Reflections on Leadership
Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash
Teacher librarians have the opportunity to play a crucial role in the dynamic learning environment of schools. Through the dual roles of constituent and leader, teacher librarians can adopt both supportive and leading roles to enhance the educational outcomes of students. The leadership for learning [L4L] style, as described by Dempster et al. (2017), has continued to be at the forefront of my learning throughout this course. This leadership style combines instructional and transformational leadership characteristics in a way that drives and inspires change in schools (Harrison, 2018b). Transformational leaders influence change by developing future-orientated goals that move with and predict educational innovation in the pursuit of a shared school vision and mission (Baker, 2016). Importantly, they work collaboratively with others to inspire and be inspired. As shown in Figure 1, the key mindsets of this leadership style, as outlined by NSW Department of Education School Leadership Institute (2019), include student-centred, courageous, growth orientated, curious, collaborative, and efficacy. Through the transformational lens of L4L, teacher librarians participate in planning and projects across faculty areas and participate in consultative committees to drive school improvement. These embedded and collaborative practices build a sense of trust, collegiality and mutual respect. The instructional leadership side of L4L invites teacher librarians to share their expertise with others by modelling best practice for literacy instruction, technology integration, and pedagogy. These leadership styles enable teacher librarians to build and bolster a climate of learning that is conducive to the development of students’ 21st century skills.
Figure 1. Leadership for learning mindsets. (NSW Department of Education: School Leadership Institute, 2019).
With flexibility and autonomy, teacher librarians have the capacity to keep abreast of changes in education, technology, and information and to disseminate this to the school community. As middle leaders, teacher librarians make connections across hierarchies (Harrison, 2018a), to help drive innovation without the fear of threat that can be held by laggards and leaders. Teacher librarians are astutely aware of the role and duties of teachers thus, through servant leadership, can anticipate teachers’ needs and work to alleviate pressures experienced by teachers. This can be achieved by offering carefully planned professional learning opportunities, co-teaching experiences, specialised lessons, resourcing, and collaboration.
Having done a deep dive into L4L, I can see how the characteristics clearly provide opportunities for self-reflection and how this style of leadership can position the teacher librarian and library as drivers of and advocators for school improvement. I see the library as value-adding to the broader vision and mission of the school and as a place that fosters dynamic thinking not only for student learning but also for the learning endeavours of the whole school community. I have adopted this mantra of “value-adding” to devise services based on evidence and informed by data. I also use this to reflect upon the instructional leadership I offer as a teacher librarian to ensure my services are not burdensome. My aim is to help staff and students save time by providing practical resources, strategies, or ideas. I believe any staff professional development offered through the library must be accompanied by a practical take-away that staff can implement without an extraneous increase in their workload. Students must also have a tangible take-away from their instructional lessons that can be implemented, and the benefits immediately recognised or felt. While some benefits take longer to build, to keep students and staff engaged in meaningful instruction, they must reap the rewards sooner rather than later. In this way, teacher librarians can bridge the research-to-practice gap by offering practical, contextual professional development that is evidence-based and data-informed (Harrison, 2018c; Spencer & Logan, 2003). A key characteristic of instructional leadership is relationship building (Fowler & Walter, 2003; Saunders, 2011), which helps to garner support for change initiatives, increases the visibility of teacher librarians and fosters a sense of trust and respect. Embedded teacher librarians build relationships to support teachers in the long term, not only at the developmental stage of professional learning or change, but crucially at the implementation stage (Spencer & Logan, 2003). Professional learning programs provide the opportunity for leadership, collaboration, and school improvement (Newman, King & Youngs, 2000) thus, teacher librarian-lead professional learning opportunities are where both aspects of leadership for learning, instructional and transformational, can be clearly seen.
Using this collaborative mindset, I have been able to participate in collegial opportunities across the college this year to participate in shared transformational leadership. I spoke about the library’s and teacher librarian’s position as a leader for the 21st century in the blog post 21st Century Learning and Inquiry, which outlined various collaborative and leadership experiences that libraries can offer to ensure they are relevant and value-add to the community (Harrison, 2018d). More recent leadership opportunities I have participated in include collaboration within faculties to plan lessons such as Year 9 Social Science Research Skills, deliver co-teaching experiences such as Year 10 Science Introduction to Claims with the Head of Science, within research groups such as QCEC RPSP Academic Reading and Notetaking Action Research Project, and resourcing for the Study Skills Program and Diverse Learning Program. These collaborative experiences have all been approached through a leadership for learning lens whereby colleagues work together toward a common goal to enhance student outcomes.
By helping to drive the shared school vision and mission, the value of the library is clearly articulated as we all have a common goal. This has enabled me to build relationships across the college and strategically position the library as a place of innovation and ideas sharing. This openness has seen an increase in teacher and student drop-ins, where all members of the school feel safe and supported knowing they can come to the library for assistance and collaboration. Reflecting on the leadership for learning style, I can see it can support learning in all its guises both formal and informal, academic and social/emotional, physical and digital. This is something I will continue to reflect on in terms of the role of the library and teacher librarian in the holistic development of the school community.
Baker, S. (2016). From teacher to school librarian leader and instructional partner: A proposed transformation framework for educators of preservice school librarians. School libraries worldwide, 22(1), 143-158. https://doi.10.14265.22.1.011
Dempster, N., Townsend, T., Johnson, G., Bayetto, A., Lovett, S., & Stevens, E. (2017). Leadership and literacy: Principals, partnerships and pathways to improvement. Springer International Publishing AG.
Fowler, C. S. & Walter, S. (2003). Instructional leadership: New responsibilities for a new reality. College & Research Libraries News, 64(7), 465-468. https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.64.7.465
Harrison, N. (2018a, September 1). Assessment 1: School leadership structure concept map and critical analysis. Think: Literacy and learning. https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/nharrison/2018/09/01/assessment-1-school-leadership-structure-concept-map-and-critical-analysis/
Harrison, N. (2018b, October 2). Teacher librarianship: Leadership and collaboration. Think: Literacy and learning. https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/nharrison/2018/10/02/assessment-2-part-b-reflective-practice-2/
Harrison, N. (2018c, September 1). TLs as leaders through collaboration and professional learning. Think: Literacy and learning. https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/nharrison/2018/09/01/module-4-2-reflection/
Harrison, N. (2018d, September 2). 21st century learning and inquiry. Think: Literacy and learning. https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/nharrison/2018/09/02/module-4-3-reflection/
Newman, F., King, M., Youngs, P. (2000). Professional development that addresses school capacity: Lessons from urban elementary schools. American Journal of Education, 108(4), 259-299. https://doi.org/10.1086/444249
NSW Department of Education: School Leadership Institute. (2019). Leadership mindsets framework. [Image]. https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/school-leadership-institute/sli-frameworks/leadership-for-learning-frameworks
Saunders, L. (2011). Librarians as teacher leaders: Definitions, challenges, and opportunities. ACRL 2011 Conference Materials (pp. 264-274). American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/national/2011/papers/librarians_as_teache.pdf
Spencer, S. S., & Logan, K. R. (2003). Bridging the gap: A school based staff development model that bridges the gap from research to practice. Teacher Education and Special Education, 26(1), 51–62. https://doi.org/10.1177/088840640302600106