Saturday, June 21, 2008

AH... Summer Reads

I am finally beginning to see the end in sight, but still have a number of things to do and loose ends to tie up. Next week is the last week of school before summer vacation and I have 2 more sessions to facilitate as part of my Health and PE duties. I will be meeting with our secondary department heads on Tuesday and assisting in running a Red Cross Swim Instructor re-certification session for the teachers who have the qualifications to teach swimming on Wednesday. I have 2 meetings scheduled for the last day of school and one on the Tuesday morning - both planning sessions for next year.

Just this past week I had the opportunity to run sessions for elementary principals and vice-principals about effective school library programs. I don't think that my predecessor was ever given this opportunity so I feel that this is a good sign - a positive way to end the year I think.

I started writing a response to a post from LC's Chip Van Philosophy about summer reading. As I was posting a comment, I thought that it would make for a nice end of year post. So I am following your lead LC.

I have a stack of books - some professional and most not. There is a series that I tend to re-read and that's the Outlander series by Diana Galbadon. It's romantic historical fiction with a sci-fi time travel element. Jamie, the hero-to-die-for and Claire his witty, talented, resourceful wife are my absolute favourite fictional characters. Galbadon's writing make me laugh, cry, think, get really angry, etc... What is most interesting about this writer is she has had an amazing career background - she has three science degrees, wrote numerous articles for scholarly journals and comic strips for Disney. She is currently working on the seventh installment of her series.

I am anxiously waiting for Stephanie Meyer's last installation of her Twilight series due out in August.

Now, if I just had a backyard pool or a beach house.... Have a great summer!
Image: Frazier, Jim. (2005) Hearst Castle Swimming Pool
PS Ok I just realized something. The photographer who took the above picture is named Jim Frazier. The name of the male protagonist from Outlander is named James Fraser. Interesting co-incidence.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Tags in Wordle

I was catching up on some of the blogs I follow and this neat tool called Wordle was linked on Cathy Nelson's TechnoTuesday blog . I inserted my tags into it and this is the image it generated. Neat! This tool would be very engaging for revising for the trait of Word Choice. It's a very visual record of over-used words!

Here's my last blog post using Wordle:

I guess my thoughts are turning to summer. Have fun with this tool!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Professional Learning

Summer break is less than 2 weeks away and this brings my thoughts to a few things that I want to accomplish this summer that I didn't have time to do during the school year. So here's my list of things to do this summer that hope will extend my professional expertise:

  • write a pantoum poem (a challenge issued by D.H. one of the editors for a student creative writing anthology, the publishing of which I coordinate);

  • read a number of professional books ( Critical Thinking by Richard Paul, Adolescent Literacy edited by Kylene Beers, Linda Rief and Robert Probst and The Art and Science of Teaching by Robert Marzano);

  • catch up reading my professional journals (English Journal; Educational Leadership; Teacher Librarian - this is available through our board's online databases);

  • create a wiki for a research project using Wiki Templates for Super Teaching by David Loertscher et al; and

  • Go through the K-12 Online Conference 2007 and 'attend' some of the conference presentations.

These will keep me busy over the summer break. I also have the usual list of cleaning my house (I don't spring clean - I summer clean. No time or energy for it earlier), golfing, biking, hiking, swimming, weekend trip to Stratford and a 2 week vacation. Not sure just where my husband and I are going - we'll do a last minute booking. As long as it is really warm and has beach with salty water we're good.

For those of you who are waiting for the summer to start playing with some of the read/write web tools, I direct you again to the California School Library's School Library Learning 2.0. They updated it for this year and you can complete the 23 things over the summer and be ready to use some of these tools with your students next year.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Credentialed vs Educated

Today I am writing this from a Caribou Coffee in Grosse Pointe, Michigan where I am hanging out with my daughter Dana. She's doing her school assignment and I'm working on this post. There is something inherently cool (at least for me it's cool - it's sort of D. Warlickian) about hanging out in a coffee shop, accessing the wifi and listening to some high school students nearby studying for their exams. I feel more like a native than an immigrant.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what someone needs to be truly qualified to be a school librarian. The reason that I've been thinking about this is because I am really frustrated by the process of getting a secondary TL position in our district. While this process gets a credentialed TL into the position, it doesn't necessarily get a qualified person into the position.

In our province, teachers can become qualified to teach in other areas by taking an Additional Qualification courses offered by Faculty of Educations at various universities. Most AQs are 3 parts (Part 1, Part 2 and Specialist) and can be done on-line, partially online or face to face. The AQ for Librarianship Part 1 has no prerequisites other than a teaching degree. In our district, if you have Part 1, then you are credentialed and you can be placed in a secondary school library. And once you are in the library, you are there for the remainder of your career if you want.

Now the really frustrating thing is that we can have teachers who have never written a formal research paper, who don't know YA lit from adult lit, who don't know what the difference between MLA, APA, Chicago Style, who come from a tech background (and I don't mean computer tech I mean auto, construction, metal tech), an art background, a phys ed background - well any background, being responsible for a secondary school library and a secondary school library program. Now I'm not saying that people with diverse backgrounds can't become good and even exemplary TLs. I actually have a phys ed background - but my undergrad was rigorous - I can't count the number of research papers I had to write. In fact, one of my first year undergrad courses was research methods and I remember spending hours in the university library searching for various types of resources required by the assignment given to us by Dr. Leavitt. It was one of the toughest courses I took. I am also a voracious reader - a really important qualification for a school librarian!

Now one would assume that after taking Part 1, that a teacher placed in the school library would have a basic understanding of the role and scope of the position, a basic knowledge and skill level of the teaching responsibilities required to develop information literate students. One would also assume that these credentialed teachers understand and apply collaborative behaviors necessary to plan, teach and assess with classroom teachers. And finally, one would assume that there would be a minimum application of the technical requirements of the role (now I do mean computer technology). But what is happening is that our secondary school libraries in far too many cases have become an 'early retirement home'. And why? Because the only necessary requirement is that one is credentialed with Librarianship Part 1. Some of these credentialed teachers see the library as a place where they can spend the last few years of their teaching career in relative peace, with no report cards and no marking. Book babysitters.

So if we really want to provide a high-quality school library program for our students in this information age, shouldn't the requirement to become a school librarian be more than Part 1? Shouldn't our districts require more than just a credential? Shouldn't there be professional accountability?

When I started thinking about the emphasis these days on credentials and my frustration with the lack of professional accountability of some school librarians, I thought of the book that I read a couple of years ago written by Jane Jacobs, a self-educated activist, urban planner and visionary. She wrote a book called Dark Age Ahead. In it, she theorizes that North American civilization is headed towards a Dark Age similar to that of the Roman Empire:

Her thesis focused on five pillars of our culture that we depend on to stand firm but are in serious decline: the nuclear family (but also community), education, science, representational government and taxes, and corporate and professional accountability.

Jacobs theorizes that the collapse of these pillars will cause a descent into a Dark Age and she provides evidence that these pillars are already eroding. The demise of the 'education pillar' is caused by universities more interested in credentialing than providing high quality education. I guess I'm feeling that some of our secondary school libraries are descending into the 'Dark Age' as a result of needing only a credential to become a TL and the lack of professional accountability once in the position.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Over the past year and half that I have been in this position, it seems to me that the overwhelming theme that winds it way through my daily life is change. I have always welcomed change - if it has been on my own initiative. I'm not so good at accepting it if it's been thrust upon me. Saying that, I have to say that most of the changes that I go through are usually of my own initiative. I'm always looking for new and better ways to do things.

Recently, I connected to a blog entry by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach who wrote about educational change and the 9 principles for implementing change. This blog entry is worth a read, especially for those who are responsible for bringing about change in their schools. Her 9 Principles for Implementing Change are listed below in italics:

1. People Before Things

Any significant educational transformation creates “people issues.” Teachers will be asked to challenge the status quo, engage in mutual accountability, changed job descriptions, development of new skills and capabilities, and in general school staff will be unsettled and resistant to these changes. A shared approach for managing the change through learning communities — beginning with the leadership team and then engaging key stakeholders and teacher leaders — should be developed early, and utilized often as the change moves through the school or district.

2. Start at the Top

Because change is inherently unsettling for people at all levels of any organization and especially schools, when rumors of change begin to surface, all eyes will turn to the principal and other members of the school's leadership team for strength, support, and direction. Which means- the leaders must do more than talk a good game.

3. Everyone is a Player in the Change Game

Transformational change in a school needs to include everyone. That means all staff, from the custodian to the secretary and even the lunch room staff.

4. Garner Buy-in
Teachers are inherently rational and reasonable folk and will question to what extent the change is needed, whether the principal is headed in the right direction, and whether they want to commit personally to making change happen. The articulation of a formal case for change and the creation of a modified, shared vision statement are invaluable opportunities to create or compel buy-in.

5. Can't Give Away What You Do Not Own
To truly be successful at implementat[ing]... change there must be ownership by those willing to accept responsibility for making change happen in all their areas of influence. Ownership is often best created by involving people in identifying potential problems and crafting solutions- which happens naturally in a community of practice.

6. Communicate and Often
Too often, those involved in the change make the mistake of believing that others understand the issues, feel the need to change, and see the new direction as clearly as they do. The best change programs reinforce core messages through regular, timely advice that is both inspirational and practical.

7. Know Your Culture and Predict Possible Impact

Educational leaders often make the mistake of assessing culture either too late or not at all. Ask yourself, do you know your school's readiness factor in terms of accepting change? Does your school already have strategies in place for how to bring major problems to the surface, identify conflicts, and negotiate outcomes? Do learning teams, and ultimately your learning community know how to identify the core values, beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions that must be taken into account for successful change to occur?

8. Expect the Unexpected
21st Century change is by design emergent and organic in nature. Implementation [...] never goes completely according to plan. People react in unexpected ways; areas of anticipated resistance fall away; and the external environment shifts etc. To manage the needed shifts in your school, the community will need to continually reassess. This is why ownership is so important.

9. As the Individual Grows so Will the Collective Wisdom of the Community

Change is both an institutional journey and a very personal one. Educators spend many hours each week at school; many think of their colleagues as a second family- and as their community away from home. Individuals (or teams of individuals) yearn to know how their work will change, what is expected of them during and after the change, how they will be measured, and what success or failure will mean for them and those around them.

Currently, professional learning communities are becoming more widespread in my district and introducing PLCs into secondary schools is one of the responsibilities of the implementation team of which I am a part. Some of our elementary schools are in their 3rd year of learning communities and as other schools see these schools using a collaborative approach to manage change they are asking for resources to establish PLCs in their schools. So we are setting the stage for supporting change by introducing teachers in secondary to collaborative professional learning teams. We are asking schools to change the way they operate so that all students can achieve.
Shared leadership is an essential component - why? Because one person can't possibly do everything. However, as Doug Johnson says in a recent post about educational change:
"Major cultural shifts are about transfers in power, and nobody gives up power without a fight." In addition, Johnson says that the only way that cultural change will happen is if it is mandated through government policy.

These 2 blog entries got me thinking about the shifts that are needed in education - shifts from isolation to collaboration, from content-focused to process-focused, from regurgitation to creation. I think about how some secondary classrooms operate, and think about the shifts that need to take place to meet the needs of all students. And I think of how we need to prepare students to be part of an unknown future and I know that the way we have been doing it will no longer work.

I think of how our secondary PLCs can be supported and look to Nussbaum-Beach's principles of supporting change. But I also remember what what Doug Johnson says about cultural shifts - that "... schools will not change through internal motivation".

It is an exciting time in education when one can see the potential of and the need for cultural shift and when one is involved in supporting that shift. And after reading about the 9 principals for implementing change, I recognize there are reasons for some of the reactions that we get from teachers as we support this shift. However, it does seem a daunting task when one reads what Johnson has to say about change.

Image: "Change, we fear it...", apesara's photostream. <>