Through Dangers Untold, and Hardships Unnumbered …
ETL507 Reflective Portfolio – Introduction
The submission of this reflective portfolio, completed as per the requirements of the capstone subject of the Masters in Education (Teacher Librarianship), is in many ways symbolic of the journey I’ve undertaken over the past three years, through a labyrinth of information and ideas. It represents the castle at the centre of the maze – for so long, the almost mythical focus of my studies, and now, I’m here, reflecting on the twists and turns behind me, and realising just how much of a journey still lays before me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Every good journey metaphor needs an origin story, right? I had been working at Evans High School for almost 7 years. I taught English and HSIE, was a year advisor for the class of 2013 from their transition year right through until their graduation, and was heavily involved in a variety of initiatives throughout that time, including the Welfare and Student Support teams, the Technology team, and a wonderful role as the School Promotions officer. I still loved my school, so I didn’t necessarily want to look at positions elsewhere. But I needed something different to focus on now my babies had flown the coop.
Cue the after-dinner phone call. When I heard who was speaking, I thought something was wrong – the Deputy Principal on the line wasn’t someone I had ever conversed with outside of school. But in reality, it was the lifeline I needed, the offer of a year of working in our school library to “see if we can make it a better place to be”.
I ummed and ahhed, very briefly, before I jumped at the chance. Whilst I have always loved libraries, and they played a pivotal role in my own growth as a child, a teenager, a uni student, and an adult, I have to admit that I had not spent much time in the library at the school I’d been working for 7 years. I’d visit when I needed to use one of the computer labs, or when I was working with the STLA and needed a bigger space to do reading groups with a class, but apart from that I avoided it. In the lead-up to this fateful phone call, I’d been working in the library, sorting through the school archives to organize materials for the 40th anniversary of the school, and whilst I was tucked away downstairs in a corner, I’d had opportunity to observe the ways in which the library was being used, and it made me incredibly sad. There was little engagement with the fiction collection, and less with the non-fiction shelves. When classes came in, it was purely to use computer labs, or to work in a space with air conditioning – they could have been operating in a vacant building for all the impact the library had on their teaching and learning. And at recess and lunchtime, students gravitated to the library for the power point they needed to charge their phones, or because it was too hot outside. Fights were frequent, and staff on playground duty in the library frequently complained about the behaviour management issues they needed to deal with – it was Battleground Library, and it made my library-loving heart immeasurably sad, so see a library with no soul, no life, no character.
The more I thought about the opportunity to work in the library for a year, the more excited I became, and my mind was teeming with ideas. Term 1 2014 saw me arrive in the library with nervous excitement, and whilst we made some great changes to the space early on which improved the culture of the library enormously, the biggest change was to my own perception of exactly what the role of a Teacher Librarian was. I spent much of the first term – indeed, the first year – feeling extremely overwhelmed, and out of my depth, and at some point throughout that term decided that I really needed to figure out what in the hell I was supposed to be doing in this wonderful, challenging, exciting role. So, I applied to complete my Masters in Teacher Librarianship, not even sure if my tenure in the library would continue past the current year, but knowing that this was what I was meant to be doing with my life. I’ve learned far more than I could have anticipated, and as I face the end of this learning it’s a challenging task to try and sum up the difference this course has made to my views on the role of the Teacher Librarian concisely!
This portfolio consists of a number of posts related to some of the major learning elements I’ve undertaken over the past two and a half years. They are linked below, and if you click on the link for the first one, you’ll find options to bring you back here, or to take you to the next post. Enjoy the journey!
Where to from here?
Introduction (you are here)