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Teachers need Teacher-librarians too.

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

We all know the difference a qualified teacher-librarian can make to the educational outcomes of students in their schools. Research shows that standardised testing results in literacy are higher in schools with teacher-librarians on staff. Current advocacy campaigns in Australia, such as Students Need School Libraries, rightly focus on the fact that students benefit from having a well-resourced and adequately staffed school library. What is lesser discussed is the impact teacher-librarians have on educators and staff at a school.

Teachers need teacher-librarians too. They just may not always realise it. A lot of the work teacher-librarians do can be invisible, as they actively support teaching colleagues to meet the teaching and learning needs of a school. For example, teacher-librarians provide book recommendations and teaching resources to support the curriculum, participate in curriculum planning, collaboratively teach research and digital literacy skills, as well as provide professional development to staff. It is a servant-leader approach where teacher-librarians focus on supporting the growth, well-being and performance of others.

“While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”  (Greenleaf, 1970)

It is through putting the needs of students, teachers and schools first that the positive contribution of the teacher-librarian can be overlooked and undervalued. Despite the fact that teacher-librarians are highly-trained specialists with university qualifications in both education and librarianship, many teachers and principals are unaware of the educational value of the role (Merga, 2019). When the value of a role is unknown and not made visible, it can be easy for school leaders to cut funding for the teacher-librarian position and divert funds elsewhere. But at what cost for teacher well-being?

Early in my  teaching career, I was lucky enough to work with a dedicated, passionate and qualified teacher-librarian. It was this person, who inspired my own desire to be a teacher-librarian.  The teacher-librarian was a great support to teachers – she always ensured we had a box of quality literature and teaching resources ready to support our units of work. Every term, new library books were delivered to classrooms for silent reading. Library lessons were collaborative and based around our units of work in the classroom. The teacher-librarian was involved in curriculum planning days and always there to support teachers in anyway she could.

Sadly, this is no longer the case in many schools around Australia and many young teachers may not have experienced the difference a teacher-librarian can make to their teaching practice, workload and well-being. Workload intensification is a common concern faced by many educators around the world and the loss of a teacher-librarian in schools simply compounds the issue.  Without a teacher-librarian, the important work of this specialised position, simply becomes another to-do list on an already busy teachers to-do list or worse still doesn’t get done at all.

Unfortunately old stereotypes still exist and some educators still perpetuate the myth of the teacher-librarian as a “dragon” and “gatekeeper” of the books. Other colleagues wrongly believe that the teacher-librarian role simply involves borrowing and shelving books. These stereotypes are not helpful and do little to help the cause of contemporary teacher-librarians.  Jenny Kemp’s article Ten ways to advocate for your role as a teacher librarian provides excellent tips on how to show teachers and schools why they need a teacher librarian.

As a result, advocacy campaigns need to highlight how teacher-librarians support educators as well as students. Library advocates need to work together with teachers to show governments and school leadership the value a teacher-librarian can bring to school teaching practice and staff well-being. Teachers who have a dedicated teacher-librarian on staff, must become active advocacy partners and acknowledge the work teacher-librarians do before it is too late. Otherwise, schools and educators won’t know what they are missing until it is too late.

Students AND teachers not only need, but deserve, qualified and passionate teacher-librarians in schools.

 

 

 

 

 

Growing my PLN – Part 2

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Image by moni quayle from Pixabay 

In my previous blog post, I discussed my reasons and motivations for beginning my Personal Learning Network (PLN) journey.  One month later, inspired by a creative make task, as part of a Master’s unit in Connected Learning, I am reflecting on what my PLN looks like and how it has grown and evolved.  Through this process, an image of a flower blooming came to mind.  A flower bud slowly starting to unfurl its petals, is symbolic of how I see my PLN slowly starting to develop into something beautiful.

During the last month, my PLN on Twitter has started to bloom with an increased number of followers resulting in greater interactivity on my posted tweets. I have worked hard to become a participatory member of my PLN, through the sharing of useful articles and information mainly focused on my targeted area of interest – the promotion of a reading culture in school. This targeted focus has assisted me in narrowing my focus, in order to filter information and connect with people who have similar learning interests to myself.  My connections with people have also increased through liking, commenting and participating in conversations with my PLN. The image below shows how the visibility of my tweets in the PLN has grown.

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Screenshot of my Twitter Monthly Activity

A critical incident that occurred during this time also assisted with increased interactivity and engagement with my PLN. In early May, I shared a blog post on the promotion of a reading culture which included tips and useful resources for educators. This tweet resulted in the highest engagement level with any of my tweets so far. I was both surprised and delighted to receive likes, retweets and comments on both my tweet and personal blogging. Since then I have also gained new followers and noticed continued interactivity with subsequent tweets. Comments on the blog tweet, regarding the role of the teacher librarian in the promotion of a reading culture in schools has also caused me to further reflect and has sparked ideas for a new blog post.  Suddenly it seemed, the petals of the flower were beginning to open.

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Screenshot of  Blog Tweet –  13.4% engagement rate with 382 impressions and 51 engagements.

Feeling an increased sense of confidence, I have expanded my PLN through establishing an Instagram account. The use of this social media platform has seen a different side of my professional identity emerge. I have used Instagram to further engage in creative and amplifying practices through sharing images and tips from my daily practise as a classroom teacher, as well as new found knowledge from my teacher-librarian studies. I find I am remixing and distributing the information gleaned through Twitter and my own research in a different way to meet the expectations of an Instagram audience. As a result, I am enjoying experiencing how Twitter and Instagram support my PLN and learning needs in both different and complementary ways.

As my PLN begins to bloom, a challenge I am facing is managing my time in order to further develop my PLN, as well as effectively deal with the vast amount of information appearing in my social media feeds. Currently, I identify with the practices of a self-directed sharer in my interactions with my PLN.  I enjoy self-directed learning and sharing my knowledge with my PLN, colleagues and students. However, due to my busy lifestyle as a part-time teacher, Masters student and mother to four sons, I need to become more of a time manager and implement effective strategies to manage the flow of information and the time needed to further develop my PLN. This is something I look forward to exploring in order to see my PLN bloom into the beautiful flower it has the potential to be.

Promotion of a Reading Culture

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 Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Many of us can fondly recall reading for pleasure in our childhoods. I can remember being excited and looking forward to silent reading time in the classroom.  However, recent studies have found a decline in the number of students reading for pleasure.  With reading for pleasure linked to many academic benefits and overall achievement, a focus on promoting a reading culture in schools is more important than ever before.

School leadership plays an important role in establishing and fostering a reading culture. Without the support of principals and administrators, teachers can feel pressured to drop reading practices that support reading for pleasure in order to focus on increased curriculum demands and standardised testing. Often, independent student reading can be one of the first things to go.  Unfortunately, a qualified school librarian is usually next with funding for the position at the discretion of the school leaders.

Where to from here? Educators need to take a stand and reclaim reading for pleasure in their schools and classrooms. A holistic approach to reading needs to be front and centre in every classroom. Fortunately, there are some simple and easy ways for every teacher to create a reading community in their class.

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Reading for pleasure not only builds academic skills, it helps develop important personal attributes and life skills such as empathy, resilience, problem-solving and the ability to experience life through the perspective of others.  Good stories can change a young person’s life. The right book at the right time can have a profound impact and many of us can remember a story that changed our perspective or helped us deal with a difficult time in our lives. Therefore, it is essential that educators foster and pass on this gift to the students in their care. We need to make reading for pleasure a priority in our classrooms rather than an optional extra. Our students deserve this.

Useful Resources

Raising Readers by Megan Daley is a must read for all educators and parents. Great tips, ideas and booklists for raising readers in your life.

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller shares the keys to cultivating life-long reading habits in your students.

Promotion of reading Pinterest board –  I have curated a collection of useful articles with tips on how to create a reading culture in your school.

Pernille Ripp – an excellent blog from experienced teacher and author Pernille Ripp. Lots of useful articles on the importance and promotion of reading for pleasure.

500 Hats – a useful teacher-librarian blog by Barbara Braxton, with practical ideas, information and insights to support a culture of reading in your school.

 

 

 

Growing my PLN

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Image by ijmaki by Pixabay

As part of my Masters study into Connected learning, I am developing my Professional Learning Network (PLN) in the area of reading promotion within a school.  This area is something I am particularly passionate about and in recent years as a primary school teacher, I have noticed a steep decline in the number of students reading for pleasure.  As an aspiring teacher-library this deeply concerns me and without a resident teacher-librarian on staff in my current school, I wanted to learn more about how to build a culture of reading within my classroom.

I had been an early adopter of social media back in 2007, but had rarely used it for professional purposes and was more of a ‘lurker’ than an active contributor or participant (Jenkins, 2006).  As a deeply private person, the fear of being judged or saying the wrong thing held me back from offering my own opinions or suggestions. What did I have to offer? I was only a classroom teacher after all.  Inspired by this clip, I took the plunge into the world of twitter. It seems there were a lot of teachers out there just like me, who did have a lot to offer.

About a month into developing my PLN on twitter, I am surprised by how inspired I have become following the posts of other educators and professionals (Novak, 2015). It was exciting to see that there are others out there, all over the world, who are interested in the same topics and ideas as me. It can be isolating in a school environment where others do not necessarily share your same excitement or passion for a topic (Casas & Zoul, 2015). I have found connecting professionally with others online, to be a stimulating and energizing experience (Trust, Krutka & Carpenter, 2016). It can be addictive with so many interesting articles to read and interesting ideas to discover.

Slowly building my confidence, I  began to share my thoughts on articles and comment on other people’s tweets. I was delighted and surprised when people liked and commented on my Tweets. I was surprised to find that I had gained 15 followers within the month. A particularly positive moment was when I built up the courage to ask for advice on how to update my classroom library and through my tweet being retweeted, I was given some useful tips and feedback. This then built my confidence enough to start blogging on this website.

Buoyed by initial success, I am now pushing myself to be more of an active participant in order to further develop my PLN. My next steps include setting up an instagram page to share snippets of my daily classroom practise and blogging on a more regular basis.

I look forward to seeing where my PLN adventure takes me next!