Proving your worth

Another light pings on this morning! So TLs are not just collection keepers and book stampers but there do seem to be some image difficulties and TLs do seem in some cases to be invisible. So how do we as TLs become visible and demonstrate our worth and impact upon learning?

Todd, R.J. (2007) Evidence-based practice and school libraries: from advocacy to action. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 55-78). Westport, CY: Libraries Unlimited.

For Todd the key seems to be in evidence-based practice. What is evidence based practice? An approach to integrating research into practice, which in turn leads to evidence based education; education based upon empirical research or evidence. This therefore has an impact on the role of the TL

” it is the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best research evidence in making decisions about the instructional role of the teacher librarian. It is about using research evidence, coupled with professional expertise and reasoning to implement learning interventions that are effective.” Todd (2007) pg 62

And how does this help the TL from being invisible? Well for a very long time libraries have been run on the belief that they were good things to have. That they made a difference to us culturally, socially and personally…they made a positive difference. This has meant that most people think they are good things to have in school but are unable to articulate why and this has led to a woolly view of the library and those that work within it. Todd believes that if we make claims about the worth of our school libraries then we should have evidence to back it up. We should have proof as to how libraries make a difference to student attainment. It means that the TL should know and understand and be able to articulate about the research concerning their profession. They should be able to utilize the research to construct initiatives and interventions that will have a positive impact on teachers and students.

By using the research then initiatives are not just one-off activities designed to pull in the crowds but well thought out experiences that are designed to improve learning.If the librarian can then articulate why they are doing what they do then I believe they would begin to be less invisible….

What I found particularly interesting about article was that it stated that librarians should go beyond the information skills outcomes and identify knowledge and skills as they relate to curriculum areas.  Does this mean that when I am planning collaboratively that I will initially focus on the knowledge and skills in the curriculum area the Year Team are working on and then fit the information skills within this? Would I try to build some information literacy skills around say the concept of collaboration which is what our Year 3s will be inquiring into next? Ie use the encyclopedias and dictionaries to find the definition of collaboration. Brainstorm key words to do with collaboration and then try to link these to real life situations ie sport, work. Locate non fiction that relates to these areas or web sites that give further information about how particular teams work together….. I’m not sure.

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Image

Reading some research for my assignment this morning I came across an interesting article concerning developing respect and support as a TL.  Oberg, Dianne. (2006) Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33 (3) 13-18.

It links very closely to the reaction I have had when telling peole that I’m going to be the TL. Yet again this weekend I had another “What? You wanted a change. Couldn’t you have thought of something better?” I find myself trying to justify my position as people look at me incredulously.

After reading the above article I think I know realise why they are reacting in the way they do.  Within the article Hartzell, G ( 2002) The principal’s perception of school libraries and teacher librarians.  School Libraries Worldwide, 8(1), 92-110 states that when information is limited people tend to rely on stereotypes to make judgements. Well within British state primary schools teacher librarians are a rare breed indeed and therefore information will be very limited.  People will rely upon the images of librarians within the media which to be honest are rarely modern or flattering. Few of my friends and colleagues will have had any opportunity to learn about the role of the TL and therefore make assumptions. As Oberg states that some principals believe that ” libraries are basically warehouses, that teacher-librarians are fussy introverts whose important role is selecting and circulating materials, and that teacher-librarians are not leaders or proactive educators but service providers who merely respond to teacer or student requests. ” pg 13 Well I also think that many of the teachers I know, particularly those that were trained in the UK think this too.  I think initially my thoughts may also have been on a similar level, however the more I read about the role and what the expectations of the job are the more my beliefs have change.

Oberg also states that teacher librarian’s suffer from this image problem because they are occupational invisible. Firstly because they tend to be isolated by working in another part of the school and in many cases work different hours because they wish to increase access to the library. For example; my intention is to open the library breaks and lunch times to enable children to change books when they want rather than in lesson time. This will mean that getting to the staffroom at break will be a challenge unless we can get the LC put on the duty rota.  She also believes they are invisible because    ” the nature of their work involves empowering others, and building relationships with other educators-including the principal …Teacher librarians also tend to be invisible because of their low profile in the educational literature. ” pg 14

Few have had the opportunity to learn about the role of the TL as either a leader or a teacher and in many cases, in the UK, have had little exposure to working with one as either an educator or a student. So what next? How can this be tackled? Well I believe it has to be part of the TL’s role to tackle this. The TL has to ensure that the principal is aware of the important role they play within school. They need to build their credibility by ensuring that they are well qualified and knowledgeable about both education and teacher librarianship.The TL has to work with classroom teachers to improve the quality of learning and teaching and have a positive impact upon both students and the school community. The library should not be invisible and the TL has to ensure that it is the hub of learning and that all students are drawn into the hub. They need to promote the activities and learning experiences that are happening within the library and let everyone know about them. No ease task I’m sure but all goals that should be aimed for if a TL wishes to run an exemplary program that improves learning for the students within school.

Guided Inquiry

After spending the last two years teaching children through a Guided Inquiry approach for the first time I feel like I am actually working through the Inquiry Cycle myself. As part of my TL course I will eventually have to analyse my growth and reflect on how my beliefs have changed.

The more I read the more I realise that I am moving through the cycle and experiencing feelings, thoughts and actions  that the children in my class were participating in whilst they were trying to construct meaning. To help explain this I have used Kuhlthau‘s Information Search Model which provides a framework upon which to scaffold my development so far. Within this model there are 7 process stages; initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection, presentation, and assessment.

STAGE ONE

Initiation. My initiation was on going for quite some time. I was very keen to become our school’s TL but knew that I did not initially have the knowledge or skills to take the role on. Being lucky, my Head Teacher and Senior Leadership Team offered me the chance to take on the role even though I was not qualified or have/had the slightest idea what the role really involved. I think I probably had quite a romantic view…. stacks of beautiful children’s books, keen readers, story times and a quiet working environment with autonomy. It was at this point that I initiated further study. If I was to be a great TL then I needed to be qualified and able to affect the teaching and  learning within our school. After all if the main job of a school is learning then the main job of the TL is to positively affect that learning in a variety of ways.  At this point I felt uncertain in my own capabilities and uncertain as to what might be required from me. The last time I had taken on a course of this magnitude I had failed the first assignment and then decided it was not for me…I was determined that this was not going to happen this time around. I opted for 2 modules not really realising what the work load whould be.
As the first assignments and modules became available, although I still wanted to continue with the course and really wanted to be a TL I began to lose sleep over the work and felt anxious. My thoughts remained vague and as I read through the forums I became more worried. Everyone seemed to be more knowledgeable and eloquent than me. My views appeared to be simplistic and that the other students were much more sophisticated in their thinking than I was.

SELECTION

The modules and assignments had been selected for me, however I did feel that I had selected too much. I had initially selected 2 modules to begin with.

I am already getting anxious about these as I feel it will be too much work because of the new job and time constraints. I have inquired into halting one module and picking it up next semester…watch this space! Kuhlthau claims that students feel optimism around this stage. I am not feeling optimistic but still feel over whelmed and anxious. Perhaps this is because I feel I have selected too much and don’t really have any selection over the assignments or modules. I have been seeking relevant information,just as the students in her studies did and hopefully whilst this exploring is taking place I will see and feel a change in myself over the coming weeks.

EXPLORATION.

Just starting. I’m confused and full of doubt but need to find a focus and start making sure that I am up to date with all the modules. Up dates to follow.

Topic 2. The development of the human personality?

Obviously there are many different opinions concerning the role of the TL.  I would assume that really the role of the TL is an amalgamation of a variety of roles  such as teacher, information expert, advocate of literature, staff developer and cataloguer. The more I read the more endless the different aspects appear to be. However I  did like the statement made by ASLA,

” Teacher librarians support and implement the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library and information services and programs that contribute to the development of lifelong learners. “

I particularly like this as I feel that it covers all aspects of the role and in particular the vital teaching aspect. I believe that most schools would their vision and mission as one of enabling  every child in their community to reach their potential and become a lifelong learner. It is here that the TL comes into their own. Not only can they make an impact on the child’s learning today but by helping children/students acquire information literacy skills they are facilitating lifelong learning. Having curriculum knowledge, pedagogy and information literacy skills enables the TL to take a vital, and active role, in developing lifelong learning and increasing attainment throughout the school.  This in itself points to an integrated role however a role I still believe that must have the children’s or students learning as first and foremost.

I obviously think the role the TL is important or I wouldn’t be taking it on or spending my money training however I do take issue with some statements I’ve read today. 

“The school library is essential to the development of the human personality as well as the spiritual, moral, social, cultural and economic progress of the community.”

Seriously? Essential to the development of the human personality? So what happens in regions of the world where there are no libraries, does the development of the personality not take place? What happened before libraries existed? Were we all without personality and then suddenly we became positive, gregarious people when the library opened in our community? I doubt it. Yes the library is very important to us culturally and socially and perhaps even economically but let us not protest too much as we do ourselves few favours. People read comments of the sort above and librarians lose credibility. Back up statements like the above with some evidence and emphasise the effect that we can have on learning and then we may be taken more seriously.

Teaching and learning

Got it! The most important role of a TL is to be an effective teacher. To do that I need to create a enriched and emotionally supportive environment where there is a balance of challenge…. too little and the children become bored and don’t learn, too much and they are put off learning. Tileston, D  (2000) 10 Best Teaching Practices, Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Press. It doesn’t matter where the environment is, be it traditional classroom or the library, the same holds true. Why I hadn’t realised this earlier I don’t know.

As an effective teacher I want my students to be effective learners and therefore I need to teach them skills to enable them to access information. If they don’t have those skills they will never become effective  independent learners. Now I’m beginning to see why the IBO are so keen on the idea of the Teacher Librarian and see the role they play as pivotal. Children can’t find out for themselves unless they have some skills and my job is to ensure that they have them.

The role of the TL again…

Some of my new TL related books arrived today. Of course my immediate thought was would they answer, or help answer, any of my assignments. One that looked particularly accessible to someone who hasn’t written anything academic for over 10 year was James Herring‘s The Internet and information skills; a guide for teachers and school librarians. (2004, Facet publishing, London.)

He talks about 3 main roles that the TL is very much engaged with.

1. As an educator. Not only does the TL need to meet the information needs of the student but also of the teachers within a school. It is not only the information needs that need to be fulfilled but it is also the information literacy skills that the TL should be developing and teaching to both students and teachers. Enabling them, one would hope, to eventually become independent learners and information seekers.

2. As an information manager. Being an information does not mean the management of resources, which I had initially understood it to be but a manager of information through web development.  Excellent development of web resources, which I presume at he means pathways and evaluation criteria, will lead to enhanced learning through the use of high quality relevant resources.

3. As an expert advisor. The TL should be training others, such as teachers, to utilise on-line resources more effectively. Herring states that TL’s should be involved in designing instructional websites which in-corporate not only information but information skills guidance.

The key factor underlying all of this is co-operation/collaboration. Without teacher’s trying to understand what the TL is trying to achieve and having a belief in the importance of information literacy skills it is doubtful that learning could be enhanced. However with an understanding and some ownership of the development of say web based resources then more can be achieved and a more positive impact will be felt upon the students.

Interesting stuff. However now I’m concerned that it is going to be difficult to develop these web based learning centres as I don’t yet have the skills and will I be able to develop them as I’ve taken on this new role and a new course. Another worry is that our LC is in such a state of disarray that initially just getting the non electronic materials in some form of order has to take priority. If these are not weeded and sorted then we find ourselves with under utilised resources because the children and teachers can not access them or with a lot of outdated material that is no use to anyone. One step at a time…..

Talking of which walked along the River Wye today from Cressbrook past Water-cum-Jolly to Litton Mill. What a beautiful day with the most gorgeous blue sky. Swans, moor hens and trout, all swimming; rabbits and squirrels on the paths. You just can’t beat England on a day like today.