As I learnt in our case study group collaborating with others is not always easy, even if one does come willing to collaborate. Our group did not function as well as I had hoped as a collaborative group. People seemed to just work cooperatively posting their own research and people took turns volunteering to coordinate and post the case studies. Whilst we did manage to create case study pieces that were of a high standard and explored many issues, I felt that there was a synergy missing within the group. Members were friendly and communication was generally clear between postings on the blog and wiki so the dynamics may have been caused by a lack of trust and time issues or a lack of clear roles. It was only towards the end of the group work I felt the group started to trust each other enough to comment on posts and interact more. One person (not me) emerged as a clear leader within the group. She was the first to set up the blog pages and the person who set up the wikis each week for the case studies. This was a good example of servant leadership as setting up everything allowed the group to function better and start contributing each week. This person also had leadership traits of being approachable and people seemed to turn to her for advice within the group. From this group experience, I have several takeaways for the future.
Working online can help with communication if somebody misses something, it also allows all to contribute.
Establishing rules for deadlines also helped – for example please post superficial and deeper issues by the 5th of September.
True collaboration takes trust and time to develop, I may need to review the Bastow Institute’s video on developing trust.
Even though my group wasn’t as collaborative as I had hoped, I learnt many lessons from the case studies. The standouts were scenarios that highlighted practices I hadn’t thought of before. They were:
It is important to link the library outcomes and vision to the school’s outcomes and visions.
Promote the library to staff as well as students – collaborate to help staff achieve their objectives. Choose 1 teacher to work with at first.
There are a variety of ways to promote the library.
And one I need to be regularly reminded of – although we may think we can do it all, we can’t and need to work smarter not harder or we will burn out.
One area of the modules I found extremely useful was conflict management as it is not an aspect of leadership I like to deal with, as evidenced here on my blog post ‘Conflict’ (Silver, 2019, September 21).
Learning from others in the forums and thinking about my own leadership experiences has been beneficial in cementing theory into practice, such as the benefits of networking and teacher librarian conferences ( Silver, 2019, September 5).
Looking back at the subject the biggest takeaway for me is that the TL can lead from the middle in a variety of ways and I will be taking many of these ideas with me into a TL role in the future.
Conflict is something I think most of us try to avoid, I know I do. However, conflict can be beneficial if dealt with quickly and correctly. Recently I took a quiz to discover my style of conflict management. The quiz compares the results to a sample of Dutch students over five conflict-handling styles – yielding, compromising, forcing, problem solving and avoiding. Before taking the quiz I wrote down my thoughts about my style of conflict management, which was:
I try to avoid it at all costs
if I do experience conflict I try to get to the base of the problem
I usually will give in a bit to the other party (I suppose this could be called compromising!)
I look for win/win situations for both parties
As I expected I scored quite high in problem solving and avoiding. However, I was quite surprised by some of the quiz results. I scored high in yielding (giving in completely) and only moderate on compromising. I also had a moderate preference for forcing (winning at the other’s expense) which I didn’t think I did but perhaps this is to offset the strong preference for yielding. It seems from this test score that I have some more work to do on conflict handling to get to my ideal handling preferences which would include more compromising and less yielding and forcing. For those of you that get nervous when dealing with conflict (i.e. confronting the person), Judy Ringer’s website has an excellent article on how to approach this.
According to (Johnston, 2015, p.39) when parties collaborate, they create more resources and ideas than they could produce individually. Many teachers believe that they collaborate with other teachers and their students collaborate with each other, but mostly this is just cooperation. For a difference between cooperation and collaboration refer to my post ‘Collaboration and cooperation‘.
TLs put the skills they teach into practise when they collaborate with other teachers by providing skills and knowledge to complement the classroom teacher’s contributions (Ray, 2018. p.27). Before commencing the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship) my efforts to collaborate with teachers were limited. I tried to collaborate by integrating language into the Geography unit (China) for Stage 2 and purchasing extra resources for Stage 3 Geography (Japan) and looking up web resources and sending links to teachers about Japan. Due to past culture in the school, the library was avoided by teachers and under-utilised. As a new teacher to the school, it took a long time for staff to trust me enough to start approaching me to ask for resources. Looking back on that experience with what I know now I could have approached things differently. In the future, I will take it a step further and actively invite teachers to work with me. Next time I am in a situation where the TL and resources are under-utilised I will start following Lewis’ suggestion (2016, p.19) by identifying one teacher to approach to work collaboratively with. We would plan the unit together, integrating my skills of general capabilities (ICT and CCT) and inquiry learning with the teacher’s curriculum knowledge. Responsibilities for assessment would be discussed and a unit evaluation with the teachers and students held to improve the program next time. Finally, I would present with the collaborating teacher at a staff session to showcase the collaboration learning outcomes and evaluation to demonstrate how the TL can help with student outcomes and achievements. If you would like to read more about collaboration Staying Cool in the Library has several great pointers for collaborating with teachers.
How do you collaborate with others?
Johnston, M. P. (2015). Distributed Leadership Theory for Investigating Teacher Librarian Leadership. School Libraries Worldwide, 21(2), 39–57. doi: 10.14265.21.2.003
Lewis, K (2016). The school librarian and leadership: What can be learned? Teacher Librarian, 43 (4), 26-29. Retrieved from http://www.teacherlibrarian.com
There are many people who are leaders, some are good, some are not. I think all leaders have one trait in common – confidence. It is not a trait I readily apply as I am sometimes very shy, especially in new situations. I prefer to sit back and observe people first but I find when working in groups there is always one person who wants to be the boss, wants to take control. This is what I have observed about leaders so far. A leader is somebody who can get people to do things, to apply to their wants and desires.
A good leader:
gets the best out of people.
is somebody who can create a harmonious interaction where people feel that they can voice their opinions/ideas without worry of being ridiculed.
encourages new ideas
encourages more efficient methods of doing things
ensures people are trained to the best of their capabilities
listens to others
Provides sincere, specific praise
thanks people in the team for their effort
is able to make decisions and takes accountability of the decisions.
A bad leader:
is sarcastic and belittling
gets work done through fear/threats
doesn’t listen to ideas – cuts people off, talks over the top of them
uses other people’s ideas as their own
doesn’t praise effort/work
blames other people if things don’t work out
In my last appointment as a relieving teacher librarian (TL) I was definitely not a leader – very few people communicated with me about the library, I was not invited to any strategic planning meetings (such as literacy) and had very little influence. I think this was affected by ‘being an outsider’ – not known at that school before or knew any of the teachers, temporary appointment and past perceptions of the TL’s role and importance. I did find that towards the end of the year as I developed deeper relationships staff began to use the library more by requesting resources, however, by then my appointment was finishing. I think if I was permanent I could have built on these relationships more and encouraged greater use of the library and the TL. I am hoping through this course I will become more confident in leadership and be able to apply leadership skills more readily.