I could swim in a sea of professional development for librarians and never tire of it, and yet last spring I felt I needed a change, so decided to take a 2nd-year university statistics course to better support our AP Research students. I liked stats in grad school and it would exercise some neglected grey matter – how bad could it be? (TL;DR bad then not bad).
By week 3, I had learned what I came for which was unfortunate as there were 9 weeks left to go. However, this spoke to one of the most valuable takeaways:
It was very helpful for me to re-live the student experience.
As Courtney noted in her most recent blog post, “it’s important to place ourselves in the shoes of our students”. Taking one little course reminded me of the deft juggling required to manage a full course load. Managing one’s time, seeking extra help, pushing through dense material and continued stepping up to the plate while regularly striking out – I had seriously forgotten what this all felt like from a student perspective.
Online asynchronous learning is not a vibe for me.
Online is one thing, but asynchronous is a whole other, and the combination was not conducive to good learning in my case – but this may just be me. I’d love to ‘hear’ a comment from someone who’s had a different experience.
I am definitely the turtle, not the hare.
Slow and steady wins the race for me. Bombing most of the timed tests was balanced out by thoroughly completing weekly assignments; knowing this, I’m curious how I can apply it other areas of my life.
I can do hard things.
Despite there being many, many moments when I may not want to.
I’m glad I tried something different; it felt great to exercise some long-dormant brain cells. And while I struggled mightily (including failing a midterm), I finished stronger than I thought possible. More importantly, I developed much empathy for our students in the process.
Have you ever picked up a book only to discover at some point that you’ve already read it? I keep telling myself I’m going to stay current with my Goodreads account or try to find that small journal I started several years ago to keep track of books I’ve read. The busier I get the more this task sinks to the bottom of my to-do list, but every so often something jolts me back to reality and I know I really have to get more organized with my ‘have read’ list.
I recently picked up A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, a mesmerizing and meditative tale of time and how we inhabit it. It wasn’t until I was close to the end of the book (about 400 pages in) that the scene where Ruth’s dog is missing and turns up under her porch stirred a distant memory and it was then I realized that I had already read this book—probably about seven years ago if my memory serves me well. Lists are great, don’t get me wrong, but I realize if I had kept that list, I probably wouldn’t have reread this book given all the others in my ‘need to read’ pile. But, oh, what I would have missed by not being immersed once again in a book that brought me so much pleasure and that I’d gladly read again.
Book lists aside, I do, however, keep a list of the professional development I attend, mostly because I like to stay abreast of trends in the field of education and librarianship, and a list helps me keep track of gaps in my knowledge and areas I want to revisit. This summer, I’ve found a number of invaluable PD opportunities that are helping me hit my professional goals for the coming year. So here’s what I’ve added to my PD list so far—perhaps you might find them helpful, as well.
How to Save Ourselves from Disinformation with The New York Times
This webinar, presented by The New York Times, was short but packed with lots of great examples students, especially older ones, will likely be able to relate to. Of particular interest is the segment, “A Conversation With Former Radicals, Caleb Cain and Caolan Robertson” that starts at 2:51 and addresses radicalization that happens through YouTube. Later in the video, comedian Sarah Silverman talks about her perspective on who to follow for the truth. You can watch the entire webinar here:
NewsLit Camp with CNN and the Wall Street Journal
At the top of my list of research skills to focus on this year will be helping my students develop the skills to discern fact from fiction, understand the role disinformation and misinformation plays in the news landscape, as well as the role journalists and a free press plays in our democracy. I attended two of The News Literacy Project’s #NewsLitCamps and found them incredibly informative. Listening to reporters from CNN and the Wall Street Journal gave me personal insight into the challenges facing journalists and the media in reporting controversial and challenging issues. As part of the #NewsLitCamps, the NLP provides participants with an overwhelming array of resources to help put together a meaningful unit on this topic.
In addition to their outreach programming, they are the creators of Checkology, interactive lessons to test your students’ knowledge and understanding of what makes a source credible. These lessons help students develop skills to evaluate reliable sources and information and allow them (and you) to chart their progress. Last year I used their Checkology platform in my New Student Seminar and found the options to have students either work independently or as a group on their tutorials added to its functionality and allowed me to adapt assignments based on what we were covering or was happening in the news at the time. I’m pleased to see they have added a new lesson on Conspiratorial Thinking. Checkology is free and has lots of wonderful educator resources, including their weekly newsletter, The Sift, to keep you up-to-date on relevant media news along with examples of recent misinformation and resources to get the conversation going with your students.They also will connect you with a journalist for a virtual or in-person visit – check out their Newsroom-to-Classroom resources for more information.
Designing for Equity | The Global Online Academy
While my school will be back fully in person next year, I love the flexibility of creating hybrid lessons that I can use to support all of my students. Last year I took part in GOA’s Design Bootcamp and this year I continued with their free Designing for Equity five-day course. Each day we explored ways to disrupt, design, and discuss key elements essential to equitable design: Community, Content, Assessment, and Grading. We explored first-hand accounts, heard teacher and student voices and discussed ways to create a learning environment where all of our students feel welcome and one that encourages them to feel that they belong. I found the resources on grading for equity challenged me to think about what that assigned number really means—to me and especially to my students. I would encourage anyone who struggles with the concept and process of grading to check out Joe Friedman’s Grading for Equity. Readings from it have encouraged me to think more deeply about my grades and evaluate if they: 1) describe a S’s level of mastery, 2) evaluate Ss based on their knowledge, not their environment, history, or behavior, 3) support hope and a growth mindset, and 4) ‘lift the veil’ on how to succeed. Numbers three and four resonate with me as my goals for my students include helping them develop a sense of agency over their own learning and belief in themselves that they are capable of succeeding. This course left me with an extensive reading list which I plan to add to our Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism guide, so stay tuned if you’re interested in exploring more.
ThinkerAnalytix: How We Argue
The homepage on ThinkerAnalytix says it all:
ThinkerAnalytix has partnered with the Harvard Department of Philosophy to help students develop logical thinking skills through the use of argument mapping using the interactive platform Mindmup Atlas. ThinkerAnalytix offers a subscription-based course which a number of our member independent schools use, but there are also lots of free interactive puzzles/ argument maps (referred to as ‘toy arguments’) that you can use to help students master critical thinking skills, effectively communicate their independently formed ideas, and engage in productive discussions taking into account opposing points of view. This two-day workshop was truly inspiring as the sessions were run by teachers at the middle, secondary and university level who currently incorporate argument mapping into their curriculum. Many of the presenters were philosophy majors or faculty who taught philosophy courses and possessed strong argumentation skills. Listening to them makes me regret not having taken any philosophy courses in college—something all of our students would benefit from, as well. I could also see this being a useful complement to the question formulation technique (QFT) I explored in the Right Question Institute’s course on Teaching Students to Ask their Own Primary Source Questions, which I’ll save for another post.
AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity
Last, but definitely not least, my favorite PD this summer was our own AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity hosted by Melinda Holmes at Darlington School, Rome, GA and facilitated by the authors of the book of the same name, Incubating Creativity at Your Library, Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer. While I learned so much from the other PD I did this summer, I think you all can relate to the challenge of being a librarian in a sea of teachers. I’m approaching the learning primarily from the POV of how I can use this knowledge to collaborate with teachers on these skills, while their focus is on how they can incorporate the skills into their curriculum. It’s definitely given me insight into how I might approach future collaborations.
That said, the Summer Institute is great because as colleagues from an academic perspective, we share similar goals to more fully integrate our library program into the curriculum and the academic life of the school. I loved hearing what other folks were doing and appreciated the care that Melinda put into the structure of the day. Although it was virtual, between content sessions we had the opportunity to do stretching with Kate Grantham, slow drawing with Lisa Elchuk, and book art with Michael Jacobs who makes amazing book art for the Darlington School. During the content sessions we explored how we might bring creative programming into our ongoing library programs. I feel blessed to be part of such a creative, committed group of librarians. I’ll leave you with a sampling of some of the brainstorming/planning we accomplished individually and collaboratively.
If, like me, you find yourself having to explain why you’re spending so much of your time off actually enjoying a deep dive into PD this summer, perhaps edX will help—their motto is: “Restless learners change the world” (or at least our little corner of it).
Note: For those of you concerned that all I’m doing is professional development this summer, I would like to put your mind at ease. I have been indulging my newly found love of growing Dahlias, introduced to me by a colleague at work (thanks, Rebecca!). This is my third summer growing them and I’m just beginning to feel like I know what I’m doing. Each year, I learn a little bit more about how to care for them so they can be their best, most beautiful selves. Here are a few blooms from last summer to provide inspiration to my current plants, who hopefully will get the hint and start blooming any week now.
Here’s hoping everyone has a restful, growthful summer!
Aways appreciative of PD opportunities, I have been particularly eager for ways to connect with others through virtual workshops, blog posts, Zoom meets, etc. during this heck of a year.
So I’m pretty excited about our upcoming AISL conference – but also a little trepidatious. To be honest, as incredible as the lineup is, it’s only going to be valuable to me if I have a game plan to focus as much as possible. While I appreciate virtual PD, it has proven far too easy for me to be interrupted and distracted. So here ‘s the plan –
I’ll make sure to carefully review the conference schedule in advance; with the banquet, presentations, seminars & table talks all happening in the span of just a few hours, I need to have a strategy (priorities with alternatives noted)
Being in the moment
I hereby acknowledge that taking part in virtual PD from my office is not going to happen in any meaningful way. Maybe my supervisor is supportive of me leaving school early to connect from home? Maybe there’s a corner of my library, or even better, hidden away in my school? I’ll plan to put a sign on the door, email on out-of-office, and phone on silent. I’ll also give myself ½ hour in advance to eat, fill my water bottle and take a bio break.
A few years back, disheartened by the number of conference bags sitting in the corner of my office – filled with valuable notes not looked at since the day of return – I began using travel time home to create a list of actionable items that can be implemented either short- or long-term. I’ll do the same on Apr 9th. Fewer things done is better than more things stagnated.
After the fact
While I will miss sitting around with friends (preferably by a pool with drink in hand), nothing is stopping me from reaching out and connecting virtually – so join me in reaching out to someone! I took part in a recent AISL Zoom chat and ‘met’ some people I’d love to get to know better. Here’s to checking in with people we miss and making new friends!
How do YOU prepare to make the most of your online PD?
I can’t be the only one thinking a little bit more about retirement these days.
When looking at lists of pending retirees in recent years (both within AISL and at my school) , I have been taken aback by the increasing number of people listed whom I consider mentors. It really does seem like yesterday when I first met them, had the pleasure of learning alongside them, and began seeking them out for guidance and direction. These librarians and teachers have had a seminal effect on my growth, largely professional but in many ways, personal. I focus on being happy about someone’s planned retirement while feeling something akin to distress.
I wish I’d seen this a couple of years ago when I was flummoxed by the plateau I was feeling; I now realize that it was the stagnation noted in the Maintenance stage.
Almost 20 years into librarianship, I have been fortunate to be involved with some major tasks: three LMS migrations, the revitalization of a school library program, a renovation and integration into our new school commons, and much technological transformation. I firmly believe that our school deserves dynamic people at the helm, and my diminished emotional state was making me question whether or not I should be passing the torch.
Fortunately, by this time last year, I seemed to have gotten my rhythm back. Just in time for the pandemic – ironic, but also timely, and it has provided opportunity for creativity and innovation in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
I’m going to embrace being at the Maintenance stage: holding on to what is serving my students well, updating what needs to be refreshed, recognizing feelings of stagnation if they return but aiming to push past them by continuing to innovate.
I’m also going to work finding a new word for the 5th stage: “Decline”, my posterior. It’s clear Super never met a KARL 😉
Last summer, I attended the excellent AISL Summer Institute on diversifying collections (offered by the wonderful people at John Burroughs School). During the iceberg activity (my quickly-sourced reference, not theirs), I felt a much needed slap to my privileged face to realize that when I walk into a room, people see a white, middle-aged woman. Gender and age may preoccupy my attention a bit, but thinking about my race is something that I, as a white person, am not forced to do on a constant, relentless basis. If you’ve had any uncertainty about white privilege, THIS IS IT.
I am grateful for all that I learned at this SI and have been applying it to my senior school library. For example, an audit of the past 7 years of our summer reading program revealed a preponderance of white, male authors, so we were very intentional in having better representation in this year’s list in terms of authors and characters – the smallest of baby steps.
I’ve recently realized though that I’ve been slow to turn my eye inward – looking at the books and blogs I read, the podcasts I listen to, the social media accountsI follow. Keeping in mind that this is very much a cursory glance and I have much more work to do, here’s what I found when I dug in:
Books: while my taste runs to narrative nonfiction (heavy on anything involving food – I love reading cookbooks, the older the better), I am a high school librarian and so read quite a bit of YA. While much of it offers racial diversity, it turns out that I read more with plots involving socio-economic diversity and/or featuring LGBTQ+ characters. When it comes to race I’m still leaning heavily towards mirrors, rather than seeking out windows and sliding glass doors. Noted and on it, with my summer goal being to alternate YA/popular fiction and NF books specifically about racism/antiracism.
Social media: I tend to use Twitter for professional development and Instagram for personal use (I have two accounts – one private, and one public). My Twitter feed is much more racially diverse than my IG feed, so I am grateful for IG recommendations such as @ava and @cleowade. I am now following authors whose books have made a profound impact on me (@ijeomaoluo, @ibramxk). A shoutout to @monachalabi, a remarkable data journalist and artist whom I had the good fortune to hear from at this past January’s provincial library conference – the work she shares through her IG feed is superb (appalling, heart-wrenching and superb).
Podcasts: Looks like I’m pretty selective, heavily on NPR and CBC content. While their stories are fairly diverse, all of the hosts are white men. So again, I’ve been grateful for suggestions from others; as I enjoy learning about personal finance, I am currently enjoying Frugal Chic Life and Popcorn Finance.
The more I learn, the more I feel that what I am doing is inadequate, but the alternative is to let myself become overwhelmed and do nothing. Which I refuse to do as this is too important. I’d love to hear what you’re reading/watching/listening to – more recommendations welcome!
As we all return from our various summer activities [reading, resting, eating and playing in my case], we open our libraries and consider all the thought clouds bursting with ideas. We make lists. We make calls. We pause to consider our Goals.
How do you winnow this year’s Goals from the long list of Things I Want to Accomplish?
No small potatoes. Every year, I create a list of the Things I Want To Accomplish. Part of this year’s reads like this:
Review Goals from last year
Place initial book order
Meet with teachers
Assess FLISL Network business
Review inventory notes
Test LibGuide links
Continued expansion of research skills and share with colleagues
Moon Landing anniversary?
Most of this is the easy stuff that I can “check off” and feel like I have total control over. Cleaning? Done. LibGuide links? Done. Continued expansion of research skills? Wait. That one…is a constant in my world. Among a few others on my list. Could this be the germination of a Goal for this year?
How do I winnow the Goals from all of my Things I Want To Accomplish? I decide to start with a review of my goals from last year: (And I notice a pattern.)
I first listed my areas of growth for inspiration (these usually are similar year over year, because, really, when do I expect to ever truly perfect “communication” or “reading enthusiasm”?). Then, in prepping my goals I looked at the year ahead of me: I recalled we had a Global Studies initiative that I wanted to support with new literature and nonfiction. Goal #1! I won a grant last year that allowed me to attend PD at Stanford for designing an plan for implementing a makerspace at our school. This was a pretty simple goal to state as I had done a great deal of the work in my application. Goal #2! Collaborating with teachers is really always on my list, but more specifically it related to my work with makerspace implementation. Goal #3! Upon reviewing my goals from last year, I feel met these. (Measuring “met” is another post.)
So what does this year look like?
Where is my inspiration coming from today?
I did a lot of reading last year and this summer around empathy and building compassion via stories. Lower School is rich ground for this type of work. Our students deserve action from us constantly around ways to develop identity, understand the world, and appreciate all the people in it. One of my Goals will likely stem from this.
I also want to expand on the research skills of my Lower School students from collaborative and foundational work I did last year. But narrowing it to language that can fit into a Goal? This is something I will continue to consider until my Head’s deadline next month.
Goals are an expression of our interest in growth, excellence, and trying new ideas. Mine seem to come from a thread of last year and a dream of the coming one — with a dash of clear language to help me meet them.
How do you winnow your Goals from your Things You Want to Accomplish?
May is likely the last month in which you’ll be thinking about presenting at a conference. Inventory! Summer Reading! Eking out last bit of library energy! But it is a great time to begin your research for a professional opportunity to share your expertise.
Questions to ask
size conference am I most comfortable right now in my career?
what makes best sense?
this a good year for me to consider presenting? Why or why not?
I need a partner for some or all of this endeavor?
INDEPENDENT SCHOOL ORGANIZATION LEVEL
Independent school organizations around the
country sponsor conferences where our expertise would be greatly valued. A few
examples shared from AISL members:
A great place to start for a wider audience is
at your STATE SCHOOL LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. State conferences are to home and
also offer several types of presentation opportunities. Two examples AISL
members shared with me are:
Perhaps you’ve developed some cool reading
programming, or revamped your school’s One Book, One School program, or
collaborated on a science research unit? Here are two examples of places to
share collaborative library experiences:
I am fortunate to be heading to #aisl2018 in Atlanta in a few weeks and as I age become more experienced, I’ve learned to apply greater intention to my professional development. I find it easy to become overwhelmed with all that’s possible, and so aim to be more effective and efficient by setting some goals:
As in the past, I’ll focus on bringing 3 action items back for short-term implementation (any more and the whole list gets swamped by daily responsibilities; I’ll review longer term possibilities over the summer)
I’ll try a new format for my conference report (in the past, I’ve used Animoto and Canva – always good for me to learn something new)
I’ll work on balancing time with long-time colleagues (can’t wait to catch up with my roomie!) and connecting with new librarians
This last one is important. I’ve benefitted enormously from the wisdom and guidance of others, and it’s time to pay it forward. While sometimes in denial about the years flying by, I’ve been around for a while and there’s a new and exciting generation with whom I need to connect. As accountability it the key to whatever success I’ve found (clear to those of you who follow my @bookremarks Instagram account), I’m pledging here to sit on the bus with someone new throughout the conference. And I’ll report back on this at end of April.
Add me to the list of those fortunate to have attended #AISLNOLA. But what about those of you who weren’t there? Not because of choice, but because of difficulty convincing your supervisor to invest in this PD opportunity? Here are some tips on making your case for future PD:
Start small – there can be amazing inspiration in your local or neighbouring communities. Visit some local school libraries, set up a meeting with an academic librarian at a university within a day’s drive, ask public library staff if you could sit in on related PD, host an informal workshop (book talks, display ideas, discussion about a current issue) and invite any or all librarians in your area. Look for online webinars, and if possible, participate with a buddy so that you can discuss and plan afterwards. Laying this foundation could show your supervisor how much you’re invested in PD.
Plan ahead – review notes from previous conference sessions to create a ‘big-picture’ of how relevant and valuable it has proven to be for many in the past. This prep work will also help you pull together a proposal in advance so that you’re prepared for registration (as some with limited numbers, eg. AISL, fill up very quickly!). Plant the seed well in advance (share details of the opportunity, note upcoming date, give heads-up you’ll be making a proposal).
Be budget conscious – be creative in coming up with a plan that shows you are keeping an eye on costs (share a room – post on listserv if you aren’t aware of anyone needing a roommate, choose less expensive flights, stick within school-set expenses for meals or offer to cover some yourself if you can).
Make your dedication evident – visiting libraries when travelling for pleasure, or scheduling PD during breaks to eliminate the need for coverage (if that’s an issue) shows your passion and commitment.
Ask for help – many of us have shared our reports/photos/experiences with colleagues & administrators at other schools, in the hope that their librarians will be giving a chance to take part.
Always follow up – tying all PD experiences to action items, demonstrating the direct impact on your library program and services, shows the return on the investment.