Collaboration between any group or individuals requires the factors of trust, shared vision and communication (Mattesich et. al., 2001 in Haycock, 2007). This is especially necessary for school professionals (academic and non-academic staff). Trust is important (to gain and maintain the trust of both students and colleagues). School staff need to have a shared vision (this should be guided by the school’s mission statement or ethos and should be used as a yardstick of sorts for self- reflection and as a guiding tool when it comes to planning and collaborating. Communication, to be effective, needs to be timely, clear and honest and should involve all parties.
I agree with Hancock that TLs, to be credible, need to be highly skilled in collaboration, although I would argue (and I don’t necessarily think that this is the point that he is making), that all staff working in a school, or indeed, in any professional environment, should be highly skilled in collaboration. When collaboration doesn’t happen between classroom teachers and TLs it can perhaps be attributed to the following reasons: (This is just my personal opinion and is based on my experience and anecdotal evidence).
- Time poor teachers (teachers may simply “run out of time” to organise to involve the TL in their lesson planning)
- Some teachers are protective of their work (either they don’t want to share because they don’t want their ideas used by others, or they feel that their teaching style or method is being judged or criticised. This may be why some teachers are hesitant to use the skills of the TL- (as was the case in one article I read – although I can’t find it now) as they feel they should have those skills themselves.
- Some teachers don’t value the TL
- Some teachers do not have time in the packed curriculum to teach effective research skills
The role of the Principal.
What I can take away from the readings is that the relationship between the TL and the Principal needs to be collaborative. What is also clear is that, if the Principal isn’t initially supportive of the role the school library plays within the school, then it is up to the TL to highlight the important role it plays.
The TL can do this in many ways- they need to be extroverted enough and proactive enough to actually engage the Principal in the discussion (Haycock). They should be prepared to present the Principal with research-based evidence on the contribution school libraries make to student learning (either their own or an analysis of the available literature), (Oberg, 2002). They need to be prepared to highlight the important role they play in the management of the school library (perhaps through having conducted a time study as suggested by Purcell). They then need to have a Principal who is forward thinking and open-minded, and who has the physical means (access to finances and the support of the school board) in order to maintain the resources of the library to the high standard needed to support student learning. TLs may find this difficult if they are introverted, unmotivated, do not have a good working relationship with their Principal, are prevented from collaboration due to time-table clashes and the physical isolation of the library, have a Principal who has a stereotypical view of TLs or have academic staff who do not value the role of the TL or are ignorant of their skill set.
What is the most important aspect do you think? What is the biggest hurdle that a TL will face with their Principal? What is the best way for a TL to overcome the mindset that librarians just check out books and mind the desk?