Statement of personal philosophy
A competent and effective teacher librarian (TL) is passionate about working with both students and staff to support learning and teaching. The TL is innovative, supports and embeds information literacy across pedagogical programs and develops a collection that supports learners in their academic and leisure reading endeavours. A TL supports students in becoming ethical digital citizens and shares the school’s vision in creating 21st digital citizens, working collaboratively with teachers to inform best practices in the information services landscape. An effective teacher librarian is flexible, open, supportive and knowledgeable and is a leader who supports the implementation of emerging technologies, enriches classroom practice and engages in collaborative learning with their peers.
Leadership has been a key part of so many subjects we have studied, starting at the very beginning with ETL401. I blogged about the role of the TL as leader and why it was so important. I discussed how a leadership role was so necessary, but to be perfectly honest, I had no idea how to be a leader in the position I held.
But then ETL504 allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the many types of leadership and I gained great insight into my understanding of organisational leadership structures. I started identifying the different types of leaders in my school and shared this in my blog. I learned about change management and why it is so important to understand how to do it well. Bush and Glover (2014) discuss leadership, vision and mission setting and how to effectively manage change in an organisation, in a way that I could identify where my school was doing it well, and not so well. I reflected further on these leadership styles in my blogs and my final assessment and I realised the value I had gained from these tasks, because they all provided a springboard into advocacy.
It was the challenge of creating a concept map of leadership that was a lightbulb moment for me. I initially felt so completely out of my depth, and struggled to get started. I asked my principal for a meeting because I wanted to interview him about his ideations of leadership. He asked me to email my questions to him prior to our meeting so that he could ‘prepare adequately’. It dawned on me that he was taking me seriously, and I saw the incredible merit and worth to this subject. It was four weeks later at a leadership conference in our school for our senior students, where my principal was a guest speaker, that I saw my questions up on the big screen. My principal was using my work! Whilst I thought 504 and leadership itself was being presented in an ‘ideal’ world, it actually took on real meaning because I realised I was being heard.
My professional placement for ETL507 was an opportunity to see leadership in practice in an information agency different to my own. It was a great example of seeing leadership in action in an academic library. There were transformational, instructional and servant leaders who all shared the same goals in collaboration with one another; supporting teaching and learning, embedding information literacy and ethical digital citizenship and delivering a service that supports teaching and learning. This was achieved through meaningful collaboration that ultimately increases learner outcomes (Jones & Harris, 2014).
To be an effective leader, I know I still have a long way to go. Gleeson (2016) maintains that we must articulate a clear vision for our library and our services, and this has helped me immensely in seeing where I can go to from here. But if I am to develop in my leadership capacity, it is imperative that I understand my school’s values implicitly and build my vision from there (Moir et al., 2014).
Image 1 Bourne, H. (2021) Leading from the middle. Townsville
The use of information and communications technology (ICT) in 21st century education is largely influenced by the rapid transformation of the digital landscape and globalization. As such, our schools have had to look at the impacts of such change and ensure that our students are adequately equipped with the highest level of literacy in digital skills and information literacy (IL), if they are to access the digital landscape as competent and confident users (Lunny, 2014). As teacher librarians, I feel that we are in such a great position to embrace and foster innovative practices that serve the entire learning community.
We were introduced to the Inquiry learning models such as Guided Inquiry Design (Caspari, Kuhlthau and Maniotes, 2019) in ETL401 and it was so valuable to learn about a model that would allow for students to develop key digital literacy skills and also experience authentic learning. This gave me so much to consider and how I could be instrumental in fostering collegial relationships and work collaboratively with staff in implementing learning models that embraced ICT skills. I shared my excitement about this in one of my very first reflections for my Masters and it was a springboard for discussion that I had with fellow colleagues. Since then, I have been incredibly fortunate to gain the trust of my colleagues and work with them in developing Guided Inquiry Tasks and demonstrating how effectively we can embed ICT skills into so many aspects of the curriculum.
It wasn’t until I commenced INF533 that the role of responsibility I held in being a competent user of IL came to the fore. I felt incredibly overwhelmed and out of my depth and shared this when I reflected honestly about my own inabilities and insecurities. But I couldn’t just bury my head in the sand. If I was going to remain relevant as a TL, I knew I had to work on my own skill set whilst also embedding into our work programs the skills set out in the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum, (ACARA, 2018).
I chose for my second assessment in INF533 to develop a digital narrative using Microsoft Sway, with the inclusion of Microsoft Forms, Powtoon and Vimeo. I had never used any of these digital tools previously, and I was apprehensive. It was then that I acknowledged that this is quite possibly how teachers feel when faced with using digital tools that are foreign to them. For some educators, there can be some reluctance and intimidation when implementing digital literature into the curriculum. Some teachers have actually shared with me the pressure they sometimes feel when mastering digital skills, and this gave me the impetus to develop my own skill set and share this with others. I followed Nokelainen’s (2006) key criteria when evaluating a digital resource, such as learner control, flexibility, feedback and pedagogical implications for the user, so that I was creating a resource that would incorporate a range of ICT skills and also engage my students in the learning process. I wanted to develop students’ digital skills and provide a valuable exemplar for colleagues that would reassure their competency as users of digital tools.
I was able to develop a digital narrative that is now used in Unit 2 of our Senior English curriculum, and used this as a teaching tool within the English faculty. The multimodal resource allows students to experience linearity, structure and digital features that enhances the learning experience of students, rather than just be the focus of learning (McKnight et al., 2016).
From here, I was able to meet with the Modern Languages faculty (the other curriculum area I teach in) and we worked collaboratively to develop an internal assessment that required students to create a digital narrative in Microsoft Sway. I discussed the development of this task on my blog and noted in particular the time it took, but the added value of teaching about copyright (images, for example) it facilitated. I am cognisant of the increasingly demanding workload of teachers, and I shared my thoughts on how I could possibly alleviate some of this, by sharing some innovative practices I have developed, so that I can share, instruct and collaborate effectively and assist in embedding important ICT skills across the curriculum. It was this synergy within our teaching faculty that proved to be so valuable and helped to promote both pedagogical methodology, digital tools and skills and enhance teaching across the curriculum (Lamb, 2001; Hall, 2011).
The development of my own digital literacy skills has facilitated not only my own personal growth, but has allowed me to both self-advocate and share these skills with both staff and students. With so many resources now becoming increasingly available in digital formats, it has become clear that our students need to possess the skills to access these resources, critically evaluate them and be creators of digital texts too. Successful inquiry learning projects that have been well-documented cite the significant use of ICT and digital literacy skills at the core of the learning (McGuiness, 2013; Sheerman, 2011), and this has informed my practice as a TL and the implementation of digital literacy skills across the curriculum. By working with classroom teachers, I am able to offer a service that assists in establishing learning objectives and goals, designing assessment and implementing assessment strategies (AASL, 2009).
My understanding of Information Literacy has also enabled me to assist students with accessing research databases, developing their critical thinking and evaluative skills and developing effective courses in academic integrity. It has taken a couple of years (since I started my Masters) to get some traction with staff and develop trusting relationships that allow my colleagues to see the value of allowing me to be a more integral part of the teaching and learning continuum in our school. I know that to remain relevant, I must embrace the ever-changing nature of the landscape in which we reside and be a lifelong learner and an advocate for the skills I possess and what I can offer to our school community.
My love of literature stems from a childhood of being surrounded by beautiful books and a family of avid readers. This is one of the reasons why I became an English teacher. With a change in the direction of my career, becoming a Teacher Librarian is quite simply the best job in our school. When I transitioned into the library, it became apparent to me that I needed to understand and respond to the needs of my users, and promote literacy and a love of reading in a way that was meaningful and effective. Essentially, I needed to ensure that we housed a balanced collection that was relevant and catered to the needs of students, whilst also aligning with our school’s academic vision and values (Johnson, 2018).
The coursework of ETL503 developed my understanding of how to evaluate our collection, the selection criteria used in collection development and the structured policy frameworks that should be in place in order to fulfil the library’s duty to its learners and learning community. This was an area that I needed to improve upon, because without having key documents in place, I couldn’t advocate for a library and its collection if it wasn’t grounded by a clear mission and vision statement of why the collection exists (ALIA & VCTL, 2017). It was through ETL503 that I gained a greater insight into why a collection development policy is necessary and should stipulate the principles and goals of the library collection and uphold and understand the responsibilities of the International Federation of Library Associations/UNESCO School Library Manifesto and the Australian School Library Bill of Rights (ALIA, 2007 & IFLA, 2015).
After evaluating a collection development policy for an assessment, I used this knowledge and skills I had acquired and developed one for my own school library.
Image 2 Bourne, H. (2021) Collection Development Policy. [photograph]. Townsville.
After the completion of ETL503, I was able to reflect on the importance of having a collection that is aligned to the curriculum and it was essential that I understood the nature of our users and their needs both academically and recreationally (Oberg and Schultz-Jones, 2015). Newsum (2016) shared the importance of curriculum mapping to assist with evaluating the collection, and how this process informs the curriculum collection and if it is serving its users adequately (Johnson, 2018). I shared in my blog how I asked my principal to be part of curriculum committee in our school, and how he believed it wasn’t necessary. Fast forward 16 months, and I have finally been accepted to be a part of this important team, after relentless self-advocacy and stressing the importance of having a bird’s eye view of the curriculum to inform our collection practices (AASL, 2009), whilst also allowing me to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our collection.
ETL402 demonstrated the value of implementing quality literature across the curriculum. We learnt how to promote resources by demonstrating their use across a range of curriculum areas and how literature can be used to promote interest and make learning more meaningful (Bourne, 2020). Literary Learning provides an excellent opportunity for students to engage with literature across the curriculum in a way that harnesses engagement and motivation (Cornet, 2014; Bourne, 2020). It also allows students to embrace learning about themselves, others and the world around them. Using my knowledge gained from this subject, I was able to start working with different faculties and shared my thoughts on this in my blog.
The quintessential role of the TL is to develop a collection that fosters students’ love of reading and promote good reading habits in students (Dominguez et al., 2016) and is one that I advocate for tirelessly. To understand the recreational reading needs of our users, I survey our students to gauge their interests. I created a Form in Microsoft Teams and began with our Year 8 cohort who take part in a timetabled reading lesson fortnightly. (See https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=0dAlV-d84EuilzwHvxo44tKVrnMw8SVJsVtg_Vd3PaJUQVhBWFdKNlJDT0k2OFZCQVRORkw0TDFBUi4u).
This gave me some insight and qualitative data that would enable me to assist students in finding genres, authors and books that I believed they might enjoy. This was such a beneficial exercise because I was also able to evaluate our collection and improve our fiction collection with books that students may be interested in. I also developed an online form on our school website where students can request books. (See https://www.tgs.qld.edu.au/our-campuses/north-ward-campus-years-7-12/library/).
Image 3 Bourne, H. (2021) Request a book or resources. [photograph]. Townsville.
Promoting reading for pleasure in my school has developed from strength to strength over the last two years. I started an Instagram page to promote recent additions to our collection, with a small blurb about the book, including the age-intended audience. After seeking my principal’s permission to do so, the response has been incredible! Bogan (2020) maintains that establishing a social media presence can prove to be incredibly appealing and influential, and works to connect with students in the platforms they engage with, whilst also advocating for literature.
Image 5 Bourne, H. (2021) Instagram – Library TGS. [photograph]. Townsville.
I am well-placed within the school to advocate how literature can positively impact the lives of our students, both academically and recreationally, through physical and digital resources and Literary Learning. As a middle leader within the school, I have the opportunity to develop and promote a school-wide approach to reading initiatives, but this has to be a consistent approach – advocacy must be at the heart of everything I do.
One area that I feel I need to develop further in our collection is audio and digital books. Whilst they are an expensive addition, providing students with a range of formats to engage in literature is key to establishing even the most reluctant of readers to read for pleasure.
I know that my role must ensure that my collection is relevant, supports leisure reading, includes a variety a literature in a range of formats and supports leisure reading and curriculum initiatives in the school.
I will be perfectly honest; I didn’t know very much when I commenced my Masters. I shared in my very first blog post of how I was practically gifted the role of TL when my predecessor retired. She told me ‘I would be amazing’, but I didn’t know anything about being a librarian. We had term four to handover and I was left feeling very anxious about how I was going to be a TL, solo. I commenced my Masters the next year, fresh into a new position and working full-time for the first time since having children.
I am so grateful for this course because it has taught me so much more than I ever expected to learn, and redefined my understanding of the role of a teacher librarian. It was vastly different to the one that I had observed in my own school (who respectfully), was incredibly shy and didn’t promote the wonderful services and resources we have on offer. I too am shy, but the further I continued throughout my course, the hungrier I became to be the best, most effective teacher librarian that I could be.
The standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians are an excellent guide to measure my own practice, identify my strengths and weaknesses and give me an insight into how I can improve my future practice. My Masters has shown me the incredible value TLs provide to the school community and the importance of collaboration with both my peers and extended networks, and this is something I intend to remain connected with as I consider my future practice.
We live in a complex society that is grounded in a technological and digital landscape that has heavily influenced education. We must now equip our students with the 21st century skills necessary to access this landscape with competence and confidence. My role is to ensure that students and staff have access to the skills necessary to facilitate the requirements of the General capabilities of the National Curriculum. My position is multifaceted and I have learned that I am responsible for improving the learning outcomes of our students through provision of quality literature, in a range of formats, that support teaching and learning.
I am a little reluctant to actually finish my Masters, as I don’t want to ‘let go’ of the learning. What I realise I must do is stay connected through networking with other teacher librarians, and continue to collaborate with my teaching peers to develop their own skills and support them in incorporating key constructivist pedagogies such as literary learning and inquiry-based learning. The diagram below identifies my strengths as a TL, and has allowed me to see the areas that I must improve upon, such as Evaluation (2.4) (ASLA & ALIA, 2004). After completing INF477, I see the great value in using evidence to inform my programs and services, and will dedicate some much needed time into developing some investigation of our services that will form a good starting point for evidence-based practice.
I will never stop learning and will commit to further professional development, networking, collegiality and upskilling. This Masters has provided a solid foundation for me to put theory into practice and I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful learning experience this has provided me.
Image 6 Bourne, H. (2021) My practice as aligned with ASLA & ALIA standards. [photograph]. Townsville.
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