Of the Learner & Learning

Candidates in school librarian preparation programs are effective educators who demonstrate an awareness of learners’ development. Candidates promote cultural competence and respect for inclusiveness. Candidates integrate the National School Library Standards considering learner development, diversity, and differences while fostering a positive learning environment. Candidates impact student learning so that all learners are prepared for college, career, and life.

American Association of School Librarians. (2019). ALA/AASL/CAEP school librarian preparation standards. ALA.

Human beings in general and students and learners in particular grow and change greatly from year to year, during the course of an academic year, and even during much shorter periods of time such as holiday breaks and those wonderful split seconds called “a-ha moments.” Moreover, the nature of the growth and change that occurs--even though there are some standards and milestones for various age groups and grade levels--is incredibly unique for each individual. I take into account this uniqueness--that is, the collection of differences that makes each human, each student, utterly singular even when part of a greater whole--during the design and implementation of instruction, to the greatest extent possible, to make the greatest impact possible.

I’ll Be New Baptiz’d…: Bringing Romeo & Juliet Back to Life relates to one of my favorite subjects--Shakespeare--and seeks to make his work more meaningful to today’s youth by comparing and contrasting one of his plays, Romeo and Juliet, with other, more recent titles that are derived from and/or inspired by his text.

In doing so, I incorporate literature circles/genre studies, visual arts/design, technology, and the chance to both participate in a performance and attend a professional performance of a play, thus reaching out educationally to students on many different levels and in many different ways.

A Lakota proverb states: "Knowledge is rooted in all things--the world is a library." Hearing voices is not always a bad thing. My emphasis on respecting other cultures and viewpoints is demonstrated by Hearing Native Voices: Rejuvenating a Beloved Classic, Island of the Blue Dolphins. Via this unit of study, a classic story of a Native American girl--written by a white male--is brought together with multiple more current, #OwnVoices titles created by Native authors, so that students have access to a greater, more truthful scope of the Native American experience over time, from pre-settlement to European contact to conflict and removal to today. Reading/unit promotions serve as kick-off and closing celebrations of Native cultures, and feature a Native author visit and Native storyteller visit as bookends. A gallery walk, during which student presentations and responses are displayed, viewed, and watched, is also part of the culminating activity.

I regularly work to heighten sensitivity to and appreciation of various perspectives in order to increase my own and my students’ awareness of others’ experiences throughout history. This is evidenced by my participation in and contributions to Library Story Stations: Exploring History of the Family and the History of Slavery with Jacqueline Woodson’s “Show Way.” In this, I not only designed one of the activities but also generated the idea and theme, oversaw the design of the lesson presentation, and created the evaluation and poster components. To me, this kind of labor is important to undertake, as one does not have a truthful and clear enough picture of history without knowing how everyone who was part of it experienced it. Interestingly--and, in my opinion, ridiculously--this notion has recently become a point of contention and a catalyst for censorship attempts. To quote the African-American slave spiritual, hymn, and protest song:

I shall not be moved.

Alexandre Dumas once stated:

“The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.”

All for One, and One for All: A “Musketeers” Approach to Collection Development, displays how I initially started, as a new librarian, working to cultivate the educational and personal development of all members of a learning community, including those with diverse intellectual abilities, learning modalities, and physical variabilities, and also what considerations I gave to enhancing community members’ development by developing the collection. My ideas range from improved pictorial signage to assist autistic and dyslexic students to increasing eBook quantities to ensuring that the library had titles with representative protagonists, and more besides. I am proud to state that I have already taken action on a number of these ideas and have made them a reality, putting them into practice in our library. The work has indeed been difficult; but as its merit is without question, it shall continue.

A school library should be a warm and welcoming place. A school library should be somewhere that students want to be; where they feel safe, comfortable, and happy. A school library should be “the room where it happens,” where students can create and make, have fun, learn, explore and research, be quiet and mindful, and yes, read.

The environment in the library and the space itself have to reflect these goals. They must--by the way they look, by the way in which they are arranged, by the way in which they function, and by their content--foster the curation, creation, and active acquisition of knowledge, and the positive type of social interaction that occurs around these pursuits.

In The Cool, the Calm, and the Cozy: Quiet Spaces in Active Libraries, I detailed additional ways in which one can--and in which I already have--ensured that students are simultaneously engaged, comfortable, and positively-minded, so as to optimize growth and learning.