Target: September 14

31 01 2013

The date of this year’s federal election has been set as September 14.

So that gives TLs a little over seven months to target the two key groups who have the most influence over our futures – parents and politicians.

Parents can be your strongest allies and your greatest critics. But they have the power and the voice at the ballot box so it is essential that they understand what it is the TL really does. Starting on the common ground of wanting to provide the best education for their child, it is critical to involve them in what is happening in the library by keeping them informed if not actually in there.

  • Have a prominent presence through your newsletter, website or social networking media and keep them regularly informed of what each class is undertaking while in your care; events; new releases of books or movies, whatever you think they need to know. Make yourself or your presence their go-to place for information. Regular communication makes the library the hub of the school.
  • Provide homework support with links to curriculum-related websites, safe game sites for each age group; and other interesting sites that will engage them and support their learning and leisure activities
  • Provide a parent information lounge both on your website and in your library with information about the school, child development, supporting their child’s literacy and numeracy development, cybersafety, local services and entertainment for children (collect brochures or link to sites), help lines such as the Poisons Information Centre or Lifeline, even lists of appropriate authors, titles or series for each age group for birthday or Christmas lists.
  • Collaborate with other teachers to host parent participation programs in which the parents learn how to listen to their child reading; help with homework without actually doing it; search without Google (or tips and techniques about using it effectively); understand information literacy; anything that they feel that they might need. Be the pivot on which the relationship between the home and school balances.
  • Support parents reading with their child, particular those who have just started their education journey, by having grab bags of seven selected titles, that parents borrow like a resource box. There are enough appropriate books for a new title every night, are easily available and borrowed in one transaction. (Enlist some mums or dads who sew to make you some distinctive bags, each one a little different so it’s easy to remember which has been borrowed. Put the barcode on a keytag and attach it to the handle.)
  • Create links with your pre-school, even having regular storytime sessions with them if that is practical. The younger the child, the more involved the parent so educate them early.
  • Speak at P&C meetings about what you do so the word spreads that the school library is a very different place from that which they might remember.
  • Politicians are the puppet-masters who hold the purse-strings – they are the people who direct educational authorities to implement the big-picture changes like National Partnerships, teacher accreditation, Local Schools, Local Decisions and so forth.

    They are driven by power, economics and votes. Most have high ideals and are busy. The role of the teacher librarian is not at the forefront of their responsibilities and many have perceptions based on what they remember of their experiences, however long ago that was.

    Despite the National Inquiry raising the awareness of the role of the teacher librarian amongst some federal politicians we are yet to see any meaningful change from their recommendations, so it is time to apply the pressure again. Even though the federal government continues to say that staffing is a state government decision, nevertheless with the Prime Minister’s stated focus on education in the election campaign, we now have another opportunity to get our voices heard.

    If local politicians, actual and would-be, are kept informed of what it is the teacher librarian adds to the education experience of their constituents and they can see there is the likelihood of votes from parents then they can be powerful allies.

    Politicians love to be seen as being ‘in on the action’ which is attracting their constituents. They love an opportunity to be seen and talk and getting them on your side is imperative. Be apolitical and put your preferences aside. Don’t limit yourself to the sitting member – wannabes need to get their names into the community so people recognise it on that election sheet, and those in Opposition love to be informed enough to ask Questions in the House. Build up a positive relationship so when the candidates need a school for a photo opportunity, a launch, a place to place funds, it’s your name and face that come to mind.

  • Invite them to any library-based function you have but look for unusual celebrations – the Unique Selling Point that will make your event stand out – such as a student-organised Literary Luncheon, a poetry reading by a local poet, a book launch by a new author or illustrator – anything that is also likely to attract the media so they can have a photo opportunity
  • Invite them to be guest readers, bloggers, speakers, artists or presenters, especially celebrating students achievements based on library challenges. Do a lot of the legwork for them such as

       booking well ahead, including information about the importance of the event with the invitation, sending a reminder with a background brief and an indication of what they are expected to do – it’s about getting them to value the library not necessarily save them work. They will come again if you are PROFESSIONAL.
       selecting the book and getting it to them in advance to practice
       suggesting the focus of the blog post such as their opinion of any proposed educational legislation
       have them be a focal point of your citizenship studies so they talk about what they do
       if you know they have a passion for poetry, drawing, music or whatever invite them to perform as part of a school-based event. It doesn’t matter if it’s not library-related, it’s about reinforcing the connection.
    • Email, write or phone them to let them know how decisions affecting the employment and deployment of teacher librarians affects the teaching and learning in the schools in their electorates – let them know that the parents are the voters who will keep them or not.
    • If there is something such as the NSW Local Schools, Local Decisions policy that is really going to impact on the teaching and learning at the school, make an appointment and visit them. Be prepared and demonstrate how the issue will affect the families in the electorate rather than your employment. Keep in mind that votes talk and there are more parents than teacher librarians.
    • Start planning your campaign NOW – and share your ideas through the Comments.

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    One response

    10 02 2013
    Sue Warren

    Just on the thought of getting the politicians involved – I think all students do significant studies/units on Australian politics (often at all the different levels) – might it work to collaboratively plan with a sympathetic classroom teacher to include something that focuses on lobbying for the school library/teacher-librarian? Lobby groups are certainly something that have been discussed in the units I’m familiar with. The Inquiry could be a point of interest being relevant directly to schools – and making a connection between government and school. Letters to political parties, drafting their own legislation, speeches, are all entirely feasible within the context of the democracy unit.
    A supportive principal is also a great thing to have when you are planning on inviting your local MP or significant political person. Making the most of special events by coordinating such visits with local and other media attention has been successful for me in the past.
    And I would suggest never missing an opportunity. The newspaper interview I did in Canberra a couple of years ago was very much a spur of the moment happening – a message went out that the paper wanted to talk to a t-l, and after quickly speaking to my principal, I put my hand up. Within hours a photographer was at the school and I was talking to the reporter. It was a little anxiety making but I always felt it turned it out well. Perhaps you could create such opportunities, as some others have done? Contact your local radio stations, papers etc and have your voice heard.

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