Cesar Chavez Librarian, Heidi Tuers-Jackson: Part Two

After working in Oklahoma City Public Schools for two years, we interviewed teachers, administrators and community members about their work with The Learner First. This is part two of our interview with Heidi Tuers-Jackson, an elementary school librarian. Part one can be read here. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Have you seen any changes in students’ behaviors, or how they interact, while they are visiting the library?

So, I don’t know if I can speak to that because, [due to budget cuts,] this is the first year ever that they had to come to the library and visit it as a whole class, and [they do] not just have the flexibility to come when they needed to, or wanted a new book, or you know that kind of thing. So, I don’t know if I can answer that question, if that makes sense.

I do know that I have seen… I don’t know if it’s a difference in the students, or if it’s a difference in the adults, or if it’s a combination. I think that because we are having these vertical team meetings, and really talking about individual students and talking about the teachers’ focal students. I think all of us have a better understanding, whereas before you would see these kids in the hall and you would be like, “What in the world is up with that? Why is that child doing that? That is not acceptable.” You know that kind of thing. It came more from a place of “this is what the rules are” and from a place of… maybe not necessarily judgement, but kind of that way.

Where now it’s like, “Oh, ok what is going on today? What is different today?” Because we are talking about these individual kids, I think people are approaching the discipline side a little bit differently. I think it has become less of an antagonistic relationship between those students and all the rest of the adults in the building. It’s changed the way that they view school, and the way they view the teachers in the school, and whether or not school is a welcoming and safe place or if it’s a place where they just come to get in trouble.

These are great insights. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I am very thankful that we have had The Learner First experience, because as I’ve said, the will was always there it was the way to get to where we wanted to go that we were struggling with. Without the rubrics, and the vertical team meetings, and the “this is what it means when we say every kid is our kid,” and that “We have high expectations for all,” and all of those things we were saying before, this kind of holds us accountable but it also gives us the structure within which to do that.

I am very thankful for it because I really do think that it has created better relationships between colleagues, as far as working together for the success of students, but a better place for the students also and their families. I think…we just went over our Title I plan this week for next year and we had to go over all these different questions and it was amazing to hear all the different answers I was hearing and how much so many of them have to do with The Learner First and the processes that we have been through. The things that a few years ago we probably never would have even dreamed that we would be saying, “Hey, why don’t we try this?” We are willing to try those things now. We are not so rooted in “This is the way we have to do it,” it’s more like, “Okay, if this is not working, let’s try this.” We are keeping our eyes on the prize.

I think for our school that is where we were and that’s what we needed, and maybe for another school that may not be case. But something in those rubrics…Something in those rubrics, because the rubrics are so thorough, is going to hit the chord to help them be where they need to be.

I just know how it has affected me professionally. I don’t necessarily have the same types of relationships with parents as the classroom teachers do.

Thank you so much! We really appreciate everything that The Learner First has partnered with us to do, and kind of guided us along the way to accomplish. It’s been great.