Sunday, October 23, 2016

SLJ Leadership Summit 2016

(This posting is, in part, cross-posted from my posting on Mackin TYSL Blog.)

Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending School Library Journal’s 12th Annual SLJ Leadership Summit in our nation’s capital. This year’s theme was “Taking Charge in the New ESSA Era.” Two of the sessions -- one of a panel of superintendents and the other of state and national education leaders --  focused specifically on ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, and ESSA talk wove throughout the weekend. The speakers all stressed that the time is NOW for school districts and states to capture federal ESSA funding; it is our job to advocate with our districts and states to take advantage of language in the act allowing funding to support school libraries. For example, Dr. Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia, reminded us that librarians are connectors, curators, collaborators, resourcers of what teachers need to help their students. The summit sessions helped us to better understand the different parts of the act and funding options we can link to, such as leading and providing professional development in the use of educational technology and providing equity of access to all students.

Sara Trettin, from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, also helped us make the link between ESSA and the Future Ready Schools initiative, and the important role that school librarians can play in being the leading edge of the digital transformation of learning.

As noted at the summit, AASL provides a wealth of materials to support our ESSA efforts on its website along with sponsoring workshops in each state. School Library Journal will also be posting resources shared at the summit on the summit site.

A super high energy component of the summit was the “Hackathon” organized by Joyce Valenza and Michelle Luhtala. Participants broke into groups and brainstormed solutions to 11 selected important issues in school libraries. Each group also worked on how their challenges and solutions tie into ESSA. Check this video summary of the practical, as well as entertaining share outs. The hackathon even spawned some new vocabulary: librarians as “resourcerers” and “COLLABORACADABRA!,” a proposed web-based advocacy tool. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these two terms enter our vernacular!

Another highlight of the summit were the author sessions. Shaun David Hutchinson, author of We Are the Ants, brought the room to tears reminding us of the vital need to support and share books that will allow students to find themselves in them and know they are not alone. But, nothing matched the visit of Congressman John Lewis and his co-author Andrew Aydin, of the March graphic novel series about the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis urged us to follow his lifelong example:  when we witness injustice, we need to find a way to get in the way and work to correct it. We need to do that in the political world, and on behalf of our students. 

Here is a photo with John Lewis, along with my summit buddy Deb Schiano, that I’ll treasure:

Many, many thanks to School Library Journal, all its staff, and the other sponsoring organizations for this gift of information and inspiration. If you missed this one, make it a priority to attend next fall!

On my home, I started reading Hutchinson's We Are the Ants. I knew from his talk that it wouldn't be easy reading. Rather, it is, as he explained, the kind of book that he needed to read to help him not feel alone when he was young. Henry, the main character, is dealing with the challenges of being gay, bullying, depression, his boyfriend's suicide, his father's abandonment of his family, his grandmother's Alzheimers, and more. On top of all that, he is repeatedly abducted by aliens who are forcing him to make a decision as to whether the world is worth saving from destruction. You can't read this book without rooting for Henry, and feeling empathy for his challenges. I really loved it! Librarians and teachers will definitely want to share it with students who will relate to Henry and come away feeling less alone in their own challenges.

Next on my list is Lewis and Aydin's March trilogy.