Sunday, 29 March 2015

ETL504 - Salesmanship and the teacher librarian

The final task for module 1 was to consider this primary school scenario and apply the 7 steps of problem solving.

Primary - Relief from face-to-face teaching for classroom teachers is often covered by the teacher librarian. This means that it is difficult to plan any collaborative teaching opportunities with the teachers. You are also concerned that the student learning in the library may not be contextually relevant to the learning in the classroom. How could you approach this problem?

My solution that I posted on the forums, involved the teacher librarian being proactive and initiating the change - approaching class teachers who were demonstrating a willingness to work as a team, or could be open to the suggestion. Planning together, with the teacher librarian showing the class teacher what they can do to help lessen the class teachers load in teaching information literacy skills, and how this can be done integrated into a curriculum unit being taught by the classroom teacher. That collaborating with the teacher librarian is not more workload, it is workload shared. That sharing this learning journey with other teachers can lead to more collaboration with more teachers. 

As I read other posts on the forum, and as I reflect back on other units I have done, there is often a sense of frustration with the perceived role of the teacher librarian and the role of the school library. Frustration with the library being used for RFF and limited connection to the classroom. Frustration with the perceptions of the library space no longer being valid in a 21st century learning space, of diminished hours, or reduced staff, of libraries being cut completely. 

Working through this Primary school scenario, was a great opportunity for me to reflect back on my relationships with great teacher librarians, and the collaborative teaching opportunities that arose when working with them. opportunities that saw one teacher librarian and I actively involved in projects for online learning, with integration of information literacy skills across the curriculum. I have lived it, and so I know that it is not only possible but also powerful. So why isn't it happening in so many schools?

I understand the frustration from the point of view of the teacher librarian, but I also understand that many teachers do not really have a firm idea of exactly what the teacher librarian can offer them. This Masters in Ed (teacher librarianship) has been eye opening for me in learning the breadth and depth of what the teacher librarian role can encapsulate. The learning journey has been huge, steep, deep and varied. How can I as a soon-to-be qualified Teacher Librarian who has been on this journey, expect classroom teachers, with their enormous and all consuming workload, to have even the slightest inkling of what I can offer them, if I am not actively promoting myself, my role and what I can do for them. 

Having a well resourced school library is not enough. It is not a case of build it and they will come. 'They' are too busy keeping their heads above water, desperately trying to teach their curriculum, assess, report, build relationships, teach diverse students, differentiate, integrate technology. It is our role as teacher librarian to take that leadership step - initiate the contact. Sell our goods. Show the teachers what we can offer them. Teach them that we have the skills to help relieve their work load. That we are more than just shelvers of books. That we can find them online and print resources. We can build them pathfinders. We can teach their classes information literacy skills in authentic ways, that can be built upon across the curriculum. We need to sell what we can offer the school not once, not twice, but all the time, in every possible way. We need to sell expectation of being involved in curriculum planning. We need to sell the expectation that we should be involved in the ICT development throughout the school. We need to sell our curriculum knowledge and expertise. We need to sell all of our skills and knowledge, find teachers willing to work with us and then advertise the results. We need to build a client base that begins to seek us out for what we can offer them. They may not know we have it when we start working with them - but we can show them, teach them, lead them towards an understanding of the pivotal role the teacher librarian and the school library have on student learning outcomes across the school. 

This is a crucial aspect of the teacher librarian and their role as a leader within their school community. Work with them. Then they will begin to value everything you have to offer.

Monday, 16 March 2015

ETL 504 - Module 1 : Leadership Theory

As I begin my 6th unit in my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship), I do so with some anxiety. As we approach the end of March, I will have been out of the classroom, and out of the school environment for 2 years. This is the most significant break from my teaching career, and although I have been continuously studying since July 2013, I am beginning to feel a disconnection between my studies and my personal experiences.

A significant aspect of this has been the opportunity provided by this time off away from my career. As we are on an overseas posting, I have not been in a position to work, and so have been forced to take a much needed break and to really reflect back on my last teaching position, which was difficult and traumatic and had me seriously questioning what I wanted to do with my career. I think this has been an important opportunity and one that has helped me to see both the positive and negative aspects of who I was as a teacher at the time I left I my job, and what it is that I want from my career when we return to Australia.

What I have wanted, and still want from my studies, is to not focus my experiences on my last teaching position, but on my career as a whole. So this is the mindset with which I began the reading of Chapter 2 by Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005), and these are some of the ‘statistics’ of my personal experience that I bring with me when I read the modules.

  • ·        I have worked in 10 different schools over the past 20 years. I am only counting those where I have held either full-time or part-time positions for at least one term (and in most cases these positions were between 1-4 years), and where I was involved in staff meetings, planning, assessing, reporting.
  • ·      I have worked for 12 different Principals and 11 assistant Principals in those 10 schools, and therefore have seen a variety of leadership / management styles. I have worked for some truly great Principals, and others who were not so great.
  • ·      I have worked with great teams of teachers, and I have worked in not so great teams.
  • ·      I have held a leadership position on the school executive and I have been regarded as a leader by many of the colleagues that I have worked with.

So when I consider the theories discussed in Chapter 2, I am thinking especially those effective Principals and assistant Principals that I worked with, and what the abilities and skills qualities were that they demonstrated as successful leaders. 

I believe that effective leadership in schools comes down to understanding the personal needs of that particular school. Every school has its own journey. Where a school has had effective leadership, I believe they have experienced leaders who:
  • ·      Are a visible presence throughout the school – in a positive and supporting way
  • ·      Create a shared vision for the short and long term goals of the school
  • ·      Have a clear voice that demonstrates a sense of purpose and direction
  • ·      Have a strong understanding of curriculum, resourcing, budgeting
  • ·      Support the day to day instructional needs of the school
  • ·      Have an ability to adapt to change and steer the community of the school through necessary changes
  • ·      See the teachers and staff within the school as their greatest resource and asset
  • ·      Believe in building leadership, confidence, skills and growth in their staff and students

Schools who have had a difficult journey with leadership, may also need a leader who can build both trust and confidence in accepting change, rebuild morale and effectively steer the school towards needed improvements.

Having held a leadership position, I see my own leadership style as aspiring to be democratic, including other teachers in decision making processes, while also being able to make necessary decisions. So I was pleased that the leadership styles quiz on the Buzzle (2015) website agreed with that. My result from the quiz stated

“Your style of leadership is democratic, a.k.a. participative. It is considered as one of the most effective leadership styles in ideal situations. As the name suggests, democratic leaders consider the suggestions and opinions of group members and involve group members in the decision-making process. But they make sure that the final decision is taken by them while being in sync with the majority. This kind of leadership motivates the followers and encourages the group members to participate in the process. It ultimately improves the creativity and productivity of the members. It is one of the ideal leadership styles in an education system”.

So in reflecting on that result, and my past experiences, these are my current thoughts about myself as a leader.

I aim to be a proactive leader who demonstrates initiative and keeps an eye on my team members.
  • ·      I don’t want to be a leader who just accepts the status quo and only deals with problems if they arise – the leader who believes that a problem only exists if it darkens your doorstep. Teaching can be an isolating profession – a good leader often notices if there are difficulties before a teacher asks for help.

I aim to be an empowering leader who recognises and rewards accomplishments and strives to build up my team, not cut them down.
  • ·      I don’t want to be a leader that belittles my team in front of others when something goes wrong.

I aim to be a forward thinking leader who meets the challenges of the 21st century and has the ability to stimulate change in a school
  • ·      I don’t want to be a leader who says ‘we don’t do it that way", who is afraid of change, who can’t think outside the box

I aim to be a leader who understands that my team are the greatest resource in our school
  • ·      I don’t want to be a leader who does not support other teachers, does not provide learning opportunities, does not encourage growth and achievement

I aim to be a leader who continues to learn
  • ·      I don’t want to be a leader who believes that I already know it all.

I have a lot to think about, about myself and where I want to go in my career. One thing  I do know, is that I am good at what I do, that I have been acknowledged in my career as having leadership skills and that I owe it to myself to capitalize on my skills and my achievements when I go back to work.

I look forward to moving ahead with this unit, and building my knowledge and understanding of leadership in education.

Buzzle. (2015). Leadership styles quiz in Buzzle. Retrieved from

Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. School leadership that works: From research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from