Media Seasons


Inquiry Learning for Teachers, too

Recently, administrators in the school district in which I teach challenged learners in our community to frame learning via inquiry. As a library media teacher, trained to help others on not only teacher-assigned tasks but their own self-selected learning quests, inquiry has always been an essential building block of how I support learners. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to learn.

For over 25 years, as student body needs have shifted, so has my assignment.  The presence of a new classroom that includes physically challenged students, whom I’m meeting with not only during class visits but supporting through library class visits with their building peers, has prompted me to switch lenses repeatedly as I frame inquiry lessons with various media. 

I can prepare what I think is a perfect lesson, but the presence of just one new student may change all that.  To meet the needs of my present students, my plans include many more hands-on and tactile experiences than ever.  Sometimes, just when I think I have the perfect scenario, a new need arises and I reconsider yet again. 

Less than a month ago I discarded what I considered a dated book.  I’d added this title to my elementary school’s collection many years ago after meeting author Sally Hobart Alexander at a summer session for post graduate work at University of Pittsburgh.  Over the years, I shared it, along with newer titles, to expand my students’ lenses and perceptions of physical challenges.  Just last week a new student arrived—and I’m reminded of Alexander’s still relevant message yet again.  As a teacher, I need to consider and accommodate whomever might potentially walk into the public learning space of our school library—regardless of physical challenges.

With the presence of another student in the group, how I used books and other media about color last fall will no longer work.  How I used the felt board will no longer work. I am asking questions, experimenting, as well as sometimes failing and going back to the drawing board.  I will find opportunities, however, so that my students can successfully create meaning.

As author Alexander shares so fearlessly in her books about blindness, life is a journey about not only what we know we must prepare for but also the unexpected.  Those of us who interact with young learners must give them experiences to be curious and confident. Can there be a better stance to teach that knowledge than via inquiry?