Marc Aronson was the featured speaker Wednesday at the NEKLS 2013 School Librarians' Workshop at the KS State Historical Society in Topeka. Dr. Aronson discussed the role of nonfiction in the Common Core Standards. Librarians from all over the state attended, listened, and networked; eating lunch together, spending money in the gift shop, and choosing from a variety of afternoon breakout sessions.
One of the 140 attendees checked out the available breakout sessions.
I have been struggling with where to put my energy as we continue to work on implementing College and Career Ready Standards. I am convinced that school librarians are in a key position to add value to their schools right now because of the welcome and very specific emphasis on research across the curriculum. Add to that the more general focus on skill building that students can apply to all the content areas. This is where we, as school librarians live! Bring it on. I am MOTIVATED.
Then I start to dig and try to figure out where to begin. Yes, the standards themselves provide general guidance. Experts abound on the internet and all of them seem eager to help. I am lucky enough to have solid guidance within my district because USD #417 has an outstanding Curriculum Coordinator in Kelly Gentry. Still, these standards are BIG. So much is involved in comprehending them and sorting out the accuracies from the misunderstandings and downright misinformation that I become paralyzed fairly quickly.
Still, this is the opportunity I have been waiting for my entire career to really help my district in a concrete, visible, valuable way that taps into my unique skills as a LIBRARIAN. As Kristin Fontichiaro points out in her slides that she posted on her Active Learning site just today, research skills are the hidden CCSS Goal and "about 1/6 of the standardized tests will cover research skills" yet "hardly any of the educational conversation is discussing this." (page 21 of the gumdrop.pdf presentation)
Kristin herself poses my most burning professional question right this minute, "How can I leverage my limited time to have the most impact on my school?" (page 23)
While I was trying to sort out my focus earlier in the summer, I developed a Powerpoint presentation on a different topic all together, became distracted by this issue, and made an animated slide to keep me on track. Yesterday afternoon, I spent an embarrassing amount of time recording the video at the top of this post just so I could stay focused!
The most important thing to remember is that the school librarian is at the center of my little graphic, NOT libraries. As a profession we fought so hard and so long for the physical space to house a library that we have painfully discovered in recent years that the library space and the clerical expertise to keep that space functioning are what our stakeholders value.
I am often taken aback when some administrator or teacher in my district supports me by saying, "You do so much more than a librarian." To me, the curricular, technical, teaching, professional development things that I do are what MAKE me a librarian. All the different aspects of my job are non-negotiables. They prove my professionalism and value, and they are not extras. To me, the librarian is what adds value to the library space. We are the ones who drive the direction of our libraries and make that space meaningful, or not.
To achieve our school(s)' goals (notice I do not say our library goals), based on the proven fact that our time and energy is limited, we have to put our energy where it has a high impact. What we do has to matter, and we need to leverage our projects so they hit as many people as possible. In my view, to do that, we must be involved in professional development. The good news is that in many districts, professional development is a concrete area of need, and if you express an interest in helping out, like magic, you are helping out! Professional development is not a bed of roses, but if you do it well, it is rewarding in surprising ways.
In my experience, a time of stress is not the time to start a self-improvement project. I need to play to my strengths. Each of us have different strong areas. We have to figure out what those are and focus on them. For example, there is absolutely no point in me trying to be like Gwyneth Jones. She is great. I love her stuff, and I use it on occasion, but my strengths are not hers, and it is a big, discouraging waste of time to try to be her. If I am pouring my energy into going the extra mile for my school, I want to go in a direction that I am going to enjoy. I need to do something that is natural for me. Otherwise, it won't be long before I quit in a cloud of failure.
Whatever project I am working on to support common core implementation needs to be responsive to the needs of my school. I cannot work in a vacuum, independent though I may be. We are in this together. I don't appreciate it when people forget I am a part of the team, but I am sometimes just as guilty of not listening, of doing my own thing, and not responding to the need that is so obviously right in front of me.
Finally, my tendency toward the grandiose is not appropriate here. I have to keep it simple, start small, and come up with something I can manage. (Martha House)
At my little school, the high school ELA department is already doing more research, and it is wonderful. I am finding myself pushing information out to teachers and working individually with students when they hit a wall, so I am more of a consultant than anything else. Your experience will probably vary depending on your skill set and the requirements of your teachers and students.
One thing that concerned me immediately about implementation of the Common Core Standards in our district was the fear that teachers and administration would panic about a need for resources and completely forget about the libraries, librarians, and the many resources already in place. As our ELA SAC (Subject Area Committee) was meeting this summer, I asked to speak. Our curriculum director kindly gave me time to talk about library resources.
I put together a powerpoint that probably isn't all that helpful without hearing me present it but maybe the notes will help some. I specifically went into the high school library website between slides 12 and 13 and talked about Online Databases, our card catalog, ILL, TumbleReadables, audiobooks, ebooks, working effectively with librarians, and using the library as a differentition tool. At the time, in late June, every single one of the resources I talked about was in a state of flux, so I tried to really emphasize that the links and information on the library site would always be updated, but that it is well nigh impossible to try to keep up with all the changes as a teacher while trying to teach class. With discussion, questions, and details, the presentation took about an hour and a half.
One thing that I appreciated about presenting was that the teachers were really honest about what they needed from me, and I learned at least as much from them as they learned from me. At a minimum, I am hoping they don't forget about their libraries when preparing their lessons! (MHouse)
Implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCS) was a key focus of the Kansas Leaning First Alliance meeting Oct. 27, 2011. KLFA work groups (Student Achievement and Professional Learning) devoted much of their efforts to plan for training of personnel in the field in conjunction with the Kansas State Department of Education. The CCS training opportunities would start later this month and extend through next summer.
The Community Engagement continued their work in the development of their second Public Service Announcements (to see the first PSAs, click here). They are also strategically identifying additional partnerships that we might form.
The membership collectively tackled the evaluation of the KLFA Website using a Google Doc survey. This data will be used to update the website. The Google Doc work also served as a professional learning activity for members.
The three groups work toward improving student achievement, strengthening the professional learning of educators, and engaging the public in school improvement and student achievement efforts. To focus their work, three general goals offer guidance. They are:
KLFA will broadly disseminate its work to influence practitioners.
KLFA will increase its visibility among policy makers.
KLFA will strengthen and increase its organizational capacity.
Almost 30 people from 20 of the member organizations were in attendance. The meeting dates for the rest of the year are Jan. 5, 2012; March 8, 2012; and May 10, 2012. All the meetings will start at 10:00 a.m. and will be held at KASB with the exception of the March meeting, which will be at KNEA. KLFA will celebrate its 13th birthday at the January meeting.