Wishing for Professional Development



I recently received an email from a school district curriculum coordinator, asking for my opinion on whether it would “make sense” to provide the school librarians with professional development to help them organize and implement materials that had recently been purchased with grant funds.  For a moment, I felt like jotting back a quick, “Yes.  All best, Rebecca” to the email, but I figured since this request likely had something to do with justifying librarian-specific PD at the district, that a more thoughtful response could go a long way.

The administrator explained her concern for making sure the materials had the best chance for reaching the hands of students, so I started there, but I also shared some ideas that would likely align with standards-related initiatives beyond the library, and hopefully, connect learning in the library with learning across the school.  And so, here’s some of what I said to build upon my automatic answer of, “yes – give the librarians professional development.”

. . . I do think that professional development would support effective use of the materials, and it would also serve to extend and deepen some of the activities that the librarians are already doing in relation to the Common Core State Standards.  Off the top of my head, I think that some time for workshop-style instruction (even with “homework” pre- and post- session, to make the time on task most productive and allow meaningful implementation after) would be helpful in these areas:

  • Space and shelving analysis – revisiting organization of the library space for effective, easy access of the new materials, including displays, browsing and check-out processes, and spaces for reading and collaboration (as available)
  • Curriculum mapping of new materials to grade level curricula (including Common Core State Standards).  The librarians could analyze and align what they have (formats, reading levels, ELL-needs, informational/literary balance, etc.) and study what they might need and need to do to make the best use of the resources
  • Development of reading lists for library classes and for teachers on areas of emphasis in the Common Core State Standards (such as “readable” or narrative non-fiction, for example)
  • Building communication materials (pamphlets, website or blog content) to share curriculum-aligned materials with teachers
  • Planning professional development sessions or mini-presentations for faculty meetings to share curriculum-aligned materials and suggestions for integration of materials
  • Writing lesson plans for library classes and/or co-teaching, using the new materials
  • Establish connections between print materials and technology resources for teaching and learning, using curriculum-related websites and apps to extend use of library materials.  For example, the librarians might identify websites from the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, and explore ways to use these with kids this semester

Depending on time available for the PD, I think some discussion sessions (for bringing ideas to share) would be helpful.  You could also consider a “one-book-one-department” approach, where the librarians read a common text and use that as the foundation for their PD.  Another direction would be to include subject-area teachers for some sessions, which could support valuable collaborations for instruction and assessment . . .

So that’s the gist of my reply, though I continue to think about what I’d change or build into this “wish list.”  What ideas – realistic or maybe even not-so-realistic – can you add?

-Rebecca Morris

Image: Wishes on a Stick, by Az Jade on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

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