Posted by: leish79 | March 24, 2013

Principal support of the teacher-librarian role

I have been absent from the school environment for several years, however my recollection of the support offered to the school librarian by the principal was indifferent at best. In many of the schools I worked at previously the principal showed little interest in the school library program with the teacher librarian rarely being replaced when ill and the teacher instead asked to assist students to “return and borrow” their books during their allotted library time in the teacher librarian’s absence. At no time during my employment was I encouraged to collaborate with the teacher librarian on curriculum planning. The closest I ever got was being given a list of resources within the library that I could access on a theme being taught. In those schools the teacher librarian did not initiate a collaborative approach to learning, however this is not surprising given the view of the principal.

As per the readings (Oberg, 2006; Hartzell, 2002), my own experience of the library during my schooling was simply a place students went to listen to stories and borrow a book. During high school the library was used as somewhere to do research, however there was no learning that took place within its walls. The librarian would find the books you desired without ever teaching you the skills to find and research things on your own. This changed somewhat in senior high school given the view of the librarian that if you were still at school you must want to learn. It was lucky for me that this shift occurred as without this I would have been highly unprepared for University life.

The subject material I have covered thus far in this subject has highlighted the important role the teacher librarian can play within a school. Of course this is dependent on the support provided by the principal and the willingness for the teaching staff to collaborate with the teacher librarian on curriculum planning. This would mean a move away from the traditional method of curriculum planning and seeking the input of the librarian for more than just a resource list which would support the subject/theme being taught. Haycock (2007, p. 28) points out that “when the school principal expects team planning between teachers and the teacher-librarian, team planning occurs more than when the principal does not expect such collaboration”.

Although it appears that collaboration is dependent on the support provided by the principal, I don’t believe that it necessarily has to occur in this manner. If a teacher-librarian can forge a productive and collaborative relationship with one or more teachers within the school and can demonstrate that this has improved outcomes for the students, the principal may then be persuaded to increase the collaboration occurring between the teachers and the teacher librarian within the school. Although this would result in slow change, it would begin the impetus for further collaboration to occur and improvement in students learning would likely be a result. This suggested strategy to initiate change is dependent only on one relationship which takes minimal effort. If the teacher librarian targets a recent graduate who is likely to have received education regarding the teacher librarian role and the benefits of collaboration for students it is likely to be positive and successful.

Another strategy that could be employed to influence the perception of the principal involves the promotion of the school library. Through events such as book week the teacher librarian can promote the benefits of the library and more importantly the benefits of collaboration between teachers and the teacher librarian. Although the collaboration would be minimal at these times, it does occur and the teacher librarian can show the principal the benefits this has for students by providing themed activities for each different areas of the curriculum.

References

Hartzell, G. N. (2002). What’s It Take. Paper submitted to the Washington White House Conference on School Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.laurabushfoundation.com/Hartzell.pdf

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.

Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.

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