“Teacher Librarians should lead instructional teams to develop, implement and assess authentic inquiry experiences that engage students meaningfully with the wealth of information resources both within and beyond the school (print and digital); help develop deep knowledge and understanding of curriculum topics; and foster independence in students’ abilities to successfully and thoughtfully engage in their information worlds.” (Todd , R. J., 2010, p7)
As a relatively new TL with only four months solid experience in the Library I have been on a very steep learning curve, both at school and throughout the “Teacher Librarian as Leader” course. Looking back I can track my increasing self-awareness, growing confidence and developing leadership capabilities with my growth in knowledge and understanding of the teaching role of the Teacher Librarian but most importantly, the vital Leadership role that this also requires.
Before this course I perceived TLs much the same as many other classroom teachers. I dropped my students off for my relief from face to face to then conduct individual assessments with Kindergarten, or withdraw students to take Running Records. My frame of reference was established by this process and the Library Program sometimes matched units of classwork or focused on specific authors or literature. The students seemed to enjoy their Library time and everything was ‘Good’. But as I delved deeper into truly understanding what ‘21st century skills” are, what the Global Societal Context is and why they should be a vital curriculum focus, I had new purpose. This is my opportunity to lead the school!
In my previous post, Leadership in a School Library, I referred to elements of Leadership as being ‘Good’, ‘Bad’ or ‘Ugly’. In hindsight, I think that I was perhaps a little harsh. Leadership is not easy and we do often get it wrong by focusing on, as Simon Sinek says, the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ rather than the ‘Why’. He argues that focusing on the why develops that core belief, that if you can get others to believe, will harness the collective power of your organisation (or school) on doing everything in their power to support that belief.
My ‘why?’ is a globalised interconnected world with Australia at the forefront. How we achieve that is by creating future-ready students, What we do is immerse our students in collaborative, inquiry learning practices that arm our students with the social skills to engage with other cultures across the world, to develop collaborative attitudes and metacognitive skills to facilitate knowledge sharing and understanding for a purpose. They develop transferable technology skills so that they can transform knowledge and understandings into new products and information. Our students must be able to critically analyse our information-rich, always-on environment to be able to lead our country in the future.
The big picture ‘how’ is the easy part. Getting others to follow is far more difficult. Even with Principal support (the ‘Bad”), engaging the ‘cynical majority’ is not an easy task. Being one of ‘those who lead’, or harnessing the support of a teacher-leader (Belisle, 2005) as opposed to a Leader (Senik, 2009) is probably a good start and using tried and tested change management processes should smooth the way.
Harnessing School Community support from like-minded teachers (the already-believers) and parents is vital. This all starts with a clear Vision. It involves each of the stakeholder groups in taking ownership of the strategic plan for the school and the Library’s Strategic Plan, reflecting on Results, Research and Evaluation to understand our starting point before we can map out our path for improved student outcomes. It requires planning and resourcing and regular review, and it requires the TL (me!) to communicate consistently, to celebrate wins, to provide feedback and so on, to keep the momentum going.
When I look back at my earlier posts I can see the leaps in my understanding of leadership. Then I was focused on the day to day nitty gritty of curriculum mapping, collection management and in-servicing. Now I can see that these are essential elements as part of the change but they are not part of the process, of the ‘belief’ that will spread my passion to create future-ready students.
TLs have the opportunity to work with every student in the whole school and with every class teacher and support teacher. This is a position of privilege that no other teacher in the school has. We must harness this opportunity to create stronger connections between TLs and teachers, generate positive perceptions of the teaching and leading roles of the TL and demonstrate the benefits of collaborative work practices to create a true community of learning.
- Belisle, C. (2005). The Teacher as Leader: Transformational Leadership and the Professional Teacher or Teacher-Librarian. School Libraries In Canada (17108535), 24(3), 73-79.
- Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire action. TEDxPugetSound. Retrived on September 25, 2013 from Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA
- Todd, R. J. (2010). Curriculum Integration. Camberwell, Vic. : ACER Press.