ON LIBRARIES: Another New Administrator Arrives

The statistics aren’t encouraging – the average principal stays less than five years. The average superintendent lasts about six years, half that for urban districts. The constant change in administration causes regular stress for those working in schools and most people don’t recognize the effects of these revolving doors. With each new administrator, priorities shift.  Frequently, projects in the works get scrapped.  Long-term planning is difficult. And each of these new heads has a different view of school libraries and librarians. You have to start from scratch to build your reputation every time this happens.

Those who are in a district where they are experiencing these regular departures and arrivals need to have a strong plan in place that can be set into motion as soon as the new hire is announced.  If you are fortunate enough to have a long-term administrator, it is wise to be aware of how to proceed should your principal or superintendent leaves. In addition to the initial steps, the sequence of the “settling-in” process applies to committees so it will help you show up (early and often!) as a leader even when things are running smoothly.

So how can you be ready?

Hit the Ground Running – Once you have the name of the new administrator begin your research. Where did s/he come from?  Google and social media usually can give you a fair amount of information.  If there is a librarian in this person’s previous job, consider sending her/him an email to learn how the administrator regarded librarians. Where was support given? What was their preferred method of communication? Keep your findings to yourself.  There will be plenty of gossip likely fueled by fear. Don’t add to it.  Just listen and see how well it aligns with what you have learned.

Plan on an Early Meeting – Don’t wait for the new administrator to begin the usual “getting to know you” meetings.  Schedule something as soon as possible and keep your meeting brief.  Ask for no more than ten minutes and finish in less time. During your time, you don’t sell what you have done. I cannot stress this enough – make it about them!  Your focus should be on what you can provide. Invite your new administrator to visit the library at any time. Ask how s/he sees the role of the library program. Let him/her know that the library program is flexible and will work to achieve his/her vision/goals for the school or district. When you finish, leave a thumb drive of your last annual report or provide one-sheet with strong data on what the program has achieved.

The Four-Step Sequence – (which is now five steps) Be prepared for the next phase.  In 1965 Bruce Tuckman wrote an article describing the sequence to identify a process common to describe team formation. It is still relevant and comes into play with a new school or district leader.  By being able to identify the process as explained in Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing, you will avoid pitfalls and demonstrate the leadership that will get you and your program recognized as vital to the new administrator.

  • Forming– This is the settling-in stage. Most people in the school are likely watching and waiting.  Although there are some who are criticizing already, making comparisons to the previous administrator, most will be quiet and uncertain.  You need to identify your new principal’s/ superintendent‘s style.  Congenial? Remote? High tech? No tech? You then adapt your communication to match it.
  • Storming – Time to get down to business, but expect it to be messy. The new administrator wants to begin proving s/he is in charge and knows where to go. Conflicts emerge as not everyone agrees with the new direction. Some want to “get in good” with the new boss, (you are one of them,) but how they do it can be a problem. Brown-nosing is not the answer. Being a team player, which means knowing how to disagree effectively if necessary, is the way to proceed.
  • Norming – Life settles into the new normal. It’s as though the new administrator has always been there. The Pareto Principle comes into play. It’s the 80/20 rule and in this case, it means 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  You need to be among the 20%.  By being of value to the new administrator, helping him/her achieve his/her goals, you and your program will be valued in turn.
  • Performing – This is the make or break period. Everyone has settled into the role of their choice: an active part of the leadership team, a good worker-bee, or a complainer/critic.  The fewer in this last category, the more effective the administrator will be during her/his tenure.  This is your opportunity to propose larger projects and position your program in the forefront, making yourself invaluable to the administration, teachers, and, always, your students.

This four-stage sequence has been adapted to include a fifth stage – Adjourning. In the business world, it refers to when a committee’s work is complete. In our world, it’s when the administrator leaves and a new one is hired.  Once again, you are back to Forming. Now that you have seen it in play, you will be even better at managing the steps as you prepare for yet another new leader.  And you can lead the way.

There is no way to avoid changes in administrations but if you can create a plan and be prepared you will be the leader your program needs and show whoever is in the position that you and your library are invaluable.

 

Advertisements

ON LIBRARIES: Still Feeling Alone?

Image by © Monalyn Gracia/Corbis

Feeling alone on a daily basis is a common challenge for many librarians.  It’s bad enough being the sole librarian in the school –or possibly the district—but when teachers don’t see you as one of them, you feel isolated. Why does it happen?  What can you do about it?

I’m not going to suggest you build your PLN or join library-related Facebook groups.  I already did that in my May blog The Myth of the Lonely Librarian.  I am also assuming you now have contacts with your librarian colleagues across the country.

And yet you still feel lonely.

It’s how the job seems to you every day while you are at school that’s the problem, and a lot of librarians feel this way. So consider this a deeper look at the issue.

First a look at the why.  In far too many places, teachers (and administrators) have a very sketchy idea what school

librarians do.  Teachers see their schedules as overburdened and from their standpoint at the elementary level you just read to kids or at the middle and high schools watch them as they work.  No grading.  Maybe no lesson plans.  Easy job. Some of you have even heard teachers say this.  Those of you who have moved from the classroom to the library may have had a colleague say, “Are you enjoying your easier life?”  It rankles because you know how far from the truth that is.

Trying to explain the range of your job and how challenging it usually is isn’t effective. If you tell the truth and say you are working harder than ever, your teacher friends won’t believe you and probably won’t really hear if you try listing all your tasks and responsibilities.  It’s better to just say, “Not easier, as much as different,” and leave it at that.

Now let’s look at what to do.  Start by changing your mindset.  Right now you are feeling angry and frustrated—and isolated. While the emotions are understandable, they won’t change the situation and may make it worse.

Whether or not you express your feelings, they are communicated. As I have said before, and research bears this out, much of communication is non-verbal.  People read your attitude from your body language and the tone in your voice you can’t always control.

A helpful switch can be: “I can win them over, one teacher at a time.” To do this, you have to work on building relationships.  And you will have to do that one teacher at a time.

Do you eat at your desk because you are so busy or do you join the teachers for lunch at least a few times a week? Join the teachers. Trust me. I know it’s difficult to do, but much is at stake.  As you build relationships you also build the foundation for collaboration/cooperation.

At lunch, don’t push your way into conversations, particularly at the beginning.  Listen for any mention of units they are working on.  Then prepare a “gift package” of websites and other resources. Email them with what you have, saying “I heard your class is studying this topic and I thought this would help you.”  Add you also have some books waiting for them in the library.  If you included a tech website or app, let them know you can show them how to use it with their students.

Do your best to arrange to do a “show and tell” for a portion of their grade level or department meeting.  Bring books and check them out while there.  You can take their names and the title back to the library to put then into the system.  Present one or two great new websites or apps such as the ones on AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching & Learning and Best Apps for Teaching & Learning. No more than two. You don’t want to overwhelm them.

And let’s face it – food is always a lure, so keep snacks and coffee available for teachers in a separate room for when they are there. Don’t besiege them with ideas for collaborative projects when they first stop by. Wait until they become frequent visitors, then mention an idea.

Slowly the teachers’ connection to you will build.  They will begin to see you as a helpful and possibly vital resource who makes their life easier.  When they initiate the contact and come to you for help, you have succeeded.

By not defending yourself and trying to tell teachers that your job is at least as challenging as theirs, you achieve your ultimate goal.  Instead, you’ll create a relationship where you work together cooperatively or collaboratively on projects, and you will no longer feel they are treating you as someone less than or not connected to them.

Initially, most teachers don’t have a good idea of what you do and what you can do for them.  But in actuality, unless you taught that grade level, you don’t know exactly what the teachers’ day looks like either. You certainly don’t know what your principal’s day is like.  When you build these relationships, you earn their respect and have them value you as a colleague.

What have you done to foster collegiality with teachers or administration?  Are you regarded as one of them?  Do you always say “we” when talking about you and the teachers? What challenges are you still facing? What support do you need?

ON LIBRARIES – They Want Me To Do What?

Invariably at some point in your career, your principal or superintendent will ask you to do something that detracts from your library program. How do you respond?  The bottom line is you do what you are told or you are insubordinate.  But as a leader, and as the expert in what is needed for the library program, there are ways to handle the various situations in a proactive manner.

You don’t want to acquiesce sullenly, which will be recognized by your administrator. Worse is to complain to your friends on the staff about the stupidity of the request.  The school grapevine travels fast.  Your principal/superintendent will hear about it very soon.  This will shatter any relationship you have built up and seriously impact any future requests you make.

On the other hand, I strongly believe we teach people how to treat us. If you act like a doormat, people will step on you.  This may sound like a contradiction of what I said before, but it’s not.

When you are told to do something that takes away from your program, stop for one minute and recognize your administrator is in a bind and is looking for a solution.  It may or may not be the best one, but if you come from leadership, you can get it changed or altered to work better.

Here are some examples – many of which have occurred in my career:

The principal needs to use the library for one period so that a group of students can take a test. You are asked to close the library for that period. You have a class scheduled at that time.

This happened when I was very new at a high school having been transferred from the elementary school. I told him “If you need it, I suppose we will have to close, but Mrs. S. was counting on me working with her students that period.  I will let her know.” He was taken aback, thought quickly and said, “Maybe we can use Mrs. S.’s classroom while she is in the library.  I will speak with her.”

A similar incident, which I discussed in one of my books, occurred in another high school.  I got a call from the principal’s secretary asking me to close the library for several periods to allow the athletic directors from our region to meet in the library.

I told her I would notify all scheduled teachers about the change. On hearing the news, one of the teachers stormed into the principal’s office, complaining.  I heard she said, “Who is our library for?  Our students or the athletic directors?”  I soon got another call from the principal’s secretary in which she said she had misunderstood the principal.  I need only close off a section of the library (privacy screens would be provided.) 

In both cases, I did not object.  I appeared willing to do what I was told, and yet made changes in the outcome. My principals had an opportunity to see the library and I were of value to our educational program.

A frequent occurrence for many of you is being told to cover for a teacher either because the substitute is late or none is available.  I can remember being told I needed to cover a physical education class.

I said it was a shame to have to close the library for the entire school.  Was it possible to have the phys ed class meet in the library?  No problem.  The principal didn’t care as long as students were supervised.  I had the class work on researching aspects of a sport of their choice.  I told students their work would be turned into the teacher for a probable grade.  I got good cooperation from them, and once again showed the administration I was a team player – pun intended.

Many of you are required to shut down the library for days when high stakes tests are given.  Everyone is stressed out, including the administrators.  But it’s a terrible loss to the continuity of the library program.

Successful librarians have dealt with the challenge by getting permission to take their necessary tools on a cart and work with individual classes.  As long as you are not required to proctor, this has many benefits.  You partner with teachers on their territory. Since kids are also stressed and off kilter because of schedule changes, this puts two adults in one room. The kids get to see you in a different setting and as more of a teacher –and you might build new collaborative partnerships this way.

Districts are always dealing with budget cuts and frequently give librarians extra duties.  Sometimes it means going to two schools.  Other times you are given actual classes to teach.

You are not going to get out of this entirely, but if you do everything they ask with regards to this, you will only get more and/or they will assume you didn’t have that busy a day so this really wasn’t a problem.  Make a list of all your tasks.  Star what you consider the high priority ones and put a check next to those you will need to drop.  Take the list to your administrator explaining your “predicament” and ask if he/she agrees with your ranking of tasks and what you will be dropping. Be open to hearing their opinion. You will have taught your administrator the range of the library program and how it impacts the educational community.

One more personal note.  After completing a library renovation project giving the library 25% more shelf and floor space, the principal called me over the summer, asking me to come in.  He had to move the “School to Career” center into the library. This came with many apologies, but there was no other room available.

Again there was no way to escape this.  Looking at the floor plan, I found a section that was out of the way of the general flow. I got a display height bookcase and filled it with our career books to create the area as a separate place. My cooperation was well-received.  The head of the program was great at grants.  He got lots of tech which became library property and he became a strong library supporter.

Following directives doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead.  What experiences have you had with “orders” from an administrator?  How did you handle it?

ON LIBRARIES – Plan, Persist Prevail

How do leaders get so much accomplished?   Whatever they do works out.  It sometimes seems as though they are luckier than other people.  Attributing their success to luck, however, gives you a way out.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A well-known phrase comes to mind, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” (Sometimes an earthy adverb is included to modify “poor,” which you can check on Google.) The fact is leaders are always planning.  Last September I blogged about Strategic Planning in “Always Have a Plan.” Although I focused the planning on creating a strategic plan, I said then that leaders are always planning, always have a plan because “You never know when an opportunity will arise and you have a chance to do something but have to move quickly. I have known of librarians who are informed there is suddenly a specified amount of money available but it must be spent within a short time frame.”

During my career, part of my ongoing planning involved my practice of seeing m Superintendent of Schools over the summer, although you might be better off doing this with your principal.  “In that quiet time of the year, I would discuss where I wanted to take the library next and how it might affect the budget.  We would negotiate for the funds I wanted for a given project.  I would agree to take money from one part of my budget and she would acquiesce in getting me additional funds to make it happen.”

In addition to making one of my plans happen, I was also sending an important message.  I was letting my Superintendent know I had a vision for the library program and had mapped out a plan to achieve it. I displayed my expertise as a librarian and was letting her know any monies spent on the library program would bring a maximum return.

As I reported in the blog she once said to me, “I have the feeling that if I go one step with you, you have nine others waiting.” She was right.  I needed those other possibilities.  In case my first idea was shot down, I would bring up the next.

That same Superintendent told me on another occasion “She learned the easiest way to deal with requests was to say no.  Almost everyone would take that for an answer and go away.  But those like me, who came back with an alternative, were listened to.  She could see we were committed to getting something done.”

What others saw was that my proposals always seemed to go through. A guidance counselor remarked I was lucky as I always got what I wanted. Not true. But like the swan paddling furiously under the water, my behind-the-scenes preparation and my persistence were not usually seen.

In another district, my library was attractive mainly because the windows looked out on a very pleasant view and that’s what most people saw.  But we had huge clunky library tables and heavy chairs. This was in the late 90’s and our computers sat on top of the no-longer-used card catalog.  There were too many study carrels and not enough seating to accommodate more than two classes at a time in a school of over 1,200 students.

I had been in this position for only a few years, but I wanted to make changes.  At the ALA Annual Conference, I focused on furniture and shelving when I went through the exhibits and knew the names of the vendors I thought had the right idea.

One day as I was heading to lunch, I saw my new Superintendent, my principal, and the vice principal looking in my library through the hall windows. He was commenting on the computers and the card catalog. I immediately changed my lunch plans and went back inside. When they entered, I was ready.

The Superintendent commented on how old-fashioned the library looked and how cramped it was.  We knew because of environmental issues we couldn’t physically expand it. I explained we could make some furniture changes to maximize the use of the existing space and suggested we use moveable book stacks. I told him I knew of a vendor who installed them.  He was hooked.

I made the call, first to the vendor of the book stacks who also could help me with the furniture.  By the end of the week, I had the proposal for a complete renovation which I presented to the Superintendent.  He was concerned about the total cost, but I had anticipated that and outlined how it could be managed over three years.  And that was what we did.

My standing with this Superintendent immediately improved.  He added to my proposal by suggesting a circulation desk more in line with an automated system (which we had).  And when the circulation clerk resigned (we had 5 people including two librarians staffing the library), he proposed a “media clerk.” She proved invaluable in taking care of system updates not only at the high school but also with the other schools in the district.

Because I was willing to plan, look at my current situation and make decisions for what would best serve the program and my vision, I could present what I needed it when opportunities present themselves and when I created opportunities.  I wasn’t lucky. I had plans.

So what plans—and that’s plural—do you have in mind for your library program.  How can they be modified?  What can you give up in a negotiation to get one or more of them implemented? Do you have a conversation with your principal in this quiet time over the summer?  This is how you construct a foundation for your future plans and demonstrate how the library program can be a showcase for the school.

 

ON LIBRARIES: It Begins With Relationships

build bridgesWhy is one librarian successful and another isn’t?  They can both work in the same district.  Their training and years on the job can be about the same.  The successful librarian might even be a newbie with lots to learn and the other with many years of experience.  Somehow the library program of one continues to grow and flourish while the other languishes.  Teachers resist using it, and when they do prefer to handle their students without any help from the librarian.  At the elementary level, the closest they come to the library is when they drop their students off and pick them up.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I have seen this favorite quote of mine attributed to a number of different sources, but the oldest citing I have gives Theodore Roosevelt the credit. What is important is that it is true.

I have said it many times, in the books I have written and the presentations I have given, “We are in the relationship business.” What I haven’t said is that if you don’t know how to build relationships you will be out business.

Librarians don’t have the luxury of not liking someone on the staff.  The job responsibility requires you to get along with everyone.  Not an always simple task when there are people who grate on your nerves and never have a nice word to say.  Yet it can and must be done. Let’s begin with some easy relationship building.

Relationships with Studentsworking with kids

You don’t grade them. They are not “yours.”  If they don’t like you, they will not only make it obvious, they will make your life miserable. Discipline problems grow and from your principal’s perspective you cannot manage your “classroom.”

While any kid can act out on a bad day, that should not be the norm.   Start by giving respect and you will get it back. Many librarians don’t realize how often they disrespect a student.  An adult comes in, and they break off any conversation, making it obvious to the student that you consider adults more important and worthy of your time. You help teachers find information, but you direct students where to go or give them a mini-lesson. Yes, you are there to teach them, but are you following up to see if they found what they needed?  Wouldn’t the lesson work just as well if you gave it and modeled the steps with them?

Do you make an effort to get to know students, particularly those who come to the library frequently? Do you know their interests? The books, authors, and activities they like?  Have you ever said to one of them, “I’m so glad you came in. We just got some new books, and I have one I am sure you will like. Do you want to see it?”  Students, like everyone else, appreciate when you show you know who they really are.

Parents-orientationRelationship with Teachers

The first rule in building relationships with teachers is to respect their confidences.  The grapevine and gossip is alive and well in every school. You cannot be a contributor. Relationships are based on trust and repeating what you are told is the quickest way to destroy any trust you built up.

A core of teachers everywhere are chronic complainers.  They complain about the administration, their fellow teachers, and their students. Don’t get sucked in.  You can say, “I understand how you feel,” or “I get how angry you are.” But never agree with those sentiments.  You can be sure it will be broadcast throughout the school. With PARCC testing more teachers than ever are complaining, and you undoubtedly have the same sentiments.  Saying, “I know hard everyone has been working. It’s been stressful,” is perfectly OK. Notice, you don’t add, how difficult it has been for you.  That comes off as whining, and it never works.

Slowly get to know teachers’ personal interests, hobbies, and whatever they care about.  If you find a website or a Pinterest board you think they would like, share it with them. The more communications and connections you have, the more likely they will be open to collaborating with you.

Administrators and Board Membersbuild-realtionships

This group is probably the most challenging for you to develop relationships, and yet as power stakeholders, they are the most important.  Begin with your principal.  Listen to what he/she says at faculty meetings and in other communications.  What seems to be of most importance to him/her?  High stakes test? Integrating technology?  Community outreach? How can the library program help attain it?  Figure out how to present that information in under five minutes (they are always heavily pressed for time), and show what a team player you are and how vital the library program is.  You can also find out about personal interests, just as you did with teachers.

Unless you know them personally, the best way to get to know Board members is to go to Board meetings.  See if you can get the other librarians in your district to take turns attending meetings.  Which Board member seems to be most likely to support libraries?  Perhaps you can send that person, with your principal’s approval, a quarterly or annual report.  Be sure it is visual and shows students at work.  Keep the information channel open.  Issue invitations, and learn more about their interests.

Remember, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Build relationships first, and everything else will follow.

ON LIBRARIES: From Library to Learning Commons

learning commonsYou have heard the term Learning Commons.  You may have read an article or two about it and thought it sounded wonderful—in a distant way.  Your library can’t become a Learning Commons. Because:

  • It takes too much time.
  • It costs too much money.
  • The administration won’t go for it.

For the most part, all three reasons (and any more you can come up with) are true—and false. If you decide it can’t happen in your library, it won’t. But what if you could transform your library into a Learning Commons?  Would it be worth the time and the risk?  How would having a Learning Commons change the perception of your program in the eyes of students? Teachers? Administrators? Parents and the larger community?  It’s one more step, a big one but a step, in demonstrating your leadership.transformation2

Some Reasons to Consider

Let’s start with why you should want to make the transformation.  Years ago, school librarians added the word “media” to their title. The reason was to focus attention on how libraries had moved from just having print to incorporating technology into learning and research.  It was important to change perceptions to prevent libraries being regarded as dusty warehouses.

Once again it is time to change perceptions first and then change reality.  As with many businesses, the 21st century demands we reinvent ourselves.  Does your library look like one from the 1990’s?  Earlier?  The world has changed radically in the past quarter of a century, and it’s not just the technology.  It’s how our relationships, learning, and communications have been transformed by technology.

We are living in a participatory culture.  We rely on crowd-sourcing, curating, and 24/7 access to information—much of it from our smart phones.  Does your library reflect those changes?  If you were a students would you see the library as a place to learn, create, share, and grow? (Those are the shortcut phrases describing the four standards of the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.)

planCreating a Plan

As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up someplace else.” Fortunately, you don’t need to do this on your own.  In a Knowledge Quest article Carole Koechlin and David V. Loerstcher explain the elements needed in a Learning Commons and how to plan for them.

While the article is an excellent start, you also need an incentive to keep you going. You are all highly capable researchers. Look for images of Learning Commons and more articles detailing how others have made the transformation.  Not only will this inspire you, it will be useful later when you present your plan. Limit your search by grade level.  While the concept stays the same, you may want to know what an elementary Learning Commons looks like.

Don’t be intimidated by the pictures.  Just look at the message the different spaces convey.  It’s all about participating, sharing, creating, doing. Where in the Learning Commons do these different activities happen?  You want to demonstrate the library is not just a place for finding things.  It’s a place for making things – and more.  It promotes inquiry learning just by the environment it creates.

The conversion to a Learning Commons does not have to be done in one year.  In fact, it might be better if it were stretched out to at least three years.  This way you can see what is working, what needs tweaking, and where you need to add or delete ideas you had for the next stage.

Finding the Moneyfind the money

Your space will need to change.  Fresh paint on walls, green screens, signs, and new furniture cost money. Most of you have been struggling with small or no budgets.  How can you pay for this?  Time to get creative.

What parts of the transformation are DIY – or DIY with volunteer help? What can be done cheaply? For example tables and chairs need to be moveable to allow maximum flexibility.  How much would it cost to put what you have on casters?  What outside sources of funds are available?  Most districts have a local education foundation that gives grants.  Are there other grants you could apply for?  Could the parent teacher organization help in any way?

talkConvincing the Administrators

Nothing is going to happen without the support of the administration.  Once you have you plan put together and have collected a file of pictures, prepare a pitch for your principal. Be sure to include pictures of libraries from the 1950s, the 1990 and your current library.

What is the key message you want to deliver?  If possible, tie it to your Vision and the Mission of the school. Keep it brief.  Show the work you have done and your cost analysis.

You may get shot down, but listen carefully to what you’re told.  I had a superintendent who told me she saved a lot of time by responding with a “no” to almost every suggestion.  Most people would just go away disappointed.  I would come back with an alternative.  And then another alternative.  By this time she knew I was serious and that I would work hard to see the project accomplished.

Are you up for the challenge?  Isn’t it worth it to try?

ON LIBRARIES – Standard Approach to Leadership

be calm and leadNo, this is not about a basic way to be a leader. I meet so many school librarians who feel being a leader is too difficult or too time-consuming or too—add you own reason (for more excuses see my blog October 15 Stories We Tell Ourselves).  This is about a very simple way to ease into leadership.  And you do need to find a path to leadership because, as I have been saying for some time – Leading isn’t an option—it’s a job requirement.

Standards have become an educational obsession.  Many librarians have proven their value by showing how they can help teachers in meeting the Common Core Standards, and the research results consistently show a high correlation between an active library program staffed by a certified school librarian and student performance on high stakes test. By doing so, these librarians have shown the value of their program, but you can use standards to do even more to showcase you as a leader.

And good news – there is a shortcut.short cut

AASL has a Crosswalk between the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Reading Standards for Literacy in Science/Technical Subjects, Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science & Technical Subjects, and Mathematics. In other words—the Common Core standards in all subject areas are matched to the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and you can either start with the Common Core standard and find the matching AASL one(s) or start with the AASL standards and get the related Common Core standards.

You can look at your lesson plan and see which AASL standard(s) you are addressing: Standard 1 – Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge: Standard 2 – Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge; Standard 3 – Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society, and/or Standard 4 – Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.  When you click on that Standard you find a two column table.  The first column lists the indicators for each of the four strands. The second column give the applicable Common Core standard that matches.

crosswalkSince I am more familiar the AASL Standards than with the specifics of Common Core, this is the way I would begin.  I know what AASL Standards I want students to get as the result of a learning opportunity, so I check for the Common Core standard that includes the grade level I am dealing with.

However, if you want to really focus on Common Core, go in that direction. Select the appropriate standard area and click on the grade level.  Don’t be alarmed by the many standards for which there is no corresponding AASL Standard.  Just keep scrolling down.  The empty cells reflect areas not part of the library program. You are not reproducing what happens in the classroom.  Your unique role is in providing those components of Common Core which are central to the library program.

Now when you write your lesson plans, do a copy/paste of the matching Common Core and AASL Standards.  Not only does this show how you address the needs of students, it also highlights how our national standards are in alignments with Common Core.  Once you have done this a few times, make an appointment with your supervisor or principal and show how this crosswalk works.

If you have purchased the 12-copy packet of AASL Standards, give one to the administrator, if not, download them and do the same. Point out what is on the first two pages and then discuss the four strands which are explained on the last page.

How does this make you a leader?  It demonstrates you are an instructional partner to teachers. It also highlights your understanding of the importance of standards and how AASL has national presence in developing standards for 21st century learners. (Do stress the word learners as opposed to students – it focuses on the need to realize we are all learners.)

On a final note – Common Core is slowly moving out of the picture and AASL is in the process of revising the standards which are now eight-years old.  This is a fast-moving world and AASL seeks to stay on top of the changes.  As a leader in your building you must do the same.  Be on the lookout for whatever succeeds Common Core.  Something will.  Keep checking the AASL website so you are aware of the new standards when they are published.  Your students, teachers, and administrators need you to be prepared.  That’s how leaders behave.

When Being Right Is Wrong

two sidesIn the past few days I have gotten e-mails from two librarians from different states with very different responsibilities but a similar challenge. Each is now coping with big challenges with their superiors stemming from the administrators’ strong belief that they are right. What should you do in a situation like this?  Cave in?  Accept an incorrect assessment?  Ignore being disrespected? Definitely not.  But it’s obvious that insisting on being right is not going to lead to the outcome you want.

In the first case, the librarian worked with one department in a large educational consortium. A relatively new administrator instituted procedures that worked against what the librarian was trying to accomplish and seemed unaware of the dynamics in coordinating practices and interests of the different members of this department.  A job performance review highlighted this disparate view and hinted at the administrator’s correct perception that the librarian disliked her. In the other case, an elementary librarian was copied on an email to a teacher (and hadn’t read it), telling her to bring her class to the library as part of schedule changes caused by testing.  The administrator had sent it without checking to see if any classes were already in the library, and the librarian felt disrespected.Relationship over ego

Having heard the details of what occurred, there is no question that both of the librarians are right—and therein lies the problem. We are in a relationship business, and in relationships, unlike with tasks, being committed to being right can create trouble.  When a librarian is critical of a directive or approach taken by an administrator, he or she invariably reacts negatively deciding, correctly, that the librarian is not a team player and is possibly a threat to what the administrator is trying to achieve—rightly or wrongly.

Consider this, “Do you want to right, or do you want to make it work?”  Because, if you focus on being right, it most certainly won’t work.  As I noted earlier, we are in a relationship business and maintaining your position will destroy not build relationships.

Here’s an example of how this works.  You are a middle or high school librarian and a teacher schedules his class for an upcoming research project.  You work on the lesson, find websites and apps, pull relevant print material and are fully prepared but the class doesn’t show.  You are angry with the teacher—and rightly so.  Do you go to the teacher and let him see you are furious? If you do, what will the results be?  Your ultimate goal is to reach the students.  Being right will prevent you from achieving this – and harm your working relationship with this teacher.

right or what worksIf you go to the teacher instead and say “I probably should have sent you a reminder, but your class was scheduled to come to the library.  Do you want to reschedule or should we cancel the project?”  The teacher will likely be contrite and the two of you can come up with a workable revision. You also have not alienated the teacher who will be glad to work with you in the future.

Letting go of being right is not easy.  It’s natural to guard our territory—and our emotions.  However, we are also big picture people.  When dealing with a situation where you know you are right, step back before you speak or email in response.  Consider whether being right will get you where you want to go.  Remember, “Do you want to be right, or do you want it to work?”