Posts Tagged 'teachers'

More Initial Impressions: School Librarians

In my previous post, I looked at some of the ways a group of high school English teachers-to-be thought about school libraries. I used wordle.net to get a sense of the nouns, verbs, and adjectives they associated with school libraries.

In that session, I also asked them to think of 5 nouns, verbs, and adjectives to describe school librarians.  The wordles I created from the words they came up with are embedded below.

One thing I ask my students to do before they create clouds like these is to predict what they think will be the largest words.  What do you think might dominate the way these educators think of school librarians? Once you see them, consider: what might these tell us about some of the challenges school librarians still face in transforming ideas about who school librarians are and what they do?

Librarian nouns….

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I was surprised that “glasses” was the largest. It dismays me that words like “teacher,” “knowledge,” and “researcher” are so much smaller.

School librarian verbs…

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I can’t help mentioning the several variants of “shush,” but the dominance of the word “read” is also discouraging, I think.  Although most school librarians are avid readers, school librarians have long battled the perception that they read all day.  In addition to the shush variants, there are also other verbs that I think of as similarly disciplinary: glare, scolding. But, there are also many words I would call positive…helping, listening, educate. Although I am glad to see “teach,” I would like to see it more prominent. What do you notice about this cloud?  What is missing?  What surprises you?

Librarian Adjectives

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I’ll confess, I was not at all prepared for the dominance of the world “old.”  When I saw it, my jaw dropped. Because I am connected with so many young, forward-thinking librarians, I just don’t think about age that much.  We do see positive traits such as helpful, smart, and nice as sizable parts of the cloud.

This exercise was a brief attempt to get at some of the background thinking that these young educators brought to the session about school library media specialists. Honestly, I was not surprised by a lot of the content. In my next posts, I’ll discuss the program we shared with the teachers and some of their reactions.

Thinking back, I wish I had sent the survey out well before the session, so I could have planned a more tailored presentation based on their wordles. Instead, I did this at the beginning of the session and then tried to inject comments based on these data as the presentation went forward.

Although it was somewhat disappointing to see these impressions, it also made me even more thankful for the invitation. How many groups of young teachers don’t have the opportunity to hear about school library media specialists in their preparation programs?  How many impressions like these go unquestioned, unexamined, and unchanged? How do impressions like these make us think differently about what school librarians might see as classroom teachers’ unwillingness or reluctance to collaborate?  More importantly, how can we continue to address and transform the impressions classroom teachers have of school library media specialists?

 

Some Good News About Teachers (For a Change)

The past few weeks have been tough on the teaching profession. From Oprah to NBC’s Education Nation to the rollout of Waiting for Superman, talk of American education’s problems pervade popular discourse.  Placed at the root of many of these problems are “bad teachers” (and the unions that protect them).  I am working on a longer response to all of this which will be posted soon. But in the mean time, I felt compelled to share something that happened yesterday.

When I got home from all my regular running around, I picked up the mail, as usual. Unlike my childhood days, when I held out hope for the occasional hand written letter, these days I’ve pretty much given up on much “personal mail” coming in the mailbox. (It seemed a sad milestone this week when, for my birthday, I did not get a single mailed card – a first!)  I was flipping through the bills, periodicals, ads, and Netflix, when something caught my eye.  It was a postcard, hand written! I was sure it couldn’t be for me, but it was – and it wasn’t an ad, someone telling about an event I needed to attend, a political diatribe, or anything else of the sort.  It was something I really wanted to read – a postcard from my 6th grade daughter’s teachers, just telling me that she is doing well, with a few personal details. Could I have been more proud or pleased?  And all it took was a few personal sentences and a stamp.

I take (or am reminded of) several lessons from this small experience:

Kids are more than test scores, and no matter how hard policy tries to convince them otherwise, smart teachers know this. In a data-driven era, when we seem to be always worried about what a student doesn’t know, this postcard was a recognition of the good things my daughter is doing. Teachers can write these about every child in our classrooms! As a parent, it means a great deal to me that the people my daughter spends so much time with know her and see the good in her.

It feels great to hear good news from school. I have had years when most of the communications I have gotten from my children’s teachers were about problems with my child.  This does not bother me, because I want to help and be a partner to the teacher in any way I can. Plus, teachers are very very busy and they can’t contact me every time something positive happens. Still, sometimes the “no news is good news” approach could use a boost from some positive, unexpected comments. Since my daughter’s school only conducts conferences “as needed” this postcard was also a good way to get a quick update and feel connected to her teachers.

Paper and handwriting can get people’s attention. I’m a techie, it’s clear.  Maybe that is why it means so much to me to get a handwritten postcard.  Emails have become “something to manage” in my life.  I might have glazed over this note a bit more if it had come through my inbox instead of my mailbox.

Good news take time to convey, but the investment pays off. As I think about recommending something like writing out-of-the-blue postcards to my own students (future teachers) I will tell them that emails are ok (for parents who have email accounts) but taking a few minutes a day over a few weeks to write personal postcards is a worthwhile investment.  I also think that, when times get hard or pressures get overwhelming, sitting down to write something positive about each of our students can remind us of all the worthwhile things they bring to our classrooms.

Good news is worth sharing. This is perhaps the biggest lesson I take from the postcard. When students are doing good things, it is worth sharing with all kinds of audiences. We can share good work with parents through postcards or phone calls. We can share good work with the community through public displays. We can share good work with administrators through whatever form of communication would reach them best. We can share good work with other teachers through our learning networks, or through professional conferences. Take these opportunities to share and shout about the great things happening in schools.

We have heard so much BAD “news” about schools and teachers lately.  And yes, there are definitely problems regarding education that everyone in our country needs to help with (not just teachers). But lately, any positives happening in schools (especially local public schools, which my children attend) have been getting lost in an increasingly adversarial public dialogue. I fear that the conversation is being hijacked and educators are going to be further and further excluded.

Many have called for the sharing of GOOD news as an antidote to this poison press.  I am going to take a lesson from my daughter’s teachers and sit down to write a postcard to Arne Duncan this week (and a few others) to tell him about the good teachers my children have and the learning my kids are doing. I know that all teachers are not great (myself definitely included), and some will say this post is too sunny, but I wonder…if we can try to change the dialogue and resist the wave of negative and dehumanizing energy in education, might we see fewer great teachers broken?

I hope you will take a few minutes and join me in sharing something good that you see happening in schools. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see Arne’s mailbox filled with postcards?


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