Informing, provoking, alarming, or “infowhelm”ing?

Welcome to my blog to those who have not visited before!  It’s my first post of 2020 and my first post for both INF530 and ETL401.  I’ve been busy writing articles and preparing for conference presentations, alongside my full load at school, and have sorely neglected my reflection space.  Time to get back into it – how can I ask my students to reflect as practitioners on an ongoing basis if I don’t do it myself?

Today’s post covers many aspects of your learning:

  • Something topical in the news (news content always influences your work and practice in some way)
  • Your module content in Weeks 1 and 2 of this session
  • Example of a blog post and how to use the affordances of a blogging environment in the lead up to submission of your first blog post.  You might notice that the images that I include at the top of each of my posts reflects the title of the post or the content.

At my weekly brekkie catch up with friends, we were discussing the dearth of information moving around via social media and other formats about COVID-19.  It inevitably led to comments on panic buying of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other products people believed they needed to stockpile.

We also had a good laugh about the Coronavirus-related memes doing the rounds on social media, including the infographics showing how to wash your hands along to songs such as The Cat Empire’s ‘The Wine Song’, Toto’s ‘Africa‘, and even Lady Macbeth’s famous ‘Out, out damn spot’ monologue from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  I find Australians tend to use humour to reduce or dispel anxiety in times of crisis.

Handwashing: Africa Toto infographic

It led me to wonder (specifically given the content of INF530) why some were reacting the way they were to announcements of a pandemic; why some shared valid information based on research, and others resorted to belief in stories of “toilet paper shortages because of manufacturing shutdowns in China”.  What sort of information was being promulgated out in the information landscape?  Why were some online platforms and news agencies being factual and others being deliberately provocative?

What has interested me in particular is the sudden focus on pedagogies related to online and flexible learning in schools, as school closures begin to happen within Australia. I have been heartened by the sharing and generosity of my PLNs – teacher librarians and classroom educators alike – in providing resources, educational supports, and infographics to deliver online learning, and even a wonderful, calming checklist to work through as your school prepares for possible school closure (follow @kathleen_morris on Twitter – I love her work and her blog).  NESCA (Neuropsychology and Educational Service for Children and Adolescents) in the US has gone as far as to provide a suggested routine for children during a time of prolonged school closure and the benefits this routine may give (see below).

COVID-19 Daily Schedule (suggested for children)
COVID-19 Schedule, as suggested by NESCA.  Shared on FB by The Rite Journey with Andrew Lines

 

And now, some content specific considerations for INF530 and ETL401…

INF530

Module 1.3 –  Information technology has led to a participatory nature of knowledge acquisition and how we engage with it to learn.   In our era of “fake news”, “alternate facts”, and scare mongering, consider the “ubiquity of information” and use of social media being prevalent.  How does this relate to Thomas and Seely Brown’s concept of a ‘new culture of learning’? How specifically does this look around dissemination of information and reaction to information around COVID-19?

Module 1.4 – Global connectedness: has this helped or hindered what is happening right now?  Has it improved our interaction with information for better or worse? Are we informed or are we alarmed?  Social media and online searches continue to feed the beast within – with algorithms learning how we search.  Your Google search on COVID-19 using a specific set of search terms could be quite different to your friend’s exact same Google search – one can have factual info and one can feed the panicked mind!

Module 1.5: How many of you are digitally literate and can navigate through the myriad of tools out there safely? Are you consulting reliable, fact based news sources like the ABC and The Guardian; agencies such as your health organisation; or are you relying on updates from Reddit?

Considering all of this, how is this information landscape in your own working environments having an impact?

ETL401

Module 2.1:  How are people sharing information?  In the usual way, humour is being used to share information related to COVID-19, hygiene, and ways to understand how the virus is spreading.

Module 2.2: Floridi’s ‘information landscape’: how has this contributed to our knowledge of the COVID-19 virus in comparison to what people knew and how they knew it during the Spanish Flu pandemic?  Is getting information faster and easier via the multiple delivery modes available more efficient or just adding to the “infowhelm” and panic mongering?

Module 2.3: The information environment: Will this be an advantage as some move to self-isolation?  Can we harness the information environment to work for us as we try to minimise contact with others and work from home? How is this affordance helping us to continue to study and teach?  What sort of culture is developing from the information environment we are living in?  How as a TL can YOU be part of this?

Module 2.5:  As new teacher librarians, you need to consider why it is important that you have an understanding of the broader information landscape.  How do you feel it will affect your role as the TL?  And how do you as a teacher instil calm amongst your school community (especially students) in a time of possible infowhelm and anxiety?

Consider what I have posed here.  Share your ideas with me in the Comments section below to participate in the conversation!

References

Floridi, L. (2007). A look into the future impact of ICT on our lives. The Information Society, 23, 59-64. DOI: 10.1080/01972240601059094

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Aaaaand that’s a wrap!

Cheers!  You’re at the end of ETL504!  Congratulations!

ETL504 was always going to challenge you.  We’re pretty upfront about it from the beginning. So each and every one of you still here at the end took that challenge, wrestled with it, stuck it out and here you are – confident in the fact that you have the tools to lead from the middle.

Many of you mentioned that the scenarios don’t reflect your “real life” ie the lone TL with little to no support.  There is a reason for this. Our job in this degree is to present best practice and by the end of the degree, present you with a toolbox stocked with the very best tools for any situation.  It does, however, have some spaces for you to add what you find along the way as well.

Do you always use every tool in your toolbox that’s out in the garage for every job?  No.  But if you know you have a well rounded range of tools, you should be prepared for any situation you find yourself in.

Something to remember is that some of these come from the experience you have and can’t be provided just from study. Many of these will come from dipping your toe in and having a go.  The TL that I am today is NOT the TL I was when I first finished uni 27 years ago and this is because I’ve modified my practice to suit the school, or from learning through experience.

Getting in and learning everything about a school library from working as the lone, newbie TL with a library assistant in a school of 700 students then went on to inform my work as a TL in a college, teaching in the classroom part time and working with a TL colleague and two library assistants.  This experience then informed my work in an overseas middle school, where my base TL knowledge allowed me to navigate a new curriculum in another country, and change the practice of many teachers to move beyond the “book box” and working with me to create online resources, pathfinders, and to team teach.

I eventually found myself back in a lone TL with library assistant situation in a P-10 school with 900 students – but had so many experiences upon which to draw, that I was able to use these to do a far better job in connecting with staff to assist and work closely with my library assistant to get the job done.

Somewhere in there I went back to uni (twice!) to update my TL knowledge with some extra subjects because I felt my toolbox was getting a little stale (if that’s not an example to colleagues and students that learning is lifelong, nothing is!).

Along the way attending conferences, connecting with my PLN, joining my professional associations, choosing mentors to guide me, and stepping up to leadership roles – all of these added to and enhanced the tiny toolbox I started with all those years ago.  And I keep learning each and every day from these connections and my wonderful colleagues.  I also learn from you when you present your new and unique lens on our profession and point me to some inspiring readings while marking your work.

You CAN do this and you WILL do this.  Just take your time to select the appropriate tools to add to your toolbox and never be afraid to ask for help: from other TLs, your classroom colleagues, your leadership team, and your administrative staff.

Jennie and I so proud of the blood, sweat and tears poured into this subject by each and every one of you.  There was almost 100% participation in the case study tutorial tasks since their inception in the subject.  Many of you delved deeper into the concept of TL as leader and found that yes, you can and will lead into the future.

For those of you who are finishing and graduating at the end of this subject, congratulations on completing the juggle of work, study and family!  Some of you have jokingly discussed what you will find to fill the time that study took.  Don’t find anything else.  Use the extra time to put back into your family, yourself, and to be the best TL you can be.

It’s been a pleasure to be your lecturer this session.  I wish you all the best in your ongoing study, and for those of you graduating, life beyond CSU.

When it all gets too much: the TL and self care

Think about your first teaching position.  What was it like to walk into the classroom and see all those faces in front of you?  Did you feel confident? Did you seek advice?

For those of you in TL positions: what was the first day like?  Did you feel overwhelmed? Did you feel like you “knew it all”? Did you come in after someone who had not perhaps been as proactive as they could have been – and the pressure was on you?

Now think about where you are in your leadership pathway at this end of ETL504.  Have you taken a small step toward leading from the middle?  Do you feel confident? Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Are you asking for help…and realising that you can’t do it all?

Being a leader, whether it’s something that sees you out front or working behind the scenes, is hard work.  Decisions have to be made, people have to be spoken with, and you are usually expected to find the time to “do it all” (look at our poor Director of Information Services from our case study scenarios!).

As a TL practitioner working as a lecturer, I want the examples that I share with you to be meaningful and true to life.  From your blog posts and forum responses, many of you feel jaded and frustrated by the sheer fact that this is NOT your reality.  Who is writing about your day, where you are the only TL in a large school?  Who is going to give you that wonderful, supportive principal, when your reality is a transactional principal who can’t see the value of the library and the TL?  How will you find the time to be the TL that you read about in the articles, blog posts, and hear about at school library network meetings?

In the specialised part of the teaching profession that we occupy, we so often put pressure on ourselves to get #allthethingsdone because we THINK it’s expected of us.  It happens because we never know when that great principal we have will move on and your support will disappear with them.  Or, like me, you keep having ideas to improve the services you provide or to enhance your own professional practice and want to implement them all at once.  And the reality is that a lot of the time – this comes at a cost.

The images accompanying this blog post reflect the experience that I had during this year.  From “trying to do it all”, to my health suffering, on to figuring out what is important and what is not, and finally making sure I take time to nourish myself (while pink is a colour I dislike, I do really enjoy reading the magazine pictured in the photo, so that’s why it made the cut).

I’m at a point in my career where many of my cohort are aiming for identified leadership positions – head of faculty, deputy principal, principal and others.  I like being in the classroom too much to move in that direction, so I look for opportunities to extend myself and lead in other ways.  This comes in the form of teaching with CSU, presenting at conferences, and publishing.

2019 was the year to get this done!  Everything was humming along nicely at my school, Holly and I were invited to speak at the National Education Summit (first time this had happened for both of us!), and we were also scheduled to present at the ASLA Conference.  I had been made Adjunct Lecturer at the end of 2018 with CSU and looked forward to doing more teaching in this capacity.  Opportunities were also made to write up presentations as articles.

Holly and I started the year being the busiest we have been with teaching, preparation, co-operative planning, student appointments and Keys to Success.  We were both caught up in preparation and delivery of our conference offerings.  It was all still under control, because we had our super team behind us.

And then…

The support we relied on in our library team was suddenly not there:  One of our team members had a sudden situation that saw them off work for a few weeks (and impacted us emotionally), and our other team member was on long service leave at that same time.  I needed to have some surgery.  Suddenly, everything that was achievable – wasn’t.  

Our school was amazing.  They understood what we were trying to do for them and supported us in every way they could.  But the enormous amount of pressure I then put on myself to ensure that nothing “fell over”, alongside the uni teaching, presentations, and home life all came to a head.

One morning, after all the presentations were given, the travel was over and the pressure eased, I woke up to go to work. And couldn’t.  So I took the day off.  That then led to taking a whole week off and doing nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I had to speak with my colleagues and tell them that I was mentally and physically burned out.  Being the personality type that I am, I felt like I was “slacking off”, letting the team down, and not doing the best job I could do.  Maybe that was the “servant leader” in me.

After that time off, I reflected on what I was doing.  I realised that I can’t do it all and act on all the great ideas I have.  And I started to factor in time to look after myself (time with my family, less hours at work, time for walks and the gym).

With these things in place, I have been able to work more efficiently, take time for myself and my family, and was able to deal with events that rocked our team again in Term 3 in a healthier way.   Sharing this story with you is also part of the reality of my world as a TL practitioner and a cautionary tale to you as new TLs.

So, to finish up, I’m here to tell you…do what you can and don’t overextend yourself.  We provide “best practice scenario” examples throughout ETL504 so you know what may be possible.  But the reality is that you are probably the only TL in the school, with minimal to no support from a library assistant, and so you do what is achievable.

Ideas:

  • Think strategically and choose one or two things to concentrate on in a year in partnership with your principal and head of faculty (maybe something from your discussion paper!).
  • Talk to staff and students anecdotally and find that one driving thing they want to see from you and the library to help them and go with that.
  • It may be just concentrating on getting the profile of the library lifted via the newsletter and social media and in staff rooms, alongside changing your library display once a month.
  • It may be that you just want to have one teacher working with you during the year – make that connection, get them on board, and aim to be team teaching with them/resourcing for them once a term.
  • Share an idea you want to implement with your professional learning network (PLN) and see what they’re doing in their schools.  Don’t reinvent the wheel!  The “hive mind” has provided me with many wonderful tricks and tips over my years as a TL.  If you haven’t already connected with a wider PLN, have a look at my Keeping up with all things library post for connections you can make.   It’s also a great way to expand your “team” if you’re feeling isolated.
  • If it’s all getting too much – speak with someone.  A trusted colleague, a TL at another school, someone in your family, your GP.  Sometimes the problem is not so big if you share it with another person.

Take time to disconnect, even if it’s 15 minutes eating your lunch AWAY from the library and your desk.  I used to think that stopping would put me behind, in fact, it increased my productivity.  During this holiday break, I took some days away from the computer and just enjoyed the space I was in.  Looking back to April this year, I actually tried to do this.

It’s also time for me to step back and reflect, take my own advice!  Holly and I don’t offer Keys to Success in Term 4 because our students are only in classes for 6 weeks, so we’ll be using the extra time to do a workflow analysis and finding out what services we can STOP offering.  Weird, eh? This will be more focused than the environmental scan I’ve mentioned in previous posts, as we will be examining one step down from the whole school and looking specifically at our practice within our team (ie faculty).

John, our deputy principal (who is our Head of Faculty for our library), is new to our school and so brings fresh eyes to our practice.  He has challenged us this year with “But WHY?” (it can be exhausting!).  His latest challenges at our recent faculty meeting to end the term were:

  • WHY do we do what we do?
  • What can we NOT do now?
  • How will this look in 2020?

Once Holly and I have figured this out for our TL workflow, we’ll be taking this to our Library Planning Day in December (a whole day as a team to plan without interruption!) and discussing the impact across our whole team and the school community.

Take care of yourself.  You are important!

Leading from the middle: An environmental scan

Many and varied search terms crossed my mind scanning for this week’s images for the blog.  Words like “middle”, “midway”, “midpoint”, “leading”, “environment”.  All these represent points on the journey as TL leading from the middle.

  • The laundromat made me think of the times I go on a wild goose chase to find that elusive resource a student needs!
  • The winding road is appropriate because it seems that what we do isn’t always straightforward…
  • …and the folks using the map reminds us that sometimes we need to locate ways of making our way through those tricky situations to have that influence.
  • The power board demonstrates that we need to be “switched on to” and “plugged into” our school community’s learning and curriculum…
  • …to have that “ripple” effect in the image in the bottom corner.
  • The feet in the middle: we’re all in this together with our school community and can’t stand apart.

Since the start of the session, many students have expressed the trouble they’ve had visualising what influence and leadership the TL can have, unless they are in a “traditional” out in front leadership role (e.g. Head of Faculty, Curriculum Co-ordinator etc).  I am of the firm belief that it IS possible and have made it my mission to share that belief with EVERY TL I come across! It’s one of the many reasons I so enjoy teaching ETL504.

The readings in Module 3 will start to solidify how this is possible, but I’m going to share a little trick with you that may be of use to bring theory to practice/reality for you.

HINT: the following activity may be useful in developing concepts and considering leadership styles for the TL and others for Assessment 1’s concept map and analysis.  Just sayin’… 😉

As part of the Embedding the library and the TL in your school community workshop my fellow ACT TL Emma (a primary TL) and I delivered at the ASLA conference this year, we had our participants do an “environmental scan” of their influence in their school community.   They found it quite valuable and many were going back to their libraries to continue working on this!

This final product of an environmental scan (below) is Emma’s response to the Module 2 activity she completed when doing ETL504 last year using Coggle.   It was a way for her to reflect on the influence she had as the TL from her library and beyond, and what internal and external influences she had upon her.

Red_Hill_School_Library

This scan can be done by you as an individual, or with your library team if you have one.  If you aren’t currently in a school, this environmental scan may provide some ideas for you to consider.

An environmental scan can identify the following:

  • Professional pathways development
  • A catalyst for discussions with your leadership team
  • Professional learning requirements
  • Gaps in your service provision

It is also important to note when doing this:

  • Not everything will be activated all of the time.
  • You may be on one team one year (depending on focus of school/your services), and another team another year
  • There could be an ‘ebb and flow’ effect (ie services in high demand while assessment is being completed; but breathing time while work is being assessed and reports are being written).

If you’d like to do an environmental scan of your own school, make use of this handy template we created. It gives you the headings you need to spark your thinking.  PLEASE NOTE: Depending on where you are in your TL degree and experience as a TL, you may have a number of gaps that can’t be filled – and that’s OK!

All the best as you progress your thinking around leading change and TLs as change agents in preparation for completing Assessment 1!

Me? A leader?: Making an impact in your school community.

ETL504 Module 2 meanders through organisation theory, leadership theories and styles, and how leadership attributes may look in the role of TL. This week’s post provides food for thought: using images and an example from my school experience.

I had fun choosing images for this week’s post.  I used the search term ‘leader’ in Pexels and came up with a number of different options, as you can see here.  Consider the many types of leadership you read about in Module 2 over the last couple of weeks.  Then look through the photos I chose to represent these.

In these images, leadership is happening with the leader amongst the group; the leader walks alongside;  the leader is leading from the front, with others contributing; and in one photo the person at the table has a look wavering somewhere between “Oh my goodness!” and “How the heck do I answer this one?”.  This last image is sometimes how I feel in leadership or mentoring situations. 🙂

There are two similar images here: one with a pointing finger and another with a thumbs up.  How do these make you feel?  Might one of these reflect how you are led in your current school/workplace?  I often feel the “thumbs up” at my school.

Our school has internal and external expectations.  Externally, there is:

  • ACARA’s Australian Curriculum (we have been on board with it in the ACT starting 2011, with the Senior Secondary Curticulum coming online in the ACT in 2014);
  • the ACT Education Directorate’s Strategic Plan and their encouragement of instructional leadership; and,
  • the requirements of the Board of Senior Secondary Studies (a statutory body that regulates the courses we offer and how we assess and moderate our Year 11 and 12 students).

Internally, we have:

  • our strategic plan (usually 5 years in duration), crafted after School Review takes place (actually, happening this week for us!). Reviewers use ACER’s National School Improvement Tool as the framework.  This strategic plan has goals/key improvement strategies that we work towards during the 5 year period and also take into account the ACT Ed Directorate’s strategic goals.
  • the School Board – a group comprising of the principal, business manager, and staff/student/parent representatives.

Our principal, Julie, takes all of this in her stride.  She leads us fairly and has an open door policy for staff and students.  Julie works with our two deputies, our heads of faculty, and our business manager to ensure the school runs smoothly (with curriculum and day to administrative tasks).  Julie also seems to know about everything that is happening in the school without needing to be part of every single team (I don’t know how she does it!).  This all happens while making sure she makes time for her life outside of school.

I’m inspired by Julie’s ability to distribute leadership (e.g teams led by teachers with passion or expertise in the area of choice – curriculum, assessment, cultural integrity etc, to inform the rest of the school), encourage new ideas from each and every one of us, but also be able to lead by instruction and example when required.  An example: Julie photocopies or prints the cover of the latest book she is reading and puts it up outside her office door alongside her daily calendar.  We know what is inspiring her but also where she will be day to day.  She models ongoing learning to staff and students.

I really value Julie’s open door policy. As principal, her door is literally always open, unless she is holding a meeting, urgently completing a task, or out of the building!  I often just stick my head in and say hi because I feel comfortable doing so.

As a whole of school service, Julie recognises the LTC Library team in our ability to support staff and students in their teaching practice and learning.  She trusts that we can ‘walk the talk’ and has encouraged our leadership around information/digital literacy, the General Capabilities and curriculum support.

As TLs, my colleague Holly and I feel we are able to “lead from the middle” with the rest of our wonderful team, using evidence based practice from our work with staff and students to inform the services we offer to our school community. Some examples:

  • Formative feedback from students who take our Keys to Success program Terms 1-3;
  • Comments via email and anecdotally from colleagues after we have worked with them;
  • Our Outlook calendars and stats from the LTC Library website to demonstrate a growth in library use by teachers and students;
TL calendar example
My Outlook calendar weekly view: student appointments, teacher collaborative planning, classes where we are embedded in programs of learning, pre-service teacher library induction, after school commitments.
LTC Library yearly stats for blog post
LTC Library website: yearly stats 2016 – present.
  • The ability to demonstrate how we support the school community in a holistic fashion by contributing evidence to the School Review against 8 of the 9 Domains in the National School Improvement Tool.

    Domain 1 evidence based practice for blog post
    LTC Library evidence: snip of Domain 1 evidence provided for School Review.

Hopefully, this will put into perspective some of the theory you’ve been wrestling with over the last two weeks.  If you’ve gotten this far, please share your thoughts as a comment below!

References

Australian Council for Educational Research. (2019). National School Improvement Tool. Retrieved from https://www.acer.org/au/school-improvement/improvement-tools/national-school-improvement-tool

Harris, A. (2014, September 29). Distributed leadershipTeacher Magazine, ACER. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/article/distributed-leadership

University of Washington. (2015). 4 dimensions of instructional leadership. In Center for Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://info.k-12leadership.org/4-dimensions-of-instructional-leadership

And we’re off and running!

I love the start of a new uni session. I especially love it when it starts during my school holiday break so I can take the time to really focus on getting our students off and running.

There’s the flurry of activity in O Week, where students start engaging with the space and the content.  I enjoy getting to know our students via the Introductions forum – some I’ve met (online or in person) in the course of past subjects, some I’ve marked their work in the past in other subjects, and some are brand new to me.  Each bring with them a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

There is also the flurry of activity that happens from the lecturer’s side.  Winding up the previous session, delving into the new session’s site to check content, ferreting out dead links, and ensure everything is ready for our learning journey ahead.

The joy in teaching this year has been to share subjects with my colleagues, rather than being the one and only subject co-ordinator.  My colleagues Judy and Jennie have taught me so much to this point about how to gracefully (and sometimes firmly) guide students through the ups and downs of studying while working, raising a family and generally tackling life.  Team teaching has been a dream!

I’m engaging with my most favourite subject of all to teach this time around – ETL504 Teacher Librarian as Leader.  When I first started as a TL, I never envisioned myself as a leader.  I most reluctantly became one with the support of others and haven’t looked back.  With the help of my friend and colleague, Karen Bonnano, and her Talent Dynamics assessment of me, I’ve discovered that I lead by networking: making connections, referring and recommending, communication and collaboration (predominantly via PLNs -professional learning networks: more on the importance of these in my post on PLNs).

Since finding this out, I’m keen to shout it out to all ETL504 students who may come with the idea that they could never be a leader as a TL: YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!  We are perfectly placed to influence, disrupt, and innovate!

Tonight’s Introduction meeting for our ETL504 students energised me.  To see the engagement, questioning and joy they have for our learning ahead is exciting for me.  I’m so grateful to have a part in their leadership development as teacher librarians and look forward to expanding my PLN to include these inquisitive minds.

I’ll be kicking off my semi regular blog posts again for a new cohort, starting July 29.  Join me!

 

 

So long, and thanks for all the…fun (with acknowledgement to the late, great Douglas Adams).

This is it!  You’ve successfully reached the end of your first subject in the MEd (Teach Lib)!  Congratulations! After working hard, you can catch your breath for a bit (and maybe catch up on some readings and file organisation!) before the next session starts.

Judy and I are now hard at work marking your final assessments and looking forward to seeing some thoughtful and inspiring submissions from you all.  As a short interlude from this, I will be jetting off to Brisbane to present at the National Education Summit later this week.  This will see ME celebrating for a short two days as I escape the Arctic blasts that we are experiencing here right now! 9c or 21c – where would you rather be? 😀

But before we remove ourselves completely from the cocoon of ETL401, the discussion forum for Module 7 invites us to take one last look back at the journey we’ve taken together and highlight what you’ve learned to take with you on the rest of your study and your future TL practice.

I contributed this to 7.2:

There is so much joy in being a teacher librarian.  More information that you ever have time to look through, the opportunity to be part of every teacher and student ‘aha’ moment, the chance to really support and make a difference to those who need that social and emotional wellbeing embrace.

This is actually a lovely summary of the path I’ve chosen to take with you this session.

  • Judy and I have exposed you to more information than you have had time to look through/absorb (you’ll thank us later when you’re hunting around for that specific article you need for a future assessment task!).
  • I’ve had the chance to be part of your ‘aha’ moments through online meetings, blog posts and discussion forums.
  • I’ve also had the pleasure of mentoring and supporting you through the highs and lows at the start of your TL adventure.

Working with you has given me the privilege of reflecting on my own practice as a experienced TL, and really emphasised the joy that this work gives me – in my school community and as a lecturer to all those new TLs out there.

I wish you well for the rest of the degree.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for you in other subjects as I move around.  Maybe you’ll continue following my blog as part of ETL504 next session, and maybe even be lucky enough to catch my new comedy act with my colleague, Jennie. 🙂  I look forward to seeing you then.

 

Why reflect?: Progressing your TL practice.

To wrap up your learning in ETL401, Module 7 asks you to consider how you will reflect on your practice in an ongoing manner.  This is important not just to grow as a teacher librarian as you progress with your studies and within your TL positions, but also to provide evidence of efficacy within your own school community.  Consider it your own private advocacy project!

In the specialist professional path we’ve chosen in teaching, we have to also be aware that we are not just advocating for ourselves, but for fellow TLs and other school libraries locally, nationally, and internationally. The way you approach your practice will highly influence the opinions of the senior leadership and classroom teachers you work with, and the impression they take on to other schools beyond your own about the importance of the work we do.

As I have mentioned in other posts, 2019 has seen our services used almost to breaking point!  Holly and I are enjoying the challenge but have also felt that the quality of our work is dropping because we are NOT finding the time to reflect on what we are doing to find the positives and reflect on areas we can improve.

I’ve somehow forgotten that bullet point from my TL mantra:

It’s OK to say no sometimes – quality over quantity

In wanting to do everything for everyone else, and not let them down, I’ve forgotten the value of stopping occasionally and really exploring what I’m providing.  It hasn’t made me feel comfortable as a TL practitioner at all.

So, we are trying to balance this out by:

  • Blocking out set times each week (floating between each of the 7 lines on the timetable from week to week) devoted to admin and prep time in each of our calendars.
  • Making the first hour of the only day Holly and I have together ‘sacred’ and devoted to discussing what is happening that week, what is coming up, and what we’ve worked on recently and where it might be able to be tweaked.

I need to point out that our school community is still quite pleased with how we provide support to teaching and learning.  We’re just seeing what impact our lack of reflection is having in our day to day workload.

Let’s look at this through the lenses of Technology, Time and Workload, and Status and Role (as discussed in Combes’ 2008 articles in Module 7 – see reference list below).

  • Technology: if it wasn’t for working in the cloud, we wouldn’t be able to do half of what is possible in the time we have!  It’s been so useful in delegation of tasks between ourselves and our team members, and assists us in managing our workload as part time TLs.  It assists in collaboration with each other, classroom teachers, and students.
  • Time and Workload: it is BECAUSE of the cloud and 24/7 access that it can make it harder to manage time and workload.
    • we put pressure on ourselves to deliver products in a shorter timeframe because work is accessed anywhere, anytime
    • we see our work spill into days off to meet demand
    • our students want us to look at drafts etc in a shorter timeframe (which we have certainly resisted and make quite clear we have boundaries around!)
  • Status and role: this is one part of our practice that has not suffered, thank goodness!  The ongoing communication we have through email, sharing of resources, chats in the staffroom, serendipitous corridor conferences sees us viewed as an integral part of the school community, rather than standing apart and isolated.  Those strategic partnerships with classroom colleagues, faculty heads and senior exec allow us to have an open line of communication at all times.

A solution I’ve started to nut out is writing a ‘to do’ list of projects, slideshows, and programs of learning I’ve been involved in over the last term or so, and then taking time each week to consider:

  • how they were effective (follow up with teacher after task is completed)
  • how engaging they were for the students (did the slideshow promote robust discussion?  What feedback did the students provide when asked in the class?)
  • how relevant they were to the work being completed in the classroom

I have also obtained a pre-service teacher observation checklist from one of our recent placement students, and hope to ask colleagues to use this next time I take their class, in the hope I can ‘refresh’ my teaching style and presentation.   Confronting!  But crucial to staying current and useful.

I’ve also found writing these blog posts for you have really made me start to think about the essence of what it means to be a TL, and distill this into something that you will find practical and useful as you develop and grow as teacher librarians.  It’s why I encourage you all to find the time to continue with your own blogs!  Once you get into the habit, it’s not that hard at all.

References

Combes, B. (2008).  Challenges for teacher librarians – Part 1 Technology, SCIS Connections, 66.

Combes, B. (2008). Challenges for teacher librarians – Part 2 Time and workload,  SCIS Connections, 67.

Combes, B. (2009). Challenges for teacher librarians  – Part 3 Status and Role.  SCIS Connections, 68.

 

Keeping up with all things library

Many of you have explored the idea of working in isolation as a TL in a school library over the course of this session. Some of you have felt further isolated by being in this role in a regional or rural school, unable to get to the nearest city for conferences and network meetings.

Something to consider is tapping into your own professional learning network (PLN) online. This week’s blog post is a quick reminder of how valuable finding and linking into your local support networks can be for your practice, and taps into Module 6.1’s forum question: What will help you be more productive as a teacher librarian in your school community?  It also touches on Module 6.2a’s questions:

  • Can you think of other technology or programs that could help you to streamline your work? What might they be?
  • What are your favourite tools and processes?

I’m here to tell you right now, before you even go there, that no question is ever too silly, particularly when you are at the beginning of your TL career.  Having that ‘brains trust’ at your fingertips can save you time, save your sanity, and grow your TL knowledge in quick bite-sized portions at time of need.

For example:

  • How do I find that borrower report on Oliver?
  • When is the next TL Network meeting?
  • Has anyone recorded ‘Life on Earth’ to upload to Clickview Exchange?
  • How on earth do I get students to put rubbish in the bin (please leave a comment below if you have tried and true solutions for others to gain from your wisdom)???

And there are so many more that can be asked and answered.  Such power in having access to a collective of experience!

Some of you have begun ‘joining the dots’ by joining the Teacher Librarianship @CSU and the Australian Teacher Librarian Network (OZTL_Net) FB pages. Here are some other suggested connections you can start to make in order to build up your PLN and grow it into the future.  Reach out, connect, and don’t ever feel isolated again!

  • Australian Teacher Librarian Network (OZTL_Net): I’ve been part of this network since it started in the mid-90s and it’s been a valuable source of assistance as I grew my TL practice. Nowadays, it’s probably more active on its FB page, but the mailing list is no less valuable.

 

  • Twitter: SO many great professional contacts to follow!  My personal superstars like Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones (The Daring Librarian), and many others.  There may be local TLs that you know tweet regularly – find out their handles and follow them!

 

  • Local associations: strength in numbers!  Once you’ve joined a group like OZTL_Net that has a national focus, post a query to see if you have a local/regional group that you can join online or attend F-2-F meetings for regularly.
    • ACT and Region School Libraries Network (SLNet): this is the link to the closed group FB page for ACT and region school library staff.  There is also a mailing list for those working in ACT and region school libraries – just ask how to do so on the FB page once you’ve joined (or ask me!).
    • RIVPATTER: the FB page for RIVPAT, the Riverina’s TL association
    • ALIA Schools: the Australian Library and Information Association has a Schools group that they support in most States/Territories.  Head to their page to see if there is something near you (the ALIA Schools group in Victoria is quite active!).
    • PMBW Teacher Librarians learning group: this supports TLs in Penrith, Mt Druitt, Blacktown and Windsor (Western Sydney).
    • Libraries Tasmania: this page provides links to all manner of support groups local and national for Tasmanian TLs and school library staff!  You may also find the School Library Guidelines section of this website handy to assist you in running a school library.

 

 

  • Students Need School Libraries: Be part of the national campaign to support school libraries and qualified staff in those libraries!  You can access the campaign films, resources to advocate for your school library, and resources to share with your school community to get them on board.

 

Value adding to student learning: when does it happen?

My blog while lecturing is all about providing reflections and scenarios that my students may find some value in for their own practice as they develop and grow as teacher librarians.  I asked my students in our online meeting last night what they might like to see me write about, rather than focusing on module content as I usually do.

Yvette’s question jumped out at me and at Judy:

What has been your pivotal moment when you realised that you were really value adding to student learning?

black and silver dslr lens
Photo by Cody King on Pexels.com

Well, that certainly made me stop and think.  I KNOW that our work with the school community has changed dramatically and for the better in the time that I’ve been at my school, but it’s often hard to stop and think WHEN that changed.

I believe there have been three points that I can identify the pivotal moment:

  • About 4 years ago, when we worked on our role statements in our team and figured out everyone’s area of expertise – and decided that we should stick to this.  Rather than everyone trying to do everything, we just worked in the areas where we made a true difference.  And from that point on, our team hummed and our services picked up across the community.

 

  • Keys to Success: we introduced this program for students and saw an increase in student appointments in study lines.

 

  • 2019: We have never had fuller calendars than we have this year.  These are my appointments for this week in the screenshot below.
    • The yellow represents meetings, dark orange for special events (one is being part of our pre-service teacher program); light orange for student appointments; red for classes; blue/teal are offsite experiences as an educator; pink for teacher consults/collaborations/planning.  The day that is ’empty’ is the day I don’t work! It is a joy to have the opportunity to work with so many teachers and students in a week.
    • We cover classes in Psychology, Science, Maths, Tourism; and recently worked with English, Exercise Science, and Media.  We have also collaborated with teachers in Food Technology, History, ESL, Drama, Dance, Business Studies, Global Studies, Legal Studies, Sociology…pretty much right across the curriculum!
    • We have yet to convince our colleagues in Technology and IT that we could come on board.  The next challenge!
    • Being so in demand, we’ve had to schedule in admin/prep time (cycling through different lines each week so no-one misses out).  Quality over quantity!

TL calendar example

We’ve started working more often with our Maths classes (I touched on this as an example in our online meeting last night).  This week’s lessons with the classes involved a Maths assignment that is looking at running costs of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars vs electric cars.  Not only are students calculating amounts and devising equations for their spreadsheets, they need to actually do some research – and that’s where we come in.

From the assignment task:

Maths App eg 1Maths App assignment example 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at these examples, you can see that we’ve had opportunity to lead conversations involving critical thinking, provide students with digital literacy opportunities (reliable sources; effective search terms), and time to consider just how good their information literacy skills really are in this scenario.

From these lessons, I booked in three students for one on one appointments to assist them with further insight into their research, some help with critical thinking, and assistance with referencing.  This was almost unheard of on a regular basis 3-4 years ago!

Follow up will happen with these classes this time next week to see how they are progressing, and some time to discuss those all important referencing skills – alongside discussions of academic integrity.

On the cards is some more formal investigation in collaboration with our teachers looking specifically at student results and causal links to our involvement – but we’re still looking for the time to do that. 🙂  We hope that the time will be soon so we can truly see where we value add to student learning.