Teacher Librarians as Instructional Partners
As we progress along our introduction to the profession, in this module we learn the importance of TL’s being flexible, adaptable and willing partners in the educational process in our schools. Our role continues to evolve and we must embrace and initiate collaboration among colleagues to help our space become a hub for learning. By using the tools at our disposal we can make libraries much more than just a place to checkout books!
Putting it All Together
The first part of this module lead us into examining the wide range of perspectives on the instructional role of the teacher librarian. We take a look at what we feel are the most important aspects of of teacher librarians as instructional partners. It was in this component that I began to formulate my own personal philosophy of the type of teacher librarian I wish to be.
What do you believe are the most critical elements that make a teacher librarian an exemplary instructional partner?
Can building relationships with the different stakeholders help develop and strengthen a library program while destroying the preconceived notion of a librarian as someone who maintains and checks out a collection of books?
How can we actively collaborate with colleagues to help create a positive working relationship?
School libraries when used effectively can provide students with an outlet where they can embark on adventures, find connections or simply be a place to take a break (Martin, 2015). Our Learning Commons can and should be the hub of our schools. However, as Levitov points out in his article, Getting Beyond Superficial, teachers still tend to see librarians as just information specialists. This view can lead to a community feeling that the learning commons is just a place where resources are stored. However it is well documented in many studies that a productive and active learning commons has direct results in student achievement. Librarians must play an active part in transforming the learning commons to become the dynamic and interactive learning spaces they are meant to be. There are two integral components that could help librarians become exemplary instructional partners:
- TL’s need to be leaders who build lasting and respectful relationships to help make their space a warm and welcoming environment;
- Advocacy through active collaboration;
One of the many advantages, as an educational leader, a librarian has is they are one of the few people in the system that has exposure to the entire school body. On any given day, I will interact with 200-300 students, 10-20 teachers, 10-20 EA’s, 2 custodians, 4 secretaries, and the administrators. The opportunity to have so much exposure creates a unique perspective for librarians (Church, 2011). It is one of the few roles in the school that has its finger on the pulse: whether that be to know what the teachers are working on, what the kids are reading, which websites are popular, or who’s struggling; we are gifted an opportunity to be able to work with the entire school body. How I interact with those I come across will help decide who I am as a TL and what kind of space the learning commons will be. Libraries are sanctuaries that have the ability to be a warm and caring environment that can open hearts and minds (Martin, 2015). It’s where students can go to find belonging, connection and safety. To ensure these, librarians must take an active leadership role to help build lasting relationships with colleagues, administrators, students and community members (Lewis, 2020). By doing so we gain the confidence of those we work with and create an internal advocacy group that can speak louder, of our importance than we ever will (Martin, 2015). A well-used library will go a long ways to illustrate the importance of librarians and the programs they employ in a school.
Creating a safe space based on strong relationships is only part of the equation in illustrating the role a TL plays in being an exemplary instructional partner. It will help open doors to classrooms that could help us become collaborators in the educational process. Teaching is such a dynamic and overwhelming position, sometimes having a librarian wanting to introduce new things can be intrusive and counterproductive to a classroom teacher’s vision. Therefore it is important we be good communicators that are willing to reach out and listen to the needs of teachers so that we can be a part of the classroom process (Will, 2016). We must be leaders and be proactive in becoming part of the school community and join different committees and working groups (Church, 2011). By playing an active role in different committees and working groups we can become a part of the school fabric. As Kristen points out in her article, sometimes it’s imperative we invite ourselves to the table. By doing so we can actively engage in working conversations and create exposure for projects we are working on or willing to work on. Willingness to get involved with colleagues can create excitement within the school and among teachers that can quickly turn into professional support and advocacy. By listening to the teachers we can become partners that collaborate to meet students’ needs.
There are many important roles a librarian can play. I felt being a good communicator who works hard to build relationships with the entire school community and being a leader who strives to work on collaboration, a librarian can become an exemplary instructional partner.
The BC Curriculum Website
With an initial philosophy in hand it was time to explore the curriculum website to make a preliminary examination into the official role of the teacher librarian. We were instructed to brainstorm our own beliefs and views of what we thought would be some key terms associated with the role and then research the curriculum website to see how it correlates with provincial policies. This was also an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with navigating the curriculum website.
The leading Question I have is: How can we use the curriculum to create learning in a less formal setting?
The BC Curriculum site can seem to be difficult to search unless you are being grade specific. It is easy to find things when looking at particular grades however finding things that reflect broad based terms can find zero or broad based responses. I found that very difficult to navigate. However when I chose a specific grade I can find more things I am looking for. As for how to make it work for our role as a TL, I would look at it two ways:
1. To be able to examine subjects by grade and use the information to help supplement learning in the classroom while being able to demonstrate to the teacher that you do have a grasp of the concepts being studied.
2. Using the library as a place for students to practice and reinforce what they have already learned. A chance to work on concepts, thoughts and information in a less formal setting.
Having broad based results actually makes it easier for TL’s to be able to come up with creative ways to do units, lessons, or projects that can fit into the curriculum.
After our initial foray into the curriculum, we are tasked in this part of the module, to take another in-depth look at the BC curriculum website. We were tasked with Identifying 5 junctures in the BC curriculum that a teacher librarian could use as an opportunity to provide instructional leadership in the school building. The following is a brief description:
Social Studies Grade 6
The Big Idea point is -Media sources can both positively and negatively affect our understanding of
important events and issues.
The Curricular Competency point is- Use Social Studies inquiry processes and skills to — ask questions;
gather, interpret, and analyze ideas; and communicate findings and decisions
The Content point is- media technologies and coverage of current events
This is a great topic to delve into digital literacy! I would work with the Teacher to find current topics
they are working on and build a digital collection examining the topic from different perspectives. With
students we could watch videos and read articles. I would create a collection of op-ed pieces as well as
researched articles. If working collaboratively, we would work with kids to determine which resources
were reliable news sources and which sources are op-ed pieces. I would then present the kids/teacher
with a PowerPoint I have made on the topic. We or the teacher could then have students break up into
groups and choose a topic to research on their own and come up with a PowerPoint to present the class
with. Have remaining students determine if the presentation is reliable or more of an opinion piece.
The Big Idea point is- Earth and its climate have changed over geological time.
The Content point is – local First Peoples knowledge of climate change.
I would work with teacher and come up with a resource package of short stories, novels, and non-fiction
resources that could be used in the classroom. On our Destiny website I would also create a digital
package with online resources and videos exploring Climate Change from an Indigenous perspective. To
follow it up I would set up a day where the teacher could use the learning commons to host a sharing
day. This would be a great opportunity to collaborate with our Ab Ed department and make use of our
“Role Models’ grant.” Have some Elders come in and share stories and songs about the Earth, the
climate and resources. I would also take the time to ask the teacher/s to suggest some students who
would be willing to do a territory acknowledgement and welcome our presenters before we started.
Grade 6 French
The Curricular Competency point is- Personal and Social Awareness: Explore a Francophone cultural
festival or celebration in Canada
This would be a fun activity to do! As a TL I would gather all the literature we have a and create a digital
package/short video presentation of the different Francophone festivals we celebrate. I would gather
resources and links students could explore to work on projects or assignments. An option could be for
the kids to create or replicate a festival to share with their peers. I would offer to collaborate with the
teacher and book the learning commons for a half a day for the kids to come set up an area and present
their festival…in non Covid times including food, art, literature and anything else they would want to
present. I would also collaborate with the Francophone societe de Victoria and have them come in that
day or a day that works for the teacher to do a presentation on festivals across Canada and locally. If we
were lucky and could have the unit around the end of May or June, I would work with the teacher to see
if the kids could possibly attend one of the festivals we celebrate here in Victoria!
Grade 8 Language Arts
The Big Idea point is- Exploring stories and other texts helps us understand ourselves and make
connections to others and to the world.
The Curricular Content point is- Recognize and appreciate the role of story, narrative, and oral
tradition in expressing First Peoples perspectives, values, beliefs, and points of view.
This would be an excellent opportunity to explore indigenous writers. I would put together a collection
of stories and firsthand accounts (fiction, non-fiction and graphic novels and digital/audio resources) of
what it is like be an Indigenous person in Canada (past and present). One of my favorite pieces is a
collection of short stories put together by Thomas King that shares a history from the perspective of our
First Nations Peoples. If the teacher was open to it, I could read a story or two from the collection to
introduce the literature. This would also be a great opportunity to tap into the Role Models’ grant and
have elders come in to share local stories and songs. An added bonus would be I could use the learning
commons for the elders to present and possibly offer up the sharing to for other classes if they would
wish to sign up.
Grade 7 Arts Education
The Curricular Competency point is-Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of personal,
social, cultural, historical, and environmental contexts in relation to the arts.
Art has always been a challenge for me. There would be a few options I could offer for this unit.
- Create a collection of resources for students to peruse and gather ideas and inspiration- (ranging
from art, poetry and dance) – from around the world.
- Book a visit to the Royal BC Museum during an art exhibit
- Find some virtual art tours or recorded poetry slams for the teacher/s to visit and share with
their students. Possibly try to book a local artist to volunteer to come in and share their
Be willing to offer up the use of the learning commons to have our own art exhibit or poetry slam!
Create a board, in front of the Learning Commons, to share the students finished work.
Choose Your Own Adventure: A Mini Personal Inquiry.
As we move along in this module, we begin to start looking at how we could integrate some instructional leadership opportunities into our space. We were given a chance to build a powerpoint on a topic we would love to learn about. I chose Markerspaces as they seem like interactive and collaborative student led learning opportunities. They give students a space to create, invent and learn in a safe and fun learning environment.
The teacher librarian role is so dynamic that having a network of colleagues to share resources, ideas and professional hacks/shortcuts will go a long way in helping us develop into successful TLs. The final portion of this module gave us an opportunity to do a professional development and then collaborate with one another in hopes of creating new and exciting opportunities to employ what we have learned in each others classrooms. We were tasked with using some more new digital media outlets to create a video to share what we learned. The following is a quick video I made of my course.
Church, A. P. (2011). School librarians as teacher leaders. Delta Kamma Gamma Bulletin. 77(3), 10-12.
Levitov, D. D. (2014). Getting Beyond Superifical. School Library Monthly, 31(3), 4.
Lewis, Melanie (2020, Sept 1). Advocating for the School Library Through Relationships. Knowledge Quest, 49(1), p.46.
Martin, Ann M., Panter, Suzanna L. (2015, Mar 1). The Paradox of our Profession. Knowledge Quest, 43(4), p.54.
Will, Madeline. (2016). As Media Landscape Changes, Librarians Take on New Roles. Education Week, vol. 36, no. 12, 25–28.