Archive | September 2013

ETL504 Assignment 2: Critical Reflection

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. 1.     They need to know every staff member.
  2. 2.     They teach every student.
  3. 3.     They are in charge of an entire department and have experience in managing large amounts of resources.
  4. 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.

 

References:

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.

ETL 504. the Why of the TL

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.

References:

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 Librarian36(1), 15-20.

 

ETL504 Digital Literacy program implementation

Scenario

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.

Steps:

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. 

References:

 Alanis Business Academy (2012) Episode 19: How the Communication Process Works. Retrieved September 24, 2013 from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6u0AVn-NUM

ETL504 Leadership for Learning.

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.

References

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.