Using your readings for this unit, choose one of the following topics and write a reflective piece that demonstrates your understanding of the role of the teacher librarian with regard to this aspect of the TL practice.
Chosen topic: Principal Support
After reading the literature, I have come to the understanding that the role of the teacher librarian (TL) in regard to principal support is that of collaborator, communicator and advocate. It is the TL’s responsibility to ensure these three roles occur in order to gain and maintain the principal support the library and TL needs.
The literature is filled with evidence stating both the importance of the library for student achievement and the need for TLs to have the school principal’s support for this to occur, especially when it comes to collaboration. Farmer (2007), Hartzell (2002), Haycock (2007), Morris (2007), and Oberg (2006), among others, all discuss the importance of collaboration and stress that for collaboration to occur it needs the active support and encouragement of the school’s principal as seen in Haycock’s quote “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). Principals who hold and pursue these positive views toward collaboration between TLs and teachers, also tend to hold collaboration between themselves and the TL at a high standard, making the TL’s roles of communicator and advocate in regards to principal support easier to accomplish. These collaborative measures ensure the TL can keep the principal up to date on current research regarding the positive impact school libraries can have on student achievement (Todd, 2003), as well as maintaining a good working relationship in regards to backing library funding (Haycock, 2007, p. 31) (Morris, 2007, p. 23) and flexible scheduling (Haycock, 2007, p.29).
But what about the principal who doesn’t support the library nor recognise the important role the TL plays in the school environment? This is where the TL’s role of communicator and advocate, as well as collaborator, comes into much greater play. These negative attitudes toward libraries and TLs, including “occupational invisibility” (Oberg, 2006, p.14), are described by Oberg as often coming from “limited exposure to the role of the teacher-librarian when they were students in school and when they were classroom teachers” (p.14), and just as likely, “few principals recognize themselves as important players in maximizing the librarian’s potential to contribute to school quality” (Hartzell, 2002, p. 1). This is where the TL must vitally recognise and perform their roles for principal support. The TL must collaborate and communicate with the principal, while also advocating for, the importance libraries and TLs play in the school environment as a whole and the increased student achievement that can come from a successful library program and a highly qualified TL. In short, the TL must ‘sell’ their value to the principal, and make their also believe in the library’s power.
In either of the polar situations mentioned above it is up to the TL to be an active advocate for their position in the school as well as communicator and collaborator with the principal to enhance their knowledge and view of the role the library and TL can play in the school environment (Oberg, 2006, p.16). “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). TLs need to remember that a committed principal is perhaps the key player in making a difference to the school library program (Hartzell, 2002, p.4), so it is up to the dynamic TL to make sure the principal is on board.
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.
Todd, R.J. (2003). Irrefutable evidence: How to prove you boost student achievement, School Library Journal.