Building a Professional Library – Part II

In my last blog post (November 2017) I proposed that the best opportunities we have to support student learning lies with the connections we make with faculty and administrators. They may not always get a chance to see what’s out there in the literature; and while many do get to conferences, read those emails from ASCD, EdWeek, EL Smart Brief, or others, some hear about the latest and greatest by word of mouth and only get the most basic info on new ideas. In our best action advocacy mode, we can be the movers and shakers that give our colleagues a chance to read up on literature that gives background to the “rock star” ideas that float around before they work on implementing them into the school or district. It is also a good way to insert your own voice – and the role of your library – into the mix.

One year, our district allowed us to break into formal groups that would meet each week. This was before the PLC phenomena, but followed the basic idea. I joined a group of teachers who formed a book club. We all read the same books starting with books like the titles below, but transitioned into YA reads. Discussing the hottest trends in YA literature, we met at a local coffee house a couple of times and had some quite spirited conversations. This was an excellent group and the best use of PLC designated time I’ve ever had. Suggest book group topics for your faculty and see what kinds of changes you can help to implement. Working through big ideas together creates the energy that propels real change and using books–as we all know–gives us strategies, background, and rationale that we can discuss in light of where we might be wanting to go.

The following are books that I have enjoyed giving to administrators, following up with them to converse and share ideas. I will admit to giving some of these with hidden–and not so hidden–agendas. These may have helped to shape activities on campus, but even if they didn’t, they were excellent ways to let administrators and my colleagues in their classrooms know that I was ready to chat.

Abilock, Debbie, et al., editors. Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. Libraries Unlimited, 2012.
The editors of this book asked authors to write on the PD subject of their choice and what they got back was a wide array of perspectives, activities, and ideas on how librarians are – and should be – actively involved as site and district professional developers both formally and informally. I’ve given my administrators photo-copied chapters that would apply to things we were working on. They’d often be included in info packets when there’d be a topic to be covered.

Berger, Warren. A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York, Bloomsbury USA, 2014.
This book is the one that got me started thinking about questions – why they’re important for kids to formulate, why they don’t, how innovators ask questions, and how questions begin the problem-solving process.

Connors, Neila A. If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students: A Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers. Incentive Publications, 2000.
I kept this one on the library PROF shelf for many years and with each new administrator, I checked it out to them with a note and a cupcake or other treat. Did they follow the suggestions? Some did, and it seemed others may not have read it, but to me this book helps teachers to be seen as the professionals they are and how treating their faculty and staff with respect and just enough humor and goodwill can go a long way towards creating the kind of schools we want for our students and ourselves.

Krashen, Stephen D. The Power of Reading: Insights into the Research. 2nd ed., Libraries Unlimited, 2009.
Whenever administrators asked me things like “Why do you allow comics in the library?” (well before the graphic novel craze) or “Why is silent reading important?” or even “Why don’t you like the idea of Accelerated Reader?” I would just hand him/her this slim but powerful book and ask them to read particular chapters (as necessary). It jump-started me on including comic books not just in the library, but also in my instruction in a 7th-grade class I taught called “Young Adult Literature” or YAL. The comic book unit was the ultimate success, with students lined up outside the classroom towards the end of lunch so that they could get the comic of their choice for the next period to read during silent reading and make their projects using their favorite characters. To me, this is a must-have book for every librarian who works with youth. Share widely with parents also.

Kuhlthau, Carol C., et al. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. Libraries Unlimited, 2007.
This is a great, basic strategy workbook for teaching with inquiry. Classroom teachers are always asking: “I like the idea of doing this inquiry stuff, but how do I fit it into an already busy schedule?” This books answers that and gives examples of how to create a unit or a lesson using inquiry – excellent for those doing “genius hour” or other self-chosen projects.

MacKenzie, Jamie. Learning to Question to Wonder to Learn. FNO Press, Bellingham, WA, 2005.
FNO info: http://www.fno.org/JM/resume.html
Jamie MacKenzie is the king of questions, the king of understanding the role of technology in schools, and he’s a hoot to read and listen to at conferences. He’s spot on with his insights and I love his question toolkit. He takes asking questions to the next level of depth, not letting kids get by with just a “why” but asking “how might…” or “what if.” Get your administrators and teachers on his mailing list for his newsletter–they always give me new ideas on ways to incorporate questioning skills into assignments. Post some of his question starters around your classroom as signage and library to help jump-start those larger questions.

Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Cambridge, Harvard Education, 2011.
I read about this book and the institute that created it–The Right Question Institute–in Warren Berger’s book  It is absolutely true that if you read this book, go to their website, and join in on their web community to get ideas and answers, you can begin using the QFT in your class the next day to great success. I use the QFT in just about every class period I teach and have used it with students from elementary to college and in PD with teachers and librarians–and it’s an excellent strategy to use with parents during parent information meetings.

Singleton, Glenn E. Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. 2nd ed., Corwin, 2014
While I’ve not yet used this book as a toolkit/workbook for those conversations we need to be having in our faculty meetings and ultimately with our students, it is a comprehensive and step-by-step process for hosting these kinds of conversations between ourselves as adults first, then with our students. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary and so. Incredibly. Worthwhile.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria and Other Conversations about Race. Rev. Anniversary, Updated
ed., Basic Books, 2017.
We may have taught a unit on the Civil Rights Movement, or even have had conversations about race, but if our students are still hanging out separately have we made progress? This book gives excellent insight into how perspective is everything and why it’s important for us to hold these conversations and work to make lasting change.

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. 2nd expanded ed. ASCD, 2005
This was one book that my administrators gave to us teachers when it first came out. It jump-started some great conversations about inquiry, questions, and lesson design. Used with the strategies from the Right Question Institute, Leslie Maniotes, and Jamie MacKenzie, your students will have amazing Genius Hour skills, essay and project building skills, and life-long learning skills. What more could we ask for?

And here’s a list from Nerdy Bookshelf that I would love to pass on to administrators. Wouldn’t it be a great way to insert some literature that gets us all talking about big ideas…using kids books? Gotta love this!

Your turn! Add your suggestions to the comments section and let’s create our own conversation. What would you like to chat about? Which books might help your administrators and colleagues in the classroom understand teaching and learning? What did I leave out?

Author: Connie Williams

NBCTeacher Librarian and author of “Understanding Government Information: a Teaching Strategy Toolkit for grades 7-12”. Member of the CA State Library Services Board, and History Room Librarian at the Petaluma Regional Library [Sonoma County Library]. She welcomes all conversation.. give a holler!



Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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