To start us off, I thought I’d share this little video from Colorado State Library that I came across while exploring for this inquiry blog post:
Seeing the students shocked that the teacher-librarian was leading the staff in an inservice reminds me a bit of when I run into primary students in a grocery store (teachers exist outside of school?! Mind blown.). Nevertheless, what stood out to me in this video was when the narrator states, “The school librarian is viewed universally by the school as instructional leader” (Colorado State Library, 2011). That is, ideally, how I’d like my school and staff to view me, as the teacher-librarian. However, because of the massive changeover in teacher-librarians at my particularly school (and district) for the past 7-10 years, the staff no longer necessarily views the teacher-librarian in this light. I remember someone jokingly telling me last year (my first year at my school) that they didn’t care what I did in the library as long as I was actually there when they brought their kids down. That stung. I know the comment was not directed at me as the teacher-librarian or my particularly skills, but was said in context of how they perceived the library (and their experiences with it). Thus, in order for me to support my teachers, I need to get them back on board with the importance of a library learning commons and the skillset of a teacher-librarian.
How do I get teachers back on board and how can I support their professional development?
From my readings, I have come up with the following ways that I can do this.
- Collaborate, Team Teach, and Participate in PLCs (Professional Learning Communities).
Many of the articles I came across (as well as the video above) emphasized the importance of collaborative learning and ongoing professional development (Ellis, 2010; McInnes, n.d.; Vega, 2013). According to Vanessa Vega (2013), “When teachers receive well-designed professional development, an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points. On the other hand, one-shot, ‘drive-by,’ or fragmented, ‘spray-and-pray’ workshops lasting 14 hours or less show no statistically significant effect on student learning.” She further emphasizes that effective professional development is job-embedded and provides teacher with five critical elements, two of which are collaborative learning and sustained learning over multiple days and weeks (Vega, 2013). In my mind, this fits in perfectly with a library learning commons. Being a teacher-librarian, I am ideally capable of collaborating with teachers on units that span periods of time. This would be an ideal opportunity for me to present new ways of teaching using ICT. Not only is it a great way to introduce a new skill or pedagogy, but it allows me the time to work directly with the teacher in an authentic situation where s/he can apply his/her learning immediately and in which we can reflect on the practice and learning together. As Kris Johnstone writes, “Rosemary Horton (2007) sees one-on-one PD as the most effective way of reaching teachers. They receive PD they need when they need it.” Collaborating and team teaching provides ongoing support as teachers learn new strategies and techniques. As Bradley Lands (2012) states, “There must be on-going support to help teachers implement what they have learned.”
In a similar line of thought, it is, therefore, very important that I, as a teacher-librarian, participate actively in my school’s Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). According to Vega (2013), PLCS are “groups of teachers who share and critically interrogate their practices in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented, and growth-promoting way to mutually enhance teacher and student learning.” Since PLCs in my school are held during assemblies in small groups (intermediate and primary), it would be an opportune time for me to observe what teachers are interested in learning and teaching while also providing support in their learning.
- Listen, Reflect, and Share Ideas (at staff meetings, in workshops, over lunch, etc.) and Pilot New Ones
Another way of passing on our knowledge to staff is by first listening to their and the school’s current needs. Knowing what my staff needs and wants to learn will help get them on board for participating in professional development activities. As Bradley Lands (2012) states, “Create a needs assessment…[and] Design a professional development program based on the needs and wants of the staff.” Once I know what they need, I can share ideas, such as by making short presentations at staff meetings, chatting with colleagues at lunch or in the hallways, passing on tips and ideas through emails, or presenting workshops (whether at professional development days or at PLCs, curriculum meetings, or as optional lunch or after-school sessions) and pilot new ideas with eager staff members. As Kris Johnstone (2008) writes, “Opportunities to provide PD can occur when there are changes in staff in curriculum-related areas, when there is a chance to work with teachers who are prepared to take risks and focus on skills rather than content, or when new curriculum directives are introduced by education authorities.” As mentioned earlier, if we listen to our staff, we will know what ideas to share that will help get them motivated, excited, and on board. Furthermore, if we pilot new ideas with staff members and other members see the positive results, then we are more likely to pass on this knowledge and learning to others. As Cooper and Bray (2011) state, “When we see one of our colleagues with something new, something that appears to hold promise for making our teaching more effective and perhaps easier, we want to acquire it for ourselves and our classrooms” (p.49).
Other Tips and Techniques
I came across an article by Jason Margolis (2009) called “How Teachers Lead Teachers” that provided some quick and easy tips and strategies to use when implementing professional development activities with staff, which I have listed below:
- Use Humour
- Include all teachers and content areas.
- Explain strategies briefly and then give participants a chance to practice or observe them.
- Frame new approaches as easy and adaptable.
- Build from teachers’ existing work.
- Present yourself as a continual learner.
- Include samples of student work.
Margolis (2009) also listed the following strategies that don’t work:
- Talking too much.
- Talking and then asking, “Any questions?”
- Presenting too many strategies.
- Focusing solely on the leader’s own classroom.
If you’d like to read the tips in detail you can visit his article directly here.
I really enjoyed his strategies and tips, because it provides ways to reach the teachers we are presenting to. I have definitely attended workshops where I simply felt drained afterwards and really did not retain anything from what I had heard. If I am taking the time to teach teachers, then I want to ensure that they are taking in what I am teaching.
Thus, what I plan on doing this coming school year is to collaborate, listen, reflect, and share ideas with staff. I need to get them back on board with seeing the library as an integral part of the school and in order to do this, I need to demonstrate how the library and the teacher-librarian can support their learning and their teaching.
Colorado State Library. (2011). Highly Effective School Librarians as Instructional Leaders. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi8KWFxxACw
Cooper, O. P., & Bray, M. (2011). School library media specialist-teacher collaboration: Characteristics, challenges, opportunities. TechTrends, 55(4), 45-55.
Ellis, Ken. (2010). Teachers Support Differentiated Learning Through Professional Development and Collaboration. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/stw-differentiated-instruction-teacher-development-support-video
[Image of Quick Tips]. Retrieved from http://agelessgrace.com/positive-affirmations-ageless-grace-tips/
Johnstone, Kris. (2008). Softly, softly: the library’s role in staff professional development. Schools Catalogue Information Service. Retrieved from http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_69/the_librarys_role_in_professional_development.html
Lands, Bradley. (2012). 10 Steps to Leading Professional Development In Your Own School. The Landscape of Learning. Retrieved from http://www.thelandscapeoflearning.com/2012/03/10-easy-steps-to-leading-professional.html
McInnes, Sarah. (n.d.). Becoming An Effective Teacher Librarian. Sarah McInnes’ Professional Portfolio. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/sarahmcinnesportfolio/EffectiveTL
Margolis, Jason. (2009). How Teachers Lead Teachers. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/How-Teachers-Lead-Teachers.aspx
Vega, Vanessa. (2013). Teacher Development Research Review: Keys to Educator Success. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/teacher-development-research-keys-success
Wonderferret. (2008). [Image of Stop, Collaborate, and Listen stop sign]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderferret/2900631165