Monday, June 20, 2011

Arne Duncan teaching summer school ...

…in a school library?

This past spring, at the TEDxSFED talks, David Orphal (Skyline High School) suggested that Arne Duncan should consider teaching summer school. I would recommend teaching in the school library. It would be informative to juggle the preparation (identifying sources, pulling books, and creating PathFinders) and the teaching for the numerous subjects, grade levels, and student backgrounds of those who utilize the library. Here, for example, is a summary of the classes taught this week in our summer school library:


  • Consumer Product Reviews In a state required Consumer course, we worked with high school students to select a product and review a Consumer Reports summary, plus identified additional online sources of product evaluations.


  • Magazines and Newspapers – these English Language Learners had a tour of the library, learned about a special collection of resources for them, met in our periodicals room on multiple days and selected stories of interest in preparation for creating their own newspaper.
  • Zeitoun Background Research – these rising Juniors began researching about Hurricane Katrina and its impact, prior to reading Zeitoun. We were fortunate to be able to collaborate with librarians at other schools and colleges preparing for similar units.
  • Using the list of Abraham Lincoln Book nominees from our state professional association, we devised an assignment to help rising Freshman practice using the library catalog and databases, plus gave them a tour of both the physical and virtual library spaces.

Social Studies

  • The multi-grade level group of students participating in this summer’s Chicago History Seminar researched several projects, including a Timeline of important events and information to support their Worker Roundtable
  • Presidency Project - An advanced US History class (rising Juniors) came to the library on multiple days in order to locate primary sources and to create annotated bibliographies in support of a research paper, presentation and monologue about a US President.

Speech and Theatre

  • Debate: Interviewing and Company Research – these high school students learned about company information and interviewing techniques and questions in order to stage and critique mock interviews during class.
  • Debate: Famous Speech – A library tour highlighted those aspects of our collections (plays, monologues and anthologies with speeches) for students to use in selecting a piece to memorize and present to their class.

Yes, that was just one week of summer school in the library…

Teaching summer school in the library would give an overview of curriculum across multiple disciplines, an opportunity to collaborate with classroom teachers, and, most importantly, a chance to work one-on-one with students of differing abilities and motivations. Even more so than during the school year, some are freely pursuing a passion while others are merely attending because it is required.

You may have been smiling as you imagined Secretary Duncan teaching summer school, but seriously think about what a perfect assignment it would be for him and for Department of Education’s Director of Education Technology, Karen Cator. That’s because while all of those classes were occurring, we also were

  • Learning about how to run a trace route to help address a tech issue;
  • Requesting that the filter be reset so as to unblock the Chicago History Museum site on the Great Chicago Fire (it is available now);
  • Coordinating with the Technology Department as we continue a conversion in operating system;
  • Reviewing set-up and directions for weebly so as to be able to anticipate and answer student questions;
  • Thanking our Web Master for solving a display issue on the main library page; and
  • Responding to numerous student questions about netbook operation, passwords for network access and so on…

Yes, that was five half-days (just one week) of summer school in the library…

Wait! While teaching in the school library, one would also be involved with

  • Providing direction on several summer projects for the Circulation Desk Staff and;
  • Assisting an alum with research and directing him to the archives;
  • Updating and posting links for the high school Seniors who will be writing drafts of College application essays
  • Ordering new books and materials based on student requests and reviews from professional journals;
  • Mentoring a teacher undertaking a Practicum in Library Science, including supporting her professionally by attending a webinar and providing daily feedback.

Yes, that was roughly 1500 minutes (just one week) of summer school in the library…

Even if Secretary Duncan will not be teaching summer school this year, it is worth considering the assignment of a little “homework” to Department of Education (DOE) staff in support of school libraries. In addition to the ideas listed here, what would you add?

  • Study the research that supports the important contributions that libraries and librarians make to avoid further cuts in funding for literacy programs;
  • Go on a “field trip” to the 15th National Conference and Exhibition of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL); Listen, participate and share ideas with librarians from across the country;
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed for award winning blogs, including Buffy Hamilton’s The Unquiet Librarian and Carolyn Foote’s Not So Distant Future;
  • Read and discuss Joyce Valenza’s Revised Manifesto as published in School Library Journal and interview a local school librarian for additional perspective on the librarian’s evolving role;
  • Visit a school and experience a day (or a week!) in the life of a school librarian.

Libraries and librarians make a difference as research has shown for years. Secretary Duncan would recognize that, too, if he had the opportunity to teach and then to read the thank-you notes such as those I just received from summer school students.

Yes, that was just one week of summer school in the library – and those notes were certainly a highlight!

1 comment:

D. Lazar said...

And write pertinent meaningful blog entries !