Tag Archives: role

The ‘teacher’ in ‘teacher librarian’

Earlier this week, through Twitter, I became acquainted with Lisa Hinchliffe, Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an affiliate faculty member in the university’s library school.

While perusing her writing, this paragraph resonated with me:

Careful consideration to constructing the learning environment and not only focusing on teacher performance has been a mantra for my instructional design practice since then.

This is a very interesting area of investigation for me as a teacher librarian. When people ask me where I work and I say Melbourne High School, they assume I’m a teacher and when I say I’m a teacher librarian, they say, oh, you’re in the library, as if I’m in a box, maybe like a music box that, when opened, keeps the ballerina firmly attached to her space, rotating clockwise only to one tune – definitely not a teacher, not a real one anyway.

Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, because (and I feel like telling them this, but it’s too long and sounds defensive), my role is just as integrated in education as a teacher’s only it’s more diverse and doesn’t necessarily play out as the teacher at the front of the class which the teacher owns.

Everything I do is connected with the teaching and learning that happens in the school: I work across the curriculum, I teach transferable, global skills, I create curricular content and educational resources online, and I depend on collaboration with teachers and students. Nothing useful would eventuate if I didn’t collaborate – that is, have conversations, come into classes, watch how teachers teach, watch how students learn, etc. If I didn’t do that, if I didn’t have that insight and developing understanding, then my work would be detached from the work of teachers and learning of students, and I would be exactly what most people think I am – in a world of my own, the library world, ‘not doing any work’, as some teachers like to joke (it’s getting tired).

Of course, the big one in terms of being accepted as a real teacher is that you assess student work and write reports – and that’s sad because teachers’ talents do not reside in this tiresome task.  It’s sad that the marking becomes the overriding signature of teaching.

So, big rave, but ‘teacher performance’ is what most people equate with ‘teaching’ and ‘being a teacher’. If I don’t ‘teach class on my own’, if I’m not standing there talk-teaching, then I’m not a teacher; I must be a librarian.

Sigh.

‘The learning environment’ that Lisa mentions is really something that I’m interested in unpacking, and I think I’m in the position of understanding it well because of my whole-school involvement with teaching and learning.

All teachers know well that learning happens everywhere, anytime and not just in the classroom during the class. I have a form this year, for the first time, and I try to inject as much learning (in the broadest sense) as possible in those 10 minute daily sessions. The blog that I started for my students is a virtual time-capsule which I hope they’ll appreciate once they leave school. It’s a mish-mash of photos of students, recorded interviews with them, short panel sessions about what they think, whiteboard surveys of inane content, interspersed with creative short films and animation, gifs, memes (whatever I think they might respond to), and some academic guidelines along the lines of study skills and sharing of our online resources for some of their subjects. Mostly the blog is an experiment, and the main aim is to create community, to let them know I care about them, not just their academic pursuits, hopefully support them when they do something they’re proud of, enable them to support each other.

The ‘learning environment’ is exactly what the library is about. Of course, the whole school is a learning environment but the library is a more concentrated one.  Unlike classrooms which are utilised by specific teachers and classes, the library is the space for everyone – across age groups, academic levels, and curriculum. It designs its space and purpose very carefully, in response to the needs of its users, never static, always acting on ongoing reflection and observation, experimenting.

The word ‘library’ has been contentious for a long time – some prefer ‘learning commons’, some ‘media centre’, others insist the traditional ‘library’ is still the most apt name. Perhaps. It does come with a lot of baggage, but then new words acquire the baggage over time. In the past I was annoyed when ‘library’s’ main connotation was a space for books but these days I doubt that anyone would have that limited view for either school or public library. Both are open, welcoming spaces and both are synonymous with learning.

It’s the ‘teaching’ part which is more difficult to insert. I’ve pulled out two quotes from Lisa’s powerpoint (linked from her blog post):

“Teaching: Any activity that has the conscious intention of and potential for facilitating learning in others”.  Robert Leamonson

“Good teaching is the creation of those circumstances that lead in significant learning in others”. Donald L. Finkel in ‘Teaching With Your Mouth Shut’.

It’s time to broaden our understanding of ‘teaching’. Only then can the ‘teacher’ in ‘teacher librarian’ begin to be understood.

Constant Moyaux (French, 1835–1911)
View of Rome from the Artist’s Room at the Villa Medici, 1863
Watercolor on paper

 

We are teacher librarians. We teach library lessons. #perception #librarymyths

“Oh, teacher librarian? So, what do you do? (Awkward silence) I guess you teach library lessons.”

Big sigh.

Even when you think that you and your colleagues have demonstrated to your school community what you actually do and are capable of doing, there will be the unexpected and totally surprising (not in a good way) comment which reminds me that we are partially stuck in people’s outdated perception of who we are and what we do. Is it because we all remain isolated in our silo-esque faculties in our schools, or that we are so busy trying to keep up with everything that we don’t have the time or headspace to even imagine what other educators are doing? And partially because, even as I sit at my computer researching and curating resources for teachers/students, a teacher will come in and ask me to photocopy something, and in his head, I am the person who assists him with menial chores – and cheerfully, because I love my job.

As a sort of creative therapy for my frustration, I made this very tongue-in-cheek slideshow. Hope you enjoy it.  Just a bit of fun; hope nobody is offended by it.


We are teacher librarians – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Why I teach #ccourses – Unit 1

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Photo source

This is my Task 1 post for Connected Courses Unit 1: ‘Why we need a why’ which will be added to the collection here

Why do I teach?

Well, for starters, most people wouldn’t think that I do teach.

“What do you teach?”

“Well, actually, I’m a teacher librarian”.

“Oh, so you’re in the library”.

(Here we go again…)”Well, I’m not always in the library. And although I’m not a classroom teacher, I am a teacher but my role is very diverse”.

“So you take library lessons…”

(Ugh! Library lessons….) “No, I’m lucky to be able to support teaching and learning in a lot of different ways. I teach skills – information literacy skills, digital skills, critical thinking skills -”

“Aha… “(blank face)

Me thinking: Forget it.

So even before I answer the question “Why do I teach”, I should preface this with a deconstruction of ‘teaching’. Why does it have to be limited to teaching ‘subjects’ – content? Why does it have to be based on specific disciplines? Surely it’s not all about standing at the front of the classroom and commanding authority, of pouring information into students, and covering curriculum. Why are you not considered a teacher unless you are swamped with marking, exhausted by writing reports? Truly, it seems that being deflated by these things is what proves you’re a ‘real teacher’.

What about learning itself? What about the skills in between the subject content? Collaborating with teachers and co-teaching – filling in each others’ gaps? Having the time to think about authentic differentiation? Thinking about thinking. Playing around with social media platforms and authentic audience, encouraging peer feedback, asking the hard questions about the credibility of online information – isn’t all this teaching?

I used to teach English, German and French, and some Russian, and in the last 8 years I changed my teaching role to that of teacher librarian – school librarian or library media specialist in some countries. It seems that the role is so elusive that it’s not consistently defined.

So, why do I teach? What I love about being a teacher librarian is that there is so much freedom in the role, and so many opportunities to learn, to share learning, and to explore different ways of sharing ideas and information. I realise that I love teaching when I have the opportunity to keep learning especially from others, and when I’m a part of students’ learning. And although I’m very busy because I’m coming from so many different directions, I don’t have the weariness of subject teachers under the pressure of an ever expanding curriculum and brain numbing paper work (my impression only). I get to relate to students of all year levels regardless of their subject choices and I am privileged to be able to focus on learning itself while supporting teachers and students.

When my first born son was in preschool he was a questioning force to be reckoned with. His passion for learning was so wonderful to behold, and such a contrast to much of the disengagement I’d seen in teenagers at school, that I started thinking about how I could preserve his sense of wonder and thirst for learning. There is no simple answer to this, and although Montessori helped in the preschool and very early primary school years, going back into mainstream education as a very bright child was not the most positive experience, and almost damaging in some ways – certainly in a personal and social sense.  A primary school psychologist told him to ‘dumb down’ so that he would fit in, and I’m sure he is not alone in following that inevitable path to becoming a less switched on student so that he didn’t stand out. I don’t like to think about how unhappy he must have been. In later secondary years, and also in early tertiary (he is now in second year Masters), the passion to learn came not from school/University but recreational time, and my perception is that he kept himself ‘sane’ by following personal interests – thanks to the internet. Interestingly, his Arts degree (Politics and Psychology) morphed into a Masters Degree in Urban Planning – his formal education finally matching his personal interests.

So back to the question: Why I teach?

I think that people who love teaching love learning. I love being in the business of learning – my own learning; supporting the learning of students, supporting teachers in their role as learning facilitators. Being in the company of people sharing ideas, creativity, and debate. My role in supporting teaching and learning is very fulfilling. Usually I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m essential to the classroom teaching going on in the school. Occasionally I’m disheartened by teachers who tell me they have everything they need in order to teach their subject, thank you very much. The teachers I see engaging students are the ones who love learning and are always looking for new ways to teach.

I think that learning is not always easy, and that lifelong learning really needs to be taught, or rather, practised. The learning process should be the focus at least as much as the content, if not more. The process should be made transparent to enable shared metacognition. I’m concerned that we are failing our students in terms of teaching them how to learn. Some are better at working this out for themselves than others. Without this support, many students will lose their self confidence and turn away from learning. I hope to play a small role in preventing this from happening in my school. My hope is that I help students to embrace learning, to learn from and with others, to never be afraid to admit they’re lost or confused, to learn the resilience and discipline they will need to keep learning in their careers and in life.

Task 2 

What exactly does a 21st century teacher librarian do? A list of curated topics in Scoop.it

This has been reposted from my school library blog.

On the topic of the teacher librarians’ role and exactly what it is we TLs do in our jobs, I wanted to share this article in The Guardian: Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian.  We all know that there’s more to being a librarian than stamping books, as the subtitle of the article states. How bothered are we by the fact that a large proportion of our school communities have little idea what we do?

If we stopped the next person walking by on the street and asked them what our jobs as librarians involve, we’d be willing to bet that their first answer would be stamping books. This is because many people’s experience of librarians is of the frontline, customer service staff.

I think the same can be said of school libraries although it varies greatly depending on the interaction between teacher librarians and teaching staff. What the article says about librarians is surely relevant to teacher librarians, librarians and technicians –

If anyone ever thought they’d become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not also like people too.

Of course, in the digital age, in fact, in the global digital culture in particular, teacher librarians play a vital role in schools. What exactly is the role of a 21st teacher librarian?

It’s not something which can be answered in a simple sentence. For this reason, I want to share links to curated websites on this topic. I am including a list of Scoop.its which have been curated by various people (including me) on the topic of the 21st century teacher librarian. I hope you find this list useful; it includes all things relevant to the 21st century librarian in the broadest sense.

My Scoop.it – What is a teacher librarian?

Curation and libraries and learning – Joyce Valenza

e-Books – Carmel Galvin

Create the web and learn to live – @pipcleaves

21st century libraries – Dr Steve Matthews

Educational technology and libraries – Kim Tairi

Embedded Librarianship – Buffy Hamilton

Graphic Novels in the classroom – @dilaycock

Information coping skills – Beth Kanter

Information science and library studies –  Joao Brogueira

Information fluency, transliteracy, research tools – Joyce Valenza

Inquiry and digital literacy – Shawn Hinger

Internet Search – Phil Bradley

Learning – Darren Kuropatwa

Libraries and ethnography – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries and Tumblr – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries as sites of enchantment, participatory culture and learning (what a title!) – Buffy again

Livebinders – Peggy George

Multiliteracies – Vance Stevens

New librarianship – Karen Burns

Personal learning networks for librarians – Donna Watt

QR codes – libraries – NairarbilUCA

Readers’ advisory for secondary schools – Marita Thomson

School libraries – Nickki Robinson

Social media content curation– Guiseppe Mauriello

Social networking for information professionals – Judy O’Connell

The library technician – Dawn Jimenez

Student learning through school libraries – Lyn Hay

Weird and wonderful – for librarians and booklovers – Jean Anning

This selection is only a small fraction of what’s being curated by people passionate about their topic on Scoop.it. It’s overwhelming but also a fantastic way of keeping track of evolving scoops on searchable topics. The fact that the list relevant to teacher librarians is so broad indicates the breadth of the teacher librarians’ focus and involvement. Of course, we can’t do everything but it’s a good idea to see potential involvement, and having seen the bigger picture, delegate to team members (assuming you have a team) the most pressing areas according to their interest.

By the way, Scoop.its are very easy to make and make reading enjoyable in their magazine-scoop-style presentation. It’s easy to follow, to search, to share and to recommend Scoop.its and articles. It’s also a brilliant way to build your Personal Learning Network by investigating the curators, checking out their bio, looking at what else they’ve curated or what they themselves follow.

You’ve got to start somewhere! Happy scooping!

I’m a teacher librarian. Put up your hand if you know what that means.

Librarians Are Ready [slideshare id=8693280&w=477&h=510&sc=no]
I was reading Jennifer LaGarde’s excellent post and nodding. So much I agree with about the school’s perception of teacher librarians, and reasons why teachers aren’t leaping to collaborate with us. Jennifer summarises it like this –
  • Teacher Isolation:  As a classroom teacher, I was deeply entrenched in my own world.  I spent so much time worrying about what was happening inside my classroom, I sometimes forgot there was a world spinning outside of it.
  • Teacher Education #Fail:  If my own teacher education program emphasized instructional partnerships of any kind, I forgot to sign up for that class.  Collaborating with other professionals was not a skill that I was taught in teacher school.
  • Librarian #Fail: This message was not being sent by the school librarians I worked with.  Or if it was, not very effectively.
I was a also ‘classroom’ teacher long before I decided to mutate into a teacher librarian. Teacher librarians and librarians belonged in the library and looked after books. They weren’t intrinsic to my day to day functioning. Since that time, the role and skillset of TLs has exploded, but who knows that apart from TLs themselves? We sigh, we complain to each other, we throw our hands up into the air, but we’re wasting our time  if we’re not collaborating for active advocacy. This point was made very clear to me during my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) studies at Charles Sturt University. I soon realised that it is one of the most important things to keep foremost in your mind, otherwise you are spending many, many hours creating resources no teacher uses; your offers of collaboration and support fall on deaf ears.
Thanks,Jennifer, for creating this flyer. Maybe we should screen this daily and hope that it gets through subliminally. Frankly, I think that TLs will not be accepted inVictoria, Australia, unless the focus of education changes from the content-driven, mark-based VCE to a focus on teaching and learning skills which are badly needed and which would equip young people for work and life.  Don’t get me started.
Of course, ‘selling yourself’ must always be accompanied by a sincere and consistent effort at developing real relationships. Don’t be a door-to-door salesperson. That’s just horrible.

TLs, expand your field of vision

Everything has changed since information became available to all on the internet. Not so much changed as exploded. When something explodes, it shatters into countless pieces which means the whole we used to know needs to be re-examined.  Why are we still looking at the old ways of teaching, the old focus of our instruction, fellow teacher librarians? Yes, more than ever, our job is to help students learn how to manage this information explosion. Hence, information literacy is still a major focus for our instruction. But let’s expand our vision, let’s analyse that newly reconstructed whole to see what other literacies we need to teach – we need to learn in order to be able to teach. Digital literacy, network literacy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0I13tKrxcA]

I found this video on the Fair use and info ethics page on the NECC Library Learning Tools BYOL Smackdown wiki set up by Joyce ValenzaCathy Jo NelsonKaren KliegmanWendy Stephens, and Keisa Williams at the National Educational Computer Conference in Washington, D.C. 2009.

There is a wide range of skills covered in this wiki for teacher librarians, including the traditional information literacy/fluency as well as Digital Citizenship. In a way, digital citizenship is an extension of information literacy. If information literacy is about learning to navigate the whole information package online, then digital citizenship is learning how to behave online, how to responsibly work with and create from what is available online. All educators are responsible for teaching digital citizenship but teacher librarians are certainly well placed since they are already experts in the management of information.

Why stop at research skills when you can equip students to behave responsibly and ethically as they use digital content to view, create and remix?

I recommend you browse the many and varied aspects of this wiki. Fellow teacher librarians, isn’t it exciting to have such a broad and challenging role!