ON LIBRARIES – Make Room for Reflection

copyright Disney Company

You are still enjoying your well-earned break and probably are not quite ready to think about returning to school.  However, this is a special moment in time that you can put to good use. To improve your leadership and your program make a resolution (or add to the ones you have made) that you will become a Reflective Practitioner.

The National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries recognizes the value of reflection.  Throughout the book, there are questions for the Reflective Practitioner.  In explanation, it says on p. 25,

“Practitioners at each career stage have a collection of beliefs, examples, and practices to draw upon. These form the basis for initial reflective thoughts. Using these unique previous experiences as points of reference, we can situate ourselves and our practices … and develop the habits of the reflective practitioners.”

From the beginning of January until spring break, students will learn most of the year’s curriculum content. Teachers will be focused on maximizing this time preparing students for the inevitable tests coming in April and May. This is when they need us most. Do your teachers recognize that?  How can you show your value?  What steps in leadership do you need to take?  These are questions for the Reflective Practitioner.

The business world, which I mine regularly for ideas, also sees the value of reflection. In an article entitled Your Leadership Year in Review, Alaina Love proposes eight areas for reflection. With some adaptation, they are worth considering before you return to school.

Here are her eight:

Accountability:  This is where you take responsibility for your work. It means you accept you make mistakes and don’t blindside administrators (tell the bad news fast). While quarterly and annual reports may not be required, submit them anyway. Don’t make it text-heavy.  Use video clips and/or photos of students at work, and as much as possible spotlight those teachers with whom you collaborated.

Advocacy: This is natural for us, but think of it in the larger sense.  The best way to get advocates is to be one.  Can you promote the art program by displaying student work in the library?  Which teachers/departments are feeling unrecognized? Find a way to publicize them.

Intellectual Curiosity: Another natural for us.  In this case, some focused curiosity is helpful.  Are you reading/scanning teacher magazines and online newsletters?  What about administrators?  Do you read Educational Leadership? Keep abreast of what your principal is (or should be) reading and make brief comments on how the library program is doing it as well.

Inclusiveness: The second Shared Foundation in the National School Library Standards is Include. We tend to make friends with people like us.  Consider reaching out to a faculty member or parent volunteer who is of another culture.  You both will gain from it.

Commitment to Brand and Culture: Do you have your Mission Statement?  Does it reflect what you are doing now?  How are you demonstrating it to all your stakeholders?  What else can you do?

Contemplative Thinking:  Reflection is not only just before the start of the new year. It needs to be incorporated into your daily practice. (I need to take this advice myself.) Put it on your to-do list.  You can do it on your commute home if necessary.

Transformative Mindset: This is similar to having a growth mindset. It embraces failure as an important component of success. I find it helpful to acknowledge to myself and others what I have learned from failures. Remember the quote attributed to James Conant, “Behold the turtle who only makes progress by sticking his neck out.” If you never fail, you haven’t really ever taken on a challenge.

Passion:  This is possibly my favorite leadership quality. It’s contagious.  What parts of your job are you passionate about?  How are you communicating that passion?  The better you get at it, the more people will want to work with you to attain your vision.

In a few days, you will be fully back to your usual routine, trying once again to get more and more done in less time.  Putting reflection into your day will not take an appreciable amount of time, and in the long run, it will make you more efficient.

 

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ON LIBRARIES: Resolutions

I decided to take my own advice and make time for fun (yes, that’s a professinal resolution. Read on to see that one) – and more time for me. My blog for this week is a repeat of the one I did for January 2, 2017.  I am also going to take next week off.  I deserve it.  And you deserve your time off – take it.

So if you weren’t following me back then or if you need a refresher on the resolutions I suggested, here is the blog once again. Choose whichever one speaks to you – and maybe the one that scares you a bit.

Build Your Relationships

Start a new relationship with a teacher or other staff member. Remember we are in the relationship business. Consider deepening an existing relationship.  Get to know what that person’s interests are outside of school.  You may find you have common ground, discover an “expert” who might help you with something you are doing or just simply add a dimension to someone you already know.  Are there any students who are library “regulars” whom you don’t know?  Strike up a conversation with them. Learn what their favorite app is or whether they are into gaming.  I have found my students have been some of my best teachers. Don’t limit yourself to just the school scene.  Is there a relative or friend you haven’t spoken with in some time.  Is your only contact with them on Facebook? Try an email and set up some face time. Resolve to add at least one person a month to your relationship sphere.  (This is one of my resolutions for the year.)

Keep Up with Trends

Read one professional article every month. Vary it. Don’t only look at library literature, be familiar with what administrators are saying. You can find blog posts and articles online.  Find and explore one new tech resource or app each month and think about how it can best be used. Would it be helpful for a classroom teacher?  Which ones?

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

It’s so easy to get locked into doing what you have always done, but you don’t grow unless you try new things.  A favorite quote of mine attributed to James Conant is “Behold the turtle who only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.”  Whether you decide to launch a book club for students or tackle an Hour of Code, you need to something that makes stakeholders aware of the contribution your program makes to the school community.  Even though you may be doing a Makerspace or have another project going you need to do something more.  Once something is in place for a while people take it (and you for granted).  If you can’t think of something you can do, put out a request for ideas on your state association’s listserv, on a Twitter chat, LM_NET, or join my School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group and ask there.  Choose the approach that works best for you, but whatever your choice you will be amazed at the suggestions you get back. (I am doing this as well.  I will be giving my first AASL webinar this spring. This is new for me.  I will announce the date as soon as I know it.)

Volunteer for Leadership

Technically this comes under the heading of stepping out of your comfort zone, but it needs special mention.  Too many of you feel so burdened you can’t see how you can fit a leadership job into your life. You haven’t explored the possibilities.  No one is saying you have to run for president of your state association (although that’s a goal to have for the future).  You can .volunteer for a district committee. That will bring you into contact with a broader group of people—and give you an opportunity to “build your relationships.”  Can you help with an initiative your state association is taking on? Again, you don’t have to be the chair. Being an active, contributing committee member is a good start.  The same is true for national associations, which also now permit virtual members on many committees.  One AASL committee that I am on does all its business via conference calls.

Go for a Grant or an Award

You get a lot of positive attention when you receive a grant or award.  Even small grants such as those given by your local education foundation make your administration more aware of you and what you do. They always appreciate it if you can bring in “free” money.  Then there are the ones from the national associations.  Here again is the link to the grants and awards from AASL. You have one month to apply for this year’s awards since most have a February 1 deadline.  Don’t think they are out of reach.  See what has won previously and pick one to try for this year.  If you can’t make it by February, work on the application for the next year.

Get Healthier

This is a typical new year’s resolution, but it also applies to you and your leadership abilities.  Do you need/want to lose weight? Kick a habit? Exercise?  Stop saying you don’t have time.  Make time. It’s a priority.  And once you have chosen what you will do, make a plan to ensure you stick with it. Join Weight Watchers (my favorite) or another program.  Sign up at a gym and take a class. Find a yoga or a dance group and join.  Choose something that appeals and doesn’t sound like punishment.  Enlist a friend to join you.  You will be more successful that way. The healthier you are, the better you will like yourself, and the easier you will find it to deal with others who are your priority.

Make Time for Fun

Don’t spend your life being a worker bee.  You are a human being, not a human doing.  Always make time for your hobbies, personal reading, and going out with family and friends, or whatever you love to do.  This will rejuvenate you for all the things you have on your plate.  Put it on your to-do list if you can’t “remember.”  As I said last week, you need to make room for joy in your life – and it won’t happen unless you make it a priority.

Be Accountable

Resolutions are easily made and forgotten even more quickly as life intrudes. You don’t have to all these resolutions, but you should pick at least two – plus the last two.  Then keep track in print, on a spreadsheet, or a Google doc to record what you have done.  How many times did you exercise?  Which relationship did you develop? If the resolution was important to make, it’s important to keep.  The record will help you hold yourself responsible.

Make use of the break in the school year, to get re-inspired, recharged, and re-focused.

Happy Holidays everyone.

 

 

ON LIBRARIES: Easing Into Leadership

This blog is often about the importance of being a leader, but I know that for some (maybe many) of you, taking that first step and then building on it can be the biggest part of the challenge. Moving out of your comfort zone might feel like too great a risk.  Perhaps you haven’t gotten tenure yet.  Or for any number of reasons, your job may not be secure.  In all of these cases, this is when being seen as a leader is the most important. So, how can you be ready to make that initial move? Try “managing up”.

Managing up is a term often used in the business world.  For me, it’s similar to being a team player.  I also think of it as leading from the middle. Leaders are a presence in the building.  They are recognized for being able to get exciting things done. You can become a presence – at least to the administration – and help get exciting things done if you learn to manage up.

When you manage up, your aim is to further the goals of your administrator.  The concept is core to any strategic planning for your program.  If your principal (or superintendent) recognizes that the library program helps achieve his/her aims, he/she is more likely to support that program.

In my last school district, the superintendent and the principal wanted to move to a 4×4 block schedule.  This meant that class periods would be twice as long, and students would complete a year’s work for each course in one semester.  For example, they might take English 10, World History, and Chemistry in one semester and Spanish II, Algebra II, and Creative Writing the second semester. Although there were numerous objections from teachers, it was clear from the beginning the plan would go through. It was what the administration wanted.

Once it was clear this was happening I proposed that I be given $500 extra in my budget to buy supplemental materials to help teachers use a block schedule in their subject area.  My principal quickly complied.  I made certain the teachers were aware of the resources I had for them. The teachers weren’t thrilled about the change but felt, at least from the library, they were getting needed support.  The administration was grateful I aided in calming down the negative emotions. The $500 stayed in my budget the next year. And that’s how managing up works.

When you manage up you are less “exposed,” and it’s not that difficult to incorporate it into your work life.  Joel Garfinkle offers business people 5 Tips for Managing Up. The advice, with very little tweaking, works equally as well for school librarians.  Here are his five – with my modifications:

  1. Know What Matters – This is the first step and is probably the most difficult and important. What does your administrator really wants to accomplish?  What does he/she focus on at faculty meetings? What does he/she look for when doing observations? Knowing this is critical for the success of your program since you want to show how the library can help make it happen. In the process getting to the core of their goals, you will develop a “big picture” view.  Your principal keeps an eye on district targets and sometimes larger ones as well.  By figuring these out, you gain a broader awareness of how to position your program.
  2. Connect Broadly – Your big picture view will help you tune into what administrators are focused on. In the middle and high school, it can mean department chairs and subject coordinators. If it does, make certain you are working with the people in charge of those areas, showing how the library is a resource for them.
  3. Garner Support – You want to have people in your corner. In one school where the new library was one of the additions planned for the building, the cost of air conditioning became a concern.  Because I supported him over the years, the Athletic Director said he was willing to forgo a new weight room if that meant the library was air-conditioned. The bottom line is, be ready to help others.  You do this naturally for students and teachers.  Now do it for administrators.
  4. Keep Stakeholders Informed Never blindside an administrator. Don’t try to hide bad news or cover it up.  It always gets discovered, and you have left the administrator unprepared. I once had a School Board member who was retired and liked to drop into my library.  As soon as he left, I would contact my superintendent and let her know what he said and what I said. If it came up at the Board meeting, she was prepared.
  5. Build Personal Relationships – You find out teachers’ personal interests as part of building relationships with them, Do the same with administrators. Knowing their likes and perhaps their hobbies and outside interests gives you new ways to connect them with your program and occasionally reasons to reach out.

Two Do Nots and One Do

  • Do not become a “brown-noser” – That will destroy your relationships with teachers. It’s important that you don’t carry tales or go along with everything even though you know it’s wrong. You don’t sell out your principles.
  • Do not manipulate senior management. – Be open and above board in your interactions.  If there is something you want, figure out a way to propose it so it gets heard. This is no place to be passive-aggressive.
  • Do – Promote teacher activities with administrators. Use your connection to be a voice for teachers.  That will strengthen your connection with them.

When you get to be proficient at Managing Up, and start to notice the benefits, hopefully, you will find it has become easier to step into full-fledged leadership.

ON LIBRARIES: Tickets Please

Exit tickets as an assessment surfaced several years ago and have been getting increasingly popular.  They mostly are a summative assessment where you get instant feedback as to what kids learned. Depending on what you ask, they are also formative assessment as you can discover what’s on students’ minds, where and what they want to explore further, and where they may be confused,

As I thought about exit tickets, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard anything about entrance tickets.  The idea took hold during my walks.  Entrance tickets could be one solution to classroom management.

The library is a classroom, among other things, but it looks and feels much different from the rest of the classrooms in the building. Other than the gym, it has the largest space.  It has places where it’s easy to hide.  Since students aren’t in the library every day, there is always something new to look at.  All these are distractions, and distractions keep students from settling down.

Procedures and routines are an effective way to get students focused from the beginning, and you probably have instituted some that work well for you.  Entrance tickets could give you something more. For example, to introduce a lesson on Newbery or Caldecott winners (which will be announced on January 28, 2019), your entrance tickets might ask:

  • What is the best book you ever read or heard?
  • What makes you like or dislike a book?
  • What do you do if you start a book and don’t like it?

Thinking about books and authors focuses them on what is to come. When you collect the entrance tickets, you can read some or all of them and begin the lesson discussing them briefly. Your exit tickets can then connect to the lesson and/or the entrance tickets.

As with exit tickets, your entrance tickets let you know where kids are and gives you clues as to where you need to take them next.  Depending on the topic, they can serve as a pre-assessment. If you were doing a unit on Fake News, your entrance tickets might ask:

  • What’s one thing you know about Fake News?
  • Why is Fake News a problem?
  • What can you do to identify Fake News?

Although I thought I was very creative for coming up with this idea, I did search to see what else might exist. Among the few I found were two that offered some worthwhile additions. The Teacher Toolkit begins the explanation with a short video of an 8th grade English teacher who uses them then gives directions on how to use them.

Should you decide to try this, it will take some time as students need to become familiar with this new routine for starting class. To help this, the entry tickets should always be in the same place.  Once you decide what you want students to focus on, write the question on the entry ticket or post it for students to see. Make sure to set a time limit for students to answer the question.  When time is up, you can discuss the answers. The site lists the value of entry tickets and has templates for creating entrance tickets at different grade levels.

The second site is from Brown University’s Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.  It is very brief and meant for the college level, but it clearly states the advantages of entrance and exit tickets as follows:

  • participation of each student
  • prompt for students to focus on key concepts and ideas
  • a high return of information for the amount of time invested
  • important feedback for the instructor that can be useful to guide teaching decisions (g., course pacing, quick clarification of small misunderstandings, identification of student interests and questions).

If you have been using exit tickets, consider adding entrance tickets.  If you haven’t been using them, think about how starting this program could support your mission.  It may suggest possibilities for future lessons.  Share what you discover with your principal. The kids’ comments will give him/her a better idea of what you do.