Tag Archives: teacher librarian

Why I teach #ccourses – Unit 1

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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 

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We are not where we need to be for what we want to happen

Still following the mental thread from my last post. I’m feeling restless in my professional position at the moment, a mini crisis which is usually a part of preventing stagnation and breaking through to a better flow. I’m not sure if I can adequately explain it (feeling unwell) so what I’ll do instead is share talks and articles which have resonated.

First off, I revisited Charles Leadbeater’s old TED talk. This article reminded me of this.

And Charles’ more recent TED talk. The man can talk. If only I could communicate so well.

The piece by Richard Elmore has a standout phrase for me which is that ‘a progressive dissociation between learning and schooling’. This is very disturbing, particularly if you believe it. It makes me question everything we do in school. It makes me think that whatever assessment we have for teaching is ineffective. Do our compulsory self-evaluations for renewed registration mean anything? Isn’t it relatively easy to justify what we do using the relevant terminology? Isn’t it really about the students? When are we going to assess our teaching based on what our students really need in life? I can’t recall that conversation in any staff meeting or curriculum day program.

A ship in the harbour is safe but that’s not what ships are for – photo by Joel Robinson

You might think I’m being negative but I’m just breaking things up a little, thinking about what I could do, in my free space as teacher librarian, unfettered by marking and curriculum guidelines, to create wonderful, surprising, fun learning opportunities. Anyone join me?

I leave you with this.

Wait, another one. Many voices and much sense here.

 

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Interview with Judith Way, author of Bright Ideas

If you think about people who are a constant and inspirational support in your professional life, you know that you are indebted to these people on a daily basis.


I’ve decided to feature an interview with Judith Way, a Victorian teacher librarian who has made a significant difference in the professional lives of teacher librarians and others, and whose unassuming, friendly nature has endeared many, both in Victoria and globally.

Judith’s blog, Bright Ideas, which she writes for the School Library Association of Victoria, is one of the first things I check daily because I know that she is on top of what’s happening in the world of education. Although she may not need an introduction since so many are connected to her through the blog, Twitter and OZTL-NET, to mention only a few platforms, I’ve included a short biography as an introduction to a recent interview I conducted with Judith.

Judith Way is a teacher-librarian with a Graduate Diploma of Children’s Literature and a Master of Arts. Recently she was recognised for her work with the Bright Ideas blog through the  2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award .She has also been the recipient of the School Library Association of Victoria’s John Ward Award for outstanding contribution to teacher librarianship in 2007 and the SLAV Innovators Grant in 2009. She was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eleanor E. Robertson prize in 2003. She has presented at conferences locally and internationally. Judith writes the Bright Ideas blog for the School Library Association of Victoria.
How did you come to create and write the Bright Ideas blog?

Due to the success of the School Library Association of Victoria’s Web2.0 online program in 2008, there was a real momentum for more online resources for school libraries, and the idea that schools would showcase what they had developed to encourage others was a big part of that. I was honoured to be asked by SLAV to write the blog on their behalf. I had undertaken the ’23 things’ course through Yarra Plenty Regional Library in 2006.

What were your initial thoughts/feelings about the blog?

Excitement! What a fantastic opportunity to delve into the web 2.0 world and see what we could all make of it in school libraries.

Was it difficult to take the first steps in creating a blog identity and developing a readership?

The first thing was getting a body of work up on the blog. No-one is really going to read a blog with one or two posts on it, so building it up was vital. I then promoted it via the OZTL-NET listserv and down the track joined Twitter. That really developed the readership. Then I joined the ILearnTechnology blog alliance in January this year and that furthered readership again.

What were some of the difficulties you experienced along the way?

School library staff tend to be a modest bunch, so encouraging people that their web 2.0 efforts should be highlighted and shared with others was a challenge.

What were some of the highlights?

Getting lots of positive feedback from readers, especially in relation tothe school library examples that were shared.
Last year Bright Ideas also had the honour of being voted the “FirstRunner Up” in the Edublogs Awards for the ‘Best Library blog”. What a fantastic vote of confidence that was.
Notching up 200,000 hits earlier this year was also a terrific milestone and it was an unbelievable recognition to be awarded the 2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award in September.

How is the role of the teacher librarian changing, if at all?

In one way it is changing dramatically. In another way, it isn’t changing at all. What do I mean by that? We are facing enormous changes in the way we present learning opportunities to students. Social media and eBooks have changed the landscape for many school libraries. But we still want to teach our students how to research well and to love reading- whatever the medium.

What would you say are the most important goals of the teacher librarian/ of educators in general in these times?

To remember the power you have to make a difference to the lives of your students. You have the ability to be a positive role model in terms of using information well, both content and morally. To teach students how to make a positive digital footprint and how to be cybersafe and cybersavvy. To pass on the love of reading. These are lessons they will carry throughout their lives.

Thanks, Judith, for your thoughts, and also for the untiring support you provide for teacher librarians and educators everywhere.

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Collaboration and company

One of the most inspiring and enjoyable aspects of being a teacher librarian, something I discovered when I joined the online student cohort during my M.Ed. with Charles Sturt University, is the collaborative culture. Sharing ideas, experiences, difficulties, resources – it’s wonderful. That’s why I’m looking forward to the Web 2.0 (collaborative) learning journey – because there are so many possibilities for students and teachers, so many more connections.

Sharing Some Honey Water - Day 71/365

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