I had the pleasure of attending a session run by Professor Erica McWilliam last week. How refreshing to listen to a no nonsense presenter state some home truths about our education system and challenge us to think of what it is we need to do to make it better. Erica talked of our schools offering mandated learning for routine work. Not lifelong learning. Not teaching them skills that will make them successful in a 21st Century workforce.
Erica talked of us needing to reinforce that it’s the pleasure of the rigour of the work that is what we should be on about when we work with students. We should be ensuring that this is part of the Australian Curriculum, not the ADHD Curriculum we are being presented with where we have lots of content ensuring that most of it will be narrowly misunderstood. The fundamental skill of the 21st Century as far as Erica is concerned is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. How many of our students would be stagnant when faced with open-ended tasks expecting them to direct their own learning? Plenty, I’m sure. I found myself nodding in agreement as Erica articulated the concerns I have about the direction of our education system today.
What was most refreshing for me was Erica’s understanding of the role of the Teacher-Librarian in today’s schools. She described Librarians as existing in a hybrid space – a space where we have an invading species present. We as librarians, are often the first to wrangle with new technologies and figure out how to colonise the new landscape. As such, we serve the purpose of being the borderland force that can understand how we work in new learning spaces; spaces that often challenge the existing set up employed in many of today’s classrooms.
The difficulty many of us face (me included, as one who feels that she is a hybrid Teacher- Librarian, largely misunderstod by those hanging onto the old model) is that while we may have changed our mindset and are prepared and willing to charter the new landscape with our students, we are hampered by those who have yet to adopt the new way of thinking. How we overcome this is the challenge we face. We need the support of our administrations; we need those in positions whereby they can enact change, to appreciate our new skill set, and assist us in moving our colleagues with us. If that means mandated change to curriculum then so be it. I’m tired of offering to work with others but finding very few prepared to work in a co-teaching capacity. We don’t pose a threat; we pose an opportunity. An opportunity to expose our students to new ideas and open their eyes to what is possible.
If you’d like to read more of what Erica has to say, access her monograph ‘Schooling the Yuk/Wow Generation‘ from ACER. 30 minutes well spent in my opinion.