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.


ON LIBRARIES – Relax, Reflect, Resolve

change of yearSoon 2015 will be history.  The good and the bad becoming personal or national memories.  At midnight on Thursday, we will usher in 2016 filled with promises, hopes, and dreams.  It’s a good time for a pause in our busy lives.

Relax – You have been busy. Before the winter break began you were working hard to finish up, leaving your library and program in a relatively orderly state so it will be easy to pick up again in January.  At the same time, you were also getting ready for the holidays. The holiday season, no matter how enjoyable, usually adds stress to your already stress-filled life.relax

Give yourself permission to relax now. The holidays are behind us.  School doesn’t resume for a whole week. Read the book you have been meaning to get to.  Binge on the programs you haven’t had time to watch.  Take a bubble bath if you enjoy them.  Treat yourself to lunch with a friend.

I love to walk.  It energizes me, clears my head, and works like meditation does for some people. When I walk I think, but I also greet people who are out and about.  I have come to know neighbors I wasn’t aware of despite living in my home for over forty years.  I watch the changing of the seasons and see who is making improvements to their home – and then go back to thinking.

Whatever is your favorite form of relaxation, now is the time to indulge.  You have been drained. You have been taking care of everyone else.  The one who most needs your attention now is you. At this point, you are your priority.  If you don’t get the relaxation your body craves, you will not be ready for the New Year.

Reflect – January, as you know, is named for Janus Roman god of doorways and arches. He is the god of beginnings and transitions, and is depicted as two-headed, looking back and forwards.  The perfect symbol for moving from one year to the next.

In between making time to relax, also plan to reflect.  Focus first on your successes.  What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2015 (hint: it doesn’t have to be about work)?  What are you most grateful for?  Recognize the good things you have.  It calms the spirit and gives you a positive outlook on life.reflect

Next, consider what you want to achieve.  Where do you want to go before the school year ends?  What have you learned that you want to incorporate into your program?  Also, what can you let go so your life is not as stress-filled?  Accept that you can’t do everything.  What best fits your priorities?  If you try to do it all, you won’t be able to give your best to them. And that can mean to  family and friends.  I know many of you stay long past dismissal and come home far too tired to enjoy what is most important.

Lastly, recognize what didn’t work.  What did you attempt that never got off the ground?  What got in the way?  Is it as important as you thought? If so, what can you differently? Did you mishandle a relationship?  In retrospect, what could you have done differently?  We don’t always react well under stress so using this time can prepare us for handling a similar situation better in the future. Is there any way you can mend the breach?

resolveResolve – This is the season for New Year’s resolutions.  Having spent time reflecting, you are ready to make some.  Be realistic.  If you have over five resolutions and attempt to make huge changes, you are setting yourself up for failure. Have an action plan with a few simple steps so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment which will inspire you to continue.

I’m happy to share mine with you

My Resolutions – I will continue walking at least three times a week. In bad weather, I will walk in circles around my house and my Fit-bit will keep me on track.  I will also go to a big box store or the supermarket in bad weather and put my coat in a shopping cart and push it around the store and look for changes in displays so I don’t get bored.

I will get back to writing the sequel to Woven through Time which I pushed aside when I began preparing for my two online courses and other presentations.  I will write four or more days a week, striving for 1,000-1,500 words per week so I don’t feel pressured as to how long I write on any given day.    Exceeding the goal will make me feel very successful.

How are you using your time off from school?  What resolutions are you making?