Category Archives: ETL504 TL as Leader

Teacher Librarian as Leader

At the beginning of this year I started my studies in the Masters of Education in Teacher Librarianship and will admit to be completely naïve about what was actually required in the role of teacher librarian (TL). When asked, in the first few weeks of the course, to list what a TL does I could only list four things: catalogue, shelve, resource and teach (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013a)! Looking at this list now makes me laugh out loud at how little I knew and how far I have come in my learning in under a year.

Perhaps one of the most important roles of the TL is as leader. TLs need to be leaders in many different ways. They need to lead staff in policy development, curriculum knowledge and implementation, resourcing, professional development and teaching and learning. They need to lead by example in keeping up-to-date with and informing others about pedagogical initiatives, best practice, latest technology innovations and their own personal and professional development. They need to have a clear vision for the library and be able to communicate this to the community in a way that inspires innovation and change, motivates and empowers others. They need to build positive relationships with all staff, students and the school community so as to work collaboratively and effectively with all. They need to advocate for the library in word and deed via marketing and promotion of the services, functions and happenings in the library.

Just a small list, really …

In this subject, ETL504 TL as Leader I have been able to think deeply about the different types of leadership for different purposes as well as about the qualities that make an effective leader. In my blog post, Critical reflection on leadership (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013b) I reflected on leaders I have worked with in the past and the traits (both positive and negative) that they possessed that made them effective or ineffective. I noted the strengths of one particular leader in building relationships and acknowledging and empowering others, strengths that I hope to emulate in my role as a TL. I also noted the weaknesses of another leader in not sharing the leadership and utilising the expertise of others when facilitating change in the school.

A librarian needs to be a leader of innovation who can help to facilitate change in the school. Perhaps the most powerful learning I have embarked on in this subject has been in the creation of a vision and strategic plan for the library over the next three years. A vision by its definition means an instance of great perception, esp. of future developments (dictionary.com). As innovators and change agents TLs need to keep abreast of the latest innovations in technology and teaching in order to create a vision that can inspire and motivate. In order to work towards this vision there will need to be changes in the school. Many people are resistant to change which can make the job very difficult. An inspiring vision that can be communicated to staff can go a long way to motivating change.

I have had to critically look at myself and the skills I possess and those that I lack in order to ascertain the kind of leader I would like to be when facilitating change. How I can communicate the vision in a way that includes, inspires and motivates all involved so that they too wish to embrace change in order to work towards the vision not as followers but as equal participants. In the blog post, Innovation and change (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013c) I focussed on the work of Schifter (2008) as he discusses the management of change in schools. I drew on an example of ineffective change management and will keep this in the forefront of my thinking as I work to lead change in the school.

I ranted about evaluation and assessment in my university experiences in a blog post from semester one (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013d) and asked why we couldn’t be given assessments that were practical and useful in our professional lives. I’m very happy that this assessment has been one that has been interesting, motivating and quite enjoyable because it is something that I will actually take to the principal and hopefully use in my school.

References

Schifter, C. (2008). Chapter 14. Effecting Change in the Classroom Through Professional Development.  Infusing technology into the classroom: continuous practice improvement (pp. 250 – 279). Hershey: Information Science Pub.

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013a, May 26). A critical reflection on how my view of the role of the teacher librarian has changed during this subject [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/a-critical-reflection-on-how-my-view-of-the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian-has-changed-during-this-subject-etl401/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013b, August 19). Critical reflection on leadership [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/critical-reflection-on-leadership-2/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013c, August 5). Innovation and change [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/innovation-and-change/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013d, May 3). Rant about evaluation and assessment in my university experiences [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/rant-about-evaluation-and-assessment-in-my-university-experiences/

Making Practice Public

Teachers acknowledge that in the 21st century knowledge construction is a social process and factor this into their approach to teaching. It is often forgotten that teachers are learners too and that their knowledge construction and growth in teaching can also be greatly improved and developed through interaction with other teachers. Too often teachers are isolated from their peers as they focus solely on their own class to the exclusion of all others, they come together in the staffroom or for formal meetings but rarely have the opportunity to discuss practice. A wealth of knowledge and experience is left ‘untapped’ in teacher’s own schools.

Lieberman & Mace’s (2010), Making Practice Public: Teacher Learning in the 21st Century, outlines the positives of this approach to teacher education from a local as well as a global perspective. They describe making practice public as meaning making objects and events of practice (such as videos, work samples, photos, etc.) and reflections on practice available to educational audiences. Current technologies are the means to do this, they allow the practice to become not only local but global and open up a different conversation about teaching broadening the outlook on a particular topic or issue.

Learning from each other in a local setting can be best facilitated through professional learning communities. Working in communities to improve practice not only allows teachers to learn from each other but also helps build relationships which over time leads to increased commitment to each other and to further learning. The most effective form of professional development is that which is accessed as needed to address a particular practice or issue identified. Teachers working in communities can be the starting point for this professional development for each other in many cases as they access the professional knowledge of each teacher in the community. Sharing practices with others utilises the experiences of teaching and the learning gained from them and allows these experiences and expertise to be discussed, dissected and possibly applied to different situations. Further professional development can then be accessed in a way that is relevant to the context and needs of the learning community at a specific time.

Social networking is one way that the local can become global. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Pinterest are all social networking sites that allow for connections to be made between like-minded people and can therefore be opportunities for professional learning and development. Teacher librarians need to lead the way in making clear to teachers the benefits of social networking and lead by example in utilising social networking in their professional lives for the benefit of students and teachers.

Take a look at some examples of teaching practice being made public here: http://insidewritingworkshop.org/

Reference:

Lieberman, A., & Mace, D. P. (2010). Making Practice Public: Teacher Learning in the 21st Century. Journal of Teacher Education61(1-2), 77-88. Retrieved September 5, 2013, from http://jte.sagepub.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/content/61/1-2/77

Problem Solving a real world situation in 7 steps

Using the 7 steps, outlined in the University of Pittsburgh’s, ‘Problem Solving’ comment on how you could solve the problem using the steps outlined.
Problem – Primary school. Relief from face to face teaching for classroom teachers is covered by the teacher librarian (TL). This means that it is difficult to plan any collaborative teaching opportunities with the teachers. You are also concerned that the students learning in the library may not be contextually relevant to their learning in the classroom. How could you approach this problem?

Step 1 Define and identify the problem

Opportunities to collaboratively teach with classroom teachers are difficult to arrange due to TL taking relief from face-to-face. Concerned about contextual relevance for students to their classroom learning.

Goal – try to create opportunities outside of relief from face-to-face time where collaborative teaching can occur. Create contextual relevance for students.

Step 2 Analyse the problem

Timetabling a big issue.

A lack of knowledge around the role of the TL and the purpose and benefits of their teaching in the Library exists.

Step 3-5 Identify, Select and Evaluate possible solutions

A staff meeting led by TL could occur where problem  is explained and brainstorming session happens to try to find solutions.

Step 6 Action Plan

Work with person responsible for timetabling to factor in opportunities for collaborative teaching.

Education program for principal, staff and parent community – an information meeting for staff and an information evening for parents and the wider community run by TL, a link on Library website with relevant information about the role of the TL and a flyer to go home to all parents.

Time factored into the school year (i.e. per term) for TL to plan with classroom teachers about context for learning.

Step 7 Implement the solution

Monitor feedback from all concerned in regards to the education program. A Possible survey could be developed to establish a growth in knowledge and areas requiring further address.

Monitor creation of opportunities for discussion, planning and collaborative teaching and collect evidence to support the benefits where successful collaborations occurred.

Resources:

Problem Solving. (n.d.). Home | University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved July 22, 2103 from http://web.archive.org/web/20130502065403/http://www.pitt.edu/~groups/probsolv.html

Critical reflection on leadership

I have been teaching for over 20 years now and in that time have experienced many different leaders both as principals and in other leadership roles within the school.  I have been in different leadership positions myself within the school and have had very little specific knowledge about leadership styles until this semester of my studies. I have however been able to observe within myself and others qualities that make for positive leadership and qualities (or lack of) that detract from leadership.

In ETL504 Teacher Librarian as Leader I have been able to delve deeply into different theories and styles of leadership and start to discern what it is that makes a good leader. Up to this point in my career I had been able to see the effects of good leadership and ineffective leadership but was not always able to pinpoint exactly what it was that made the person so effective or ineffective. I have learned that leadership is a complex and multifaceted role with many concepts and abilities that must operate together in order to be effective and positive and create a school culture that fosters happiness, satisfaction, commitment and motivation.

One of the leaders that I have worked with and most admire is a principal that I used to have (since retired) whom everybody loved. One of his greatest skills was in building relationships with others in all areas of the school community and recognising people for every little effort or achievement that they made. This man knew the name of every student, and their parents and often grandparents, in that school and called them all by name when he spoke with them. He made everyone feel special, empowered and acknowledged in a way that made them want to do the best they could for him and for themselves. Our staff was a team, we laughed, cried, celebrated and commiserated together and enjoyed coming to work every day. He is someone who I think of when considering how to handle a situation and someone who I will try to emulate when my turn comes to be in a leadership role again.

On the other hand I have worked with another principal who in the space of only three years was able to turn a happy, enthusiastic and social staff into a group of mostly isolated individuals who were not so happy to be at work, who felt dictated to rather than being part of a team and who rarely got together in the staffroom, let alone socially outside of work. This man, through the qualities he lacked, has taught me the importance of utilising the expertise and experience of others on staff as well as acknowledging the efforts of all, the benefits of shared leadership and collaboration and the essential ability of relationship building and social skills.

Being in a leadership position, as a teacher librarian is expected to be, is a daunting task but one that I feel more confident in approaching as my studies continue and my knowledge broadens. I hope that in the future I can be a leader that others describe as effective and that I can empower others to be leaders too.

Innovation and Change

Innovation. Until recently I thought it was something only incredibly smart people were capable of and was in the realm of inventors and entrepreneurs. After reading Red Thread Thinking’s (2013), Innovation takes practice more than talent at http://www.redthreadthinking.com/innovation-takes-practice-more-than-talent/  I was reminded of an old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention. Red Thread states, “innovation… requires an inquisitive mind intent on solving an existing problem”, and that struck me as the modern version of that old saying. When you read stories of famous inventions and the people behind them you often discover that the motivation behind the invention was in finding a solution to a perceived problem. Take the humble Hills Hoist clothesline for instance that was developed by Lance Hill in 1945 after his wife asked him to come up with something better than the clothes line with prop that she was using. He came up with an inexpensive rotary clothes line that could be raised and lowered via a winding mechanism. Problem solved.

Innovation is seeking to improve something either by adapting or changing something that already exists or by coming up with something new to address an issue and find a solution.  Innovation or change is something that occurs in education on a regular basis either as mandated by a governing body or from within a school itself. Change is the thing that keeps schools modern and up-to-date and can be both stimulating and/or incredibly frustrating to teachers depending on both the instigation of the change and the management of it.

Schifter (2008) draws on several change adoption theorists in his chapter on effecting change in the classroom to discuss the management of innovation or change in schools. He identifies various stages throughout the process of adopting a technological change and looks at factors that need to occur in order to positively effect change (p.261-262). I am going to address these theories by taking my own school situation into account whereby we had been mandated a change by our governing body. Our governing body had mandated the use of Google mail, Google drive and Google docs for the dissemination of information throughout our organisation. This is a progressive change as Google has many effective applications that can facilitate greater productivity and ease of communication however the change has not been managed in a progressive way or in a way that facilitates an effective change

Schifter (2008) notes the five stages of adoption of a change according to Rogers’ (2003) as: awareness of the change, interest in it, evaluation of it, trying it out and adoption or rejection of the change (p.261-262). In the case of my school none of these stages applied. Firstly, as staff we were made aware of this change only after it had been implemented with no time to try out or evaluate the innovation prior to its adoption. Therefore unless we already used Gmail and were familiar with Google drive and docs we were thrown in the deep end resulting in a fair amount of frustration, reluctance and anxiety on the part of some staff. Training sessions had to be quickly organised to inform all staff about the use of Gmail to start with. Ongoing training afternoons were facilitated by one of the staff already competent in the use of the applications. None of this training was instigated, organised or supported by the governing body and staff had no time to get familiar with any of the applications before they were in use within the school. There was no question of rejecting the change as we were not given a choice nor asked for any feedback.

The change turned out to be a positive one and staff moved quickly, by necessity, through Hord and colleagues (1987) Concerns based adoption model levels of use as noted in Schifter (2008) from learning how to use the innovation through to adapting the use of the innovation to meet specific needs in the school (p.262). However it is not thanks to the management of or leadership behind the change from the governing body but thanks mostly to the professional and forward thinking staff that we have in our school and I have learned a valuable lesson about leadership when effecting change.

References:

Innovation Takes Practice More Than Talent. (2013, January 30). . Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.redthreadthinking.com/innovation-takes-practice-more-than-talent/

Schifter, C. (2008). Chapter 14. Effecting Change in the ClassroomThrough Professional Development.  Infusing technology into the classroom: continuous practice improvement (pp. 250 – 279). Hershey: Information Science Pub.