ON LIBRARIES: Time To Move On

The question is a bit shocking. Although people in other professions do it all the time, librarians and teachers rarely consider changing jobs unless they aren’t rehired. It is probably related to tenure which makes us never think of the possibility.

There are three reasons to start thinking about finding a new job. The reasons range from the obvious to the surprising –at least for those of us in education.  (And even if you don’t fall into any of the three categories, it’s wise to be prepared.)

The most obvious reason is moving.  Your spouse got a transfer or for some other reason, you are going to be pulling up stakes and moving too far away to continue in your current job. Finding a new position can be challenging particularly if you are changing states. You need to research and network.

The research will tell you how complicated it will be to move your certification to your new location and how to go about it. You can also find out about which are the best school districts and salary scales. Networking involves connecting to the school library association. You can’t get on their listserv if you aren’t a member, so join quickly.  Introduce yourself there and on their Facebook page which they are most likely to have.  Ask about job openings. This is not a time to be shy.

The second reason is you dread going to work most days. Everyone has some bad days, but if you rarely have a good one, it is time to move on.  Maybe your workload keeps increasing.  No matter what you try, your administration only thinks of you when they have another job you can take on. Your teachers are so exhausted and demoralized they can’t possibly collaborate with you. The school culture, which I wrote about last week, also will inform this situation.

This is when you need to accept the truth that you are no longer doing well by your students or your teachers.  Your schedule keeps you from doing the things that were why you became a librarian. Your first step is to start checking your state association’s listserv.  If you see any vendors let them know you are looking.  January is a good time of year as districts will soon be getting ready to hire for the fall.

The final reason I’m going to offer is not obvious.  Most of us can see the proverbial handwriting on the wall but few act on it. These are the times you know things are almost undoubtedly going to go downhill, but you just stay put.  It’s like knowing a train wreck is coming and doing nothing about it.  Sometimes you need to trust yourself and take a big leap no matter how scary it seems.

I lived through this.  I had been in a district for twenty-two years. The last five or so I had a principal who was an egotistical bully and a liar. But I had great teachers and a strong program.  I also had a superintendent of schools who always knew what was happening everywhere in the district.  She was the one who had transferred me to the high school six years before this principal showed up because she liked what I was bringing to the educational community.

Then my superintendent announced she was retiring in two years.  I immediately called her and said I was job hunting.  She urged me to stay, but I could read that handwriting clearly.  The assistant superintendent would get her job and stay for three years to get a larger pension.  He was a nice guy but had nowhere near her strength or vision.

Once he was gone my principal would become the superintendent of schools and my life would be all about managing him and working to keep him from undermining my program. Dealing with him would drain so much of my energy, it would affect all aspects of my job.  And it would affect my home life likely leading me to come home so angry at his latest tactic I would rant and rave to my husband.  I knew he would just tell me to quit.

No sense in waiting for his advice.  I decided to act.  There was going to be a workshop on the automation system we used at one library in a great school district. I let the librarian who was hosting know I was job hunting, and she said she was retiring at the end of the school year. I made the necessary contact with the district’s H.R. department and had an interview scheduled for a few hours before the workshop.   By the end of the week, I had a job offer and a signed contract. When I told my superintendent, she asked me to give the principal a chance and to talk with him.

My meeting with him quickly proved me right.  He had no trouble or issues with my leaving. He told me he had done their Middle States Evaluation and talked about their great budget.  Since it would be a much longer drive to work, he suggested I try audiobooks.

I had a wonderful time in my new district and discovered how much I had learned over the years. When I would return for retirement parties at my old district, I found out I had correctly read the situation there.  Four years later, my former principal was the Superintendent of Schools.  And the teachers kept telling me how smart I was for getting out.

Yes, I lost my tenure.  But I knew that I wouldn’t want to work for any district that didn’t grant me tenure.  What I really gave up was my sick days, but only in the short run.  It was worth it.

Next week I will blog on how to get the job you want.

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES – Culture Conscious

How would you describe your school’s culture?  If you have never thought about it, now’s the time to start.  The school (and district) culture influence everything from your budget requests to the willingness of teachers to collaborate with you and administrators to support you.

I have written in the past of two very different cultures in districts where I worked.  At the first, education was regarded as being like medicine.  You don’t like it, but you have to take it.  The twenty budgets that were defeated in the twenty-two years I was there was an obvious indicator.  The district depended heavily on teachers’ commitment to helping their students since there was never an extra payment or support for what they did.  I knew one world language teacher who taught four different sections including having an AP Spanish class within Spanish IV.

The other district saw itself as a leader in education with a diverse, multi-cultural student population.  The culture reflected pride in what they were doing and bringing to students and, by extension, the community. The Wall of Fame saluted graduates who had made major contributions.  It included authors, government officials, and those in noted businesses

While these districts could not be more dissimilar, I could get funding for projects in either place by working with the culture.  In the first district, I always presented my requests by stressing how this would save money in the long run, using as a theme, “the library gives you the biggest bang for your buck.”  I even had one teacher tell her department chair they didn’t need new textbooks, “as long as Hilda’s library was up-to-date.”

In the second district, my proposals were always tied in some way to why it would keep us in the forefront of education. Knowing how strongly the administrators felt about moving to block scheduling, I put in a request for extra funding to purchase support material for the faculty.  I noted that many teachers were opposed to the change because they couldn’t see how they were to get through their curriculum within the structure of a longer period and alternating semesters, (e.g. Spanish I in the fall of 9th grade and Spanish II in the fall of 10th grade).  The extra resources I was proposing would give them the information they needed to continue to be great teachers and show that the district was there to support them.

On a daily basis, the school culture affects you differently.  My two districts had radically diverse cultures, both had teachers strongly committed to serving the students.  To have teachers collaborate with me, I had to convince them that what I taught would help their students be more successful. The English teachers in one district relied on me to teach each grade the research process for term papers because it ensured every student had received the same background information and experience.

I had a co-librarian in one district who teachers rightly felt didn’t like the students.  When they brought their classes to the library, if I was already scheduled to work with another class, they taught their students themselves.  That situation is an example of how we can also negatively affect the culture around us.

click image to read the full article

In an article primarily directed towards administrators on “5 Ways to Impact School Culture,” Dr. Amy Fast offers suggestions that work well for school librarians.  The first is “Assume Best Intent.”  So, if you send a teacher a resource for his/her students and there is no response, don’t assume you are being ignored “because the teachers don’t appreciate what I do.”  Things get lost in cyberspace.  Either send it again with a message saying, “I don’t know if you received this when I sent it out,” or speak to the teacher in person, which is probably best, and find out what the situation really is.

Her second recommendation is, “Surround Yourself with Greatness,” because “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  That can be a scary thought.  Work hard to connect and get into relationship with the teachers who are recognized as “stars.”  As they create units with you, the others will follow, and your school library culture will thrive.

“Elicit Feedback” is her third way. I discussed this in my blog on “The Power and Importance of Feedback.” The fourth idea is to “Know Your Sphere of Influence.” Too often we think all the power – and leadership—comes from a title.  You can, in fact, lead from the middle- or the bottom.  In my Weight Watcher program, I have been keeping up enthusiasm which was crushed when the leader we adored was fired. I lead from my seat – and it is recognized by the other members.

Dr. Fast’s final suggestion is “Make Your WHY Transparent.”  You know why you became a school librarian.  You know why you love your job (most days). Make sure you are communicating that in your words and your actions.  It will also keep you from focusing on the negatives that are a part of any job.

If you are struggling to get teachers to work with you or you want your administrators to recognize your value, review the ways you interact with school culture and see which ones might help you improve your school library culture.

ON LIBRARIES: In With The New (Standards)

appy New Year! There is always a flurry of activity around the beginning of the year. Resolutions, goals, intentions, new things to try, old things to toss.

One of the big new things to embrace? The new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries.  Have you bought your copy yet? Are you excited, or hoping it will go away? (HINT: Go for the former. The latter isn’t happening.) I blogged about this change back in September (the post is here and gives you several links to help you start), and since then I’ve heard about them at the AASL conference in November and started using them. It is a change I am definitely excited about.

Many of you have been put off by the price tag of $199 if you are not a member of ALA.  Even the cost of $99 to ALA/AASL members has caused some gasps. But recognize, these will be our standards for the next ten years. You may as well bite the bullet and get started. If memory serves the old standards, Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs, cost about $45, but it but had only 64 pages!  The new standards comes in at a hefty 314p.  That’s almost five times the size – so it’s practically a bargain! 

Personally, I have been immersing myself in the National School Library Standards in order to update an online course I’m teaching starting January 17.  Since it’s a course text, I had to re-do much of the syllabus, rewrite sections of my lectures, and change topics for discussion as I figured out how to introduce my students to the standards.

The task of wading into these new standards seemed enormous at first.  It’s such a big book and there didn’t seem to be any parallels between old and new standards which would have allowed me to simply insert new page numbers.  It was intimidating, but I am so glad I couldn’t put it off.  The more I explore the Standards, the more I find to like.

I like the idea that there are three Frameworks: one for learners, one for school librarians, and one for school libraries. All three have the same structure so you can see how the same Domains (Think, Create, Share, Grow) and Shared Foundations connect.  It is simple to compare them and once you have familiarity with one Framework, you can easily grasp the others.

Most likely you will want to begin with the AASL Framework for Learners.  It’s a free download and only eight pages so not having ordered the larger book it is no excuse for not getting started. We all are learners and more than ever we need to focus on our own learning. Spend time with the centerfold that lays out the standards for learners. Read the Key Commitments for each of the six Shared Foundations. You will find your old lessons almost always included aspect of the four : (1) Inquire, (3) Collaborate, (4) Curate, and (5) Explore.

Your lessons may not have incorporated Include and Engage but you now should give these two serious consideration Include (the fourth Shared Foundation) articulates the need to incorporate diversity and global citizenship into student learning opportunities. Engage (6) focuses on the ethical use of information.  Both have been components of your practice, but the six Shared Foundations keep them in front of you.  This is not to say you need to include all six Shared Foundation and all four Domains in one unit, but in constructing your units, you should see which ones fit best.

Check the AASL portal for the Standards regularly.  If you “enter” as School Librarians, you will find resources to support you in getting started with the new National Standards for School Libraries.  New ones are added frequently.

Once you have your copy of the Standards, I recommend How Do I Read the Standards? It boils down how the six Shared Foundations and four Domains combine within the three Frameworks, defining the competencies we want to achieve. In addition, it explains how to identify which of the Shared Foundations and Domains you are using in a lesson.  All this in a one-page (free!) infographic.

Another resource I like is Reflect and Refresh: Getting Started with National School Library Standards. Again, a single page PDF, it briefly explains “What Should I Know?” What Should I Do?” and “What Should I Share?”

Do check the Professional Development AASL is offering.  Upcoming events as well as archived ones are available.  Choose one and get started.

It is a new year and we have new standards.  It’s a bit scary, but it’s also exciting to be here as we truly take our profession and practice into the future.

ON LIBRARIES – Gift Giving

Merry Christmas to those celebrating today!  I hope you received the gifts you wanted.  For those of you who are with family and friends this holiday weekend, being with them can be a gift in itself. For those who find themselves on their own at this season, I wish quiet peace and finding the strength and courage to fill your life with joy. For all of you, I wish time to relax and rejuvenate.  Too often we go from our hectic jobs to an almost frenetic pace preparing for and participating in the holidays.  Before you know it, your vacation is over and you return to your libraries exhausted.

So, take a breath.  Look around. And savor the gifts you have in your life.

It’s too easy to identify what you wish for and don’t have.  Instead, reflect and focus on what you have and all perhaps take for granted.  Commercials and appeal letters in the mail remind me of the many people who don’t have the simple basics of life that we take for granted such as fresh water and ample food (too much for many of us at this time of year).

Give yourself the gift of time. It’s so lacking in our lives. If you live by your to-do list as I do, include yourself on the list. Binge watch a favorite television program you have been too busy to watch. (My daughter recently couldn’t stop talking about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime). Read a book you want to read.  Play some board games.  Do what you enjoy that you haven’t been doing because of the tasks that occupy so much of your life.

For me, I make sure to go out for a walk.  I have been doing this 3-5 times a week for a few years now.  It’s what I do for me.  It gets me away from my computer and out in the world.  I have met so many wonderful people on the way.  Sometimes they even toot their horn and wave when they drive past.  I watch the seasons change, and pet dogs on their own walks.  I have watched exterior home improvements happening, seen people sell their homes and new owners move in.

Most of all I take this time think.  Sometimes it’s about what my I should write for this blog.  Other times I contemplate what I am going to eat. (I am a lifetime Weight Watcher member.) And in-between random and focused thoughts, my mind unclutters. It’s peaceful and my own form of meditation.

Make time to appreciate yourself.  Many of you feel unappreciated at work (and sometimes at home).  Think of the gifts you give to others.  What do you do for your family?  What do you do for your teachers and students?  If you are doing it because it’s who you are, and only on bad days do you feel you are being taken for granted, give yourself a pat on the back.

How many times have students thanked you for your help?  Don’t gloss over their words.  They recognize the gifts you give to them.  Remember the time teachers also thanked you.  They, too, are harried and over-worked.  They may not take time to express their gratitude, but when you reach out to them and build relationships, you will hear it more often.

Do give thanks to others.  Make it a practice to thank those who in any way are helpful to you. If you are specific in your thanks, as I noted in last weeks blog “The Power and Importance of Feedback,” you will help make their day.

Being true to my own words, I am thankful to all my readers and the participants in my Facebook group and to the extensive librarian colleagues and friends in my life.  You make my days richer. You are there to answer my questions and to post comments that keep me learning.  It is challenging for me to keep up since I no longer work in a school library, but thanks to you, I am not lost in the past. I thank you for that gift.

Enjoy your vacation – and the gifts you get and bring.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

 

 

ON LIBRARIES – The Power and Importance of Feedback

Feedback is vital. It’s how we learn whether we are on or off track. Knowing how to get it and how to give it are equally important. Sometimes it’s given as part of your job as when your administrator observes you and offers feedback. Requesting feedback is another matter.

Because of our own challenges, we tend to ask for feedback in a way that tells us nothing. Instinctively, we protect our feelings.  If we ask a teacher, “Did you think the lesson went well?” or some similar question, you are generally going to get a positive response. The wording of the question naturally leads to it.

However, you need to know if you were successful and to what degree. You can start with a more specific positive, such as “What do you think worked in this lesson?” But you also need to ask, “What didn’t work?” and “What would you like me to do differently?”

By being open to their negative comments about a lesson, you will hear the truth even if it stings in the moment.  You don’t have to be perfect as noted in last week’s blog. You just have to keep learning.  And that’s what leaders do.

I once did a unit with a 9th-grade science teacher who wanted her students to work on various recycling possibilities including composting.  I knew what databases would support the project and she brought the class in to find out about them and begin their research.

She asked them for preliminary work and was very disappointed with what they turned in. Fortunately, I was following up on it with her and asked if I could re-do the lesson.  I had not taken time to teach students how to create the questions they would seek to answer and select sources based on relevance to what they were doing.  If the source had one keyword, they assumed it would work and included the information from it whether it fit or not.

The re-teaching proved successful and the teacher was happy.  When she repeated the project the following year we were ready.  We were more specific about what its purpose was.  Her in-class introduction was more focused, and so was my lesson with the kids and how I worked with them during their research.  The results far surpassed what happened the previous year.  The initial feedback, negative though it was, was invaluable.

One of the more common ways to see if students are on track is getting feedback on your lesson from exit tickets.  Asking, “What confused you?” or “What do you still not understand?” will let you know where your instruction missed the mark.  Of course, the classic thumbs up, down, and out are always helpful while you are teaching.

For receiving feedback, I like an article written by Peter Bregman for the Harvard Business Review on How to Ask for Feedback that Will Actually Help You. He lists five ways:

  • Be Clear You Want Honest Feedback– People are hesitant to tell you where you missed the mark. You may think you’re being clear, that you don’t only want to be told you did great, so reinforce your question by saying to the teacher something like, “It’s very important to me to learn where I didn’t do the best job.”  (The exit tickets from students does the same thing.)
  1. Focus on the Future – As I suggested, since the lesson has already been taught you want to show why hearing a negative has a purpose. Saying, “I hope we do this project again next year, so for my notes, what didn’t work and needs to be changed?”
  2. Probe More Deeply – The first response you get may not be as honest as you need it to be. People don’t like to tell you messed up. Follow up by referring to specific parts of the lesson and ask about them.
  3. Listen without Judgement – This can be hard. You don’t want to defend yourself nor show by body language that you don’t accept what the teacher is telling you. Think to yourself, “I will analyze the information later.  Right now I just need to hear his/her opinion.”
  4. Write it Down – Take notes for three reasons. First, it’s human nature to forget or smooth over negative comments.  Next, writing down what is being said to you lends weight to your being really interested in making changes. Finally, it gives the teacher time to think of more things. (Ugh!)

When it comes to giving feedback, Entrepreneur.com offers Five Steps for Giving Feedback in connection with the business world. As usual, I am interpreting them for us as educators.

  1. Create Safety – If students think you only criticize, they aren’t likely to hear what you say or follow your advice. A teacher won’t feel threatened by what you say, but if you don’t have a reputation for your work with your colleagues or don’t have a relationship with the one you are speaking to, your words will fall on deaf ears. Remember to find a balance between what you tell students and understand the nature of your relationships with teachers.
  2. Be Positive – As much as possible offer positive feedback about something they are doing with students and teachers –and don’t always follow it with negative feedback or your first statement will be ignored as they wait for the other shoe to drop.
  3. Be Specific – Don’t just say, “Good job,” or the equivalent. That means very little.  Tell a student something like, “I saw that you continued searching after you first approach didn’t work. Your follow through shows you understand how to do true research.”  With a teacher, you might say, “How did you prepare your class for this project?  They were really on task and focused from the beginning.”
  4. Be immediate – The best feedback happens in the moment. Whether speaking with teachers or students, it reinforces positive directions and alerts the recipient to a potential problem before it becomes an issue.
  5. Be tough not mean – Or to put it in another way, “Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” Don’t ignore what is happening when you see a teacher or a student saying or doing something that won’t get them the results they want. Speak the truth, but use the other four steps to ensure they know what you are saying is because you want them to be successful.

Think about times when feedback – either positive or negative – helped you improve your performance. Learning to give and receive feedback is a process and a practice developed over time. Look to your relationships with students and teachers to see if you know how you are doing on this and take the time to think about where you might need to grow this skill set.

ON LIBRARIES: Leaders Aren’t Perfect

Over two years ago I blogged about the Stories We Tell Ourselves referring to the things that we believe about ourselves (usually negative) which aren’t really true but keep us from stepping up and becoming the leaders we need to be. I have found yet another story.  One that’s tied to our belief that leaders do things perfectly.

They don’t. Trust me. I have the mistakes and the successes to prove it.

When we envision library leaders at the national or state level we see them, as we do at conferences, addressing a large and rapt audience of librarians at a conference.  Or perhaps we read one of the columns or blog posts they have written.  They appear self-assured, confident, knowledgeable — seemingly perfect.

That’s where the story kicks in.  You may feel confident as you do your job on a daily basis, but you are so far from perfect how can you possibly follow in their illustrious footsteps. You know your many flaws.  There are all those tech sites you haven’t explored.  Your last lesson didn’t work as smoothly as you expected.  And unlike these leaders, you still haven’t convinced many of the teachers to collaborate with you.  In fact, you’re pretty certain some of them still have no idea what you do.

The story is: these leaders have it all under control. They are perfect.  They are completely unlike you and you will never be like them.

Like many of the other stories we tell ourselves, it’s not true – on both sides. It is not true of you (you are a lot like them) and it certainly isn’t true of them (they are not perfect).  Yes, leaders come from a place of confidence and self-assurance.  But confidence doesn’t mean perfection. They, too, have strengths and weaknesses. One difference they may have from you is that they are aware of both.  They work from their strengths and accept and get help for the areas they need it.

In fact, smart leaders let others know where their weaknesses are. They don’t hide them. They admit them and use them as a way to work with their colleagues.  This creates connection and collaboration because if you a leader is perfect, you might choose not to say something when you notice a mistake or when you have a different opinion or perspective. Leaders encourage their colleagues to let them know when they spot something wrong. They want to know what you see.

For example, I am a “big picture” person.  This generally means I have vision and know where I need to go next.  But it means I can miss obvious details.  I repeatedly tell this to the people I am working with and leading, cautioning them even if they are sure I am aware of something but decided for my own reasons to ignore, that they still need to alert me.  I really could have missed it.

Let me give you a specific example which is amusing in hindsight and would have been disastrous had someone not said something. When I was a high school librarian, I led a 3-year renovation project of the library.  I was focused on flexibility, increasing space where walls couldn’t be moved for environmental reasons, and making the library inviting for all students not just the high-performing ones.

We were going to a system which used movable shelves to create that space along with replacing furniture that was blocky and heavy.  Our reference collection (in the days when we had lots of print reference books) was on counter height shelves along the windowed wall and on additional counter height shelves running perpendicular to them.  I wanted to move the reference to the tall moveable shelving and put fiction on counter height shelving. My reasoning was it would encourage casual browsing.  It was a very attractive area of the library with a lovely view of the outside.  Kids gravitated there because of it. It seemed a great place for fiction.

It might have been, but my plan for the reference collection was not a good idea.  I was so focused on that vision of students casually congregating there and seeing displays of inviting titles I missed the obvious.  My co-librarian pointed out that heavy reference books on a high shelf was a recipe for kids getting hit in the head when they reached for one. Ouch.

Obvious to her – not to me. If she had assumed “Hilda knows best. She’s the leader.” someone – possibly me – would have been clunked on the head. Talk about a hard lesson to learn.

If you take the opportunity and the chance, to step up and lead, it’s important to keep in mind that no one expects you to be perfect.  In fact, most leaders have things that they need to learn from the opportunity they have accepted and they expect to make some errors along the way.  Not only should you accept your imperfections and expect errors, particularly in a large project, but you should seek feedback to ensure you are aware of and can correct your mistakes.

And then get ready for your next leadership opportunity.

ON LIBRARIES – Cultivating Curiousity

copyright Margret and H. A. Rey, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co

For life-long learners and leaders, curiosity is often the inspiration that makes you better and more knowledgeable about everything in your life.  We are one of our students’ role models for lifelong learning and therefore must be continuously curious.  Whether it’s new ideas or technology, we should always be on a quest to discover and learn .  And it doesn’t stop there. Curiosity extends to building our relationships as it helps us to be more knowledgeable about and connected to the people in our lives.

As librarians, we often explore new ideas to see if they have merit or are being embraced simply because they are new (Fidget Spinners, anyone?) whether at the request of students and teachers or because of our own interests.  We look to sources outside our field to find out what is being done or discussed and seek to learn whether it might have valuable applications for our students and teachers. The knowledge we gain we bring to our students and share with our teachers.

The more regularly we do this, the more they rely on us to be able to help them.  For students, this means guiding them to the best resources for their assignments or a new book or author to read. For teachers, it means we show them new ways to engage their students in learning and to be more successful in what they are working toward.  We build awareness of our value each time we bring the fruits of our curiosity into our school library.

Many years ago when rubrics were just beginning to be used in education, a teacher came to me for help creating one.  At the time I had never done one, although I was acquainted with what they were.  We sat down together and developed what she needed.  Not wanting to confess to her supervisor that she didn’t know how to design a rubric, she chose me because from our previous interactions she trusted I was both knowledgeable and safe.

If we want our students to be lifelong learners, we need to help them develop their curiosity as well. Children are born curious.  Our brains are designed that way.  It’s how we learn. Anyone who has been around a two-year-old knows they are constantly asking why. Author Arnold Edinborough said, “Curiosity is the very basis of education and if you tell me that curiosity killed the cat, I say only the cat died nobly.”  Learning is not the memorization of facts, it’s using those facts for a purpose.

Unfortunately, the structure of many schools effectively curtails this vital instinct. Albert Einstein is reputed to have said, “It’s a miracle curiosity survives formal education.” This is truer than ever as high-stakes tests have focused teaching energy on correct answers.  It is our job to reach that innate curiosity that is in danger of being lost.

Curiosity propels civilization forward. I have said that knowing the answers only proves one has mastered the content. But that was already learned.  It is when we or our students take that information and ask new questions that don’t have answers yet, that knowledge moves forward.  Bernard Baruch said it better, “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”

We want our students not only to ask “Why?” but also “What if?”  They need to have opportunities to wonder and see where that takes them. Through cooperative or collaborative inquiry-based learning experiences, we can engage students’ curiosity in topics that interest them and lead them to discover answers not in textbooks.  In this way, they become better prepared for whatever the world has in store for them.

In addition to being curious about ideas and things, good leaders are also curious about people. They go beyond the surface mask most people wear in their daily interactions.  They want to know who more about their colleagues, what they care about, and what motivates them.

Curiosity is also a factor in Emotional Intelligence.  While you can perceive the feelings of others with some success based on their outward persona, you will be more successful in using emotions if you know more about the people you are dealing with.  The more you know, and to learn you must be curious enough to ask, the easier it is to build relationships.

When I say we need to be curious about the people in our world, I don’t mean being nosy. It’s about caring about them and their situation.  It’s being empathetic.

I have told the story about seeing a teacher walking through the halls with her shoulders slumped:  her entire body language conveying misery.  While I was perceiving her emotions, I had no clue as to the cause.  Her first answer when I asked what was wrong was to claim she had an argument with her department chair.  I knew her past and her successes – no way was a disagreement with her department chair the occasion for such a reaction.

I invited her into the library to relax and have a cup of coffee and then asked for the real reason she was so unhappy.  She confessed her only child, who had done so well at school, had become a heroin addict.  She feared for his life.  It was not an easy confession to make, but it helped her unburdened.

There was no advice I could give her, but I could be a listening ear.  A confidential one.  While we had a comfortable relationship before, this new connection deepened it.  It led to more collaboration on research projects, but that was not the reason why I reached out to her.

A caring, curiosity was my motivating force in asking this teacher for a deeper truth.  Empathy and curiosity often go hand-in-hand, but they never should be used to manipulate others or you have negated the empathy.

We live so much in a task-filled world, spending our day in “doing,” we devote little time to wondering—being curious.  Embrace your natural curiosity in all things.  Ask more questions. Look for more creative answers. And get to really know the people you work with. Life will be more interesting and you will be a better leader.

 

ON LIBRARIES – The Gift of Gratitude and Generosity

Thanksgiving in North America is over and the December holidays will soon be upon us.  While many take time on Thanksgiving to reflect on all the reasons they have to be thankful, the day is barely over before we are bombarded with the frenzy typified by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whether it’s adults scrambling to buy gifts and decorate the house, or kids campaigning to get something they can’t live without, the holidays can become more about material goods than people and celebration of thing that last beyond the life of a AA battery. It makes you want to hibernate instead.

We live in a stress-filled world. Our students are stressed as well.  Not only does this interfere with thinking clearly, it also causes us to focus on negatives.  It becomes so easy to complain, we forget what we have. You could easily fill a page with what is wrong on the job and in your life.  But what do you get from that? Let’s face it – it’s easy, but it doesn’t help or work. It’s not good for building relationships and it ends up making the library much less of a welcoming environment.

When I focus on having an “attitude of gratitude,” as corny and meme-like as that might sound, I recognize how fortunate I am.  I am grateful for the joy my family brings me, having work I enjoy doing, and the wonderful friendships I have within the library world. (Before I retired, I also recognized how fortunate I was in having colleagues who became friends and students who thanked me every day for the help I had given them.)  To ensure that I do think of the good things in my life, I keep a gratitude journal.  Each day I record two things for which I am grateful—big or small.

When you keep your focus on gratitude and the things that are going well in your life, the world becomes a nicer place.  Your problems don’t go away, but they don’t constantly dominate your thinking.  As a result, you feel less stressed which leads to additional positive benefits. It changes your body language and tone of your voice.  You become a calm port in the raging seas of others’ emotions, which run high at this time of year for many reasons.  People who interact with you come away feeling relaxed and supported.

In the spirit of the season, you could set up a Gratitude Jar near the circulation desk along with small pieces of paper and pens.  Encourage students and whoever else cares to join in to write something for which they are grateful and put it in the jar.  Signing is optional.  You might even set up a Gratitude bulletin board and post some submissions placed in the jar, changing them every few days. It’s someone everyone can participate in – teachers, students, volunteers, and administrators.

And since I always talk about this – while I have not seen it listed in any article I have read, I believe gratitude is a quality of leadership. Strong leaders are aware of what is working in their programs as much as they are aware of where there is potential for growth. They are grateful for what they have in their lives and the people who work with or for them.  And good leaders are quick to express that gratitude.

From Richer Life Journey

The season is also a reminder to be generous.  There are so many ways we can and do give to our family, friends, and communities.  It may be money, as many of us contribute to various charities this time of year, but it may also be the gift of time or sharing our talents with the world.

Time is a very precious commodity in our world.  Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen?  Serve on your state library association or AASL?  There are countless ways to give back.  My daughter’s childhood friend “scarf-bombs” Detroit, leaving hand knitted scarves that she makes all year long in key spots around the city. Each scarf has a note which reads: If you’re cold you can keep me. If you know someone who’s cold, please take me to them. She’s made and delivered over 400 scarves in the past three years.

Children love knowing their time and efforts can make a difference. In some schools, the produce of gardening projects is donated to soup kitchens and food banks. Other districts do food and/or coat drives or even collect gently used books to give to those who don’t have them.  What other ways can students show generosity?

You could also create a Generosity Jar to encourage students and others to be mindful of giving back.  Using the same system as with the Gratitude Jar, people can write all the ways they have helped others in the past year.  Consider posting some questions to help students recognize how they can give back. Did they clean up their room or the dishes without being asked?  Did they help a friend with homework?

We all have much in our lives to be grateful for and most of us do find ways to give.  I truly believe when we become aware of Gratitude and Generosity in our lives, we make our own world a better place and positively affect the larger world as well.

ON LIBRARIES: Ease into the New National Standards

The New National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries have arrived. It’s exciting and wonderful but carries a certain amount of trepidation

– What changes will I have to make in my lessons?

– How am I going to find time to learn it all?

– Is there a start date for implementing them?

– Can I just wait a while?

– Do I have to buy the book?

All good questions.  And while I do own the book as I participated in the pre-con on the Standards at the AASL Conference in Phoenix, I don’t plan to sit down and read it through in a week or so.   I have looked at the Table of Contents and been led to some key pages, but I am going to absorb this in small doses.

You can and should do the same.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Excerpts from AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, used with permission.  Copyright American Library Association, 2018. For additional information and resources visit standards.aasl.org.)

Your first stop is the AASL portal for the Standards to download the AASL Standards Framework for Learners.

So much is being loaded here, almost on a daily basis, the site is a bit hard to navigate.  It will be cleaned up but for now, I have given you the link because that’s the best way to start. This will help you see how our new Standards are organized and give you a way to start incorporating them into your lessons in easy steps. See? A framework.

Page three lists the Common Beliefs which is “How … we define the qualities of well-prepared learners, effective school librarians, and dynamic school libraries.”  I discussed these six in my blog on September 25th.  You can look at that if you want to review the Common Beliefs.

The centerfold is where the big new is.  It is the AASL Standards Framework for Learners. From there are two additional frameworks. One for School Librarians and another for School Libraries. (We have dropped the word “program” because we want the focus on school libraries.) The good news is all three follow the same structure.

The frameworks are tables. Reading across are the Roman Numerals identifying the six competencies that form the Standards:

  • Inquire
  • Include
  • Collaborate
  • Curate
  • Explore
  • Engage

Beneath each is a one-sentence key commitment.  For example, Explore says, “Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection.”

Visit the Ogden School District Library program by clicking the image

Reading down the chart are the four domains:

  • Think
  • Create
  • Share
  • Grow

You may remember these from Learning for Life (L4L).  These are connected to the domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Think is the Cognitive Domain.  Create is Psychomotor, Share is Affective, and Grow is Developmental.

The Shared Foundations and Domains form a grid with each box having two to five competencies identifying what the learner is expected to do.  For example, the box formed by Inquire and Think says, “Learners display curiosity and initiative by:

  1. Formulating questions about a personal interest or a curriculum topic.
  2. Recalling prior background knowledge as context for new meaning.”

So, if you were to use both in your lesson you would refer to it as I.A.1. and 2.

Depending on your learning unit or your own preference, you can focus on Inquire through Think, Create, Share, and Grow.  Or you can choose to have students Create through all or some of the Shared Foundations.  You can pick and choose as you wish.

web banners available from AASL website

If you would like to see the Frameworks for School Librarians and School Libraries and you are not quite ready to purchase the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, consider getting the AASL Standards Mobile App from the Apple App Store or Google Play for $19. You can’t get it at the ALA Store but a description of the App is given there.

This is my route to slowly implementing the Standards, but you have many helpful resources on the Standards Portal.  There are videos you can watch, or you can download the one-page PDF on Where Do I Start? 6 Action Steps for Getting to Know the New National School Library Standards. Keep checking the Portal. New resources are being added quickly, and it will become better organized.  Meanwhile keep exploring it to find treasures.

You do need to get around to buying the book.  The $200 price tag for non-AASL members and even the $99 cost for members has been something of a sticker shock.  Since I advocate for all school librarians to be members of AASL, let me point out that first time membership is $119 – so for an additional $20 you have the book for $99 and a one-year membership in AASL with all its resources such as e-COLLAB and Knowledge Quest. And this volume is equal to what was in Empowering Learners, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action, and A 21st-Century Approach to School Librarian Evaluation. Which really makes it a bargain.

What have you done to get started with the new Standards?  What do you like best about them so far?  And if you need help to come up with the cost to purchase the book – post to our Facebook group and see if anyone has suggestions and ideas.

ON LIBRARIES: Confessions of a Conference Junkie

It’s true.  I admit it I am totally hooked on library conferences. On Wednesday afternoon I will be flying to Phoenix to attend the AASL Conference.  The following week I will be at my state library association’s conference.  I am already registered for ALA Midwinter in Denver (yes, winter in Denver) in February of 2018.

Those of you who haven’t attended any of these, particularly the ALA/AASL ones, may wonder how I got hooked and why I keep going.  It started innocently enough.  I went to my state conference. And one of the reasons I chose to go was because it was easy to get to the site.

It turned out to not only be familiar but a lot of fun. A number of my librarian friends were there and the vendor reps for the most part were the ones who called on me. I got to see several programs that were helpful, some of which were led by people I knew so I could follow up with them.  There were some nice freebies (now called swag), and I met more librarians from my state who I hadn’t known before.

I continued to attend and I became known by leadership people which led to my being asked to serve on committees.  Although it was a bit scary, I tried one.  It accelerated my learning curve, and I became a truly active member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (then called EMAnj).

Then in 1979, (yes, I have been a librarian for a long time), I attended my first ALA Annual Conference.  Along with Ruth Toor, I had written my first book – The School Librarian’s Almanac – and thought it was time to look at the larger scene.

That year the site was easy again. It was held in New York City. As a New Jersey resident who was born in New York, I was comfortable there. Lots of the New Jersey librarians I had come to know also attended.

It was somewhat overwhelming, but thrilling at the same time.  It was SO much bigger. As I walked to the Convention Center I saw so many people wearing conference badges and carrying the bags attendees were given.  I struggled a bit to choose among so many programs.  There were more vendors than I ever heard of, but I did see a quite a few familiar faces among the reps. And the swag was amazing. I came home with bags, books, bookmarks and other great things for my library.

One of my best memories from that conference was meeting Isaac Asimov.  I had loved his works since I discovered them while in high school.  He even kissed my cheek.  I didn’t want to wash it.

Sitting at the food courts and sharing tables I met so many librarians from all over the country. There even were some from countries around the world.   I was learning even when I wasn’t at a program or in the exhibit hall.  I was hooked.  I never looked back.  I couldn’t wait for the next conference.  Fair Warning—conference going is addictive.

Since that time I have never missed an ALA Conference. I remember going to Toronto, Canada in 2003 for the first joint conference with the Canadian Library Association.  It was made even more memorable because shortly before the conference, Canada experienced an outbreak of the SARS virus.  Those of us who didn’t decide to skip the conference were made extremely welcome.

After attending ALA Annual for several years, and taking volunteer positions in my state organization I became the president-elect of NJASL and was therefore a delegate to AASL’s Affiliate Assembly. Since it met at ALA Midwinter in addition to annual, I attended that.  And discovered it was the same and different from Annual.  Smaller in some ways, without as many programs, there were still committee meetings, great exhibits—and of course, swag.

In my new position I met our national leaders. I was surprised to discover how approachable they were. Before long I was serving on AASL committees.  In 1980, AASL had its first conference.  I didn’t the first or second (they are every other year), but I did go to the third held in Atlanta, GA. Aside from a family emergency that caused me to change plans at the last minute, I have attended every AASL Conference since then.

I had no choice but to be hooked. So many programs, so many vendors.  And all of them directed to school librarians.  It was perfect.  When AASL began holding its National Institutes, commonly known as the Fall Forum, I couldn’t wait to attend.  These were very small, and focused on a single topic/issue of importance to school librarians. It was the perfect setting for intense learning.

So here am I once again eagerly packing for an AASL Conference. (I will be skipping my blog next week as I will be in Phoenix.) What do I have to show for it?  Well, the swag does accumulate.  I will never need to buy a canvas bag.  I always have a huge supply of pens and post-it notes plus assorted helpful items from thumb drives to earphones.

More importantly, to a great extent, the leader I am today came about as a result of all my conference going.

Are you a conference junkie?  Which ones do you attend?  What are some of your best memories? What would be a good first one for you – state, AASL, or national? Wanna join me in New Orleans next year?