This post is being written as the world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic and in the blink of an eye, schools, while technically still open in Australia, have switched to a remote-learning model that is based on the availability of and access to technology.
Like those they teach, teachers have as many issues with learning to use new platforms, programs, apps and so forth and for many the learning curve has been steeper than that of the spread of the virus itself. They are being bombarded from all sides with new demands and expectations from the government, the education authority, the principal, the parents, the students as well as trying to convert the curriculum to a totally new format; deal with copyright issues; source resources; deal with digital safety and privacy issues and so on and on through an endless list.
And that doesn’t factor in all the other variables that students and their families are dealing with… or, indeed, the teachers themselves. We cannot go behind the closed doors to see what privileges and obstacles there are – just know that they are many, unique and important to the individual.
And, somewhere, in the midst of the mayhem, is the teacher librarian.
In a setting where, under ordinary circumstances, their role is often neither understood nor valued, the current climate has become overwhelming. And what could be construed as their time to shine as the information specialist supporting teachers with a range of things, can become a time of even greater invisibility. Some have even expressed a fear that their jobs will no longer be there when normality returns because with no resource circulation, no books to cover and no need to teach during teacher prep time what is their purpose? They don’t have their own Google classrooms or video hangouts or whatever method is being used to connect with students so why waste a salary that could be spent on other stuff?
Yet this could be the brightest spotlight we have ever been in, for although we might not be teaching directly, we can still wear our teacher’s hat, using it not as being the ‘sage on the stage’ model which many see as the definition of ‘teacher’, but to draw on our underlying, fundamental knowledge of the development of the child, best-practice pedagogies matched to learning styles, and the span of the curriculum to evaluate and share all that we are being bombarded with so it becomes a targeted approach to support classroom-based teachers on their new journey, rather than scattergun, For example…
- publishers have now offered exemptions so stories can be read online to students provided certain conditions are followed so teachers need to know these
- in Australia the NCU has collated information about copyright in these times so share this with the teaching staff and save them the time of hunting it out for themselves (assuming they are even aware it exists)
- many subscription services are offering free access for a limited time so investigate and identify which ones best suit the needs of your teachers and students and tell them about them
- there are a range of virtual tours , live-cam experiences and natural science sites being made available so use your curriculum knowledge to share the most appropriate with teachers teaching that subject during this time
- filter the author activities, the how-to-use software sites; the all-in lesson sites;the talk and podcast sites ; the best app sites; the curriculum sites; the free ebook sites; the art and music sites, the physical activity sites the what-you-need-to-know-about-this-virus sites; and all the others and disseminate them to those who need to know
- when you see an activity that could be adapted to suit a program, share it with the teacher
- share these sorts of things with your parent body so they have access too, perhaps finding something new that captures their child’s imagination. and include information sites such as this one about the virus in many languages that you think will be useful to them
- look for ideas that promote and consolidate learning at home that don’t require timetables or technology such as a scavenger hunt on a daily walk or creating an obstacle course from chalk on the footpath and share these with both staff and parents
- find a book similar to We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, take an easily duplicated character from it and encourage children to make one and place it in their window for those out walking to find. Change it up with a new story and character each week.
- consider how you can get books in the hands of the students through your library management reservation system and some sort of click-and-collect opportunity
- set up some reading challenges that encourage students to keep reading, or if your school is involved in a premier’s reading challenge facilitate this with information about how it can be continued at home
- spend some time creating a library website that becomes a one-stop-shop for information about the library and its services, as well as links to resources to support the curriculum for both staff and students and trusted leisure sites – use Inside Out to help you determine the who, what, why . (The linked site was one I built years ago, before the cookie cutter approach and drag-and-drop, and was part of the main school site so there were crossovers.)
- keep your own daily diary of things that you have done, learned, been grateful for, rewarded yourself with, the people you’ve reached out to and how so you can see that you are contributing and you are making a difference
If ever there were a time to put on the information specialist hat , it is now. To make visible what is often invisible. To be the guide on the side not the sage on the stage. To be the buttress to the foundations, rather than trying to be the whole building. This is why we have that masters degree on top of our teaching degree and to show that our specialist subject is information – acquisition, evaluation and dissemination – rather than the keeper of the books or an English teacher on steroids.
But above all, we must remember teaching is not a competition, and particularly during this time, it’s not about who was most able to replicate the in-school experience in a landscape that is so vastly different that it cannot duplicated or replicated. Teaching is about relationships – every time we smile at a child we are validating their worthiness to be liked and loved – and whilst ever there is a camera and a screen between us, it will not be the same. So just because the TL is not physically front and centre of a group of students. either on-screen or not, their role in supporting teachers is critical if those teachers are going to be able to do a tenth of what is being expected of them.
We must be kind to ourselves and to each other if we expect to be there for those in our care, either virtually or in reality.
This diagram (original source unknown) provides us with some options…
If we are overwhelmed and struggling despite the plethora of tips about how to cope and what to do that we are being bombarded with, then you can bet our colleagues are too. Reach out to someone today – send them an R U OK message and offer them an ear, a word of support, a resource that might make them laugh or relax. Be that safe haven that we offer to students to staff. That’s what they will remember you for – the kind word, the acknowledgement of what they are doing, the personal touch from someone who ‘gets’ it = at a time when they hit the wall.
But most importantly we need to remember this…
Thanks Barbara for wise and encouraging words for TLs who are shining through current challenges. Hilary 🙂
I am finding my role as a TL has come to the fore with the online and remote learning opportunities. I am now doing a lot more curating of resources, helping with research and enabling teachers to do teaching with reliable and authoritative resources, ebooks and audiobooks.
At last all those databases, eplatforms and curated websites, that I have been pushing over the years are being fully utilised and – although I miss the face to face with the kids, I am in 7th heaven creating online content using libgudes.
Thank you so much for this post- it really resonates with me during this time of anxiety and uncertainty. I really like how you take the emphasis away from competition. It is not about what other teachers are doing- we need to do what we are comfortable with and remember that it is still about building and maintaining connections and relationships within our learning/school community.
Thank you for your wisdom, this reaffirmed that what I am doing is enough.
Thank you for this post Barbara – much of what you said resonates with me. The role of TL during this time is one of support and encouragement. As information specialists, its so important that we share our knowledge with teachers in a safe environment built on trust.
Thank you for this post! Many of the things you discuss resonate with me given the current situation happening in our world right now. The links and resources that you have included are very helpful to me as a classroom teacher trying to navigate the online teaching world. I especially found the links to apps and virtual tours very helpful. I have been including virtual field trip Friday’s into my weekly lesson plan for my class and was running out of places to go. I agree with you that we should be including activities that don’t require timetables or technology.
Another thing that you posted that resonated with me was that we should be “the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage”! This fits my teaching philosophy to a tee and something I work very hard at doing. I am thankful for the reminder that this is not a competition and that what I am doing is enough.
The chart about who I want to be during Covid 19 really got me thinking. I have gone through all of those stages and I have reached the growth zone. I have let go of the things I cannot control and am looking toward the next stage as we begin the planning to return to the classroom in June. As I analyzed the stages, it made me wonder how I can help my students, parents and colleagues to reach this stage too. After reading your post, I am going to reach out and have our TL and guidance counselor join us for one of our online meetings to keep the connections going. As Carla points out “the role of the TL is one of support and encouragement” and I feel as a classroom teacher I should also support and include them in our online learning time with the students. Are there any other ways you can think of for classroom teachers to include/support TL’s during this uncertain time?
In ideal circumstances, classroom teachers and TLs should work hand in hand all the time but it doesn’t always happen that way for a whole lot of reasons. Inviting your Tl to your online team meeting is a vital first step for a relationship that will continue long after the virus is conquered but it needs to be productive and with the TL having a voice, not just being an observer. The best way to do this is to give the TL advance notice of the agenda. particularly the anticipated coverage of curriculum content and asking, “How can you help us with this?”
That assistance may come in the form of resources, whether print or online; with suggestions for or direct assistance with teaching an element directly related to our specialist subject of information literacy https://500hats.edublogs.org/information-literacy-process/ ; suggestions for fiction that support the topic and even an online video of a read-aloud. Remember our remit is to support the entire curriculum so that includes everything from mindfulness to maths not just English or History or Geography. Your TL can also advise about keeping kids safe online, provide info about copyright -the list is pretty endless and if you work together you will find that a lot of what the TL offers lightens your workload.
Reaching out to your parents and community has been the subject of a number of posts but at this time, it is worth talking to your TL about offering some booktalks or annotated lists about suitable books that kids can borrow or buy so parents are more informed and perhaps even a click and collect borrowing scheme if this is not operating in your school already. But that broad question of “How can you help?” will elicit many more responses than I can list here. Good luck.
Thank you for this post. As our school year has come to a close I have been reflecting on many of the challenges and opportunities you highlight. At first, I did fill in a role as technology and information guide on the side, but as time moved on I did have some of those feelings of being a person with no country. I felt like I needed to actively seek out opportunities to feel useful to my colleagues and the students I could interact with. As you mentioned about relationships, I found that I was much more focused on talking with and encouraging my staff. I found a lot of joy in helping them work through frustrations or seeing the best in a situation that has been quite difficult. I appreciate your suggestions, and as we are unsure of what the new school year will bring for us in September, I may be utilizing one or two of them.
Thank you for your optimistic and very practical advice for TLs when navigating through these unprecedented times. I am currently enrolled in a Teacher-Librarian course online and that is what actually brought me here. Throughout this week, I’ve been learning that there is so much that goes into being a teacher-librarian; Working with students is just one piece of the puzzle. Collaborating and guiding colleagues is clearly a large part of your role and can see how that was put to the “test” during the pandemic when everyone was operating from a distance. That being said, your influence in your school and leadership role shines through in this post. My school librarian did many of the same things you listed, for example: shared subscription services, privacy guidelines, listed open and free digital recourses available to teachers and students, set up reading challenges and even took on the task of ensuring that all students where properly equipped with technology at home by lending out school devices. His hard work and dedication to his colleagues was evident. Like him, I hope you received the respect and recognition that you clearly deserve for your efforts.
On behalf of all teachers who struggled and continue to do so during this pandemic, I thank you for being present and putting on your “information specialist hat,” as you say. I hope that more people will start to understand your role better in the educational community and value your contributions to student learning and teacher support!
I do not usually believe in divine intervention or fate, but sometimes things just work out the way they are supposed to, and it feels like magic. I am a teacher who got placed in the teacher librarian role in my school as I needed to reduce my time for family balance ( I have two small children and a husband with a heavy workload) . I have absolutely loved this position, but have felt lost and unsure of exactly what I am supposed to doing. So… I decided to begin taking my Teacher Librarian Certificate course. In my first week and a half, I have learned so much and I am so grateful I am taking this course, but am feeling a little overwhelmed with the workload on my summer holiday. The assignment in my first module I was most excited about was to find a Teacher Librarian blog to respond to, but I was struggling to find a blog to connect to. I was searching at every opportunity; I found some good ones but nothing that really clicked. This is where the magic of google suggestions connected me with your blog. I was making pancakes this morning and as I looked at the recipe, I noticed google notification and it took me to you blog and the post on the “I’m here” hat. You were here! The day before the assignment deadline. I proceeded to quickly go through your blog site and I knew I had found a mentor (from across the world).
Anyways, my assignment is to respond to a blog post so I am going to respond to your “I’m here” post. I wish I had found this post 3 months ago, but finding it now has been reassuring that at a time when I felt extremely lost, I was actually mostly on the right track.
“In a setting where, under ordinary circumstances, their role is often neither understood nor valued, the current climate has become overwhelming. And what could be construed as their time to shine as the information specialist supporting teachers with a range of things, can become a time of even greater invisibility.”
As I began teaching online at home, I felt overwhelmed and worried about being invisible. I mulled on this a bit and then realized that I would need to connect with my colleagues and I would take on the role of their support system, I encouraged them to reach out to me with any questions on anything and be a sounding board for ideas . Throughout the pandemic work from home period, I worked closely in the background for four teachers. For these teachers I helped them find resources, understand online tools and expand on ideas. I also sent out an invitation to parents who wanted extra support, sent books to families, and read with a handful of kids. I will always feel I should have done more, but I am working on accepting that I have done enough.
I am a bit anxious about what the upcoming school year will present like. If we do end up working online again I will definitely be re-reading your post as I go into it a little more prepared and confident. Ready to be the “Guide on the side”, to be there for my colleagues, students and myself!
Thank you again for being here for me and I am sure this will not be the last you hear from me, you have totally gained a follower from Canada!
Thank you for your kind words. I started this blog a few years ago as a way of consolidating and reflecting on my practice as a teacher librarian, a role I found fitted me like a glove after 25 years in the classroom but unable to teach full-class, full-time after an horrendous MVA. At the time as an apprentice TL I received an enormous amount of support from experienced colleagues so this has become my way of giving back and paying forward. I don’t post as often these days but I do have tidying up and organising the Contents page on my to-do list.
The role is extremely diverse as you will discover as you get further into your studies but I’ve always viewed the priority as being the support person for the teaching staff. Yes we teach the students, but if learning means being able to transfer new knowledge and understanding to new situations, then it is the classroom teacher who is best able to facilitate and recognise that, and therefore helping them understand and embed information literacy and all its side-riders into their everyday program is the most effective way to ensure students develop the necessary skills and understandings in meaningful contexts. That’s why those with strong teaching backgrounds with their knowledge of child development, how people learn and the broad spectrum of the curriculum tend to find it easier to make the transition. Our role goes across all aspects of learning and the curriculum, both formal and informal – we are NOT English teachers on steroids with a tunnel vision focused on literature and reading. I’m sure those teachers you have reached out to will have been most grateful for the work you have done, and the word will spread and you will be in huge demand as the new school year evolves.
So I’m not sure that you will find any respite from the workload – it is just as intense as the classroom experience because now you are supporting the whole school, not just the kids in the class, but it is different, exciting and immensely rewarding. Good luck with your studies and with the new school year, whatever it looks like in these uncertain, unprecedented times.
It is so sad that positions that are so powerful and so badly needed could be at Jeopardy. I was so badly needed when online teaching became reality. My skills shined so fast. I put on so many Teams meeting learning sessions that first month that it was exhausting. Many of the older teachers said that they don’t know what they would have done without me. I worked 16 hour days. 8 with my students 8 with my staff because I am not the librarian at my school so I had to also plan and teach my students. We need people with skills now more then ever. I have learned more in my last three library classes that would make me even more of an asset for the school. I feel that it is our untrained and old-style librarians that could be hearting our image. Many of them were at a loss on how to help students and teachers during Covid19.