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