Lifelong learning is a phrase we often hear and use. Typically it’s applied to our young patrons or our students. Do you apply it to yourself? How do you stay current in our chosen profession? What do you do to learn new ideas, strategies, and information?
There are a myriad of ways to “keep up” and certainly there’s no one size fits all. New ways of learning, connecting, and engaging are mushrooming online and I find them very valuable. I subscribe to many blogs, listen to podcasts, and participate in webinars hosted by ALSC, AASL, professional journals, and writers. I tweet and Facebook, professionally and personally. In fact, if I’m not careful, I could spend my day online and miss living!
In the summer, though, many of us think of books. It’s time to read on the deck or the patio, the beach, the dock. Lists of summer reads abound and even those of us who are knee deep in summer reading programs tend to make a list of books to read over the summer. School and public librarians and teachers can devote time to reading more about CCSS and its application to their work, new kinds of programming to support CCSS, and more. Now’s the time to read all those articles you bookmarked, and especially, to read those professional books you’ve heard about. Schools and public libraries are adding many professional development titles to their collections—check out a couple to read while relaxing on the deck or beach.
But I’m busy … family is visiting … this is my time off … I’m doing a professional development day already …We all have excuses in spite of our good intentions! Why is it easier to sign up for a class and actually attend than to sit down and read a professional book? Probably it’s because reading is something to “get to,” rather than a commitment we make. Well then, put it on your calendar. Sure, that is a bit weird, but it does work. I read somewhere that it takes 21 days to establish a habit, so get going! Read on your own. Make a pact with a colleague or two to meet to exchange ideas on the different professional learning books you each read over the summer. Form a book group with some of your colleagues, either within your building, district, library system, or local professional organization. Read a chapter (or a book) each week or month, then meet to discuss it— for lunch, in the evening, rotating decks or patios at home. You might get hooked and keep it up year-round, which is what happened in my school.
At my school we chose a book for the semester or year (depending on length), read a chapter a month, and met in the morning before school to discuss. There were great advantages to me, the librarian, being part of the groups, both personally and professionally. We school librarians are on our own in our building; we don’t have a grade level to hang out with. Participating in the book discussions helped me get to know teachers better, as well as demonstrating my interest in reading, literacy, writing, and trends in education. I learned their lingo, issues, and concerns and realized many of them were mine, too. It also helped me know what was happening in their classroom and better partner with them! Public librarians could invite all staff to read the same book, helping others know more about what’s new in youth services.
What to read? My advice: choose something out of your comfort zone or your area of expertise. If you don’t know the basics of teaching reading, phonetics, ELL, writing, disabilities, or assessing, pick something there. If Common Core has you scratching your head, read a good introductory text. If you want to incorporate more STEM, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math), reading for meaning, poetry, etc., into your lessons or programs, find a book to help. Family programming might be something to investigate; it helps build support for the library, unfortunately necessary in these days of budget cuts. Speaking of which, you might decide to read a book on library advocacy.
I talked to colleagues, gleaned relevant professional organization’s websites, and referred to my own list of professional books read to compile a list of titles you might want to investigate this summer. I’m adding a couple to this year’s summer reading list and promise to “report” on the CLCD Facebook page about my reading. Why don’t you post there about your professional reading as well?
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