The third interview in the School Library Month series is with the one and only Craig Seasholes, an elementary teacher and librarian in Seattle, Washington. To find out about some more of Craig’s adventures, check out his bio at the bottom of this post.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
I was lucky enough to host Caroline Kennedy in my library, for an event during School Library Month, a few years ago. My proudest moment was kids reciting poems by heart, reciting Janet Long’s pledge of acceptance by heart. A little boy sort of broke protocol, and ran accross the library, grabbed a book from the biography section on Kennedy, flipped open the page to a picture of Caroline, on The White House lawn, holding the book. And he said, “What’s this book?” And without batting an eye, she began reciting Madeline! She was so unflappable, and I was so proud, that one of our young men was inspired by poetry. I was so proud that he knew that, through the books in the library, he could connect with a person of considerable reputation and talk to her person-to-person, with a legitimate question.
Caroline Kennedy with Sanislo Students, Photo: David Rosen, West Seattle Herald. 2013
How do you envision the role of the school library?
It’s a spark and a connector. I see myself as a people-librarian, so I’m able to connect the resources with the people that need them. The librarian gets to support and teach the teachers, just as much as they get to inspire and support the students.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career?
My biggest challenge is the amount of time I have in the building! Seattle city limits elementary librarians to a half-time position, and that’s inadequate. So, when I’ve been most successful, I’ve been able to work full-time with teachers and with students on a more regular basis.
How has technology impacted or enhanced your library?
A thousand and one ways! The most significant has been the ability for students to create and share with an authentic audience. For example, this fall my kids were able to see buncees created by kids in Iowa and we talked through the “wow that was cool, how’d you do it?” My kids could stretch their imagination about what was possible for them to create by seeing other kids creating and sharing. You can connect through so many different events, every day. The technology makes that happen.
What is the best method for engaging and inspiring students?
Following their interests, and being a flexible and engaged learner myself, to sort of say, “well, that’s interesting, that question is really important! Let’s pursue it together.”
How has a student inspired you?
I’ve had a student become enthusiastic about writing poetry, and coming into the library asking to use her recess time to write poems. She then brought other students in under her wing. So by getting one student excited, she was then really picking other kids who needed the extra support, but didn’t know that they would find that kind of support in the library.
What are some resources that you’d suggest other librarians check out?
Human resources! Librarians building PLNs both face-to-face in their districts, and online, things like the TL chat, AASL, thinktank, twitter. Learning to use the learning management systems. Using tools within our district has brought our colleagues together. The AASL best apps and best websites process and resource is a tremendous help and a great place to find librarian-vetted cream of the crop.
How has the incorporation of 21st century learning skills affected your kids, and how has it affected your experience?
Completely! (Craig laughs) The biggest impact is in both access to information, and opportunities to create and share. Learning has been transformed by all of that 21st-century stuff.
So a kid asks for a book, and I can just snap right through questions for them: ‘Print or E-Book? In our school or in a Public Library? Do you want to hear the author speak? Do you want to write an email to the author? Do you want to see projects that other kids have done with that same book?’
All the access to ideas and information is just bounding forward.
What piece of advice would you give to other educators and librarians?
Keep your head up! Look around for what’s new and who is using it. When you see exciting projects, follow them all the way to the person that’s using them, and then establish a relationship. Be alert to tech trends and different learning applications, like Buncee, but also be attentive to the people. Making connections is so much easier now than it has been in the past, and that’s where we all win. The students gain immeasurably from it.
Why is creativity an integral part of the quality of a student’s education?
It’s the heart! Creativity is the heart of a student’s education. The world is changing and what students will need to do, to live and create and be productive members of society, will keep changing. So, the creative aspects and the open-ended part of education is more important now than ever. We can’t train people for today’s jobs because by the time they get there those jobs will be different. But we can teach them to apply the right skills, learn new ones, and then to share so that they know that the world is a place where they can contribute.
I teach people to work on habits of mind and success, and the content is incidental to the habits forming.
Craig Seasholes is an elementary teacher-librarian in a culture-rich, cash-poor, Seattle Public School. He is also president@WLMA.org and an AASL director for the Pacific Northwest. He blogs at http://bookmansbytes.blogspot.