Sunday, 6 November 2016

How a librarian from Guernsey got invited to present at Practical Pedagogies Teachers Conference in Toulouse. Here is my journey

Connections through twitter

At the beginning of the year, I was contacted by Russel Tarr @russeltarr a history teacher at the International School of Toulouse, through Twitter, who asked if I was willing to present at the Practical Pedagogies conference in November. At first, I did wonder why me but thankfully Russel put my mind at rest and explained why he wanted a librarian at a teachers conference. It was about sharing best practice within a school so that included anyone involved in teaching and learning too.

The thought of attending a teachers conference rather than a librarians conference did scare me. Conferences are usually places where you learn and share knowledge about your specialist field and for me, I have always enjoyed going along to librarians conferences, not only to learn about something new but to hear that what we are doing in Guernsey is as good, if not better than elsewhere in the world. However, I had become more aware of the importance of sharing my own knowledge and expertise with teachers rather than librarians about using a school library across the curriculum. As much as this was definitely a little out of my comfort zone it was where I felt I should be speaking.

Writing for CILIP Update

I had recently had an article published for the CILIP update magazine based on my masters dissertation about collaboration between teachers and librarian and the difference it could make to students academic attainment. Through this, a librarian from Newcastle University, Andrew Shenton, contacted me and said that my article had inspired him to also write something along the same lines but was going to try and get it published in a teachers magazine and not a library one. His argument for this was that within our own field we are preaching to the converted. How right he was! This is one of the reasons that I decided that this invitation to talk at the Practical Pedagogies conference was a perfect way to start talking to teachers about school libraries.

My workshop

My workshop and message was simple. Talk about what we are achieving within Guernsey, looking especially at the information literacy framework we are using then give examples of best practice and inspire teachers to work alongside their librarians within their own schools.  I explained that we work within the classrooms co-teaching. The teacher is the subject expert and we are the skills and tech experts and together we support independence and research skills. Alongside this, we are also supporting the teachers and the use of new technologies within the classroom. Our blog, created by Schools' Library Service, Guernsey describes the ways in which we have worked alongside teachers to create exciting lessons. My main message was that planning with the librarian was essential. If they could invite their school librarian along to their planning sessions great ideas can happen. My research had shown that librarians and teachers working together made a difference to academic attainment and my own experience reflected that.

I was a little worried when the librarian of Toulouse International School herself said that she would be attending my workshop. Thankfully she was lovely and really interested in what I had to say so all was well. She explained that her school has only just re introduced books as the school had wrongly made the decision to remove all books in favour of the internet. Books are an essential part of learning and this is what was found once they had removed them all. The job of retraining teachers and students to use the library is far harder when a library is reintroduced as the skills have to be re-taught.

The teachers who attended were interested although not all of them had access to a qualified librarian so we discussed other opportunities that they could possibly take advantage of, such as working with their public library staff. It made me realise the importance of the support we give within Guernsey schools, especially to the primary schools. Without access to a librarian, they will find that their libraries become places to exchange books and not necessarily places to teach independent learning and research skills. You need a champion for the library in a school and unfortunately, teachers just do not have the time.

I received some lovely feedback from my session and the others all began to follow me on twitter. It is great to be expanding my network of support and expertise.

What came next

After finished my session I was able to talk to other teachers about their own sessions which led to some interesting conversations about mine. I met a very inspiring Headteacher, Simon Hinchliffe @sh_hinchliffe from Bradford Grammar School who talked to me about how to engage students and teachers in their very well stocked and newly built library. We talked about the status of their librarian and embedding information literacy within his curriculum. I look forward to continued conversations in the coming months. I also met John McCarthy @jmccarthyeds who asked me if I blogged. I actually responded that I didn't as I had not kept this blog up to date in a while. After looking to create something new I decided to update what was here and thanks to John I've been inspired to start writing again. He made me believe I have something worth sharing so thanks to him here it is and I'm sure we will stay in contact.

What I learnt

Although my session was not hugely attended I have realised that the situation in Guernsey is a unique one. All our schools have access to a qualified librarian and when I am talking at teachers conferences I must not make that assumption. My reason for presenting at this kind of conference is to help teachers understand the role of the school librarian if they have one but to also encourage those that don't to ask why. I also believe that if teachers understood the role they may be encouraged to collaborate more.

The other session I attended helped me to understand more of the frustrations that teachers have with using new tech in their classrooms and how important it is to promote this as one of the things we can support in our training. Teachers need to understand how school librarians are relevant to their curriculum and if we can use the hook of technology experts we may have more successful collaborations.  I also learnt a few tips and tricks that I will be sharing and using in my own teaching.

I plan to present at more teachers conferences as I do feel that it was a good experience not only for myself but for everyone I spoke to and not just in my session. My plan for the next one is to build on what I have learnt and to talk more broadly about how teachers can use school libraries and librarians. 

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