Last week I presented at the IB Asia Pacific Conference to an audience that was quite different to the audience I usually present to. This audience was made up of School Principals, PYP, MYP & DP co-ordinators, teachers of classes and subjects across the K-13 range, and a few school librarians. I was way out of my comfort zone, and felt highly stressed in the build up.
My presentation took on a comic book format to tie in with the sidekick theme. The slides had fun little cartoon style animations and transitions, combined with the use of Comic life to create headings and speech bubbles. I have recreated the presentation below as a static presentation, with some of the notes I shared.....I have shared it like this as it may have the potential to reach a greater audience. Warning - this is a loooong post!
My goal through this presentation is to enlighten you to the superpowers of the school librarian, and how he or she is one of the most valuable team members in the school. They can also be the most under-utilised but, with the right conditions can become the sidekick that no IB educator can do without.
What do sidekicks do?
An open discussion between the participants about the role of the sidekick in movies, books, comics, etc. The participants came up with offering perspective, taking a load off the main hero and keeping the moral compass.
I had identified the roles of the sidekick and used well known characters from movies and cartoons to give the example of each.
Mr Spock is recognised as a science geek. His expertise is wide & deep, and sometimes surprising even to himself.
ATL's move across 3 of the IB programmes, research, self management, communication, social, thinking skills. The librarian is an expert in many of these skills. To me the ATLs are the basis of our existence.
Research - extending from the ATLs,limbs know about this research business. It is at the core of our being. The saying Librarians are search engines with feelings. Some of the tools and ways we can help are to set up google custom searches for your subject and teach advanced google techniques along with efficient database use among many others.
Academic honesty & copyright, not wanting to be the copyright or plagiarism police, but we do know the rules and how to use them. We also know the tools that will assist students such as Creative Commons and Easybib.
Digital tools - this is not in every librarians toolbox, but in most. The strange thing about librarians is that we like to curate things, and we are always on the look out for new tools to enhance our jobs but also to help with teaching & learning.
Social media - Being about to reach our students is part of what we do - Twitter, Facebook, blogging, YouTube, vine, snapchat etc .... We use these tools to not only connect to our students, but to each other.
Inquiry - This too is in our arsenal, we breathe inquiry cycles beyond the big 6, guided inquiry is where we are headed.
Literature - this often where are pigeon holed, yes it is one of our areas of expertise, an important one too, but it is just part of what we do.
Collaborator - Mike & Sulley collaborating to scare children and to ensure the children do not contaminate the Monster factory.
Working with others & connecting with others is what we do.
Resourcing is only as good as how much know about what is in the curriculum and about how you are delivering it. We don't have resources in the library on your topic? Maybe it is because we didn't know you were doing it! Communication is very important here.
Teaching... Have you ever tried co teaching? Small groups, support, on the spot trouble shooting. What about if a regular teacher is away? I am a teacher librarian, and as such teaching is part of my being, however some librarians may be less comfortable, or have less skills in leading a whole class. Mentor them, start small such as group work & you will have an ally & asset for life.
Projects ....I love projects, it is what keeps me going. My reminders list is never finished. I am a big thinker, and develop & want to be part of big projects. Concept based (rather than skill based) Digital & Info literacy continuum, mapping ATLs, referencing across, Assisting Humanities in backwards planning, pursuit of passion project.
Planning ... Always working with someone, units, Lessons, camps, special projects, units, professional development days. Planning, planning, planning ....
Supporter - The minions - lots going on behind the scenes to ensure the mission proceeded smoothly.
Connections - We have connections across the school, across the local community, across the country, across the world. Gladwell mentions us - we are both connectors and mavens.
Need to find an article? We can do that.
Find a red book that has a fish on the cover that has something to do with evolution?
Need a specific poem in an anthology that was published in Iceland in 1982?
Make contact with another school to do an international project?
We love this sort of thing.
We have the connections.We use twitter, list serves, and friendships - we ask for favours all the time.
Ideas ... Vast knowledge of what is available, and sometimes we can think of them while talking or collaborating with you, sometimes we may have to get back to you.
Because we have the privilege of going into different classes we see different ways of doing things. We stash things in our toolbox all the time, ready for use at any time.
Mapping see a lot of what is going across the school in different subjects & year levels, able to help with mapping of ATL's, and other important curriculum connections.
Creator - I make so many resources to support teaching & learning, little videos, how to guides and scaffold templates. We can take the load off you with regard to your teaching resources.
Confidant - Fred & Barney - Good friends who shared their lives and thoughts with each other.
Library is a neutral space & normally the librarian can stay out of politics going on, they are good at asking questions & making sense of information. They may have inside information to put another perspective on things, and they could also be a good person to bounce ideas off as they have so much information & insights. What is said in the library stays in the library ....
This can be used to a leaders advantage .., not so much spying but to gauge feelings & reactions to what is going on in the school.
Anticipator - Q - always knew the tools that Bond may have needed in his mission.
Resourcing & curation ... Always on duty - links & resources stash them away curating for later, or to just pass them onto you as and when you need them. Setting up Diigo groups for efficient sharing, web guides, lib guides, pathfinders, Moodle pages... We are about getting stuff to you before you even realise you need it!
Differentiation - we understand our students & their needs, we are always looking out for ways that help them learn - fonts that can be downloaded onto computers, scanning text & being able to transform it into a word document, scaffolding, different editions of stories,graphic novels, audio, big print, Google custom search has a level of vocabulary & language filter - mother tongue ? EAL? the students know we can help them usually before the teachers. ... Different levels of learning & interests.
We need to have relationships with you to know what you need.
We can be an Ally just like Chewbucca - helping to achieve our goals of conquering the education universe....
Culminating projects - support with being a mentor, supervisor, co-ordinator, assistant, mini workshops, planning.
Professional learning - does your school librarian run workshops or spotlights for staff? Do they have blog or virtual space for creation of fun things, do they share? Are they respected enough to be given opportunities to teach others? Have you ever thought about this? While they are teaching your students, there is an opportunity to learn from the librarian ...
Three step process - I teach with teacher learning, you teach with me supporting you , then you teach with me supporting students and then you are right to go.
Mentoring - this comes in many forms-
The librarian mentoring Library staff - upskill the library assistants to go beyond their job description - how to make signage from foam board & printed paper, manage ebooks, cataloging foreign books using a programme, how to use databases, assertive training, customer service, English. Help them learn and build on their skill base, they may get a better job out of it, but you have helped someone improve their lives.
Mentoring other staff outside of their normal roles by helping them to set up and use twitter, blogs, database use, moodle. I have also been borrowed by other schools to train their teachers in various tools such as Diigo & Easybib.
Curriculum development - how is that ATL mapping going? The MYP nc planning? Could you do things better? What about bringing in someone who is not as protective about the curriculum in for a different perspective.
The new IB documents give us quite specific roles to play in the school. IB documents in every programme mention the library or librarian, standards & practises, ICT guides, special needs guides, principles into practise, making it happen. These are some of the quotes from the new MYP principles into practise. This is powerful for librarians as although not mandating our existence yet ( a library is mandated, but a trained librarian is not) it helps to open doors, get us out of the stereotype of checking out & shelving books.
What can it look like in reality? How do we support in practical ways?
Developing how to guides for different tools, to me this necessary but a very level use of my time. I do it for my own benefit so I only need to actually teach it once, then the students & staff can use this guides to refresh their memories.
Scaffolding for assessments - having a non subject based person look over you task sheet is extremely valuable. I do the assessment as the students would & give feedback, then create a scaffold to help break it down into manageable chunks.
This is an extract of a document I created now I teach PYP again. I used the TDs as the basis of learning, then identified what it looked like for year 6.
With regard to teaching year 6, all my units and planning are attached via google documents to the main planner. Everything is documented, the resources used are uploaded to the year group Weebly.
This is breaking the assessment criterion of a subject into ATL's, and then expanding it to show what it may look like. This will need to be revisited with the new MYP criterion. I also record all the classes with whom I have worked - which subject, class, teacher and what we did.
I have been at my current school for only 8 months, so my current projects are a little slim due to a number of factors... But this what they are.
One of the most exciting things I have been involved in is a rubric I have developed with the other librarian workshop leaders. IB Librarians Rubric This is not an official IB document, but we feel it is something that is needed to accompany the evolving role of the librarian in IB schools. It can be used for upskilling, recruiting, leverage, change... have a look and see what you think, we welcome comments.
What I do, I can do because of my situation. We have 3 Teacher Librarian's, one for each programme. I used to be the only one for PYP & MYP, then MYP & DP plus run the library, this was difficult be across more than one programme and limits what can be done. There are many cases of only 1 librarian across the 3 programmes. In a large school, to get the most out of your librarian, you need at least 1 per programme.
Fulltime Trained Library Assistants are imperative for the librarian to get out of the library. Otherwise the librarians are overpaid clerks, especially if they are teachers as well. In a difficult situation parent or student helpers can be recruited, however training is required, which usually involves the librarian which takes them away from supporting the curriculum and the learning.
The library is one of the most specialised fields in the school. Recruiting someone "who is a book lover" is throwing away potential and opportunity. Send your librarians onto IB workshops, help them improve your school results. It has been well researched and found that schools with rich library programmes with trained library staff - both assistants & librarians, are one of the key factors in lifting student achievement. The research is linked here.
Scheduling I am not used as release time, I have a completely flexible schedule which allows for free flowing time tabling on an as needs basis. I work on just in time rather than just in case. As a workshop leader, I hear from different librarians across the world that they really want to do more than what they are doing, but their situations do not allow it. Using the Librarian for release time is not helpful. It limits when they can meet with other staff, it limits 'just in time' learning and it limits what they can do to support learning in other ways.Be creative, how can you improve student services through the library without overworking the staff?
What about lunch and break times? Is your library on the lunch time duty roster across the school? Why is the librarian normally the one who gets the most duties of anyone? Maybe they would like to have lunch with other staff? Run a school activity? Attend a planning meeting?
Inclusion - Invite your librarian to meetings, planning or otherwise, collaborate with them about resources required, include them in the training. Make them feel a part of the school teaching and learning team rather than an add on.
Budget - It is not possible to do wonderful things with an uninspiring budget. Talk to the librarian, find out what they need to create a truly supportive programme.
In summary - conversations are needed to be had between school administrators and librarians. If you want wonderful things to happen, you need to support it through staffing, training, scheduling and budget. Ask your librarian what are the blocks they face to reach their potential in being the trusty sidekick that no educator can be without.