To be or not to be?

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The one thing I am learning at the moment is to read about technology and its impact on learning environments and the need for pedagogy to change is one thing, it is quite another to be part of the learning environment and to be at the frontline trying to refine pedagogy.  I began as a teacher and now I am a teacher librarian.  I am exactly where I want to be and where I feel I belong in the educational landscape.  I am one of the youngest teacher librarians and I am slowly watching as schools make teacher librarians redundant with the idea that we have technology now so why do we need teacher librarians? The role of teacher librarian is so misunderstood and underutilised and still I live in hope that the full circle effect will come into play.

I have read and listened to many articles thus far about the ‘new literacies’ (Partnership for 21st Century Learning), ‘new skills'(Conole, 2012, pp. 56-57), ‘new competencies’(Haste, 2009) or ‘new fluencies’ (Crockett, Jukes, Churches, 2011) are that are needed by our students in the 21st Century. I believe in my role I am giving these ‘new’ concepts a good go in my learning space and in my passion to try and remain cutting edge but I keep reading how they are not being used.  My understanding in a nutshell is what I believe a teacher librarian’s role within any school is – to connect the ‘content’ learned by assisting students learn how to learn.

After all this reading, all I can see is more of the same.  The conversation seems stuck and as a result I feel stuck. My reflections here then are what are my observances at present in the educational landscape as a teacher librarian at the frontline?

Firstly, let me say I am privileged in my role as teacher librarian as I really do get a ‘big picture’ view of what is happening.  I am almost like that ‘fly on the wall’ as I wander around and ‘listen in’ to what our 550+ students discuss.  I see the various teachers wander in trying to keep abreast of the various demands made of them from curriculum, organisational, parental and community.  My role is to work within the ‘literacy’ or ‘new literacies’ embedded within the ‘new curriculum’ – creative and critical thinking, digital literacy, information literacy, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills – the General Capabilities.  I hear the teachers tell me their woes of how much is expected from them and yet when I offer the various support that my training and role encompasses, very few wish to collaborate and so I guess, I guess what their students need in this rapidly changing and expansive digital society. At the end of the day, I leave and reflect – what have I achieved today?  Usually, I feel overwhelmed and a sense of loss.  A loss of time, a loss of clarity and a loss of purpose.  What is the purpose of my role?  What is the purpose of learning?

If we truly are to recognise that collaborative, critical thinking, creativity and communication are the big 4C’s of education then surely as educators we need to begin to model these in our practices.

Secondly, I will never claim to be an ‘expert’ in this current age of education but I will never get to feel confident and comfortable as a teacher librarian in this digital age if it is expected I will learn the necessary skills by osmosis.  I find it baffling that in private industry, the ‘tools’  and ‘knowledge’ needed to be successful and participatory are provided and yet in teaching we still have to pay for our own professional development that is not offered ‘in house.’  It has me thinking, why were the laptops and IPads given to students a few years ago? Yet these devices were not given to teachers to become familiar with them and very little professional development was given as to how these devices could affect the learning achievements by students.

I do not speak as an academic here.  I do not speak as an expert but I speak from a place where many teachers speak from: the heart.  Yes that is why many teachers entered this profession of teaching – a passion for making the world a better place, one student at a time.  I read this blog post this morning and I wondered how many other teachers are too scared to participate openly for fear of dismissal, judgement of being unprofessional.  It would seem that the researchers feel that these new technologies and the new literacies are not being taken up because teachers can’t be bothered or schools can’t be bothered.  Let’s consider that if we are to continually recognise our educational system as not good enough with its top down approach, perhaps we need to look further up the chain at the governments and the governing bodies of our schools who make it – those on top rather than blaming those of us at the bottom.

To be or not to be?  This is a decision that each individual teacher needs to make.  For me, I fight to be.  Despite feeling ‘stuck’ at the moment, despite feeling overwhelmed by the literature I read, I will continue to be the best I can and improving the with what I have.  I will not let the frustrations beat me.


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