Education Week - November 9, 2016 - 26
What do you think of when you hear the word 'reading'?
son was prompted by students citing opinion pieces as
facts in their essays, chose the Kaepernick controversy
as the topic.
The high school is in its first year with a schoolwide Bring Your Own Device program, so the educators
agreed to use the tool Nearpod, which syncs a presentation to all students' devices, and a Google form for
students to instantly submit their responses.
Luhtala suggested bringing in stacks of print newspapers for students to practice finding the opinion
section, but Goldhawk declined, saying her students
rarely, if ever, read print newspapers anymore.
After the initial planning session, Luhtala and
Whiting took two days to compile articles and
opinions on Kaepernick's protest into a
presentation, which Goldhawk approved.
They then delivered the presentation
to three classes, with the librarians
tweaking each lesson immediately
afterwards to respond to what went
well and what didn't.
plate, we took something off their plate," she said.
"Once we make one person's life a little easier, that
person tells their friends and so on. It's one positive
interaction at a time."
Now, Luhtala said the bulk of her workday is spent
co-teaching-sometimes it's for the entire class period; other times, it's only for a few minutes. When
teachers are absent, they will often offer that day's
instructional time to the librarians, she said.
Sometimes, she and Whiting offer group professional
development to teachers, in addition to the one-on-one
planning and support sessions throughout the year.
"When you build a culture of trust, it's a beautiful thing to be able to feel like, 'Yep, it might
be in the middle of the period, but I know
what they're doing today, and it's OK if I
walk in and touch base,' " Luhtala said.
"We don't see it as an interruption,"
Goldhawk responded. "It's your class
as much as it's mine; I just get to see
them a little bit more day to day."
b ra mso
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| Education Week * November 9, 2016
Having that kind of collaborative
support is immensely helpful, Goldhawk said. As a teacher, she said, she
focuses on the content of the course-
and having the librarians take over a session on digital or research skills is a timesaver that enhances the students' education.
"I would have never been able to go through,
collect the right sources, and design [the presentation], because I teach three different courses," she said.
"If I had to come up with all the different technologies
and try to figure out, 'OK, what do I have to teach them
about the research process.' ... You can't do that as a
single teacher. If [my students] only get me, they're not
getting the whole picture. I can't know everything, I
can't be an expert for everything."
And the librarians stress the collaborative nature of
the lesson, where the classroom teacher still plays a
"We don't want it to be like, 'Oh, we're doing a side
lesson on library skills?' We really try to avoid that,"
"It never feels that way," Goldhawk said, "because
it's always embedded into something we just completed or something that's coming up. It always feels
like it's purposeful."
Teachers aren't required to collaborate with the
school librarians, so the librarians say that an important part of their job is public relations.
One way to spread the word, Whiting said, is easing
teachers' burdens. "We didn't add something to their
"I'm a literary
freak, so I love
reading. A lot of
the times, I think
of a book in my
hand with a
blanket on my lap
and looking out
right next to a fire,
Tenth grade student, Mineola
High School, Mineola, N.Y.
Teaching Digital Literacy
While perhaps further along than
others, New Caanan High's reconception of the school librarian role is not
necessarily an outlier.
The American Association of School Librarians has taken the position that through
providing professional development and coteaching, school librarians today should be "leading the way in digital learning and literacies."
And the association has pointed to numerous
studies that have found that when school librarians are involved in instruction, student
"School librarians are a critical asset in the school
when it comes to teaching digital literacy, because
we're trained as teachers and as information specialists and as technology integrators, so we have the
complete skill set that's needed for this type of instruction," said AASL President Audrey Church. "You
can't be an effective 21st century school librarian
without teaching collaboratively, working as an instructional partner, and incorporating digital-literacy
instruction" into the curriculum.
There's partly a survival aspect to school librarians
taking on all these new roles, Luhtala said. In times of
budgetary uncertainty, the librarian position is often
one of the most likely to be eliminated.
"One way to ensure that that's not what happens
to you is to make sure you're visible, you're a leader,
you're indispensable," she said.