While undertaking the Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) course I have been required to keep a reflective journal to track and reflect upon significant learning moments. To gain an understanding of my learning journey in its entirety, I feel it is important to begin my reflection from when I first fell into the role of the teacher librarian (TL) at the school I am currently working in. From this point I will discuss how my learning has been able to provide me with a better understanding of my role as a TL, with specific reference to how my understanding of promotion, collaboration and information communication technology (ICT) has improved.
I fell into the role of TL about a year before I started this course. When I began I had no idea of what the job entailed and it seemed neither did anyone else in the school. For the first year in the position I spent my day doing two things. Firstly helping the library assistant with her duties and secondly trying to figure out what my job involved.
The library was very much a barren place in which both students and teachers seemed fearful to come. With some guidance from my head teacher, we began setting out a plan. We envisioned that the library be turned into a multi-functional space that at all times of the day will be utilised as a place for learning and one that provides resources that assist in this learning process. In agreement, I decided to commit to the position by retraining which turned out to be beneficial as many aspects of my learning journey correlated with what I was doing at work.
The Role of the TL
The role of the TL was an underlying theme across all the subjects I have completed. When I first begun the course my understanding of my role was very vague and out dated and I thought most of what I should be doing would just come to me. I made this clear in one of my early blog posts.
My ideas began to change as soon as the course started. Three articles that I came across in ETL401that helped me to develop my understanding of the role of the TL early on include those by Herring (2007), Purcell (2010) and Valenza (2010). All of these articles discuss the multiple roles that the TL will need to step into to become successful. Herring describes the role as being multifaceted and provides an example of the possible roles (2007, p.30) (see figure 1). Similarly, Purcell describes possible roles and informs us that the TL must balance these roles to fulfil their position in the school (2010, p.31). Valenza highlights that the role of the TL is not set in stone and will need to adapt to the “continually morphing information and communication landscapes”.
Through these readings I have been able to gain the confidence to step into the described roles without the fear that I have overstepped my boundary which I mention in my blog post for ETL401 . An example of how I have begun to step into my role as the TL can be seen from the school library webpage . From this page you can see some of the roles I fulfil including, a website designer as I maintain the library webpage regularly, an advocator for reading as I market books to students and encourage them to share and discuss them via a blog and an information specialist as I provide links to the catalogue and am in the process of creating wiki pathfinders, like the one I created in ETL501, which provide guidance in selecting and locating resources.
In ETL504 I have learnt how a TL can lead in a school environment. This leadership does not necessarily mean that they must lead from a statured position, but instead they can lead from the middle. The article by Cawthorne (2010) was one that cemented my learning in that the TL will need to take on a shared leadership style while working with staff and other groups within the school. It is clear from my reflection at the beginning of the subject ETL504 that this idea was one that was beginning to be formed. I feel that I have begun putting what I have learnt into practice with in my own school. This is evident in the audio below, which highlights my proactive approach to involve both staff and students in programs around the school.
In addition, a document that has provided me with guidance in the role of the TL is the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2004). I feel I have already begun to improve my knowledge, practice and commitment as a TL and this can be seen through my specific reflections below.
Promotion of the library
According to ASLA/ALIA’s standards of profession excellence for teacher librarians, standard 3.4, the TL has a responsibility to promote the library and information services to the school and wider community (2004, p.4). Promotion of the library was and continues to be one role I aim to become proficient in. As mentioned, when I first started as the TL, the library was a barren place that would only have a handful of students and teachers visit each week. In my conversations with students I found that many felt the library could not provide them with what they needed in both their study and leisure requirements. Many described the resources as out dated and the space as boring. As sad as this was, what upset me the most was that many teachers felt the same way and in fact many new teachers whom had never been to the school library before, admitted to being told by others that it wasn’t worth their time. For this reason I have strived to learn how to make a school library as amazing as the many that I have encountered.
An article that I encountered in ETL401 by Oberg (2006, p.14), discussed the idea if the TL suffering from “occupational invisibility”. Oberg (2006, p.14) highlights that when information about the TL and the library is limited people in general will make judgments by stereotyping. After reading this I had a light bulb moment! No one in the school including the principal knew what my role was and therefore assumed that I and the school library could not be useful to them. As mentioned in my blog post for ETL401 the stereotypical idea that the TL is an introvert and will not collaborate or step into leadership roles is something I found frustrating. The justification provided in Kaplan’s article (2007, p.300) that it is the TLs role to in fact step up to become a known leader with in the school and to collaborate with all of the school community about student learning, alleviated my frustration and gave me the confidence to begin to change this.
One of the first things I did and continue to do, to be seen around the school is promote the library and myself. I do this by standing up in front of the school at assemblies to announce library activities. I aim to announce at least one message each week. I also do announcements during staff communication meetings, encouraging teachers to use the library facilities and explaining ways in which I can help them with resourcing for their classes. I attend welfare meetings in which I make an effort to collaborate with year advisors on programs to be implemented into pastoral care such as Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R). I contribute a library article in the school newsletter which is sent home to parents each term (see figure 2). I send letters home to parents informing them of initiatives the school takes part in, as well as initiatives in which they also can take part in. I also make sure that the principal is aware of what I am doing by asking him to sign letters home, present library awards and having friendly conversations about the library whenever I can.
I understand that many TLs will schedule regular meetings with their principal for an update, however I try only to schedule meetings when required. My reasoning for this came from my study visit for the subject ETL507, where as I was able to go to Santa Sabina College in which the TLs described that the way they promote what they do is through their actions. For example they attend and contribute to executive and school management meetings. They organise meetings with teachers to discuss team teaching possibilities and then work collaboratively with these teachers.
When I do have meeting with executive and senior staff members I make sure I provide data about the progress of the programs I implement. It is clear from the audio below that this data is valued and is vital to justify the maintenance and expansion of library resources.
ASLA/ALIA (2004, p. 2), highlights the need to have knowledge of how to cater for learners within the school in standard 1.2. Through ETL503 and ETL504 I have learnt the importance of aligning the library vision and policies with that of the school and as a result have found that the school I work at aims to improve reading. This can be seen in the 2012 school report which highlights one of the school targets as reducing the amount of year 7-9 students not meeting the national benchmark for reading (Noon et al., 2012, p. 17), as well as, the 2013 school report which shows a continued focus on the teacher use of the Focus on Reading (FoR) strategies (Noon et al., 2013, p. 9). I along with many other teachers feel that to improve reading it is necessary to change the student’s negative perception of reading. One strategy that I put forward to the senior executive is to use teachers to model reading. Through my study in ETL402 with specific reference to the article ‘A culture of reading’ (2010) I have become aware of the benefits of modelling reading. This article discusses the need to create a culture of reading with in the school.
An additional way in which I am successfully achieving my goal to change how the school perceives myself and the library is clear from last year’s Children’s Book Week (CBW) initiative in which I encouraged all teachers to dress up as their favourite character from a book. I also encouraged teachers to engage students in discussions about literature during roll call and pastoral care classes. The response from both students and teachers was positive which can be seen through the loan statistics that show a 28% increase in loans the following term. When these results are compared to previous years the success of the CBW initiative is even more evident. In 2013 there was only an 8% increase and in 2012 there was a 17% decrease in loans during the same time.
The CBW success could not be possible without the collaboration and support of staff. It is safe to say that collaboration is an important focus in most schools and that TLs need to be instigators in this collaboration. The ASLA/ALIA standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2004, p. 3) highlights the importance of collaboration under the standard 2.2. Research suggests that collaboration between classroom teachers and TLs can have a positive impact on student learning and outcomes (Haycock, 2007 p.25). In addition, a study conducted by Morris & Packard (2007, p.37) found that successful programs showed collaboration between teachers, media specialists (TLs) and the principal. Coming across all this information in my learning journey has allowed me to realise that my role is to not only be there for staff if requested as I indicated in my blog post for ETL401 . Instead I need to make them aware of what support I can provide as they are unaware of this. I then must work alongside them in creating and delivering lessons. For example, in a recent staff development meeting I mentioned how I would like to begin team teaching. The reaction from my deputy principal was on of surprise as she wasn’t aware that collaborating in this way was a part of my role.
Running alongside a lack of knowledge about what the role as a TL involves, is the idea that staff don’t see the value of collaborating with the TL (Haycock, 2007, p.30). From my study visit for ETL507, to Santa Sabina Collage as well as through reading the articles by Haycock (2007, p.28) and Oberg (2006, p.16-17), I have found that it is important to identify the supporters within the school as this make collaboration smoother. In addition this will pave the path and provide a positive example of how a TLs collaboration efforts can benefit staff and this in turn will help convert others into understanding the value of working with the TL. For example, in selecting a staff member for my collaborations in 2015 I made sure I selected a teacher whom I had a good rapport with as well as one that was open to new ways of engaging her students.
In my study of the subject ETL504, with specific reference to assignment one, I found that in collaborating with teachers, a shared leadership style will work well. In my reflection for assignment one, I highlight my discovery that the shared style leader aims to work as a team and requires an understanding that there will be a different leader according to each individual’s strengths. This is highlighted by Pearce and Conger (2003, as cited in Avolio, Walumbwa & Weber, 2009, p. 431) in their definition of shared leadership.
In practical terms I have already had conversations with some teachers to begin to create wiki pathfinders that relate to units of work. These will be similar to the wiki pathfinder I created in ETL501. I am expecting to create and implement these this year which I have mentioned on the school webpage . I aim to take on a shared leadership style during this process and have already begun this process which is evident from the audio below.
In addition, I am continuously in collaboration with staff about student progress in the reading program I have implemented. I collaborate with classroom teachers as well as support teams such as the welfare team and the student support services teams. The collaborative efforts have seen an improvement in student reading age and this is supported in the audio below.
The article ‘A culture of reading’ (2010) which I encountered in ETL402 was one that I felt I could really relate to. The idea of a whole school approach to literacy is something that I feel the school I work at aims to achieve through the implementation of the FoR strategies by all staff (Noon, 2013, p. 9) among other strategies. The article discusses the need for the all staff to “be on board with creating a culture of literacy” as this will translate into an enthusiasm of literacy across the school (2010, p.1). This aligns with ALSA/ALIA’s standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, standard 1.1 which states the need to develop and apply lifelong learning skills and strategies (2004, p.2). This enthusiasm is what I attempted to create within the school during CBW in 2014. I intend to continue creating whole school initiatives in which I will collaborate with staff. I am hopeful that by doing this, like the article describes, there will become a change in the culture of the school and as a result literacy results will improve and lifelong learning skills will be established across all year groups.
Collaboration between staff has now become much easier due to the advances in ICTs. The ASLA/ALIA standards of professional excellenc for teacher librarians, standards 1.1 and 2.1 (2004, p. 2-3), identifies the need for TLs to appreciate the dynamic nature of ICTs and their role in lifelong learning and education. In addition, the standard 2.2 identifies the need to teach relevant ICTs appropriately (ASLA/ALIA, 2004, p.3). Through my study in ETL504, I viewed Tappscott’s four principals for an open world . This video has allowed me to consider how I can take collaboration further by using ICTs as a professional tool to connect with not only staff with in the school, but also to connect with other TLs and schools around the world. Using ICTs as a professional tool will allow the TL to gather resources and ideas as well as develop collaborative networks that help them explore new ways of connecting, sharing and learning globally. Signing up to Diigo in ETL504 is one tool that I have learnt and have begun using to bookmark relevant sites which I then forward to staff via email (see figure 3). I hope to explore the Diigo tool further and connect teachers and students to this tool, so they are able to utilise it in the teaching and learning process.
Additionally, in the subject ETL501, I have learnt how the web 2.0 has changed ICTs in schools. Not only has it encouraged collaboration as mentioned above, but it has also contributed tools to improve information literacy, it provides students with mediated resources and allows students to participate creatively on the web. Two resources that I came across in ETL501 include those by Schrock (2011) and More Than English (2015). These have provided many resources that I am able to use as well as share with staff.
One way that I have tried to implement web 2.0 applications is by creating a library blog in which students are able to share, rate and discuss the books they are reading. Since establishing the blog I have found that unfortunately it has not taken off as well as what I hoped it would. However, I endeavour to work alongside the year 7 year advisor in 2015 to integrate the blog into the already established D.E.A.R program, which runs during roll call and pastoral care.
Future developments and concluding statements
I feel I still have a lot to do in relation to advocacy, collaboration and ICTs for the library and my position. I also endeavour to continue to develop in other aspects of a TLs role. I strive to continually contribute programs that will positively affect the improvement of information literacy in the school. I intend to improve upon the library policies that I have already created and continue to develop the library collection so it can effectively meet the needs of the school. I intend on participating as a member of as many school planning teams as I can. I am excited about the team teaching opportunities I will be undertaking this year and in years to come. I am also looking forward to networking with other TLs to continue to extend my knowledge of my role as a TL.
In reflecting on how much I have learnt and how much I have already begun to put into practice I am excited about my role as a TL in the future. This course has developed my understanding and knowledge of the TL, by providing me with theory and practice. This theory and practice has in turn given me the skills to lead, make changes to and impact on the needs of both students and teachers. I aim to continue to learn and develop my knowledge and skills as I strive towards becoming an expert in all aspects of my role as a TL.
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