When I first became a TL I would have found it difficult to imagine becoming a leader in my position. I was a classic proponent of the Dan Lortie’s ‘individualism’ (1975); I would program, teach and resource, but I rarely pushed my ideas for improvements or changes. In the instances where I had made a change it was either at someone else’s behest, or I had let my frustration build up over an illogically long amount of time prior to requesting a change. I viewed leaders as people to be avoided, circumvented or creatively misunderstood until I needed something approved. I can now see that I was prescribing to the thoroughly out-moded ‘top-down’ view of education (Urbanski and Nickolaou, 1997).
The biggest change for me occurred when first encountered the idea of moral purpose (Hargreaves, 2009. Oberg, 2011). I realised that the moral purpose of education gave everyone common ground to work from, the teachers, support staff, principal, students, and myself. My biggest realisations were that the school does NOT have to be a hierarchy, and that EVERYONE is responsible for leading the school.
As I looked back over the time I have spent in schools in various capacities I considered how many programs, policies, initiatives and school projects I had seen that had been proposed. So many of them had come from staff other than the principal that I was surprised, but upon reflection the only thing that was surprising was my reaction. Teachers have a duty to their students that ensures that they will actively look for ways to facilitate their learning. Luckily for me I have worked predominantly in small schools with open and trusting staff; an excellent environment for sharing such ideas and discoveries (Zmuda and Harada, 2008) Watching the effective collaborative exchange and development of these ideas would demonstrate that I had been in an effectively-led situation (Sampson, 2008). Yet, if anyone had asked me at the time to point out the leader, I would probably have pointed to the principal, who was just as likely to have mute in these situations as not.
What I have had to seriously consider is my idea of myself as a leader. How will I lead? Who will listen? And more importantly, what happens if they don’t listen at all? This is what led me to advocate for pragmatism in my initial investigation of leadership in education. I believed that a good leader needed to be able to adapt to their situation in order to satisfy the needs of their learning community. I see now that this view gives the individual too much responsibility and would revise this to an environment of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership like that described in the study by Smith and Bell (2011) reflects far more accurately what I was previously unable to articulate. As I understand it now, transformational leaders are those that concentrate on a bigger picture and follow a path towards an evolving moral purpose. Their qualifications for leadership do not need to come from a title; they can exist in any role. They inspire and motivate others on an individual level, recognising and appreciating differences in character and style. A good TL is perfectly set up for this kind of leadership for a number of reasons:
- 1. They need to know every staff member.
- 2. They teach every student.
- 3. They are in charge of an entire department and have experience in managing large amounts of resources.
- 4. They collaborate regularly in a professional capacity.
Yet, all of this is still circumstantial without the “why you do it” that Sinek refers to (2009). My library exists for the same reason that the school exists, my library exists for all the same reasons that have always driven the institution of education; to help develop an educated and capable society. I cannot imagine teaching without a strong moral drive. The TL has the potential to bring information from the world into the school, to acquire and promote resources from a myriad of countries, ideologies and contexts. They have the potential to do this in ways that make the information accessible to every kind of learner in their community.
I do not want to sit back and deny accountability; I will work to become a visible agent in my school. I do not want to manage my library and close the doors to the rest of the school; I will be open and available. I will not teach to the test. I will be transformational.
Hargreaves, A. (2009) Presentism, individualism, and conservatism: the legacy of Dan Lortie’s, Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study. Curriculum Inquiry, 40(1), pp 143–154
Lortie, D. (1975) Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Oberg, D (2011). Teacher librarians as cultural change agents. SCIS Connections, 79, Retrieved September 28, 2013 from: http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_79_2011/feature_article/teacher_librarians_as_cultural_change_agents.html
Sampson, M. (n.d.). The Practice of Collaboration – Resource Center – Michael Sampson on Making Collaboration Work. Making Collaboration Work?Culture, Governance, Adoption – Michael Sampson on Making Collaboration Work. Retrieved September 28, 2013, from http://www.michaelsampson.net/practiceofcollaboration.html
Sinek, S. (2009) How great leaders inspire action. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html?embed=true
Smith, P. & Bell, L. (2011) Transactional and transformational leadership in schools in challenging circumstances: a policy paradox. Management in Education, 25(2), pp. 58-61.
Urbanski, A. & Nickolaou, M. B. (1997) Reflections on Teachers as Leaders. Educational Policy 11(2), pp. 243-254.
Zmuda, A. & Harada, V. H. (2008). Librarians as learning specialists: moving from the margins to the mainstream of school leadership. Teacher Librarian, 36(1), pp. 15-20.
In the forum discuss how you can approach developing your leadership role in your school using Simon Sinek’s “why” and your purpose in education. What is it that makes me (as a TL) unique in the school, what can I do?
In Sinek’s “golden circle” theory, the quantitative aspects of an organisation, those he labels the “What” and “How”, are secondary in importance to the purpose of the organisation; the, “Why”. (Sinek 2009) As Sinek puts it, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”
Establishing this “Why” is crucial to the success of the TL as a leader. It has to be said that the over-arching purpose of a TL is the same as the purpose of the school, or the education system at large (Zmuda and Harada, 2008); generally this is to provide a quality, equitable, and relevant education to a community of students. But while this is clearly a major part raison d’etre for the TL, as it is for any educator worth their salt, it is not the whole picture.
In many schools the TL is in a unique position to help the school. They are both teacher and information specialist, they (ideally) are comfortable ICT gurus and innovators, yet they possess ancient wisdoms and arcane knowledge, passed down from the sepia-toned days when the librarian really was a grey haired dinosaur. The TL is a unique asset to any educational institution, yet in many instances they are overlooked and even cut out of school planning (Belisle, 2005).
It may be that the dual role gives people the wrong idea, that TLs have so much to do that they must always be busy. Maybe the TL is viewed as only semi-present, a half teacher, and someone who can thus be discounted. Maybe it’s that the TL is still viewed as someone too busy putting Dewey labels on books to be of any help. Maybe it’s the TLs fault that they are viewed this way.
The TL needs to establish a strong educational and moral purpose for their role. They need to be able to stand their ground and proclaim that they exist to make a positive difference in the lives and learning of students. In essence, TLs need to change the way they are perceived by becoming active and highly visible members of their school community.
Belisle, C. (2005) The Teacher as Leader: Transformational Leadership and the Professional Teacher or Teacher-Librarian. School Libraries In Canada (17108535), 24(3), 1
Combes, B. (2009) Challenges for teacher librarianship in the 21st century: Part 3 – Status and role. SCIS Connections, 68. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from: http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/challenges_for_teacher_librarianship.html
Sinek, S. (2009) How great leaders inspire action. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html?embed=true
Zmuda, A., & Harada, V. H. (2008). Librarians as learning specialists: moving from the margins to the mainstream of school leadership. Teacher Librarian, 36(1), 15-20.
You have developed a new digital literacy program that you believe needs to be used across the school. How will you communicate this program to your staff?
As the ‘Sender’ of this information, my goal would be to have this program implemented in such a way that it provides maximum benefit to the staff and students. I would keep this goal in mind as I worked towards the programs implementation.
Have the program vetted by the Principal: The principal is often busy, so the initial encoding of the program would need to be closer to a summary of the purpose, pros, cons, and major steps required in the implementation.
Arrange a time for feedback to assess the principal’s reaction: If their feedback is positive give further details of the implementation process. If negative, calmly clarify and discuss issues and barriers to implementation, work collaboratively to find a next step forward.
Assuming the program gains approval from the principal:
Request time with the heads of stages: Outline the program in a similarly concise fashion. Include information about the roles of stage heads and any necessary differentiation of the program between stages. Provide written/digital copies of the program and invite stage heads to provide feedback after considering the documents. Arrange a time to discuss feedback and make any necessary changes to the program.
Arrange an appropriate time to present the program to the staff: If stage teachers have weekly planning meetings, these would be ideal times to outline the program as it would pertain to that stage. Failing this, arrange a time during a staff meeting to outline the program and address any concerns or questions. Help staff to understand the reasons for implementation and be open to insights and alternatives during this period.
Present the program in a concise manner and answer any questions/address any issues related to the implementation: Staff may be concerned about any major changes, listen carefully to their concerns and address each one individually. Provide staff with more detailed information about the program, including their individual roles, in print/digital form to support the verbal presentation.
Provide opportunities for ongoing feedback and support: Arrange time at staff meetings in the weeks following the implementation of the program where staff can provide feedback and raise any issues. Take concerns seriously and endeavour to solve any problems in order to keep the program running.
Alanis Business Academy (2012) Episode 19: How the Communication Process Works. Retrieved September 24, 2013 from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6u0AVn-NUM
The idea of leadership for learning seems reasonable; that leaders must learn in order to lead, and must lead in order to learn new things. The two actions are inextricable; learning helps to direct the leader’s actions, and leading provide opportunities to exercise prior learning. The two repeat in an endless cycle, chicken-and-egg style, with no clear starting point.
A very interesting point to consider is that the learning and the leadership need not all be contained within a singular leader. At first glance, a school seems to function in this way; there is an individual in charge with the title and the paycheque to prove it. But the actions of the principal are so significantly shaped by the context that they work in, and the individuals they work with, that it would be folly to assume that the principal is all powerful.
Educational leadership is so thoroughly dispersed within a school that it is difficult to quantify its effects as the result of an individual leader. One could then argue that it is an individual’s ability to facilitate this dispersal of leadership that makes them a good leader. But the bestowing of leadership from higher powers detracts from its significance. If leadership has been given, it could easily be taken. It is no longer viewed as an individual responsibility. Swaffield and MacBeath refer to the idea of agency, of individuals taking leadership initiative and personal accountability in a context that is supportive and open (2008). In education, this model sees the staff and students taking the initiative and developing new practices. In this way the staff and students function as both leaders and learners and provide invaluable experience and immediately relevant information about the way the school functions. Learning how to create and support this context, facilitating its creation, and engaging in reflective learning (O’Donoghue & Clarke, 2010). throughout the process needs to be the primary goal of a school leader.
O’Donoghue, T. A., & Clarke, S. (2010). Teachers learning and teachers leading. Leading learning: process, themes and issues in international contexts (pp. 87-99). London: Routledge.
MacBeath, J. and Swaffield MacBeath, J. E., & Dempster, N. (2008). Leadership for learning. Connecting leadership and learning: principles for practice (pp. 32-52). London: Routledge.
Leadership is a much discussed issue, with the people who become leaders often accomplishing tasks once though impossible. Effective leaders, both for good and evil, have accomplished the impossible, overthrown the un-conquerable and revolutionised the stagnant. In the field of education in general, and libraries in particular, the leaders may not begin anything as dramatic and world changing as the Russian Revolution or the Arab Spring, but in their immediate contexts, they have the power to inspire their staff and students to greatness as-yet unimagined.
While researching the topic of leadership and its incorporated principles, I encountered a disturbing theme. There were a number of articles, papers and self-styled ‘experts’ that discussed leadership in top-down terms. That is; they spoke and wrote about leadership in terms and tones that implied that these texts were exclusively for those that held formal leadership positions. Not only that, these texts wrote in highly prescriptive manner and often had step-by-step instruction on topics like “Creating a sense of urgency”. I found this disturbing because the implications are a) that people in leadership positions may not have learned how to lead prior to their elevation to said position, and b) the texts are not designed to be seen by those some articles charmingly called “followers”.
To assume that anyone can lead, provided they have the right ‘guidelines’ is ridiculous. More than that, it is disrespectful to those they work with and smacks of invasive and unrealistic bureaucracy. People that have been elevated to positions of leadership by a dominant organisation are not leaders by virtue of title, they are managers. Managers uphold the status-quo of an organisation, and are conscious that they owe their position’s authority to someone else. This kind of position incites subservience in those installed to lead, and is ultimately self-defeating. That is not to say that a manager cannot be real leader, or that managers are not important, I feel it merely important to make the distinction. If someone is a true leader, they will lead regardless of title, position or incentive. They will not suffer systems that they disagree with and will not abide by rules they didn’t design. Leadership, especially in education, takes courage to stand up alone if necessary, and fight for honourable goals.
Several of the texts I encountered were refreshingly inspiring though, notably Lauren Hoffman’s article on activism and the work of Andy Hargreaves. These texts openly criticised the narrow-mindedness of currently extant educational systems, and warn of the dangers that practices like standardisation and inter-school competition pose to the fundamental purpose of education. I considered these opinions in light of the current situation the Australian education system finds itself in. The incoming National Curriculum represents many years of hard work by dedicated people and includes changes to many outdated facets of education. Without leaders that recognised the need for deep and lasting change, this new curriculum would not exist. The new danger lies in the institution of education letting this momentum run down and becoming complacent. This is time for leaders to step forward and bring about the best for those they are responsible to.
In essence, I now feel exactly what Kulthau (2004) spoke about in her identification of the Affective stages that accompanied a journey from questioning to understanding. At the outset, my initiation, I thought that information was all encompassing. I believed that there was simply no way that anyone could purport to be a specialist in this field. I was vague, I was aimless, but I was becoming excited by the possibility that I could become better.
I moved with optimism into the new school term. Reading about the changing nature of the library in texts like Thomas Frey’s “The Future of Libraries” helped me to realise that the profession I was working in was one that held such importance for communities. I saw that the role of the TL was not just to stand and shush people, but to provide access to the collective knowledge and imaginings of the world. While this may sound like hyperbole, many groups that have defined the role of the TL and their library have shown the scope of this profession to be very wide indeed. Valenza (2010) expresses her views that the TLs role has expanded far beyond providing access to the myriad of resources; the role now encompasses the creation of new materials. From software to hardware, from web 2.0 to 3.0, the TL was now a hub in the great spinning mass of information. By providing resources and skills that enable students to self-publish, the TL could become the catalyst for creativity in every medium imaginable.
I believe it was the exploration of that idea of “every medium imaginable”, and the realisation that it was a far bigger idea than I could currently handle, that led me to the next step. I felt that this position would bury me under an insurmountable heap of new technologies and information. I had arrived at the Affective stage Kulthau identifies as being characterised by confusion, frustration and doubt. Re-reading Kaplan (2007) for the fourth or fifth time, I began to question my suitability for this role. I had only just accepted this role and was still trying to ‘get my head around’ the mass of information and technology skills our students need “to be successful in today’s information economy”. I had become somewhat lost in definitions of what ‘information’ we were supposed to be working with.
As I began to examine the teaching role of the TL (with a million tabs open on my browser) I had difficulty coming to terms with the practicalities of the position. How I was to create a supportive learning environment, beyond the theories, eluded me. I believe that I would benefit from visiting other libraries to see how other members of my profession have approached this. As to the specifics of what the TL actually teaches, I was yet to really come to terms with the scope of information literacy as a practical topic. I believe I limited myself to ‘what’ was to be taught as opposed to ‘how’. I can see, now, that saying, “a TL should cater to the needs of the community” is very shallow. I feel compelled to mention that in my current library community has large amount of ESL students (around 40%) and I have since included a provision in my collection policy that will provide them with access to a large range of visual and multi-modal texts to support their development of visual literacy and individual communication strategies (NSW BOS, 2013).
Moving beyond exploration proved a difficult task. It was the idea of transliteracy, broad it may be, that gave me my ‘thread’ (Kulthau, 2004). The idea of a literacy that combines literacies (Ipri, 2010) made sense to me. I feel like the specific focus on individual literacies (print literacy, numerical literacy, visual literacy, etc.) divides the idea of information literacy into facets that then vie for attention. Many students already show skills in transliteracy. Watching a student skimming several websites for information on Adelie Penguins, I was very happy to see that they eventually chose the National Geographic site to read properly. I asked the student why they had chosen that particular site and they replied, “Everything was right there.”
By presenting students with exemplary resources, like the aforementioned site, I can help them to see the fine details in a well finished information product. Being able to assess information suitability with ease is a skill I’d be happy to leave my students with.
Frey, T. (nd.) The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation. Retreived 25th May, 2013, from http://www.davinciinstitute.com/papers/the-future-of-libraries/
Ipri, T. (2010). Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News, 71(10), 532-567.
Kaplan, A. G. (2007). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303. Retrieved 25th May from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b8ab3846-706b-4025-b829-7d1ae8024521%40sessionmgr198&vid=2&hid=122
Kulthau, C. (2004) Information Search Process. Retrieved 05/05/13 from: http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
New South Wales Board of Studies, (2013) Content and Text Requirements. Retrieved May 24th from http://syllabus.bos.nsw.edu.au/english/english-k10/content-and-text-requirements/
Valenza, J. (2010) Revised Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians. Retrieved 25th May, 2013, from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/
Over the past 18 months, I feel like there has been a paradigm shift in the way I think about the position of the Teacher Librarian (TL). At the outset, I saw the position as that of an inveterate book-lover that had somehow ‘lucked-in’ to the greatest job imaginable. Some blessed individual with little to do but share a love of reading with the students, put on funny voices during story-time and tape up the occasional ripped page. Through this assignment I have seen the real significance of the role that the TL can play.
For me it is the responsibility for providing users with resources that challenge them that brings home the importance of taking this role seriously. I had never read the School Library Bill of Rights (ASLA, 2012) before this task. That such a short list can entrust to one person, responsibilities as weighty as providing “a background of information which will enable pupils to make intelligent judgements in their daily life”. Being placed in a role where this is only ONE of your tasks is definitely intimidating. A scaffold like the collection management policy has helped me to see that providing this service is but one of the necessary and exciting facets of the position.
As a child of the 1980’s I have wondered at wave after wave of new information technology, so much has arrived that I can see some of my learning community struggling to stay afloat. Looking at articles like Johnson’s (2010) “Libraries for a Post-literate society” has helped me to see that, although the means has changed, the goal is still the same. Literacy, in whatever guise it appears, has always been and will always be our primary concern as TLs.
Being able to set long-term goals for my library has established a sense of ownership. With this assignment, I was able to write a policy that promotes the kind of collaborative environment proposed by Hughes-Hassell and Mancall, (2005, p. 9). Being able to put this into effect will help me to establish that ownership in the whole community. By including collaborating with staff, students and the wider community I can also help to fulfil the libraries purpose of representing perspectives of a huge variety of religious, ethnic and cultural groups and their contributions to our heritage (ASLA, 2012, para. 6).
The “Freedom To Read” statement (ALA, 2004), written in the traditional, blood-stirring style of the USA, is one of the most empowering pieces of doctrine I have read. Before this assignment, I had never read the phrase “No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say.” That I am able to write a policy that carries on this ideal makes me genuinely proud. I am proud to one of those that push people to listen.
American Library Association. (1953). The freedom to read statement. Retrieved 22nd May, 2013,from http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/freedomreadstatement
Australian Library and Information Association. (2007). Statement on free access to information. Retrieved 22nd May, 2013, from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/school-library-resource-provision.aspx
Australian School Library Association. (2012). School library bill of rights. Retrieved 21st May, 2013, from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/bill-of-rights.aspx
Hughes-Hassell, S., & Mancall, J. C. (2005). Collection Management for Youth: Responding to the Needs of Learners. Chicago: American Library Association .
Johnson, D. (2010). Libraries for a post-literate society. SCIS Connections, 72, 1-2. Retrieved 24th May, 2013 from http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/libraries_for_a_post-literate_society.html