Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Point(s) of Inquiry

There are things about my job that I will miss terribly, including the capacity to model collaboration and enact what we TLs do when we work with teachers. Last year, our TL Inquiry looked at the question, How can we, as a professional learning community, support TLs in implementing exemplary school library programs in our schools?

With time and expertise provided last year by funds provided by Learning & Development and my TL Consultant budget, a remarkable group of ten TLs was enabled to participate in and work collaboratively within a Teacher-librarian Inquiry, facilitated by Denise Johnson and Leann Buteau. It was a transformative experience, in my way of looking at things. We kept a TL Inquiry Wiki of the discussions and products.

The overarching Inquiry question was answered in a number of ways. Two of our TLs worked on the development of a revised mentoring model which, with some additional funding for release time from my own and the L&D budgets, we have been able to implement as the mentoring pilot this year. Three of our most experienced TLs, Patti, Linda, and Wendy, are enabled by the release time, supplemented by the schools that are to receive this benefit, to take their very high-level mentoring capacity to where it is most needed. French Immersion funding has also been utilized to support the needs of TLs in dual-track schools.

The mentoring focus has resulted this year in two extension projects. Thanks to Wendy, the Horizon manual is now fully revised and site-specific, customized as a start-up manual to replace the old and tattered ones. No one had anticipated that, once it had been distributed to forty schools where there were new or new-ish TLs, everyone else would want one! These additional 50 elementary binders are in production for distribution at or before the May Update sessions.

The other extension of the mentoring project has been the creation of acquisitions lists. Patti created starter lists for non-fiction acquisitions, particularly science and social studies, for our annex TLs where the TL is more likely to have little or no training or experience and be split amongst a variety of roles within the school. Elly has worked collaboratively with French Immersion TLs to produce a similar list for those who are new or less fluent. Nice nice work, this.

Another way to support TLs in creating exemplary programs was to make a film to provide authentic examples of how it looks when TLs create viable and meaningful school library programs that enable students to engage deeply in Reading as Inquiry or Research as Inquiry. Check out Cheriee's 11-minute video about Student Inquiry if you haven't already seen it. It's great to see Jo-Anne, Cheriee, Patti, and of course, Michele. (Missing Michele? She is, as ever, in this video, at her most encouraging. It's not hard to see why, two years ago, Michele was BC's TL of the Year; last year, the Canadian TL of the Year.)

I am profoundly grateful for Leann's having been there as a facilitator for the TL Inquiry. It was Leann who, quite serendipidously, brought us an article on student inquiry by Barbara Stripling. Striping is one of the creators of various research models, alongside Kuhlthau, Pitts, and Big6 Eisenberg. Because I was busy posting discussion notes to our wiki (you can see this discussion entry for May 26 ), I missed out on the chance to read and discuss the article. The experience of my shifted perspective -- the AHA! moment -- would have to wait until later.

I remain thankful that my engagement with this project meant that I did follow-up with the reading or I would have missed the transformative moment! The work I had been doing for at least two years, with my fellow BCTLA members, to develop a new BC "Research Process" model was transformed by this reading. Instantly I could see how it would provide for me a new structure or way of looking at Student Inquiry. My "products"for the Celebration in early June would be the TL Inquiry Wiki and the new Inquiry graphic and chart (pdfs available) based on that reading of Stripling's article.

The latest iteration of the "Points of Inquiry" Approach to Reading and Research was presented to the Chapter Councillors of the BCTLA last weekend. Word has it that the CCs have returned to their posts with the draft model and are reporting out. The re-modelling continues.

Yesterday I flew to Cranbrook to do a workshop called Implementing a Culture of Inquiry. I shared the new draft model with them and showed our video. This Inquiry model is on my job "bucket list," things to have done and out in schools for teachers and TLs by the end of June. BCTLA President Heather Daly from Coquitlam and I are heading off with a paper to Edmonton to share at "Treasure Mountain" with important people like Dave Loertscher, Carol Koechlin, and Sandi Zwaan. You have to love serendipity.

From our TL Inquiry, so much has flowed. And just in case you were wondering what I am up to, the answer is lots. It's not over yet. Head down, keep working, I mutter. I remain hopeful that there will be a way to support new directions for school library programs that will empower the kind of reading and learning that makes a difference for students in the 21st Century. While much of the capacity to support this kind of work through Learning Services is regrettably slated to be gone next year, I know that Denise and I both have been thrilled to support this wonderful mentoring project for all TLs as an outcome of Teacher Inquiry. I know that you will be the first to agree that losing the support for Teacher Inquiry as a powerful means of engaging in professional growth and development is a huge loss. Maybe we should have talked more about how these have prompted change in our old and cumbersome system. Maybe we should have been more shameless in the promotion of our work in supportint teachers.

So, is blogging as a form of healing? Yes, and sorry about that!

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