When embarking on this unit ETL504 Teacher Librarian a Leader, I believed we would be learning about how we can become leaders. My aha moment came, however, when examining the Module 3 reading by Collay. The name of the chapter says it all: Teaching is leading (2011). It was like a veil had been lifted. I was a leader all along. I simply needed to see myself as a leader – almost like The Emporer’s New Clothes in reverse.
It’s the things we do daily as teachers that make us leaders. Somehow, I had missed that gem of information when training as a teacher. As teachers, we are instructional leaders in the classroom. When we share our teaching strategies, classroom management strategies and other expertise with fellow teachers we are leaders. As teacher librarians, when we critically select resources for teachers and students to support the curriculum, we are leaders. When we plan and implement team teaching with other teachers and employ Inquiry-based Learning, we are leaders (Collay 2011 ; Semadeni 2009 ; Rytivaara & Kershner 2012 ; Goodnough 2005). Understanding this was so empowering and really energised me to strut my stuff as an educational leader.
As I made my way through other unit readings I inadvertently found myself matching school leaders from past experiences with the various leadership styles I had observed in my dealings with them (I have a sneaking suspicion that other classmates would have found themselves doing the same thing). Some I labelled Situational Leaders and employed different leadership styles depending on people’s attitudes and compliance (Marzano, Waters & McNulty 2005). Others I labeled Transactional Leaders as they used rewards to coerce others (Avolio, Walumbwa & Weber 2009). Not surprisingly, due to the prevalence of this learning style in education, I was able to label quite a few as Instructional Leaders. Unfortunately, I was unable to identify any leader in my experience who ticked all the boxes for Transformational Leadership, though for some most were ticked. Similarly, I was unable to identify, any leader who truly displayed Distributive Leadership style as every school in my experience has proved quite hierarchical (Marzano, Waters & McNulty 2005 ; Collay 2011 ; Browning 2013).
Other salient points stood out for me from the readings. These were the importance of communication and transparency from leaders to build trust. The success of transformation leadership and change management is largely dependent on these important leadership traits. These traits may be even more important in educational institutions (Lewis 2011 ; Avolio, Walumbwa & Weber 2009 ; Sergiovanni 2005). These perhaps stood out for me because it was these very criticisms, lack of communication and transparency, that I had unfortunately heard being spoken about school executives when working at one unhappy school.
Advocacy was another aspect from this course that struck a chord with me. Advocacy is something we must earn as Teacher Librarians, it is not something that automatically comes with the position. This became more and more apparent when designing a strategic plan for assessment two. I began to appreciate how preparing such reports will enable me to promote myself as an educational leader in my school. But to write these reports we first need to undertake research that is strongly linked to the schools teaching and learning needs. We need to analyse the research data and then undertake strategic and action plans. The same is true for the writing of library policy documents. By doing this we demonstrate initiative and promote ourselves as educational leaders in the school (Hay and Todd 2010 ; Bonanno & Moore 2009).
This is something we can now all do as a result of this course. So go ahead, identify a teaching and learning need in your school. Do some research, analyse the findings and then undertake some strategic planning and action planning to identify workable solutions. Present your reports to the principal, executive and other teacher leaders in your school to earn their advocacy. Rinse and repeat.
Avolio, B., Walumbwa, F., & Weber, T. J. (2009, September 14). Leadership: Current Theories, Research, and Future Directions. DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/managementfacpub/37/
Bonanno, K., & Moore, R. (2009, October 2). Advocacy: Reason, responsibility and rhetoric. Australian School Library Association [ASLA]. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/advocacy/School-library-advocacy.aspx
Browning, P. (2013). Creating the conditions for transformational change. Australian Educational Leader. 35(3) 14-17.
Collay, M. (2011). Teaching is leading. Everyday teacher leadership: Taking action where you are (pp. 75-108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Goodnough, K. (2005). Fostering teacher learning through collaborative inquiry. Clearing House, 79(2), 88-92.
Hay, L., & Todd, R. (2010). School libraries 21C: The conversation begins. Scan, 29(1), 30-42.
Lewis, L. K. (2011). Communication approaches and strategies. Organizational change: Creating change through strategic communication (pp. 144-176). Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.
Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. School leadership that works: From research to results. (pp. 13-27). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Rytivaara, A., & Kershner, R. (2012). Co-teaching as a context for teachers’ professional learning and joint knowledge construction. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28(7), 999-1008.
Semadeni, J. H. (2009). Professional development. Taking charge of professional development: A practical model for your school (pp. 28-48). Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.
Sergiovanni, T. (2005). The virtues of leadership. The Educational Forum, 69(Winter), 112-123.