Critical Synthesis

Determined- Déterminée
Altruisto, Determined- Déterminée This photo was taken on January 16, 2008 via flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

The role of a Teacher Librarian has the capacity to overwhelm. Its diversity, enormity, pervasiveness and at times, isolation has the potential to leave the practitioner right where the old woman is. Toiling tirelessly and seemingly thanklessly with the demands of all on her shoulders.

Having never experienced the work of a teacher librarian prior to the start of term one, the height of the hill and the weight of the load did seem overwhelming. Not being afraid of hard work, it looked like just a matter of buckling down, shouldering the load and getting on with it!

The trouble with this approach is that your back is bent, yours eyes focussed only on the single goal ahead, you have no time to stop and talk – that just adds to the burden! You may be applauded for your martyrdom but at the end of the day all you have to show is a bundle of sticks at the top of a hill.

In confronting a range of aspects of the role of teacher librarian in the course Teacher Librarianship through Charles Sturt University, there is a different landscape.

Sparking off each other

Image by Fabulas Fafla at…, originally licensed attribution and non-commercial.

There is an understanding that yes, the role has many demands. These demands must be managed and prioritised according to the needs of the learning community at any given time. The needs can change and shapeshift so there is a definite need to be responsive and flexible. This is an area that is still a struggle – with so much learning around the day to day activity of the job, remaining current is at times a chore. The results however are usually delightful and fulfilling, so this is where the need for collaboration steps in.

I should reflect here on the use of the forums because this is where current collaboration is required. I must say that I am guilty of posting only once. I read them voraciously but never felt confident enough to dive in. I suppose this is part of my developing information literacy and here I am developing keen insight.

Am I an information literate individual in the 21st century? Not a competent one. Some of this relates to preferred learning styles. Information literacy requires the ability to recognise and select what is needed. As a hoarder I find I collect too much which often results in inertia. I must become more discerning. My refelction about why the process has proven so difficult personally has helped to refine an understanding of the process as metamorphic concept. One which must adapt to its user, its needs and its context. It has to have transferability also.

Whilst the burden of the course content and readings on top of the teacher librarian learning curve has been incredibly difficult, it has also been profoundly illuminating. Perhaps in reflection it would have been sage to leave the course for a year so that the basic running skills were if not mastered at least less invasive. On the other hand, despite the intensity, being able to merge current best practice and research with my emerging persona as a teacher librarian has meant that the learning is authentic and hopefully there will be fewer bad habits to unlearn.

There is a lovely link between my role as teacher librarian, my developing role as a teacher of information literacy, and my role as Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) coordinator in my learning community. All of these roles require collaboration and the need to build teams and create shared vision. There is a connectedness and synergy about the coming together of these roles which is energising and invigorating. With PBL as a school priority, and the teacher librarian at the hub of an evolving learning community, there is the ability to embed information literacy, and 21st Century skills at the heart. it seems to reinforce so much of what I have been reading.

Published on Oct 23, 2011 by TheTotalprofit

Right Here Right Now

My investigations and experiences, as well as my skills have certainly responded to my new understandings! As I do the final tuning on this second essay I marvel at: My wielding of a bookmarking tool where I have collated and bookmarked and sticky noted in an effort to streamline my information selection and processing. Leading collaborative meeting next week with the mind matters team – year 8 guided inquiry task. Collaboratively improving a year 7 science investigation with 5 science teachers. I have some QR codes up and have been showing them to interested parties. I have four classes blogging. I have weeded some pretty old resources. I am scanning materials from older resources to be added to digital collections relevant to specific assignments. Year 7 have been working on virtual tours of the library and book trailers. None of which I was aware of at the start of the year! I think they outweigh the failures.

But . . . there is still so much to learn!

Epic fail leads to Epic success?

Success and Failure Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Im hopeful that this will be the case! Of course you can’t have learning without mistakes – thats what I keep telling the punters anyway. Just dont keep making the same mistakes!

My epic fail had two sides. The successful side was the PR exercise and for this I’m feeling pretty pleased. The failure was in what the kids produced and the learning that did, or actually didnt take place.

I do think however that the PR mission has outweighed the negatives. I had a very short time frame to develop and actualise a science assignment for year 7. Leaning on material previously developed I threw it together to meet the deadline and promised to mark the lot – 150 odd information reports. Not too bad as I had produced a clear marking rubric and was looking for quite specific information. In three lessons per class over a two week period I flogged 5 year 7 classes through it! Most produced something and used the note making proforma which was being marked also.

What did they learn? Not a lot. What did I learn? Heaps!!!

So, Science staff really pleased – they have two literacy marks, and a question to ask around famous scientists in their half yearly exam. Plus – keen to go again next year. The other bonus, I reviewed the task and listed my concerns and suggestions for next year which would entail greater collaboration, greater use of technology and a longer time frame – all trying to engage in the inquiry model. All good to go, all had suggestions, all willing to participate in improving task for next year.

I cant wait!
A feeling of sadness and longing that is not akin to pain, and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles the rain

Of Blogs and Magic Moments

Something I was happy about as a first big decision was to shadow the Carnegie Medal with two year 9 English classes. The novels bought for this activity have been walking in and out of the door with exciting regularity. And not just from the year 9 classes. These novels have been well recieved across the community.

I have enjoyed reading many of them myself! Part of the plan is to have the students create their own reading blogs of the books they read. While I can’t say that they have all embraced the task, one or two students have.

One of my favourites: demonstrates a student who has ermbraced the task and reflects her love of reading. Im really looking forward to developing and improving this activity next year when time permits!

Of course, having the server crash in the last week of term and losing moodle where I was collecting the blog database hasnt helped! Except to remind me to always have a PLAN B!

Plan B

Term One and Other Defining Moments

romano carrattieri taken on November 24 2010

Ten weeks in and how many false summits? What an amazing learning journey – physically, academically, professionally and emotionally. Ive never felt so assaulted on so many fronts in one go as this!

Being physically tied to a sapce is a totally new experience. Coming from a drama background working within and beyond the school setting as well as teaching across other KLA’s its really strange to be tied to a space – ALL DAY! Studying at the same time has me chained to a computer for many many many hours. Have I said many enough? I dont think so – many many many hours! My one hour of gym a day is my tiny source of freedom.

Chain Links

Academically, the reading for everything is doing my head in! I have read more novels this term than I have in the last year – and I consider myself a reader! Add to this reading for different faculty assignments, list servers and the icing on the cake, academic material for study. Is anyone else feeling so incredibly assaulted?? I guess so from reading the forums.

Some days it does feel like my head will explode because of the sheer mass of processing. Is this how it feels to be a teenager again? Is this how students feel when confronting their information literacy across a range of subjects. So many different constructs and understandings in a vast array of contexts.


The professional challenge is a new and invigorating one also. As someone who has always been interested in pedagogy and how learning takes place, being in a pivotal role to have input and influence across the learning community is an exciting one! I’m finding I want to jump in boots and all and have done so on different occasions with different levels of success. My personal learning around the core business of teaching as a Librarian is evolving rapidly and is closely linked to my need to develop my skills and knowledge in the technology field. My “need to know” list is getting larger by the second!
Cowboy Boots All in a Row

So far what has been uncovered only reinforces the fact that I have just glimpsed the tip of the iceberg! Albeit a beautiful iceberg – the water is cold and I need to find me a thick wetsuit before I dive in. The promise is great however and Im keen to take the plunge. The tyranny of time is playing havoc till the course is done.

tip of the Iceberg

In terms of this being an emotional journey – there is the emotion attached to learning which is about frustration and grappling with new thoughts and ideas – all spoken about in the readings. There is also the lonely isolation of the massive workload linked to starting a new career and needing to hit the ground running along with the demanding twenty hours a week study. So, like so many others, it will be nice to reintroduce myself to my family at some time in the not too distant future. I keep reminding myself of what Gail said in Sydney – 10 months, just 10 months. October glitters like a distant, cold sun!

Distant Sun

Avast there!

My physical blog has been adrift in a sea of neglect. I have written numerous posts in my head while driving but once at the coal face, imperatives take over. And what imperatives they are. The immensity of the TL learning curve, the desire to please the punters and really get things hopping, understanding the technology, building collaborative communities . . . you know all about it! What has really distracted me however is evaluating the collection. Now that its done, albeit at a very tentative and basic level, I suddenly feel like I can stand at the helm! More than any other task, evaluating has given me my captain’s badge. I feel like Mrs Billops (for those who know Just Another Ordinary Day by Rod Clements) at the helm.

Sailing on a sea I know, if not well, certainly better. I say thankyou to those nasty pirates at CSU for their demanding tasks! Im a tougher pirate now, I know my ship better, I can read the tides, I know who to pursue, who to board, and who will need parley. I can’t wait to complete a more thorough evaluation beginning next year, as suggested by my new policy. I can’t wait to continue dialogues opened by the evaluation process. I can’t wait to attack the weeding (indeed I haven’t) guess its the gardner in me. However, there’s a nasty reef ahead in the form of looming deadlines for both my policy document and an information literacy assignment. There are a few squalls on the horizon. Hoist the mainsail! Man the jib! I do think there’s some information I “need to know” about sailing, but that’s not imperative!
Stormy Seas Approaching

Slaying dragons and other defining moments

Slaying dragons

Today I’m Bilbo. At least I’m the right height! It’s that first morning and I’ve run out the door in pursuit of the dwarves, forgetting half the stuff I need to take both eager and full of trepidation about what lies ahead.

I’ve been trying to pin down the definitions of two roles of a Teacher Librarian this morning and this has been my defining moment. Keeping opinion at bay, not describing. I’ve been gobbling information, with the appetite of a hobbit, till my head hurts.

Two hundred and sixty-four words. Like steps on the way. Had to retrace quite a few already. But its a start. I think it was Bilbo who said “you have to be careful when you step out the door because you don’t know where you’ll end up”.

But that was yesterday, lost in a web inspired trail of discovery. Today I was judicious. Today I set goals. Today I left a trail of bread crumbs and made my way out.

Nowhere near Rivendell yet. In fact I think I’ve only just bumped into the trolls – early days.

The beat of a different drum . . .

I’ve just spent the best part of the afternoon “catching up” on the forums and failing to make headway with course content. The morning disappeared wrestling with computers – 15 of them which needed unfreezing and updates etc. (A totally new skill I’m proud to add).

Some of my forum reading led me to blogs of fellow students which I really haven’t found the time to address before. I’m cursing for getting lost in them but celebrating their generosity of knowledge and understanding of the readings.

I love their analysis and attention to detail and it’s here that travelling to a different drum is not all thats it’s cracked up to be. I feel a tad out of tune. I tend to be big picture and wrestle with metaphors to make sense of the world. Is this allowing me to engage enough in the detail of the understandings required of us?

I worry that I am not rehearsing reponses to the readings here but find that after writing copious notes I must step back. Glad this component isnt being marked!

On a celebratory side, in their “library” lessons this term, year seven have been asked to respond to me in a letter telling me of their lives and their reading interests. I have done this through moodle to engage them with the technology and get them onto their portals as well.

That meant losing a bit more of the morning I had set aside for study (aahh – sorry lecturers but the kids come first right?) as I read their letters and responded to them. I then sent a blanket email to all year 7 thanking those who got them in and reminding the rest to get moving. (I did cc this letter to the year advisor and now cursing that I forgot to add principal! Next time . . ) What a delight as I sat here on Saturday afternoon to see an email notification pop up. Yes, someone in year seven was out there on their portal!

It seems that I didn’t make a plan for my practise today I just picked up those drumsticks and started banging away. Did get the computers done, did respond to year 7, did read all the forum posts (for Barb and Jude’s topic anyway) Did find some interesting stuff online, did email some stuff to colleagues. Guess Im an improviser. And there were moments of virtuosic bliss, as well as some very dischordant ones – moments of blue air. However, needs must, tomorrow HAS to have a plan.

Thanks to Holly I am making a start before I leave! There will be structure to my playing tomorrow. Tomorrow I will make music!

It also feels a bit quaintly eerie that my son has just taken up the drums!


Can’t see the forest . . .

Shut the Gate!

Thinking I’d taken hold of the reins to some extent I am overwhelmed to discover that I’ve actually been thrown on bareback, sans bridle, someone has slapped my mount on the rump and we are careering off into the middle distance. Add to that I’m blindfolded!

These are the flights of fancy which seem to confront me daily as I flail about trying to wrestle this Teacher Librarian role into submission.

There are odd lucid moments – the early drive to work where the mind ticks sensibly over plans for the day; or the quiet hush of an empty early morning library where one can become absorbed in any one of a million little creative and/or research trails; or those lovely moments just on the borders of sleep (going or waking) where inspiration and vision hit home. It’s just that these micro moments of lucidity vanish in the onslaught of the day!

My optimism is championed by the many positive conversations I’ve had with family, peers, students and parents since starting the job. By those magic little light bulb moments and by the excitement of the future and actually reining this horse in while still allowing it room to gallop freely.

I love the clarity I read in the ideas of others. Time management must be at the source of much of my consternation. Prioritising perhaps an equal partner. I pondered the post of fellow blogger in libraryponders how do we take our measure? Which comes back to the point in question – what is it that we are actually measuring?

To hearken back to my blog title metaphor of forests and trees, it feels a bit like an endangered rainforest whose biodiversity is at the heart of the living organism. It is like this for a TL. Each and every component, large or small, loved or loathed is essential to its being. There are components still undiscovered which could yet, and probably will, change the world.

I am loving my trek through the jungle, machete in hand. I just need to get the details down in my botanical notebook so I can describe and honour the skills and services I am uncovering.

So sorry to have begun on horseback and finished in the undergrowth but that’s the nature of this shapeshifter called Teacher Librarianship – mercurial.

And its back to the CSU readings, I’ve been away too long!
Rainforest Zoom1

Flying Kites

Im three nearly three months old as a Teacher Librarian and cautiously taking first steps in so many ways.
Today I flew a kite.
After asking for time to speak at the staff meeting, I suddenly realised that I had too much to say yet nothing at all.
I needed to convey to my peers – some fabulously supportive, others less so – what an amazing resource exists as our library right there in their midst, but haven’t they always known that? I wanted to share with them the sheer joy and discovery of collaboration I’ve had with some of them recently – have they forgotten that? I needed to tell them the technology tsunami has already crashed on us and that we are actually being pumelled by it – can’t they see that? I want to share with them a vision and to know their innermost library desires – but its three thirty, someone stifles a yawn. I think someone else is actually asleep. The principal, with no ill feeling, rushes out to bus duty moments after I stand to speak.
Composing myself, my introduction is brief, I have a plan, we will take a journey together this year where we will plan the future for our library. Then I take a seat.
When flying kites it is important that the structure is sturdy – my knowledge of the role is a little too shaky for that. Its nice to have a grown up there add their support – mine just left to do bus duty. The weather conditions must be right – its late in the day and I dont want to talk at them, I want discourse and ownership – there is no wind today.
I will strengthen my kite with better understandings of not what the role demands, Im alreay drowning in this! But with what the role can do to benefit the staff, to benefit our kids, to benefit our learning community as a whole. It is only through understanding the role with clarity and confidence that the leadership required to develop effective collaborative teams and learning communities within the school can fly.
I will seek more explicit support from the principal, we need to plan our kite flying adventures together – a shared vision.
Finally, I will wait for that magic breath of wind, no matter how small, for if the structure is clever, it will fly. . .

The Onceler Speaks

For anyone familiar with one of my all time faves – The Lorax, you’ll know that the Onceler “lurks in his lerkin, cold under the roof, where he makes his own clothes out of miff-muffered moof.”

Like the Onceler, I too have been lurking, hot (not cold) under the roof, where I’m making new understanings out of something akin to miff-muffered moof (ie new sources and interfaces and methods).

Here are some links to some miff muffered moof giving food for thought:

I look forward to a time when I can run free under the trufulla trees and listen to the swanee swans singing, but that will be of course when the study is over. Till then, I’ll just keep on lurking. . . and looking at the view from the window.