Make Your Grandparents Proud

I saw a banner posted in the hallway of an elementary school this week that read, “Is This Your Best Work? Make Your Grandparents Proud.” (See image, below, with my apologies for the glare of the hallway light.)  I loved the saying instantly, and I think it’s because it resonated on a few levels with me.

With this brief message (and one might assume, related talk in classrooms), this school community is helping children build habits of meaningful self-reflection and consistent good effort, and teaching them to show and share pride in their learning.  It’s the type of school-wide initiative that librarians can easily incorporate into classes, and it’s so simple and clear.  By asking this question and prompting a few descriptors (e.g., “did you follow all directions,” followed by some task-specific queries), teachers can model effective think-aloud strategies.  And if we want to be particular, we might even notice a few Standards for the 21st Century Learner that fit right in. “Is this your best work” is a self-check that sounds a lot like “Assess the quality and effectiveness of the learning product” (3.4.2) and “Recognize how to focus efforts in personal learning” (4.4.3).

There’s also something powerful in the “grandparents” mention, both for the kids and for the educators at the school.  First, for the children, this shifts the common reference to parents’ opinions of school performance in a new direction.  A teacher’s typical admonition about poor behavior or work might fall along the lines of “what would your mother say about that?” or the dreaded, “should we call home?”  And the accolades are usually directed at parents and guardians, too: “Great job! Take this home and show mom and dad.”  But even though many family units today include multiple generations living together in one household, I’m not sure when I was a classroom teacher that I thought to mention grandma and grandpa as persons to please with good work at school, at least not often.  Whether they live with the children or reside elsewhere, grandparents are proud of their grandchildren’s learning, too, and by reminding students that their work matters, perhaps we can encourage another level of energy and investment in trying their best.

As far as teachers and librarians are concerned, seeing “grandparents” on this sign reminded me of my tendency to think “parents” when considering potential school community advocates for the school library.  I use the term “school community” rather loosely though frequently,  and it occurs to me that it is helpful to consider just which people comprise this group, and what their interests and contributions might be.  In a group of grandparents of K-12 students, we probably have a diverse pool of knowledge, connections to local organizations and government, and likely, personal interest in the success of local schools, by way of their grandchildren’s successes and needs.  So why not get the grandparents connected to the school library?  From inviting readers and volunteers, to asking for help with school history archives, to offering extra copies of library newsletters to take home to grandma, there are lots of ways to get grandparents involved and apprised of the library program.  So remind your students to make their grandparents proud, and try out some ideas for making grandparents proud advocates of the library, too.

–Rebecca Morris

Hat tip to Fletcher-Maynard Academy, Cambridge Public School District, Cambridge, MA, where I snapped the banner photo.



4 Responses to “Make Your Grandparents Proud”

  1. Sonny says:

    I love both of the sentiments on that banner. In particular, I like the idea of extending a child’s circle for academic support. I’ve begun or ask if a student’s older sibling has seen their homework or if they’ve read “I Can Read” books to younger cousins. Teaching Kindergarten, I feel like one of my most important goals is to help students see their learning as an important process rather than a daily chore. “I’m learning my letter sounds. Grandma knows hers too. She takes me to the library.”

  2. Emily says:

    what about students that don’t have grandparents, don’t know who their grandparents are, are adopted, are living in foster homes, have deceased grandparents, grandparents who are in jail, etc? I ask because, shouldn’t it be about personal integrity? About teaching the students to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because someone else is watching?

    And the whole advocacy thing, if we (as librarians) are doing the job we’re supposed to be doing, isn’t that advocating for ourselves enough?

  3. Rebecca Morris says:

    Emily,

    Thank you for your insightful comments and for reading the blog. You introduce some good topics for conversation. Regarding the banner, you make a valuable and sensitive point that this particular slogan may not be effective for all students. I do think, though, that it can be motivating for many students to know that others are “on their side” and proud of their efforts. The banner that I mentioned was one example, and not meant to be what each setting might choose for a similar banner. Rather, it’s a conceptual idea of extending the idea of pride beyond “parents.” We might open up this idea beyond “grandparents” to include other important figures in kids’ lives – perhaps teachers, principals, neighbors, or even something like, “Make your hero proud.”

    On the topic of advocacy – you’re correct. If school librarians are doing their jobs well, then they are advocating through their work each day: connecting with the learning community and beyond, articulating the educational mission of the library program, collaborating with teachers and others, and focusing on the needs of students. But in times of economic stress, even strong library programs cannot be taken for granted. It is important to be cognizant of how the library program is perceived and to reach those that might not know as much about it. Sometimes a simple change in school leadership – say, the principal or school board – might shift the security of a library program. It’s helpful to build a team of advocates over time in the event that protection from budget or staffing cuts becomes an issue.

    I appreciate the comments and questions – thank you.

  4. Rebecca Morris says:

    Sonny,

    Thanks for the comments and for reading the SLM Blog! I appreciate your perspective on developing students’ dispositions toward lifelong learning – this idea that learning should be meaningful and not a chore. In our curriculum class this week, we watched a portion of a video about Understanding by Design, with Grant Wiggins. (Mouse over for the link.)

    A point that the graduate students brought up in our debriefing conversation was that Wiggins says that the goal of learning isn’t to “get good at school,” but to develop understanding of content that can be used effectively to make meaning. (This happens at about 1:15 in the video). So when your kindergarteners are reading at home with siblings or grandma, they’re practicing their emerging literacy skills, but I’d argue that they are also learning that reading isn’t just something they do for the sake of “getting good at it” in school with their teacher. They are developing habits of lifelong reading, which includes the understanding that reading is an important part of our lives, it can happen in lots of places, and that all kinds of people read all kinds of things.

    Thanks again for the feedback and for reading – and thanks for what you’re teaching those kindergarteners.

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