May 26

Assessment 2 Reflection

Reflective Practice

The impact of key issues of educational change is bigger than I first realised. Our national agenda aligns with the global agenda, and as UNESCO stipulates, education globally should empower people with knowledge, skills and values to live in dignity and contribute to their society (UNESCO, 2019). I think as a middle leader in my school, I am in such an important position to demonstrate what role I can play in teaching and learning to support 21st century learning and skills. However, up until I commenced ETL504, the idea of this intimidated me.

As we learned about leadership, I found myself identifying and assigning different leaders in my school with a leadership style, based on their attributes and traits. My principal, for example, is the epitome of a transformational leader. He has established a culture of respect and trust and he empowers and inspires us all through his vision of the school. I actually interviewed him about what kind of leader he thought he was, and what kind of leader he wanted me to be. This is the first time I felt brave enough to approach my principal about his expectations of my role in the school. He told me he is very happy I have created a ‘warm and happy space’ in the library, but I want to do more than that, and I want to show him how.

I have felt very uncomfortable since commencing my masters about how teacher librarians must advocate for the role they play in a school. But after my conversation with my principal, I feel like a fool for ever doubting it. Of course we must, because we have so much to offer, and now I must advocate my role with my principal and other leaders in the school so I can show them the value I can add to our school’s change agenda, because it’s not just about creating a ‘warm and happy space’! With collaboration, curriculum knowledge and afforded opportunities, I can improve and innovate pedagogical practices (Lipscombe et al., 2020).

I know that to be an effective and collaborative teacher librarian, I must lead from the middle. If I can motivate and empower staff, and do this through the already solid relationships I have, I have the capacity to lead all stakeholders. My perception of my own role has changed immensely. I never realised that I could potentially motivate and empower staff, but Ingram (2019) maintains that by developing strong relationships with staff, and by being an open and strong communicator, I actually have the potential to engage not only students and teachers, but our administration team and our board of trustees, in achieving the vision of the school (Bush & Glover, 2014).

In module 3 we learned about how by leading from the middle, I can help mitigate stress for our teachers, and I’ve realised how powerful this can really be, and I shared this in my blog in response to Rita Reinsel Soulen’s article. I believe I have already demonstrated instructional leadership traits, and I referred to this in the discussion forum in module 6, when I identified my AITSL professional learning goals. I do work to improve teaching practices and develop skills and knowledge (Smith, 2016), and I know that I need to continue to develop and further my own skill set to consistently improve and enhance student learning. With my principal’s support, I know I can work with the leadership team to use their ‘bird’s eye view’ of the school and implement my knowledge of digital technologies and information to inform the ongoing development of the school’s vision and strategic plan, and successfully implement successful change.

As well as instructional, I feel I will always be a servant leader, because it resonates with me on such a personal level. It is all about building interpersonal relationships, modelling best practice, mentoring other teachers who lack skill set and supporting students and teachers in their learning endeavours through meaningful and effective collaboration (Riveros et al., 2013; Burkus, 2010). Two years ago, I would have shied away from this kind of leadership opportunity, and now, it’s something that fills me with excitement and purpose, because I now see the benefit and impact I can have on all stakeholders, and how I can influence the change process by creating and maintaining a positive learning environment.

References

Burkus, D. (2010, April 1). Servant leadership theory. David Burkus. https://davidburkus.com/2010/04/servant-leadership-theory/Spencekao, 2013

Bush, T., & Glover, D. (2014). School leadership models: What do we know? School Leadership & Management, 34(5), 553-571. https://doi.org/10.1080/13632434.2014.928680

Ingram, D. (2019, February 4). Transformational leadership vs transactional leadership definition. Hearst Newspapers: Small Business. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/transformational-leadership-vs-transactional-leadership-definition-13834.html

Lipscombe, K. Grice, C. Tindall-Ford, S., & DeNobile, J. (2020). Middle leading in Australian schools: professional standards, positions, and professional development. School Leadership & Management 40 (5) pp.406-424. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2020.1731685

Riveros, A., Newton, P., & da Costa, J. (2013).  From teachers to teacher leaders: A case study. International Journal of Teacher Leadership, 4(1). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1137376

Smith, B. (2016). The role of leadership style in creating a great school. SELU Research Review Journal, 1(1), 65-78. https://selu.usask.ca/documents/research-and-publications/srrj/SRRJ-I-1-Smith.pdf

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. (2019). Leading SDG4 – Education 2030. https://en.unesco.org/themes/education2030-sdg4#:~:text=Education%20is%20a%20human%20right,for%20sustainable%20development%20and%20peace.&text=Ambitions%20for%20education%20are%20essentially,opportunities%20for%20all%E2%80%9D%20by%202030

April 11

Leading change – conflict resolution

After completing the conflict resolution questionnaire, it is was interesting to see what kind of conflict management style I have.

I absolutely dread conflict. It’s the stuff that gives me nightmares and exacerbates my anxiety ten-fold. My results suggest that my strengths lie in compromising and collaboration (13 and 15 respectively), and I whole-heartedly agree with this. My lowest score was an 8 for ‘avoiding’, and this is absolutely true.

My approach to managing conflict, historically, has been to gain advice and support from colleagues who may be removed from the situation. I find being able to talk about it, share my ideas and concerns out loud, has helped me immensely. I find as I get older that I am getting better at dealing with conflict.

I had a situation in the library last year, whereby I inadvertently (and unintentionally) offended somebody, and it created terrible conflict. As our library is a shared space with other colleagues outside of the library staff, an innocent email sent to all staff was received well by everyone except one staff member. This staff member sent a rather upsetting retort to all recipients in the original email, and it was targeted at me. I felt that I had to approach this staff member face-to-face to apologise and explain that my email was not interpreted in the way I had hoped.

After much deliberation and apprehension, I went to her office to offer an explanation and apology. Instead of a calm and meaningful conversation/discussion, my colleague abused me, yelled at me, pointed her finger at me, and I left her office stunned and incredibly upset. It actually reduced me to tears. I lost sleep over this one. I have often thought about how I could have addressed this situation better. According to Plocharczyk (2013), the earlier the conflict is dealt with, the greater the chances that the conflict will be resolved. When I received her response, I realised how my intention had been misinterpreted, and I immediately wanted to resolve it, so I approached her within the hour of her email being sent. But it didn’t go down as well as I had hoped (not at all!). The next few days were awful, in fact, the next few months were icy and uncomfortable. I did try to remain calm and treated her with respect, but it took months for the situation to be resolved.

In hindsight, I probably should never have sent the email, but I manage the library space and I am responsible for the smooth and respectful co-sharing of this space. Perhaps if I had spoken to each staff member individually, this would have been far more effective. I need to develop greater confidence in addressing issues and finding the courage to have those difficult conversations.

 

Plocharczyk, L. (2013). Managing conflict and incivility in academic libraries. In K.  Blessinger  & P.  Hrycaj (Eds.). Workplace culture in academic libraries (pp. 307-319). Elsevier.

March 28

Module 3 – How can we help mitigate stress in the workplace?

Schools are complex institutions. In the time that I have been a classroom teacher (20 years!), I have witnessed incredible change to our role as educators, and in schools themselves. I found it really interesting listening to Jennie Bales the other night in one of our online meetings regarding our upcoming  assessment. We have to consider the drivers of change and the future educational agenda. We have to consider 21st century integrated learning and the skills that our students need for 21st century education and how we develop 21st century globally competent individuals. I know all of this…but then Jennie said that we’re already a quarter of the way into this 21st century! I then thought about how much has actually changed since I started teaching in 2001. No wonder schools sometimes feel like a pressure cooker! Every single colleague I work with is stressed. Including me! So how do I mitigate some of that stress on my colleagues as a leader in the schools?

Well, I think that if we lead from the middle, we can incorporate and offer incredible support to our classroom teachers. We can be leaders of information and digital literacy, offering support in the implementation of digital literacies, the ethical use of information and assist with the sourcing and evaluation of information.

Reinsel Soulen (2020) offers some practical advice for supporting first-year teachers, but there is so much that lends itself to the leadership approaches a Teacher Librarian (TL) could offer. She suggests that as instructional leaders we can develop collaborative partnerships and be professional development facilitators.  If we can offer library programs that offer guidance on instructional design to integrate critical thinking, technology and information skills by working with classroom teachers, we are offering a service that assists in establishing learning objectives and goals, developing and designing assessment and implementing assessment strategies (AASL, 2009). I really believe that if we can offer such support, this does in turn ‘lighten the load’ on teachers and with this shared support, we can also offer some teachers who are overwhelmed with their workload, emotional and practical support. By offering support like this, it can empower teachers (Reinsel Soulen, 2020), and also build trusting relationships and bonds with the classroom teacher. It is this positive collegiality that can offer a supportive space for classroom teachers, and assist in bridging the gap between library and the classroom. This will provide a positive impact upon teaching and learning and improve the pedagogical practices for both the classroom teacher and the learning outcomes of the students (Lipscombe et al., 2020).

And if else fails fails, a warm smile, encouraging words and a cup of tea can work wonders in helping those who are stressed….never underestimate the power of a good cup of tea!

References

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). 2009. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. Chicago. ALA.

Lipscombe, K., Grice, C., Tindall-Ford, S., & DeNobile, J. (2020). Middle leading in Australian schools: professional standards, positions and professional development. School Leadership & Management 40 (5).

Reinsel Soulen, R. (2020). The continuum of care. Knowledge Quest, 48(4). 36 -42.

March 14

Leadership: It is made from productive change

I read Jennifer Surge’s ‘Leadership: it is made from productive change’. This was a great introduction to the concept of leadership for me!

This was a great article and I appreciated the author’s succinct approach to leadership and ‘total leader’. Surge believes that a total leader is someone who ensures that things matter actually change, they improve results, ensure more effective operations, make enhancements that benefit everyone and ensure these changes that do occur are lasting.

She sums it up neatly by establishing five pillars that she believes make up productive change:

  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Ownership
  • Capacity
  •  Support.

Each of these pillars are explored with clear, definitive and achievable statements that simplifies what a total leader is. I asked myself the questions she encourages leaders to ask. I believe that Purpose, Vision and Opportunity were my strengths, and I continued to read with enthusiasm that I ‘had’ this. But then I read Capacity: having the knowledge, skills and resources to make the changes to the purpose and vision, and I realized I still have so much to learn. By now I was feeling deflated. After reading Module 1 and the amazing opportunities Diigo offers to teachers and students, I knew that this is something I will need to gain a great understanding of and share with colleagues. When I read Support, it justified my feelings of inadequacy in Capacity. I just need to expand my knowledge through the networks of support available, attend conferences, read other blogs penned by TLs and engage in professional journals. It is all of these ideas that will strengthen my skillset in Capacity. According to Surge (2020), Teacher Librarians are Total Leaders. I am motivated to fulfil each of the pillars to be just that.

Surge, J. (2020). Leadership: it is made from productive change. Knowledge Quest. https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/leadership-it-is-made-from-productive-change/

March 14

Module 2.3 Leadership attributes

Think about strategies to take you from TL, the keeper and stamper of the books and the quiet space library, to becoming something different. Make a set of notes using your new understandings to support your arguments and conclusions.

Each of the readings has provided me with a better understanding of what makes a good leader. A key theme throughout the leadership styles (that resonated with me), was vision. I currently hold a key position in my school, as Head of Library and Information Services. This position was ‘gifted’ to me, through the resignation my predecessor, and little interest expressed in the community for her advertised role. As an experienced English and French teacher, I approached my principal to express my interest in the role. To be honest, I would have been happy for the role of the Teacher Librarian, without having to be made Head of this wonderful department. I am not ambitious nor career driven, but I do love literature, reading and learning. My principal believed I had the skills and interest alone, to fulfil the role adequately.

But when I commenced my position, I knew immediately that I did not want to be just the ‘keeper and stamper of books’ and manage a ‘quiet space’. Our library is anything but quiet! As my predecessor was retirement age, her ideas were very different to my own. Whilst I respected her immensely, I wanted to be the driver of change and thought about how I could do that. Hence, my commencement of my studies in this Masters! According to Gleeson (2016), I needed to articulate a clear vision. I need to really think about how I was going to make our library a place that nurtured love and learning and supported those that used it.

I am proud (but not arrogant) to say, that I have been performing as a leader in some ways, without even realising it. I wanted our library to be the learning hub of the school. I wanted to support my students and staff in their research endeavours. I wanted the library to be a safe haven for students on the ‘fringe’. I wanted our library to thrive. And it does, it really does.

  • I do make myself visible. A shy person by nature, I have (with great nerves) stood up on assembly and addressed over 800 people about the importance of reading and the launch of our Book Buzz feed, an initiative that encourages students to review their favourite books that I share on different media platforms
  • I present at staff days to the entire teaching community, showing them how to navigate our research databases and how to search effectively
  • I go into classrooms and support research lessons and activities
  • I present in staff meetings about copyright, and model this implicitly when I publish material (on the school intranet) that acknowledges authors and images
  • I am on the Curriculum committee so that I may liaise with staff and keep a bird’s eye view on the curriculum

But I was only able to achieve this by establishing a sense of trust. Moir, Hattie and Jansen (2014) maintain that to develop leadership capacity, you need to understand what the organisation values are and build your vision from there.

I know I still have an awful lot to learn. But that’s okay. My role as teacher librarian will continue to evolve as we as educators adapt to global considerations and 21st century education. What I want to continue to embrace are the challenges that come with this incredible job, and continue to provide a range of services to my school community.

 

Gleeson, B. (2016, November 9). 10 unique perspectives on what makes a great leader. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2016/11/09/10-unique-perspectives-on-what-makes-a-great-leader/#e9753b25dd19

Moir, S., Hattie, J. & Jansen, C. (2014). Teacher perspectives of ‘effective’ leadership in schools. Australian Educational Leader, 36(4), 36-40.

March 14

Module 2.2 Leadership theories

Having completed no study on the theory of leadership or even leadership itself, I have found this module incredibly interesting. After considering each of them, there were actually three stand out leadership styles that resonated with me.

Transactional leadership didn’t sit well with me at all. It reminded me of a past principal that I worked for who was more concerned with maintaining operations and pushing staff to meet targets, without any real concern or care for the well-being of the staff. He was very much performance based, but this didn’t really align with our educational outcomes and that of our key business, our students. He lacked future vision – for teaching and learning at least – and was more concerned with the building, infrastructure and ‘face’ of the school. His focus was very much on the ‘here and now’. As teachers, this should never be how we lead our students. Students need to have a vision, a goal, an insight into where they’re heading in their learning. If they can’t see outcomes, what the purpose will be, then the learning isn’t meaningful.

Transformational leadership resonated with me on a deep level. Its focus is on team-building and motivation and collaboration. It is future conscious and dynamic and the focus is on engaging and motivating staff. The transformational leader has vision and values, and leads by example. They build strong relationships with staff and inspire the team to achieve a common goal.

I also liked Servant leadership, because this is how I see myself in my current role. I certainly do have my students and staff’s best interests at heart and my core business has been about developing trust, collaboration, empathy and ethics (Burkus, 2010). I strive to create long term goals that will benefit staff and students. This future focus has looked at developing digital literacy skills, skills in evaluating and analysing information and navigating the digital landscape. These are skills I offer to share with staff and students, in the hope that I can develop strong, trusting relationships, and collaborate and role-model good practice. I share the importance of embracing new knowledge at both an individual and team level, and hope this influence will demonstrate environments that create results (Agile at Barclayland).

And then I learned about Instructional leadership and saw so many facets of this type of leadership in my principal. His goals are long-term and he includes other staff and the school community in the decision-making processes of the school. Teachers are invited to contribute to discussion about curriculum delivery, resourcing, assessment. The sharing of anecdotal experience is valued, and this is something I also do within the classroom setting. Our principal consistently provides opportunities for staff to develop professionally, but our students are also given opportunities for leadership too. This style of leadership is visionary, sharing this vision with the learning and parent community, and puts the needs of the students first (Spencekao, 2013). This style of leadership empowers others, creates a culture of ideas that are shared to create change and embrace the ever-changing landscape of technology, leading 21st century learners (Spencekao, 2013).

 

Agile at Barclaycard. (2016, October 14). What is servant leadership? [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/aKkOAaaaaFqtU

Burkus, D. (2010, April 1). Servant leadership theory. David Burkus. https://davidburkus.com/2010/04/servant-leadership-theory/Spencekao, 2013

Spencekao. (2013, April 6). Instructional leadership. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efzXDk1–4w

March 14

Module 2 Organisational theories

It has been so interesting reading about organizational theory and the management of schools. As I read through all of the different types of leadership theory, I recognized traits that my Principal possesses, my Heads of Faculty and even myself in my current role.

Each leadership theory promotes its own style and how it benefits the leaders and ‘followers’ of organisations. When we think of schools, particularly in the last decade or so, there has been a need for great flexibility in how schools are run. Whilst there is no one single theory that benefits a school, I think common practice is to see schools operate under a blend of leadership styles.

If early theorists maintain that organisations are ‘machines’, in that its operation is dependent on routine, reliability and fixability; and these organisational structures are formalised and governed by a central authority, dependent on the standardisation of work processes, then historically, schools fit under this definition. Schools are governed by policy and procedure, detailed in National Curriculum documents and relevant syllabi. Standardised testing is present across year levels, and there is an element of routine and reliability to schooling and its structures. Routines are dictated by bells, subjects, age groups and the standardisation of testing. But this model of education is modelled on the interests of industrialism.

Whilst we can neatly assign schools to this ‘machine’ label, what we are forgetting is that schools are about teaching and learning; they are fundamentally about people. Schools are central to learning and thus, their focus should be on optimal pedagogical practices that place students and learning at the fore. Schools that have a strong and deep culture of teaching and learning, see an increase in academic engagement and outcomes. Schools promote and embrace learning and need to consider the needs of the learning community. At a time where school aged children are living in the one of the most stimulating periods of history, we too need to reconsider this ‘machine’ and how its run. Whilst schools may be governed by external influences, we must not forget, that unlike machines, schools are about the people and community who reside within them.

February 27

Our CSU library rocks!

Module 2 asked us to investigate the CSU library and explore the library site. What I found so interesting (and useful!) is the information sources provided and how I am going to use these as information resources. There is an excellent range of tutorials, for example, that inform students how to access databases, find journals and critically evaluate sources. I watched the prerecorded ones, and there was so much useful information here that I can use to teach my students about how to navigate databases, find resources and critically evaluate them. These are all incredibly relevant to my school context, and I feel so stupid for not considering these earlier, as tools to inform my own practice as a teacher librarian in my school. I am never going to stop this journey of learning, and I actually feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the ongoing opportunities this masters is providing me.