My T/L journey has taken me on a long, bumpy, pot-hole filled road and it’s not the end of my first subject yet!
In the beginning I was very excited. Excited to be learning again and educating myself. Overwhelmed was another feeling that was closely associated with the excitement. Having assessment due dates again, after almost 20 yrs was overwhelming enough, but added to this was the fact I was now a mother of 3 children, a wife and an employee. University life at 19 seems like a breeze in comparison.
Early on in my readings about being a T/L I was very excited and kept thinking to myself that – wow I would be one of the highest educated members of staff (with my Masters of Ed) in the school! I’d be active in the school leadership and be highly respected – sought after by staff members and executive teams to forward our vision of educating students! Mmmm – I’m not so sure that will be the case anymore!
It appears Principals don’t always know, value, respect, understand or care about the role of the Teacher Librarian in their school or about the Library as a central learning space within the school.
It also appears that teachers don’t always know, value, respect, understand or care about the role of the Teacher Librarian in their school either, or about the Library as a central learning space. Teachers may use the library but for very limited purposes.
In addition to this it appears the NSW state government with its recent announcement of education funding cuts to the amount of $1.7 billion is at the very least placing other issues above education in terms of priorities.
On a more local level, I’ve been disturbed to read postings on the NSW T/L listserv about qualified T/L’s NOT being appointed to positions, and unqualified people being appointed in their place. Surely this speaks volumes about the respect and importance placed upon libraries and the role of the Teacher Librarian by school principals and indeed the teachers taking on these roles. Makes for feelings of despair rather than excitement and enthusiasm – don’t you think?
We must also look to some of the current people working as Teacher Librarians and ask if they are ‘up to the job’. The answer is no – some are not and some are seriously letting down the rest of the profession, future Teacher Librarians, themselves and most importantly of all – the students.
The problem with T/L’s not doing their jobs properly (aside from the obvious educational concerns) is that it is obvious to the ENTIRE school – students and teachers alike. It also impacts on a large number of people – students and teachers. A bad teacher on the other hand, or a teacher not doing their job properly is known about only by a small group of people in the school – not the whole school as with Teacher Librarians. A poorly performing teacher also impacts only upon their own classes and the students within those classes – once again this is in contrast to a poorly performing Teacher Librarian.
A teacher librarian has a great capacity to influence many students and staff in the school and have wide-ranging impacts upon school programs and student learning outcomes, this means that a poorly performing Teacher Librarian is worse than a poorly performing Teacher.
So what do I think can be done about these issues? Ironically enough education is of course one of the solutions. Politicians, school principals, classroom teachers AND existing Teacher Librarians need to be educated about current research into benefits of Teacher Librarians to improved student learning outcomes. They also need to be educated in the fact that most Teacher Librarians are highly educated with Masters in Education. In addition to education, I believe the teacher’s unions need to agitate and publicise until certain things (particularly the employment of only qualified Teacher Librarians) become mandated, either at a federal level or at a state level. Once mandated then certain issues will disappear and the importance and profile of Teacher Librarians should be lifted.
So what are my current feelings after 2 months of studying? The excitement of learning again is still there, it is now tempered by feelings of concern for the profession and future job prospects. I’m frustrated at governments and education departments for their lack of knowledge, foresight and innovation. I’m deeply annoyed at lazy Teacher Librarians, ineffectual Teacher Librarians, unqualified Teacher Librarians and Teacher Librarians who ‘hide out’ in their libraries and fail our students.
These issues aside, I’m still very happy with my decision to retrain and am enjoying the aspects of being a Teacher Librarian which I’ve learnt so far.