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…