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.

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