I have just finished reading the plethora of articles provided for the topic “Principal Support” in Topic 2 and I have to say, as a future TL, I get the message loud and clear – collaboration cannot happen without the active support of the school’s principal. And if the library and TL doesn’t have the principal’s support, well, they need to do something about that. Stat. It all makes a lot of sense to me once the evidence was laid out and I will take the advice in these articles to heart.
As a bit of background on me, I am not currently working as a TL, nor am I working at one particular school location to get a personal impression on principal support or lack there of – I am a Teacher on Call for 40 different schools in my district and am rarely at one for more than a days assignment. But I am certainly taking notes for my future employment as a TL.
Here are the key points that were left circling in my head after reading the article by Haycock (2007), Oberg (2006), Everhart (2006), Farmer (2007), Kaplan (2007), Morris (2007), Morris & Packard (2007) and Oberg (2007).
Collaboration is vital to the job of the TL, and Haycock (2007) goes as far as to say “collaboration is the single professional behaviour of teacher-librarians that most affects student achievement” (p. 32).
In order for collaboration to come to fruition, it firstly needs the active support and explicit encouragement of the school’s principal (Farmer, 2007) (Morris, 2007). Collaboration between teachers and TL is much more likely if the principal has stated its importance and even looks for it as part of teachers’ and TLs’ annual performance reviews (Oberg, 2006, p.14). Haycock (2007) supports this statement in his article by stating “when the school principal expects team planning between teachers and the teacher-librarian, whether as grade-level groups or subject-area groups, team planning occurs more than when the principal does not expect such collaboration” (p. 28).
Secondly, in order for collaboration to occur it needs the support of the principal in terms of scheduling. Shared planning time and flexible scheduling are much more conducive to collaboration than fixed schedules and lead to significantly more units being developed with the TL by a ratio of 4:1 (Haycock, 2007, p.29).
Thirdly, funding is another key issue that is largely controlled by the principal, and a supportive principal can have significant gains to the library and resources available to the TL (Haycock, 2007, p. 31). Morris (2007) accurately describes the principal as the one who “holds the purse strings” (p. 23) and states, “the principal determines the media center budget and determines the technology opportunities offered to the students and faculty” (p. 23).
But these areas of support offered by principals were only visible when principals had a positive view of the roles of the library and the TL in the school and recognised the positive effects libraries can have on student performance. These positive or negative views could be a result of whether the principal has “had a positive experience, then they might be more likely to require an integrated library media program in their schools” (Kaplan, 2007, p.302) or simple the fact that there is no training for principals on what they should expect out of their library and TL, nor what the library is fully capable of. In these situations it is up to the TL to communicate and collaborate with the principal to enhance their knowledge and view of the role of the library and the TL in the school environment (Oberg, 2006, p.16) and “if TLs want the library program to be sustained, they must show how these resources and services uniquely contribute to student achievement and how their use can be optimized through collaborative efforts” (Farmer, 2007, p.61).
Overall, I have learnt the importance of being an advocate for my profession and the diplomacy necessary in the school environment to gain, maintain and enhance the power and affect the library has on the school at large. It is up to me as the teacher librarian to be proactive in the library’s promotion and development and this will all begin by getting the principal on my side.
Everhart, N. (2006). Principals’ evaluation of school librarians: A study of strategic and nonstrategic evidence-based approaches. School Libraries Worldwide, 12(2), 38-51.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.
Kaplan, A. G. (2007). Is your school librarian ‘highly qualified’? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(4), 300-303.
Morris, B.J. (2007). Principal support for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.
Morris, B. J., & Packard, A. (2007). The principal’s support of classroom teacher-media specialist collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 36-55.
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.