Leading from the middle – Teacher Librarian as a Middle Leader at School.

 

Leading from the Middle. 

Strong educational leadership has been clearly linked to a positive learning culture and increased student outcomes as effective leaders have a strong vision, are able to lead by example, manage their resources in a flexible manner and are able to develop strong collaborative teams (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020; Yeith et al, 2019, p. 452). But whilst there are numerous types of leadership styles, research has indicated that distributed leadership (DL) has the greatest influence on students and their learning outcomes (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020, p. 12; Bartlett, 2014, p.1).  DL advocates for the distribution of leadership roles within the school community based on expertise rather than a formal position of power, and as such is fundamentally based upon positive and collaborative interactions between colleagues and teams (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020, p. 13-14.  It is these interactions and team development that leads to the promotion of middle school leaders and the development of teacher librarians as leaders of information literacy, innovative pedagogy and educational technology.  

Middle school leaders (MSL) are an important aspect of educational environments as their position of responsibility operates between senior leadership and teaching staff (De Nobile, 2018).  They are often responsible for mentoring new teachers, leading a team, a project or a faculty, as well as managing the traditional aspects of classroom teaching  (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408-411; De Nobile, 2018, p.398).   Unlike principals whose leadership role is based upon actions,  MSL’s responsibility  is often linked to maintenance of resources, professional development, school improvement plans and thus their role is dependent on interactions with others and on their individual context (De Nobile, 2018, p.398; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408-409).  

In primary schools, MSL are often team leaders or year level coordinators, whereas in secondary schools, they manifest as faculty heads and or leaders of wellbeing (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408).  As experienced teachers, MSL are able to combine classroom teaching with leadership positions, and therefore are well placed to make a direct and positive impact upon the teaching and learning (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.407-408).   Whilst the context may differ, MSL operate on behalf of the school leadership team as they are often required to interpret the agenda of senior management as well as expected to develop and staff towards the principal’s shared vision (De Nobile, 2018, p. 400).  

The efficacy of MSL is dependent on several clear parameters.  The variability of the role and range of possible contexts means that there is no distinct career pathway or associated professional development.  Therefore, in order to be effective, these emerging leaders require clearly established responsibilities, explicit support from the principal, a positive learning culture, expertise in their field and a framework for professional development, so that they can successfully meet the expectations of their school community (De Nobile, 2018, p. 401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.407).  Due to the lack of a formal career pathway, Lipscombe et al., (2020) advocates  AITSL’s Australian Professional Standard for Principals as a framework for informing current practice as well as providing direction for future MSL professional development (p. 412).  This framework is useful because there is little structure for leadership development within the professional standards for teachers (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  Unfortunately not all MSL have clearly defined expectations, or adequate sufficient support from the principal, and this can severely impact their ability to effect change within the school especially when it comes to innovations in pedagogy (De Nobile, 2018, p.401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.419). This inability can impact the MSL’s capacity for job satisfaction and can lead to increased attrition rates (Stroud, 2017). 

The main purpose of MSL is to improve and innovate pedagogical practices and positively impact learning outcomes (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.417).  By these parameters, teacher librarians (TL) are ideally suited to the task based upon their Masters of Education, as well as the significant overlap between their role in the school and the requirements of MSL.  Unlike ATSIL’s Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher which is focused on using classroom teacher’s expertise to develop professional practice in others, teacher librarians are required by their professional standards to demonstrate leadership within school communities, have thorough knowledge of the curriculum and actively promote collaborative learning (AITSL, 2019, p.3; ALIA & ASLA, 2004; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  Additionally, from a school hierarchy perspective, most TLs are classified as coordinators or as faculty heads,  and therefore their position within a school is literally in the ‘middle’.   TLs are able to  lead from the middle by supporting their colleagues with their expertise, promoting collaborative teaching and learning as well as modelling good pedagogical practices (ALIA & ASLA, 2004). 

The reality is that even though teacher librarians have a great capacity for leadership, their ability to fulfill that role to the best of their ability requires adequate time, support and structure (Johnston, 2015).  Time is the most desired resource as TL do require adequate time to balance the roles of managing an information agency, along with the developing informational literacy as well as sufficient time to plan strategically for future educational trends (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  Unfortunately many TLs are restricted in their ability to strategically plan, co-plan and collaborate with their colleagues due to significant teaching loads, lack of support from the principal and insufficient authority.  

Middle school leaders have a great capacity to improve student learning  by sharing their expertise, promoting professional development and collaborative learning as well as by modelling best practice pedagogy.  Teacher librarians make ideal middle school leaders because of their human and social capital.  They are academically qualified, have the necessary professional knowledge, extensive curriculum understanding and collaborative approach to education.  As such their ability to significantly improve learning outcomes is immense provided they are supported by their principal, a positive learning culture and sufficient time to do their role properly.  

 

References:

AITSL. (2014). Australian professional standard for principals and the leadership profiles. Education Services Australia. 

https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/national-policy-framework/australian-professional-standard-for-principals.pdf?sfvrsn=c07eff3c_6

AITSL. (2019). Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers in Australia. National Policy Framework https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/national-policy-framework/certification-of-highly-accomplished-and-lead-teachers.pdf?sfvrsn=227fff3c_8

ALIA & ASLA. (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Australian School Library Association. https://read.alia.org.au/alia-asla-standards-professional-excellence-teacher-librarians

Bartlett, J. (2014). The power deep in Org Chart: Leading from the middle. Library Leadership & Management 28 (4). https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index.php/llm/article/view/7091/6307

De Nobile, J. (2018). Towards a theoretical model of middle leadership in schools. School Leadership & Management 38 (4). pp 395-416, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2017.1411902

Gurr, D. (2019). School middle leaders in Australia, Chile and Singapore.  School Leadership & Management, 39:3-4, p278-296, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2018.1512485 

Leithwood, K., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2020). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited, School Leadership & Management, 40 (1), 5-22, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077

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

Johnston, M. (2015). Distributed leadership theory for investigating teacher librarian leadership. School Libraries Worldwide 21 (2). doi: 10.14265.21.2.003

Stroud, G. (2017). Why do teachers leave? ABC News – Opinion. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-04/why-do-teachers-leave/8234054

Yeigh, T., Lynch, D., Turner, D., Provost, S., Smith, R., & Willis, R. (2019).  School leadership and school improvement: an examination of school readiness factors. School Leadership & Management, 39:5, pp434-456, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2018.1505718

What does a library do?

How does a library influence the teaching and learning of a school?

 

How does a school library, its services and resources contribute to teaching and learning?  When I started my course two years ago, my understanding of the capabilities of a library and a teacher librarian was restricted to resourcing the curriculum and providing recreational reading.

Now, five units later, I am starting to become more aware of what a well staffed school library and teacher librarian is capable of.

The above concept map is how I feel my school library contributes to the teaching and learning within the school.  I was amazed at how many adaptations I had to make to the original flow chart.

This is my original flow chart of how I thought the library as the information centre contributes to the overall learning outcomes.  But flow charts do not show the relationships between areas or how one impacts the other.

For example – The cycle of Pedagogy, curriculum and assessment is continuous and requires regular reviews.  For example, pedagogical practice impacts learning outcomes and requires teachers review their practice to ensure best practices is maintained.  

But you can’t show those relationships on a flow chart or a hierarchal chart…

 

 

Academic integrity – more than just plagiarism.

Tumisu / Pixabay – Right or Wrong?

 

Academic integrity is often espoused and bandied about across educational institutions, especially in the first few weeks of every scholastic year. 

La Trobe university describes it as shared values and behaviour that includes but is not exclusive to honesty, fairness and responsible practices. This concept of honesty in academia is a two way street.  Educational institutions such as schools and universities are obliged to award credit and acknowledge honestly conducted work. Students are responsible for ensuring that their work meets the required standards mandated (LaTrobe, 2019).  The onus of practices that promote academic honesty need to be equally addressed by students, staff, executive and organisations. It is not simply the role of a student to avoid plagiarism, but also the role of education to provide them with the skills and knowledge to do so.  Additionally, society needs to realise that academic integrity does not start and finish with plagiarism.  Plagiarism is just an aspect of authentic academia. Other practices include the creation of assessment tasks that limit the risk of dishonest practices and organisations to adequately address infringements in their policies with appropriate levels of censure that are age and stage appropriate.  The role of teacher librarian is multifaceted when it comes to academic integrity. Due to their dynamic position, a TL is able to address academic honesty from a student and classroom teacher (CT) lens and from a department and school perspective.   

Academic honesty starts with the classroom teacher.  If teachers continuously utilise reputable sources in their teaching and learning, as well as consistently reference them correctly; then they are modeling good practice. Students (and teachers) need to be aware that academic honesty is not just for assessment tasks.  Its for all tasks. Like all skills, good research behavioural practices such as using databases, encyclopaedias and journal articles are essential in formulating evidence based assertions. Using disreputable sources does not bode well for your postulations. W. Edwards Deming was quoted in Forbes (2016) that “without data you’re just a person with an opinion”.  My experience as a scientist holds me in good authority in championing this point. In the fields of science and mathematics, opinions hold little value. It is the data from rigorously run experiments that define our thinking process. Poorly run experiments with inconclusive data have no value; as do opinions with no justification and evidence. Opinions are fine when limited to coffee preferences but not in academics. 

The other aspect of academic integrity within the TL’s and or CT’s realms, is the explicit teaching of information literacy.  Information literacy is defined by the ability to find, seek, use and create information and traditionally the domain of TL area of expertise (Kuhthau et al, 2012).  IL needs to be taught and then subsequently assessed in order for students to reach proficiency (Jacobson et al. 2018; Qayyum & Smith, 2018, p257; McGrew et al. 2018).  It is not passively acquired by the act of completing a research task – but rather, these skills need to be integrated into daily practice to boost competency (Kong, 2014).  Part of these practices include the direct instruction of correct referencing techniques.  As mentioned before, plagiarism is AN aspect of academic honesty, it is not the entirety.

Whilst it teaching information literacy and the finer points of referencing is essential, it is important to note that the assessment task itself can be a liability to honest practice.   Introducing mandatory evidence of progress, drafts and log books are other useful methods in ensuring authenticity of work. Assessment tasks that are repeated at yearly intervals for indefinite periods of time are also very problematic.  This is due to the fact that its simplistic to assume that students do not try to seek aid from older siblings and or cousins. Having a maximum time frame of 2 years allowed for a particular task reduces the likelihood of younger relatives plagiarising from older siblings.  Another point to note is that nuances of language in assessment task construction can reduce the likelihood of plagiarism. Requesting students to analyse, justify and relate to their community requires higher order thinking skills and is harder to successfully pass off as own work due to the nature of the questions.  TL can be of great assistance to teachers in the construction of assessment tasks. Ezard (2019) pointed out that co-creation and collective capacity is the fundamental basis of true collaborative practice (cited in Templeton, 2019). Collaboration between departments and the library can result in a positive sharing of expertise and knowledge resulting in tasks that elicit deep understanding and truly engage the student. 

Departmental heads and school administrators have the last word on academic honesty in a school situation.  The school policies are the framework in which the academic integrity of the staff and students is based upon.  Therefore it is up to the executives to ensure the policies are current with contemporary practices which includes the rapid evolution of technology and the challenges that it brings.  They are also responsible to clearly define what constitutes minor, moderate and major infringements and their appropriate consequences. Staff need to realise that a major infringement in middle school is not the same as a major infringement in senior school.  A suggestion would be construct a hierarchy of violations that is clearly distributed to students and teachers. This transparency reduces the likelihood of students citing ignorance in their defence. An example of such a hierarchy from ANU, Canberra and Andrews University in Michigan are available for your perusal.   

Much has been said so far about how teaching staff can do to promote academic honesty.  But in all honesty, students need to also be aware of their role in this dual relationship.  Students need to follow the referencing guidelines set by their institution. Whether it be APA, Harvard or MLA citation styles, students need to conform.  They also need to refrain from reusing earlier work and badging it as new work. Many students feel that this cannot be plagiarism as its their own material.  But what they are unaware of is that they can reference previous works. The most common ways in which students are academically dishonest is collusion and unequal group work.  Collusion as Monash University (2019) points out is the “unauthorised collaboration on assessable work with other people”. Frequently unauthorised partners include parents, older siblings, tutors and friends.  It is dishonest to present the collaborative efforts of multiple people off as individual work. Group work is a minefield where academic honesty is concerned. It is very common for one or two people in a group to carry the team.  This unequal distribution of work is often due to a participant’s absenteeism and or disinterest. Unfortunately, there is no suggestion I can offer as I have been guilty of doing too much in past group assessments in order to pass/complete a task.  In my opinion, (no facts), I believe that group tasks should not be used for summative assessments tasks due the inequitable nature of collaborative groups.  

Academic honesty is not just for students to follow when submitting their assignments.  Rather it is a mindset, a code of conduct, developed during schooling years and manifested in adulthood.  As a code of conduct, infringements of this nature need to be treated similarly to infringements of other conduct related behaviour.  Simply assigning punitive measures is not conducive to learning and reducing future occurrences.  Instead, it is more productive to create a situation in which academic integrity is the norm and best practice for both students and teachers.  Academic honesty is more than just plagiarism.  Its is the authenticity of your work and the extension of self. 

References

Ezard, T., (2019) Leading the Buzz in your school. ASLA 50th Conference. Canberra

Jacobsen, R., Halvorsen, A., Frasier, A., Schmitt, A., Crocco, M., and Segall, A. (2018). Thinking deeply, thinking emotionally; how high school students make sense of evidence. Theory & Research in Social Education. 46, 232-276. DOI 10.1080/00933104.2018.1425170

 

Jones, M. & Silberzahn, P. (2016) Without an opinion, you’re just another person with data. Forbes – Media and Entertainment. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/awsmediaandentertainment/2019/09/12/how-to-thrive-in-todays-disrupted-media-markets/#7862807770ed

 

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. & Caspari, A. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. Libraries Unlimited. USA.

 

Kong, S. (2014). Developing information literacy and critical thinking skills through domain knowledge learning in digital classrooms: An experience of practicing flipped classroom strategy. Computers & Education. 78, pp.160-173,  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.009

 

Latrobe University (2019). Academic Integrity. Student Administration. Retrieved from https://www.latrobe.edu.au/students/admin/academic-integrity

 

Monash University (2019). Academic integrity, plagiarism and collusion. Student Administration. Retrieved from https://www.latrobe.edu.au/students/admin/academic-integrity

 

McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., Ortega, T., Smith, M., and Wineburg, S. (2018). Can students evaluate online sources? Learning from assessments of civic online reasoning. Theory & Research in Social Education. 46, 165-193, DOI 10.1080/00933104.2017.1416320

 

Qayyum, M., &  Smith, David. (2018). Changing research behaviours of university students with progression through a course. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association. 67: 3 pp256-277 DOI: 10.1080/24750158.2018.1502243

Templeton, T. (2019). Co-existing or co-operating. Trish’s trek into bookspace [blog]. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/trish/2019/04/18/co-existing-or-co-operating/

 

Breaking down the barriers

Breaking down the barriers

 

Break out boxes are a fabulous activity that engage and excite students of all ages.  These boxes mirror how an escape room works in that students puzzle their way through to find the code that will unlock the box and obtain their prize! 

These boxes were amazing all throughout book week!! My fabulous colleague Jordan is a whiz at creating activities that stimulate the brain, evoke critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication.   Using the Critical and creative thinking continuum from the General capabilities, the puzzles were selected to address the various strands at the appropriate stage for each class.  Our students were thoroughly engaged in the pursuit of a grand prize.  TBH, the grand prizes were lollies as that was what the budget permitted.  

The boxes were such a hit that we have been clamoured with requests to repeat them with other classes.  The 2IC of RE has asked the boxes be available for Year 8 RE to sum up their World Religions unit at the end of next term as well as 7 RE for their unit on ‘Gospels, Parables and Miracles’.  9 History wants it for exam preparation in two weeks. 10 English want it next week to reinvigorate the flagging interest in ‘Lord of the flies’ that I have previously grumbled about.   We even managed to get an elusive science class requesting it – 11 Biology is going to trial one to introduce the next unit of work.  

So what does this mean for us as a TL?

Besides embedding the Gen Caps into the teaching and learning, breakout boxes draw in the skeptical teachers by breaking down barriers.  We all know there are teachers in every school that have strong aversions to libraries and teacher librarians.  There are ones that are not sure of what a TL can contribute to the classroom, and others that avoid the library like its a contagious disease.  Some are not even sure why we are there at all!

We have found that breakout boxes are so captivating that its plainly obvious how it can work in the classroom teacher’s favour.  But this indulgence comes at a cost…  They need to book a TL to do this activity either in the library or their classroom.  And maybe then they will see, we aren’t all that scary.  And then… maybe then, they will come back, to borrow books, request teaching spaces and most importantly, collaborate together in planning units of work.  

Maybe then they will understand what we do, and who we are.

Now who is feeling smug?

(my HOD…  this whole concept wasnt my idea, but as my HOD and colleagues are not going to blog about it. I might as well)

Book Week – Making reading fun!

Book week.  

Two simple words.

Two words that can excite little kid hearts, big teacher hearts and terrify parents who have to organise costumes for their kids’s parades. These are also two words that hold little excitement for those teen hearts.  

Why?

Oh please, ask me why? 

Never mind I will just tell you.

It may come as no great surprise to you – but teens don’t read…

Well they do not read as much as they used to and they certainly do not read the variety and depth of texts that their parents and grandparents read. To put it mildly, many teens do not read for recreational purposes.  A modern teen is overwhelmed by the variety of recreational activities they could choose from including the persistent lure of technology and glitzy apps, which as we all know, hold far more appeal than stodgy texts. For a bibliophile like me and an emerging Teacher librarian, this dilemma has coined a phrase known as ‘reluctant readers’ which means people, both adults and children that do not read for pleasure. 

Why does this occur?  We are all aware of how important literacy and reading are in primary school.  Students have readers that come home weekly and library visits as a class. Parents are constantly bombarded to read to their children by advocates from both the health and educational faculties.  Reading is fun! Schools run literacy activities that boost skills as well as point out the pleasure in reading, such as the CBCA book week. Within this week, teachers and other educational providers seek to promote books and the love of reading to children of all ages.  It is thrilling to see little children so excited by costumes and parades. Their faces light up when they hold up their favourite book against their outfit with happy eyes and grins to match. Primary schools across the country go through great lengths to set up parades. Teachers get dressed up in elaborate costumes and there is a general feeling of goodwill and happiness to all.  But when does this joy with reading decline? 

The answer sadly is high school.  

The same attitude for recreational reading does not translate into the latter years of schooling.  High school students are not encouraged to find pleasure in reading. There are multiple reasons for this decline.  Arguably the primary reason is that teenagers are often plagued by compulsory texts that hold little appeal for them.  Texts that have endured generations of disengaged students. I know from my own memory of high school two decades ago, and the apathy that quickly follows William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”.  But yet the text’s presence in the curriculum continues. Yes, I agree that it has valuable social commentary. But I am sure that there are more engaging texts exist- “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins is plausibly a good replacement for Goldings dry and dismal story.  But forcing students to read books that they have no interest in only elicits anger and disgust for the text and its taint spreads to even the activity of reading.  

Douglas (2013) prescribes that an ability to read for pleasure as a teen is an indication of an ability to thrive in social environments. He goes on to explain that children that derive intrinsic pleasure and joy from reading are also the ones who end up being life-long learners.  This could simply be because those that find that inherent motivation to read are also the ones that have that immanent drive to succeed. Or it could be that those, even when cajoled, bribed and begged to read, with no innate motivation, are guided into the habit of reading, which over time could develop into something that brings great joy’ as Marie Kondo is often quoted.   Either way, the importance of reading is no longer just an educational issue but rather a social issue

Elphaba, 2018

Douglas (2013) elucidates that the demise of recreational reading in teens is based upon gender, attitude and societal expectations.  I can only tell you how many times I have rolled my eyes backwards when I hear parents and occasionally some teachers excuse reluctant readers with the banal phrase ‘boys will be boys’.  In some circumstances, my eyes have rolled back so hard they have gotten stuck against the back of my head! But I digress!! This gender based preference for reading is societal in origin rather than biological as Wong (2018) points out, “the brain is a unisex organ”.  But first world nations such as Britain, US and UK, the disparity in reading statistics between boys and girls is no longer just a fable, a myth. It is a disturbing statistic that affects half our student body. This inability to read translates to less dexterity in processing words, less sophistication in communication, and a consistent decline in educational outcomes.  On the note of societal disparity – in developing countries, the gender gap is primarily based upon unequal access to education. 

Queen of Hearts – 2018

 The other problem lies in that once a student is considered to be a competent reader in upper primary school, the focus changes from ‘learning to read’ to ‘read to learn’.  Ill informed parents believe that their children can now read and after years of being forced to read “Where is the green sheep” (by Mem Fox), (#mylife!), they dance their way from having to read to their children.  I must include myself with this charge. I too stopped reading to my eldest once she could read and have had only re-started after seeing the research. my Netflix time can wait a little longer. 

Malificient – 2018

 

As educators and as teacher librarians, we need to make reading FUN for our high school students.  We need to remind them of when a book character could make you laugh, cry and fall in love. We need to show them how reading books is not just about school work and assignments, but rather reading can be the quickest escape from it all. 

 

Cruella 2018

I am going all out for book week this year.  I am going to make a complete idjit of myself and show my students that reading is FUN! That reading books you are interested in brings great joy!  Most of all, I am going to show my colleagues that recreational reading is still important for teenagers.  And I am going to show them that whilst looking FABULOUS!

 

This year’s theme!

Douglas, J. (2013) The importance of instilling a need to read. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10035473/The-importance-of-instilling-a-need-to-read.html

 

Wong, A. (2018) Boys don’t read enough. The Atlantic- Education. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/09/why-girls-are-better-reading-boys/571429/

Where was that green sheep (cake)?

Can you see the green sheep (cake)?

 

Getting the word about Book week out.  We have asked the kids to bring in food that has a book theme.  They will be judged and then prizes awarded before selling them to raise money for the Pajama Foundation.  We had a lovely student bring in some a few days early to drum up support.  So far we have had 40 students agree to bring in something delectable for next week.

stay tuned …

Out of the Box!

How do you teach students about the context behind texts such as Jackie French’s Hitler’s daughter or William Golding’s Lord of the flies to very disinterested teens? 

I am not sure about you but I found both those books dull, dry and depressing as a teen; and I will say they have not improved with age!

Our graduate English teachers were struggling with the rampant disengagement with those two novels.  The indifference was causing the teachers great distress as they were concerned how the students were going to submit their essay assessment task if they would not engage with the book.    More experienced teachers were able to forge through the disengagement but our newest recruits were finding teaching the text challenging.

It then occurred to me that memorial boxes could be the answer!

WW2 Memorial Box set up

I had discovered that the Australian War Memorial had a whole host of educational resources available for loan to schools in the form of memorial boxes.  These boxes contain genuine artifacts from various military events in Australian history. I had requested a box for our 10 History classes earlier this semester as a ‘hook’ factor to engage and elicit interest at the commencement of their World War 2 unit.  

Artifacts from the memorial box

My cognitive connection between our great English dilemma and the memorial box was very much delayed!  It wasn’t until I was unpacking the resources in our library seminar room that it occurred to me that the same artifacts that were engaging our Year 10 history students could also stimulate our year 7 and 10 English students. 

I had an epiphany of sorts!

I was so happy my HOD agreed with my madcap proposal about using the memorial box as a stimulus for English.  The scheme was simple.  The students would come to our ‘library museum’ and view the various artifacts displayed within. Then in pairs, the students would interview each other to create a podcast with an accompanying transcript.  A very clever English teacher quickly whipped up a worksheet  and then, just like that… our immersive experience had begun.

Pictures and Memorabilia

Now I would love to tell you it was all a huge success, but I would be lying. 

The memorial boxes were a great triumph with our 10 History students but success was variable with our English classes.  This lackluster response could be attributed to the inadequate time for the students to complete the activity. The classes that visited the library twice had more success than ones that came just once. 

What we did discover was that students were stirred out of the apathetic stance towards the books because they began to understand the context  surrounding it. The memorial box activity connected the students to the mileu of the books and engaged them in the character’s turmoil.  As the worksheets were collected at the end of the session, the teachers were able to use those responses to formatively assess student literacy and other learning goals.  

The focus of a school library has changed in the past decade from archivist and curator of information to being an active facilitator of knowledge both physical and digital.  This means that teacher librarian may need to think out side the box for some more out of the box thinking!

The in class essays are all occurring this week for year 7 and next week for year 10.  I would be very intrigued to know if the memorial boxes assisted in increasing student engagement with the books and the outcome of the assessments.  I would also like to analyse the results of the English classes that declined to attend our library museum and compare them to the classes that did come.  If there is a significant difference, then I would have sufficient evidence to run this activity for more teachers and students.  

I await reporting time with great avidity.

Are Classroom libraries a real option?

It would come as no surprise to any of you that education budgets are constantly being stretched.

The slow erosion of funding has led many schools to debate the value of their resources to determine which ones need to be cut in order to survive fiscally.  Unfortunately, school libraries are the department that is being most adversely affected. This adverse effect can be seen either by the absence of a qualified teacher librarian and or the complete absence of a school library. Cook (2018) suggests that libraries are robbed of their funding because they are deemed useless in this internet age. I have spoken previously about the importance of a teacher librarian so this post is not about that.  But some schools, overburdened by numbers, convert their library spaces into additional classrooms. When this occurs, most often than not, these schools sometimes set up classroom libraries to combat the loss of a school library.  

According to Cook (2018), libraries are essential to a school’s success. 

But are classroom libraries the same as having a school library with a qualified teacher librarian?  We are all aware that exposure to books is positively correlated to improved literacy (Neuman, n.d.).  We are also know that not all households have the same bibliophilic tendencies. This means that there are a proportion of students who are not exposed to books in the home.  Neuman (n.d.) elucidates that it is the presence of books in close proximity that correlate directly to increased literacy.  

Schools historically are known for exposing young minds to the wonderful world of imagination and literature via the school library.  But with no school library, is the alternative a classroom library? But what if the classroom library is poorly executed? By executed, I mean poorly stocked and unable to meet the needs of the students.  This can lead to limited student engagement with the classroom materials and if there is no school library, then there is no safety net for these disengaged readers. Implementing an assortment of books in a box is not equivalent to the presence of a qualified professional. After all, teachers are not trained in information management and resourcing, and it seems foolhardy to leave the resource management to at the hands of an already overburdened classroom teacher.  

One suggestion is that the classes each have their own classroom library but they are managed by a teacher librarian. 

So rather that rather than a random assortment of materials, the books are carefully curated by the teacher librarian to meet the evolving needs of the students.  An example of this would be a box of books are rotated in regular intervals and that the reading levels within are appropriately aligned to the needs of the students (Sacks, 2018).  But whilst in theory is outstanding, the practicality is far more complicated. Sacks (2018) surmised that consistency and equity are the largest issues with classroom libraries as the titles will vary between classes.  The primary problem is that schools would need to almost double their collection for them to adequately service the needs of all their classrooms. This would incur extra costs for the school. There would also be greater difficulty in tracking the books and ensuring that they are maintained.   

The downside of having a teacher librarian manage physical classroom collections is that they are then limited in their ability to create, manage and implement information literacy programs.  

Lance & Kachel (2018) indicate that the research is clear about the correlation between high quality library programs and increased student achievement. Frierson & Virtue (2013) believe that it library programs that need to be embedded into classroom practice.  They go on to illustrate that this improvement is not just for affluent schools but for all schools. In fact, arguably the lack of a school library is discriminatory to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, that do in desperate fact, require regular access to libraries, their programs and books in order to engage equitably with educational practices.  

There are currently teacher librarians in Australia that are creating LibGuides that are specifically relevant to units of work and use the school’s learning management systems to reach their audience.

This method also means that students that are away from school due to ill health or other personal reasons are still able to engage with their learning off site.  An example of this would be the class novel study with appropriate supporting materials and related works. So with our Year 7’s currently studying the Jackie French novel “Hitler’s Daughter”, the LibGuide contains the ebook version as well as; study notes, worksheets, supporting extracts from other similar novels such as “Boy in a wooden box” by Jim Boyne, “Book Thief” by Mark Zusack and “Dollmaker of Krakow”by R M Romero.  I have also created an online museum with images relating to the book where students can view artefacts and watch short video-clips.  

All of this take time.  Time that I have because I am not curating classroom library boxes.  But if I was not there, or if the position of teacher librarian was not there, then students would not have access to these resources.  Yes, there are teachers who do have the time and energy to go beyond the normal to create amazing learning experiences for their students.  But with 50% of teachers leaving the profession within 5 years, and nearly ⅓ of employed teachers suffering from a mental illness and or addiction, overburdening them further is foolish.

If prisons have mandated librarians to ensure that their collections are servicing the needs for their community, then I think our children can have the same access.  Removing school libraries to minimise costs is short sighted.  It is not beneficial for the teachers, the students and society.  

Cook, H., (2018) Extending the shelf life of the school library in the internet age. SMH. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/education/extending-the-shelf-life-of-the-school-library-in-the-internet-age-20181016-p50a0l.html

Frierson, E., & Virtue, A. (2013) Integrating academic library services directly into classroom instruction through discovery tools; Bringing library resources into the online classroom. Infotoday.com. Retrieved from https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-345277685/integrating-academic-library-services-directly-into

Lance, K., & Kachel, D. (2018) Why school librarians matter: what years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan. Retrieved from https://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Neuman, S. (n.d.) The Importance of a classroom library. Scholastic Teacher Resource. Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/paperbacks/downloads/library.pdf

Sacks, A. (2018) Why school librarians are the literacy leaders we need.  Teaching the whole story [blog].  Retrieved from https://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/whole_story/2018/05/why_school_librarians_are_lite.html

Dewey this…

 

Dresses galore

 

My closet is a veritable rainbow of pretty dresses, skirts, tops and cardigans.  Each item is lovingly washed, ironed and replaced in its place with care. Starting from the right, the dresses start as formal, and work their way to day dresses, before moving on to skirts, tops, cardigans and jumpers. In each subsection they are further organised by colour.  At a glance, I can see what I have hanging up and locate an item with ease.

Then my husband comes along to ‘help’.  He ‘helps’ by putting away my carefully washed and ironed dresses by shoving them into the wardrobe in whatever spot seems available.  Needless to say this causes me mild panic when I cannot find my ‘Florelle’ (orange cotton dress) which should be in between ‘Neroli’ (yellow print dress) and ‘Melody Rose’ (orange print dress).  Instead ‘Florelle’ been shoved between ‘Cascade’ and ‘wish upon a star’ (both black and white patterns). 

I was horrified.  How on earth was I supposed to find my precious dress buried in the wrong spot???  

My husband was miffed.  Here he is helping me by putting away my clothing all I am doing is complaining. 

Apparently my wardrobe organisation is too complicated to understand, and I have too many dresses that look exactly the same.  

Now I was miffed.  I certainly do not.  There are nuances between them and I definitely do not have too many clothes.  (note that picture of my wardrobe was from January 2019 and I can honestly say I have added a few (maybe more than a few) to that collection since then.  

But I digress. 

This blog post is not about my dress acquisition nor my marital disagreements about my wardrobe organisation or Imelda Marcos tendencies. 

Instead, this post is a prelude to the subject that I will commence tomorrow morning. ETL 505 will open my mind to how resources are cataloged.  I will learn how the records are created and use that information to benefit the users within my community. This knowledge will also help me with giving constructive feedback to metadata specialists as part of my role as a TL.  

Last semester in ETL 401 I learned about what the role of a TL encompasses as a whole.  In ETL 503 I learned how important it was to correlate the resources within the library to the curriculum.  This is simply because the point of a school library is to address the needs of the curriculum. This semester, it appears my learning is aimed more at the librarian aspect of a TL than the teacher component.  As an information specialist and information services manager, my role involves ensuring that the collection is easily accessible by the student population using the information management system available.

To sum it up succinctly.  I need to learn how a library is organised so that the kiddos can use it successfully. 

The point of organisation is to easily find and locate an item when you wish to use it.  How it is organised depends on who is doing the work, but the underlying point is ACCESS!  If the item cannot be found and used when it is needed, then the system is broken. The resource is underutilised and the monies wasted.  In school libraries this is a travesty when budgets are often stretched and funds scant. 

Libraries are famous for their organisation. 

Neenuvimalkumar – Pre computerised Library management system

 

Dear ole Mr Dewey revolutionised the information world with his Dewey Decimal System.  Known famously as the ultimate in organisation and classification, DDS organises the information within a library into groups and then further divisions for specifics areas (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018).  Due to its comprehensive and adaptive nature, the system is universally used across the world (OCLC, 2019). A bibliophile in New York city can find a book about Bonnie Prince Charlie in the same location as they would in a suburban library in Melbourne’s suburbs.  

But information isn’t so simple in this modern day.  Gone are the days where libraries only stocked books and maps.  A modern day library will have shelving of books, but will also have access to other formats such as videos, audiobooks, eReaders and images.  All of these resources need to be catalogued and organised so that they can be accessed by the user. They also need to be differentiated within the catalogue records so that the user can easily identify that their request for ‘The Odyssey’ includes versions of the epic tale, even if the creator and format differs.  

So as the last day of my uni holidays draws to a close I ponder the knowledge I will gain from this subject.  I am a bit apprehensive as the assessment tasks are not essays but rather more practically based tasks. I am far better at blathering out epochs than being useful.  So this may be a steep learning curve for me. Also, I burnt out a bit last semester so I am just doing the one subject now.  

 

Bring on Session 2, 2019.  

References

Encyclopaedia Britannica (2018). Dewey Decimal System. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/Dewey-Decimal-Classification 

OCLC (2019) How one library pioneer profoundly influenced modern librarianship. Retrieved from https://www.oclc.org/en/dewey/resources/biography.html

Its the standards that matter – Module 3.1

 

I recently moved from provisional /graduate teacher to proficient teacher whilst I was working as a Teacher librarian.  I’ve only ever taught as a casual teacher for about two years and only just scraped  my 180 days minimum as TQI required in the ACT when I moved to proficient.  Gathering evidence for my ATSIL standards was ridiculously hard when you never have had a class to yourself.  So the thought of having to even think about ASLA TL standards was enough to make me avoid this task for a week.

Then I spent a week assisting the RE co-ordinator and his 2IC plan next semester’s units from Years 7-8.   Using their unit plans I worked with the teachers to embed the general capabilities curriculum firmly into the teaching and learning.  I used scootle to find resources that would promote critical and creative thinking, inter cultural understanding and ICT.   I assembled a range of fiction titles that would support the units of work, including locating an audio-book for our visually challenged student.  I also looked for interactive websites and videos that would enhance the learning process.  Then I collaborated with the inclusive education team to work on modified programs for the students with learning needs.  It took us all day but we came up with several scaffolded tasks that could be used interchangeably.

It was then the TL standards made sense.  The standards set the benchmark of professional behaviour of what teacher librarians bring to the school community.  I am too new a teacher and  definitely too new a TL to be proficient at all the standards.  But what I can do is achieve each one slowly, bit by bit.

 

2.2 Learning and teaching

Excellent teacher librarians:

• collaborate with teachers to plan and implement information literacy and literature programs that result in positive student learning outcomes

• ensure that their programs are responsive to the needs of learners in the school community

• support learning and teaching by providing equitable access to professionally-selected resources

• assist individual learners to develop independence in their learning

• teach the appropriate and relevant use of ICTs and information resources