Nothing to Fear
"I put my arm around their waist
And sat right down beside them.
I calmed them down.
Poor empty pants
With nobody inside them.
And now, we meet quite often,
Those empty pants and I,
And we never shake or tremble.
We both smile
And we say
'Hi!'" —Dr. Seuss, What Was I Scared Of? (Scholastic Edition, 1997)
Hi! For you curious, lifelong learner types (see also, "most school librarians"), it can be energizing to learn about subjects like data literacy, computational thinking, and technology fluency, and consider how we might build what we already know in order to bring new depth to our teaching. The authors in this issue offer exciting ideas for bringing complex thinking and problem solving into school library learning.
But innovation in content isn't the only thread connecting this issue's articles, wherein the experiences are really about being brave and trying something new, either for ourselves, our teacher and community partners, or the learners in our classrooms and libraries. And it may be that the experience is new for everyone involved!
Are you familiar with the excerpt above, from the little green Dr. Seuss book, with the cover bearing a dark corner of tangled trees and a wide-eyed, yellow character peering at something we can't see? (The tale also appears in The Sneetches and Other Stories.) I first heard "What Was I Scared Of?" when a public librarian read it to my first grade class. The mingling of creepy and familiar pulled me in, and the message of conquering the fear of what seems strange or unknown stayed with me long after. I have since found my own copy of the book, and I return to it when I need a dose of nerve. Whether introducing an unusual approach like coding to explore literary themes or bridging librarians' competencies with STEM instruction, a similar theme of courage in the face of the unknown coincides with our focus on complex thinking and problem solving.
Getting outside the proverbial comfort zone is a notion that seems worthy of some attention in this issue. I was really struck by the originality of lessons that our authors describe, like Kristen Rowe's story about students using Scratch coding to model and practice refusal skills in a health unit about drugs. Have you ever observed, or perhaps participated in, a lesson on this topic? If so, can you recall the format? For me, what comes to mind easily is role play, perhaps viewing and responding to video clips, or reading a text selection and sharing some discussion. A guest speaker or panel (like older teens talking to younger teens) might present information and facilitate Q&A. But isn't it stimulating to think about the dimension that coding might introduce? This modality for this particular lesson opens possibility and range that for some kids, and their teachers, may just be hard to attain in more traditional instructional formats. With this illustration as inspiration, I don't doubt that you're beginning to mull other less expected places where coding, problem solving, and this genre of thinking might be of value to our learners. By shifting outside familiar confines in approach and topic, we lead learners to new places with us.
As librarians, we often talk about initiating new collaborations, and we recognize that potential teacher collaborators may be feeling discomfort and risk at the possibility of "relinquishing" instructional time and any ownership of ideas to a collaborative partner. But, I'm not sure that I hear as much about the risk that librarians may be shouldering when attempting something new. And when it comes to pushing ourselves to study the latest tools and devices, consider fresh takes on subjects, or tackle new areas entirely, there's significant risk and even fear to appreciate and support in one another. But in attempting to face something that feels scary, like Dr. Seuss' pale green pants with nobody inside them, we grow. On the other side of any lesson, remember that there is progress to celebrate, however small. Allow yourself to take notice of the sensation of accomplishment, and let that entice the learning you pursue next.
Entry ID: 2184534