching that is embedded in an understanding of how learners access, interpret, and act on information and ideas.  Each learner processes ideas according to prior knowledge, experiences, and personal interests and goals. Teachers develop a range of skills and tools to meet the learners where they are and to help move them along in their learning journey. It is an art to be able to create a community in a learning space, be it the classroom or the school library. It is a craft to be able to enable the individual learners to see themselves as capable learners following their passions, asking thoughtful questions, thinking critically, and sharing their ideas with a wider audience.

The art and craft of teaching develops over time, and is a process that is iterative and expansive.  It requires a commitment to continuous reassessment of teaching goals and practices. Collaborative planning, discussion, and teaching encourage educator and student success in a learning community.  Teachers can model the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills, and this can have a lasting impact on how schools engage learners in classrooms and school libraries.

Throughout my career as a teacher librarian, and now as a library educator, I have been  committed to sharing my vision of learning with preservice and practicing teacher librarians and educators.  As we move to the future, we have to embrace change thoughtfully and with a critical stance, and to keep our focus on why we all are here-for those young people who come through the school doors each day-ready or not to learn.  How can we help them find their passions and pursue meaningful learning journeys?

 

Image:

“John Dewey.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2015. 22 February 2015. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johndewey100748.html

 

Collaboration: A Different Perspective

As I have been reading Judi and Sue’s posts I have been reminded of the students in my class and our class chats over the past couple of weeks. I am teaching a class on collaboration and instructional design to an eager group of future school librarians this semester.  Our early discussions have focused on: What is collaboration? Why collaboration? What does it look like now? Where do we see it going?  It has been very interesting to see the parallels between the blog posts and the perspectives of my students. I believe we can learn a great deal by considering these different perspectives.

After reading many articles on what collaboration is, as defined in the sense of the school librarian, and examining definitions from a variety of professionals in our field, from Montiel-Overall (2005), to Wallace and Husid (2011), and Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), my students came to class with more questions than answers. Their questions led to rich and thought-provoking discussions!

First I was amazed at how many of them had no idea about the concept of collaboration, and how we as school librarians fit into the instructional process through co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing teaching and learning. This was so surprising to me because for the most part they have all been teachers before coming into the program. It yet again makes me painfully aware of the lack of awareness for the school librarian’s role as a teacher and as an instructional partner by teachers. Yet, collaboration is one of those concepts that as we become practicing school librarians we understand what is meant when we say “I collaborate with teachers.” I think all too often we forget that others around us share this same perspective as the students in my class and really have no idea what we are talking about when we say this.

In her post Judi mentions the research from Todd, Gordon, and Lu (2011) that says “in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

But as my students pointed out, this is not the case in most of the schools where they currently work. So their question to me was what do you do when you find yourself in a school that doesn’t operate this way and does not recognize the value and the benefit of the school librarian as an instructional partner and teacher? Which is similar to what Judi asks at the end of her post on the article from Scholastic Administrator.

In our discussions we came to the consensus that first step towards collaboration is education.  So I pose the question: How can you, as the school librarian, educate teachers, administrators, students, and other stakeholders on what your role is in regards to being an instructional partner and a teacher?

References

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association

Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). Towards a theory of collaboration for teachers and librarians. School Library Media Research, 8. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume82005/theory

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/njasl_phase%20_2_final.pdf

Wallace, V., & Husid, W. (2011). Collaborating for inquiry-base learning: School librarians and teachers partner for student achievement. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries