Bec in the library

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." — Jorge Luis Borges

Evaluation of the collection May 28, 2011

Real life story: The TL at my school is yet to do a full collection evaluation, even after being here 4 years.

He has done some selective collection analysis utilising Titlewave but as it is American, only about 45% of our collection comes up in their programme (as many of our resourced from Australia, UK and NZ, the ISBNs are different).

My TL focuses more on teacher and student feedback to evaluate the collection. When pressed, he said that as he had such a healthy budget and lots of great staff, he didn’t feel the need to conduct regular evaluations.

He did however, concede that evaluations are invaluable and completely necessary if you are having to fight for funds and/or building a new library (or rebuilding a badly managed library): proving that getting what you need based on the stats you gain from an evaluation is critical.

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The ‘polished’ Part C May 22, 2011

As I write this synthesis, I am experiencing one of the most powerful emotional responses in my personal learning journey to date: one of such complete frustration and annoyance that I find it extremely difficult to analyse where I have come from and where I want and need to go from here.

Each week during this semester gave me impetus to try new things, ask questions, shift my centre of understanding and balance further towards a more wholistic and complete view of how I could be a positive, empowering, exciting TL.

However, my learning has been completely recursive; each time I make a leap forward in understanding, an a’ha! moment, it leads me down a path of negativity before pushing through onto the the next exciting discovery and possibility by posting on, or reading the forums or using the blog as a sounding board.

After receiving cognitive coaching (Costa & Garmston, 1999) from a colleague, I am finally able to order my thoughts into coherency, based around my a’ha! moments.

A’ha! moment #1

The concept of libraries for a post literate society kick-started my journey in a way I never expected. The reading came from a different CSU M.ETL subject but served to highlight the educational landscape I was about to enter as a TL.

A’ha! moment #2

The whole of 401 Topic 2! Purcell’s (2010) summary of our role scared, excited and empowered me. Up until this point, my initial impressions, admittedly, were centred around relief and excitement at being part of teaching and learning whilst never having to write another report. These complacent ideas were soon squashed as I began to read and understand the vast nature of the TL role. I began to feel extremely disheartened. My sense of injustice of how a TL was supposed to be everything to everyone was overpowering. I was also completely flabbergasted that teachers didn’t know how to best utilise the knowledge and expertise of our TL. This taught me a very important lesson in advocacy that has burned its place into my professional soul – if a TL wants to support, extend and complement the curriculum, don’t expect anyone else to know that you can do it!

Lamb & Johnson’s (2008) focus on teaching and learning and how it is what separates us from the clerical staff was exciting. However, the depth of knowledge about information and technological literacy needed for this job floored me. This showed my total and utter misunderstanding of what the role of TL actually is. As I explored the notion of information literacy further, I moved from a place of certainty and excitement to frustration.

A’ha! moment #3

Valenza’s (2010) manifesto and vodcast – the passion and the power! Her monologue about the possibilities of quality information literacy instruction, especially that which incorporated web 2.0 tools, was incredibly appealing. Even though I didn’t blog about this point of my learning journey, I felt energised and ready to take our well resourced but decidedly 20th century library steaming into the 21st century. I immediately started several projects utlising Valenza’s ideas and saw positive results from the beginning.

A’ha! moment #4

As someone who always wants to be in the thick of every decision, activity, meeting and experience, being involved in the process of benchmarking IL in our school was pivotal to my learning. I was in turns shocked, thrilled and disappointed in the journey being undertaken. It was such a massive project and one that could so easily get lost and shelved, as it actually did previously. As the process continued, and the roadblocks become more apparent, I realised what an uphill battle TLs face when stressing the importance of IL  – the absolute core of what we do and who we are. I felt distressed and completely deflated.

I saw the desperate need to put into practice the rhetoric but the reality is so far from that I lost hope.

However, through the process of writing this synthesis, I am beginning to look forward with positivity and hope. There are people in my school who care passionately about the pivotal role of the TL and they are in the positions of power to make it a reality. It will just be a slow and steady race, one that would involve all stakeholders, one that will be mandated by the administration.

I never claim to have all the answers or to be the one with the necessary experience or knowledge but what I do have is the passion, the enthusiasm, the time and the willingness to fight for what I believe is important in 21st century education. I am not burnt by repeated “no’s” from the administration, I embrace the challenge of collaboration. I will be responsible for advocacy through informed learning.

 

THIS is why a decision can’t be made… May 16, 2011

Well, today was a mindf**k.

I have found out why someone can’t make a bloody decision (reference to an earlier post): there’s so many people involved, with all their experience and knowledge and opinions, it’s impossible!!

I spent the morning observing the educational technology team (TLs and ICT integrators across the 3 schools) attempt to benchmark information and digital literacy standards vertically across the school.

OH MY F-ING GOD.

The process was sound: only bringing in the immediate stakeholders, having an impartial and skilled mediator who didn’t have particular ownership over any department (curriculum coordinator), clearly defined criteria, models and examples from across the world to draw from so as to not reinvent the wheel, time for small group work/individual reflection and digestion, plenty of water, food and breaks, jigsawing, paraphrasing, brainstorming.

But OH CHRIST ALMIGHTY it took FOREVER! I left after a couple of hours as it was making me even more confused than I already was plus I have the kind of personality that NEEDS to be involved in every discussion and not saying anything after a few hours was killing me 🙂

I didn’t feel comfortable putting forward any of my ideas, thoughts or suggestions as I don’t yet feel confident that these ideas, thoughts and suggestions actually make sense or would drive the discussion anywhere worthwhile.

I certainly learnt a HUGE amount by listening to these incredibly knowledgeable and passionate educators. I saw how much work it takes to make a document that is coherent and worthwhile, something that can be and WILL be useful and USED.

The mediator also happens to be a close friend so she let me ask some great questions about the process and the obstacles she feels the group are facing, and have faced in the past when this was first done a few years back. (Not as part of the whole group of course, just as a side conversation while the others were focused on the task at hand.) This was really important for me as this topic is my Part B for assignment 2: getting a whole school commitment to IL.

Her take on it was that there is a really, really fine line between people’s passion for seeing  IL implemented and their total and unwavering ownership over it which makes other people feel that the teaching of IL isn’t best practice, it’s a personal band wagon so they tune out and give up. She said that the reason the last attempt at IL failed was because the drivers behind it left the school and as it was such a personal ‘mission’, people felt a sense of relief that the people were gone and they didn’t have to teach it/implement it anymore.

OK, call me impatient, naive, arrogant, whatever, but I find that incredibly stupid and ignorant. Why does it matter who drives it and that they make it their personal mission to get it up and running? Doesn’t that mean it gets DONE? If no one makes it happen, it just sits there and all that work was for nothing! (Which is EXACTLY what has happened.)

I need to ask my friend more about this. I’m deeply confused and conflicted.

It does, however, completely explain why the EC3-Grade 5 literacy standards and benchmarks that myself and my language committee wrote over the course of two years were chucked out the door the minute I left the school…

 

Thinking of the solution… May 2, 2011

What are the roadblocks to collaboration – in my experience – and what are some possible solutions to these roadblocks?

ROADBLOCK 1: Teachers feel intimidated by other teachers and their (perceived) better practice – by working with other teachers the intimidated teacher believes their weaknesses will be flaunted to all and sundry.

SOLUTION 1: Performance management focusing on personal goals and carried out by a ‘safe’ peer – this worked with GREAT success in my last school. Everyone got to choose an area of growth and ask a trusted colleague (who we admired for their best practice teaching and learning in that area) to give us positive and constructive feedback. The feedback form was very positive in structure and framed all feedback in terms of attainment of the stated goal, not an overall performance.

SOLUTION 2: Baby steps – every teacher to start collaborating with one peer at a time, in an area of strength. In one of my past schools, each teacher was encouraged to share something they had done well, either in a staff meeting or during a team meeting. If any of their peers tried the lesson/activity/task, that peer made the effort to tell the original teacher. This really boosted the morale of everyone involved.

SOLUTION 3: Often teachers who feel like this are ones who have not had principals or team leaders who encourage risk taking. As educators, we fail every day. A lesson misses it’s mark, an assessment task wasn’t clear, the kids were just ‘off’, we are behind on marking, the list of ways we can let ourselves and our students down is endless. But we also succeed and succeed in ways that are so monumental that we remember how amazing we are! Each and every day, we open students’ eyes, ears, brains and hearts to the joy of the world through learning. The power of this MUST NOT be forgotten! However, to be successful in this way, we can’t be staid. Students change us and they change the curriculum – we cannot simply teach the same lesson to a different group of kids just because it worked ‘before’. This is where risk taking comes in, and how essential it is that our superiors believe in our skills and passions and let us try new things. My last principal was a ‘yes’ woman, in the best possible way. As long as you could give a sound reason why you wanted to try something, and how it related to better acheivement for our students, she went out of her way to organise time, money, staff, whatever it took to get you what you needed. THAT is the kind of principal it takes to have a truly professional learning community.

SOLUTION 3: Educators need to see that they are on a journey of personal mastery (Senge, pg 7). Schools are not just a place where we teach others, we are also learners. If we simply turn up and do what we have always done, there is no personal mastery, no sense of self-accomplishment and enrichment as a learner. Willingly working together with peers who both our superior and lesser in skills, knowledge and understanding enables us to get onto that path of personal mastery without wondering how the hell we can do it – our peers give us all we need if we only open ourselves to it without feeling like we are a failure for not being able to do something!

ROADBLOCK 2:  A sense of frustration and hopelessness that can come with too much collaboration that ends with no decisions. This is very common in many schools that love collaboration – sometimes just for collaborations sake. The end goal is student achievement and learning, not simply JUST the mechanics of working together as professionals. There can often be a LOT of talk and not enough action. It’s enough to make anyone throw their hands up and say “I’m just going to do what I need and want to do, stuff everyone else”.

SOLUTION 1: Essential agreements – clear documents that state the purpose of meetings – planning or housekeeping – and keep the end goal at the forefront of everyone’s thinking. Some people view essential agreements as micromanaging but I feel they are just like when we give criterion rubrics to students – it’s  so crucial to know what is expected of you before you start something, it encourages and expects success.

TANGENT: Successful, effective leadership is not about top down, it is about utilising all employees strengths towards the greater good – it’s about harnessing everyone’s talents, encouraging each person to be the best they can be at the job they do – whether that is cleaning the coffee cups or making sure the budget balances.

 

Will someone just make a bloody decision?!

Filed under: ETL 401 : Topic 5 — becinthelibrary @ 1:48 am
Tags: ,

I have just found out what I consider to be a horrible, horrible fact: my school has had a clear, concise, articulate, student-centred, made for our student demographic, well-researched and easy to implement IL policy sitting on the shelf for THREE YEARS, untaught.

Why?

Because the three schools (elementary, middle and high) cannot decide if they’d all like to implement it.

WTF?!

So that is 3 full years of no one being explicitly taught basically any IL using consistent language or process, even though there has been a fantastic policy devised by an incredibly competent and knowledgeable team of educators across all three schools sitting there, waiting. All because of damn politics between administrators, our kids have been left with a piecemeal approach to IL with some kids being taught their teachers’ version of it and others having no idea whatsoever.
Grr, double grr.

My TL also says that a major hurdle is staff buy-in. They have to see the value of explicitly teaching IL, and teaching it using a common model. He believes this can only happen with a top down approach – the principals, curriculum coordinators, team leaders and TLs must all agree on the model/approach and only THEN can we as a school go ahead and teach it. Otherwise, it will always be seen as a temporary approach, or worse – a temporary educational fad, something that doesn’t have to be bought into because it will pass soon enough.

Based on some forum posts, it seems having solid research to back you up as a TL will help you get other staff to ‘buy in’ to using a consistent model.

Regardless of what politics are behind the decision to implement or no to implement, I truly believe our kids cannot and will not internalise and transfer these skills and processes across subjects and into real life unless we can provide a clear and consistent model (or scaffold) right from the start of primary school and moving through to high school.

 

Collaborative practice April 26, 2011

Filed under: ETL 401 : Topic 5 — becinthelibrary @ 5:49 am
Tags: , ,

As a primary teacher who has worked in authorised international PYP schools – some for profit, some non-profit, some exceptionally collegial, some not so much – I consider myself extremely lucky when it comes to collaboration. CPT is embedded so deeply into the way our schools operate that it is very hard NOT to be part of a well-oiled, efficient team who have the the needs of learners at their heart.

Sure, I have worked with some teachers who just want to close their classroom door and ignore the rest of the free-thinking world but, by and large, when you work within the PYP, that just isn’t an option that is tolerated.

PYP teachers plan together, teach together and reflect together – this is mandated in our curriculum frameworks. Awesome hey?

My current school is the first I have been in that has a qualified, competent teacher librarian and boy can you tell the difference. Although he is not able to be as involved in T&L as much as he’d like (750+ kids, 37 classes, 1 TL), he is still a strong, intelligent, personable, visible educator in the school. His door is always open and people are welcomed with a bellowed song and a giant smile, he involves himself in student projects (as much as possible), attends planning meetings (where possible), sits on the senior education leadership team (SELT) and is pretty much the social hub of the school.

All these wonderful traits SHOULD make him the corner stone of CPT.

BUT.

How thin can one person be stretched? How realistic is it for one TL to be everything to everyone in a school this size? How can he be collaborative with as many people as possible when the sheer number of those people mean their view of ‘collaborative’ means very, very different things? With a staff of close to 80, how can consensus be reached in anything approaching a reasonable time frame?

So much of the time I feel overwhelmed by the desire to be this amazing (fictional?) TL we are learning about but it is squashed by the cajillion mitigating factors that attempt to stop this happening…

“Think of the solution, not the problem.” First Wizard Zeddicus Zorander, Sword of Truth series

 

Information literacy – the definitions April 18, 2011

Filed under: ETL 401: Topic 4 — becinthelibrary @ 2:36 am
Tags: , ,

So much to read, so much to process!

My colleagues on the forum have helped me crystallize my views so I will quote them here:

Irene Lu: Thu 14-Apr-11 11:03 pm – her definition:

Information literacy involves the combination of information skills, (i.e identify, formulate, locate, access, communicate, reflect) cognitive processes (i.e critIcal thinking, higher order thinking, metacognition) and attitudes (i.e lifelong learning, valuing knowledge).

Mary-Louise McInerney: Mon 18-Apr-11 09:55 am – her definition based on keywords:
1. critical thinking process;
2. problem solving behaviours;
3. independent lifelong learning

 

 
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