Every day on the professional TL lists, there are posts that clearly indicate that the role of the TL is still not understood by our peers and principals – one recent post even stated that the person worked for “a supervisor who genuinely believed TLs were on a different award from other teachers just so they could work before or after school if requested”. Other posts indicate that there are many instances in which the TL themselves are unsure of their role, particularly now the “Digital Age” has firmly settled on our schools.
If we, ourselves, are not sure where we sit within the teaching and learning paradigms of the school, how can we effectively advocate for a qualified TL in every Australian school? Perhaps it is time to take time to determine and define our role, both generally as a profession and specifically within our schools. How do we value-add to the work of both staff and students in ways that no one else can? Why are we teacher librarians and why do we need a post-grad qualification to have the right to call ourselves that?
Much is being made in the USA right now about gun control, and my interpretation of some of the arguments is that the objections are more about the citizens’ rights as laid down in their Bill of Rights being eroded than opposing the restricting of access to firearms. If a Bill of Rights is so inviolable, perhaps it is time for schools to develop and declare a Bill of Rights for their students, so that there is a document that approaches the purpose of the school from the students’ perspective. What is it that they have a right to within the school that is sacred regardless of who is at the helm? What should they expect to experience as the absolute intellectual, social, emotional, physical, cultural, ethical, pedagogical and environmental basics of their school experience? Then having determined those in line with MCEEDYA’s The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (which is the current blueprint for K-12 education in Australia) and the school’s philosophy (which may be shaped by a religious perspective, for example) how does the library help achieve those goals, and then how does the TL fit within that through policies, programs, procedures, processes, and practice?
Once the school community, including the parents, staff and students, have negotiated, ratified and implemented the Bill of Rights for the students’ overall education in their school, and developed a mission statement and a plan to ensure those Rights are recognised, accepted and achieved, then the TL can begin to find their place within that and identify how the library’s services and resources will support those rights and goals and their role in ensuring that happens.
There are a number of documents that can help shape this…
AEU, ALIA and ASLA Joint Statement on school libraries and teacher librarians
ALIA and ASLA Statement on school library resource provision
ALIA and ASLA Statement on teacher librarian qualifications
ALIA and ASLA Standards of Professional Excellence
Other statements about resource based learning, information literacy, guided inquiry, funding and policy development are available on the ASLA website but it is also critical that we work within the Professional Standards for Australian Teachers because first and foremost we are teachers with recognised teaching qualifications which legally enable us to supervise and teach students in ways that non-qualifed library staff cannot.
The teacher librarian is unique within the school and therefore has a leadership role. Why not demonstrate that by starting a conversation about creating a Students’ Bill of Rights as the fundamental philosophy on which everything the school does rests?