Monday, February 12, 2018

Your Story Is Worth Telling

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was an exciting experience for many reasons. It was my first time to travel out of state to deliver a keynote and also my first visit to Iowa. In this blog article, I want to reflect on the experience and the excitement I witnessed that was generated in a room full of 58 Iowa teacher librarians.

During the fall of 2017, my friend and colleague, Lynn Kleinmeyer (@THLibrariZen), began telling me about a full day of professional development she was planning. Lynn is a Digital Learning Consultant at Grant Wood Area Education Agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She wanted the experience to motivate local teacher librarians to utilize the Future Ready Librarian Framework and also be stronger advocates for their programs. When she asked me to consider traveling to Iowa to deliver a keynote and breakout sessions, I quickly accepted! It is always an honor to visit another state to share best practices and learn together. Lynn and I first met in a Twitter Education chat in 2015, and we met in person (while my wife and I were traveling through her state) during the summer of 2016. She is a wonderful educator, teacher librarian, and a powerful advocate for our profession. She and her husband, Nathan (@NKleinmeyer), are exactly the type of forward-thinking educators I want to be around. I couldn't wait to visit with them in person again! As the months went on, Lynn shared her specific plans for the day, and I began to prepare my presentations.

Cloudy start to the flight from Little Rock, Arkansas
Flying to Iowa

After enjoyable connecting flights to Chicago and Cedar Rapids, it was great to see Lynn and her family again after nearly two years. They were wonderful hosts that gave me a taste of local history with a visit to the Amana Colonies and surrounding areas. I enjoyed it so much, I plan on returning there to take my wife for a visit of the remarkable location.

Full room of teacher librarians!
Your Story Is Worth Telling

The day started off with me presenting a keynote to the teacher librarians in attendance. Lynn specifically wanted me to share about my experiences with social media, blogging, and library collaborations. I also added in some student stories to illustrate how school libraries can change lives. It is always good to remind ourselves why we are in education; we are there for the learners.

I called the keynote, "Your Story Is Worth Telling" because if we don't share our library stories, who will? Also during the presentation, I shared
Elizabeth Hutchinson connects from Guernsey
how connecting to other schools via Skype and Google Hangouts had been so transformative for our learning community. My friend, Elizabeth Hutchinson (@Elizabethhutch), visited with us for a few moments from the Island of Guernsey via Google Hangouts to talk about the power of being a connected educator and librarian. Everyone seemed very inspired by Elizabeth and her stories as we modeled the possibilities together.

After the keynote, Lynn presented about the Future Ready Librarian Frameworks and the new AASL Standards. Participants were asked to change to different groups and visualize what a Future Ready Student actually looks like. They did this by drawing a Future Ready "student " on large paper pads with markers. They took time to discuss and share their interpretations and how we can best serve learners from the school library.
Teacher librarians draw a "Future Ready Student"

Conversation Strands

Lynn Kleinmeyer leads the discussion
In the afternoon, teacher librarians had options of several breakout sessions in the form of 25-minute conversation strands. Some of the topics included OER, Makerspaces, Expanding Your PLN via Twitter, and Making The Most of Your Space. Facilitators would share highlights of their experiences and share resources, then all in attendance could share and discuss together. It was a great time of learning for everyone. To finish up the day, Lynn asked everyone to reflect and give feedback on a survey. At the conclusion, everyone said their goodbyes and departed.

Stephan started a blog!

I don't recall ever seeing so many excited teacher librarians in a room for professional development. I strongly believe all 58 educators that attended wanted to improve for their students. During the conversations and group activities, the idea sharing was continuous and productive. They were all happy to see each other and learn together!

A few days after I got back home, I received some very exciting Tweets from teacher librarians. One had started a blog. Another had committed to seeking teachers that would be willing to collaborate. I was super excited to see that Michelle Kruse had connected her classes via Skype for World Read Aloud Day (see her Tweet below)! She was so motivated that she even led a school-wide Skype read aloud a day later. Imagine the excitement in Michelle's school as she became the great connector in the building. She changed her school by virtually knocking down the walls for her learners and teachers!

Michelle hosted several Skype sessions at her school!


Thank you Lynn, Nathan, and Grant Wood AEA!
I firmly believe that teacher librarians must continue reaching students with literacy promotion and information search techniques. I also know that we must prepare students to be Future Ready by aspiring to achieve the many components of the Future Ready Librarians Framework. It is not enough to quietly work in our spaces. We have to get out of the library and build relationships and collaborations. We must share our library stories in every way possible and connect those stories to the standards. These are important points to change the perception of our profession and build strong advocacy among library stakeholders.

I hope that more teacher librarians can experience professional development like what I witnessed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Such experiences pave the paths of change and advocacy for our profession.
I want to express thanks to Lynn Kleinmeyer for inviting me to visit Iowa and providing me an opportunity to share library stories. Thank you to the Grant Wood AEA for allowing me to come. Finally, thank you to all the teacher librarians that attended. I will never forget this experience! Let us all take steps out of our comfort zones for those we serve and share the countless stories from the school library.

Other links that may interest you:
My table of contents for the blog is here!

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