August 2014 archive

Part B: Reflective critical analysis. My own understanding and practice of school leadership in a school library.

The very nature of the teacher librarian (TL) role means that both managing and leading is essential to the position. This is recognised by the Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information (2004) Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians, which includes both ‘library and information services management’ (2.3) and ‘leadership capabilities’ (3.3) among its expectations of professional practice.

In terms of managing, the TL has responsibility for managing a budget, sourcing and ordering appropriate materials, timetabling, running inventories, cataloguing, processing and analysing data as well as managing staff and volunteers. Leadership possibilities in the role are dependent on a number of factors including senior management and staff’s expectations of the position, the culture of collaboration which exists in the school as well as the TL’s own knowledge, skills, disposition, attitude and ability to influence.

I work in an international British curriculum primary school. The leadership model follows a distributed leadership structure and as such I see myself as part of a “dynamic organization with many moving parts” (Ailshie, 2013, para. 4). I work with all staff and students across the school, so building the trust of colleagues, and working collaboratively is key. Issues with the TL role can include misconceptions of what the position entails so it is vital to articulate a consistent message concerning the library’s vision, values and expectations (Minkel, 2002, p. 48).

Professional development can have a significant impact on leadership opportunities (Hackman & Wageman, 2007, p. 46). This year I attended a course on creativity and storytelling which I then disseminated to colleagues in a workshop. As a result, some of the techniques I learnt extended beyond the library and into the classrooms with further connections made by sharing the children’s work on twitter (@PSlibraryDIS). This domino effect made me realise the power of what Donham (2005) describes as leading through influence (p.299). This increasingly reaches beyond the school (Hadfield, 2007, p. 259) to include citywide library network meetings, international librarian electronic networks and Teachmeets. Within the school, further leadership responsibilities include leading literacy events, school committees, collaborative planning sessions in addition to leading the library team of administrators and volunteers.

The TL combines a number of leadership styles. As an information specialist, TL’s provide expert knowledge, resources and instructional guidance to support all students and teachers. As such they can be described as ‘instructional leaders’. Within the context of educational change, TL’s need to be adaptive to and proactive in instigating change. This can include for example, leading the introduction and use of new technologies across the school.  These transformational leadership capabilities require up to date knowledge and expertise and the strategic thinking skills of planning, prioritising and implementing. In my school, I create action plans aligned to school goals in order to plan next steps for the library’s development. I agree with Hargreaves (2007) who states “The past should be a motivator and not a museum” (p. 231). I want any change to be sustainable, so try to look critically at existing structures to see what works and what can be developed.

TL’s have the potential to have considerable influence by leading from the middle, reflecting on current practice and striving for continuous improvement. To do this involves being collegial, strategic, motivated, innovative and seizing opportunities whenever they arise.

 

References

Ailshie, L. (2013). Building leadership at multiple levels, grounded in guiding tenets. In State collaborative on reforming education. Retrieved from http://tnscore.org/building-leadership-at-multiple-levels-grounded-in-guiding-tenets/

Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information Association. (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Donham, J. (2005). Leadership. In Enhancing teaching and learning: a leadership guide for school library media specialists (pp. 295-305). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Hackman, J., & Wageman, R. (2007). Asking the right questions about leadership: discussion and conclusions. American Psychologist, 62(1), 43-47.

Hadfield, M. (2007). Co-leaders and middle leaders: the dynamic between leaders and followers in networks of schools.  School Leadership and Management, 27(3), 259-283.

Hargreaves, A. (2007). Sustainable leadership and development in education: Creating the future, conserving the past. European Journal of Education, 42(2), 223-233. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2007.00294.x

Minkel, W. (2002). Librarian a leader. School Library Journal, 48(10), 46-49.

The importance of culturally relevant literature

Having worked in an international school setting for over 10 years I have developed a great interest in how children acquire a second language as well as the importance of culturally relevant literature. Below is a link to an article I wrote with a colleague on this subject for The National newspaper as well as a flyer which gives a brief description of my series of 30 levelled books aimed for children in the middle east (My Gulf World and Me) which was published by Pearson Education last year.

http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/the-joy-of-reading-and-the-benefits-it-brings-to-youngsters

Series of 30 levelled readers

Series of 30 levelled readers

 

A reflection on Don Tapscott’s Ted talk

Don Tapscott: Four principles for an open world.

Some of the principles discussed by Don Tapscott are particularly relevant to school libraries as they too are experiencing (and in some cases expected to lead) changes in technology and are having to understand their place in the world within a new global environment.

1. Collaboration

Don Tapscott argues that we are living in an age of ‘networked intelligence’ which can have a positive impact on the way we learn from one another. Collaboration from a wide pool of talent in a far more open environment leads to a greater openness to engage. This can be extremely beneficial to leading change in a school or in a library as  possibilities for collaboration can extend from beyond the school to a achieving a more global world view of particular situations/issues being addressed.

2. Transparency

Strong values, integrity and a clear moral purpose behind an institution are vital as we are living in an increasingly transparent age. Trust and building continued trust in a school is critical in order for others to develop a positive mindset for taking on new ideas and ways of working.

3. Sharing

Don Tapscott talked about the idea of sharing in relation to the collective good of society. Sharing can be an extremely powerful tool for implementing change. Twitter is an excellent example of a social media platform that readily shares information on a global scale. In our school, we started using twitter to communicate to parents and to other members within the school community but very soon the potential of twitter meant we were sharing and networking widely- among other educators, librarians, and children were communicating with authors! More and more classes and specialist teachers joined over time and as a result the school began to change and diversify who they communicated with and when.

It’s important to remember that he idea of sharing information and ideas globally and instantly was the primary driving force behind Tim Berners-Lee’s pivotal development of the world wide web in 1989 and the internet protocol HTTP system that drives it. Berners-Lee’s genius was putting together several already existing strands of computer/information technology and creating – and giving away, the Internet to the world.

4. Empowerment

The culmination of the three factors discussed results in greater freedom of information and a shift of intellectual and knowledge based boundaries and in turn can empower individuals/organisations to implement change.

 

Tedx Talks. (2012, June, 28th). Don Tapscott: Four principles for the open world . Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_four_principles_for_the_open_world_1