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Monday, June 25, 2018

Managing effective teams

My Leadership Colloquium study this week has brought me to the study of effective team work and has lead me to the work of Patrick Lencioni. This video is 40 minutes long, but there are some great stories and ideas for improving leadership and teamwork.

What do we do to improve our teams? 

Do we listen to all the feedback and seek to improve our skillset?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Why your #schoollibrary is more like a garden than a building ...

Prakash Nair presented one of the plenary sessions on the first day at Edutech. His presentation was titled "Space for Learning" and he posed the idea that we need to "educate like a gardener not a carpenter".

Based on Alison Gopnick's book "The Carpenter and the Gardener", Prakash spoke about the mindset of the Gardener (being effective) and Carpenter (being efficient).

  • The Efficient Carpenter focuses on building their craft so that projects can be done quicker, less cost and less effort. Many of these are what we would call quantitative measures.
  • The Effective Gardener referring to the planting of the garden according to quality, relevancy and timeliness, in tune with the seasons. Many of these are qualitative measures, harder to measure.

The Carpenter educator is controlling, hierarchical and standardised and the Gardener educator is empowering, distributed, flexible and personalised.

Prakash's powerpoint slide courtesy of Bec West

He drew parallels with the 'cell like' structures of the old school environment and the organic flowing flexible environment of the newer learning spaces that you might find in newer school buildings. Building on the theme that as educators we need to be more like a gardener rather than a carpenter.

Listen to Prakash Nair talk about  Learning Spaces.

Of course conference goers expressed their delight at this new concept on twitter; even though the idea of free range learners isn't a new one and has been brought out many times by 'progressive' presenters over the years. Back in 1998 Jamie McKenzie was talking about free range students and how connected learning would release students from the learning confines of the traditional industrial classroom.

Relating it back to our School Library

During Prakash's presentation he spoke about a school having a "DaVinci Studios" or "project centres" or even "learning commons" spaces. A place where students can work on their personalised learning plan with resources at their fingertips. I reflected back on a blog post that I did in 2011, asking the question when "Library" became a dirty word. With the reinvention of library spaces in these new future forward school buildings, many schools are also throwing out the concept of teacher librarians.

Our libraries are like a garden, we plant seeds of knowledge and ideas in the minds of students and try and nurture them with an environment conducive to learning. In our learning commons, we have hot drinks and cookies for homework clubs, we rearrange furniture for events and always respond with a "yes". Our goal is to create the best learning environment.

Whilst unpacking this keynote, it reminded me of the Kipling poem "The Glory of the Garden". Kipling talks about a beautiful English garden but then as the poem goes on, it talks about the importance of the gardeners and how gardens don't really grow unless they are properly cultivated.

Is your library being properly cultivated? Is it tended by weekend gardeners (teachers without library qualifications) or landscape gardeners (teacher librarians).


Gopnik, A. (2016). The gardener and the carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#freebookmarks for your #schoollibrary - Winter Destinations

Some downloadable and printable bookmarks for your school library.

Download the image and print onto 180gsm card stock through your colour laser printer.

Make with images from Canva

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Memories of conferences past

I'm up in Sydney this week for the Edutech Conference, I was invited to present on my thoughts to do with Coding and Libraries.

As I got to my hotel, connected to the network and updated my notes; memories of "conferences past" came flooding back and the realisation of just how much has changed in this space. Before I got to Sydney, I had printed out my name tags, registered for sessions and networked with colleagues via LinkedIn and Twitter. On the Darling Harbour promenade conversations about technology and learning is already occurring as people connect with one another after a day of masterclasses.

If I wasn't going to the conference I would probably be keeping an eye on the "back channel" for any snippets of inspiration. The capacity for involvement on multiple levels increases as the technology becomes more and more ubiquitous.

Once upon a time, at the ACCE conference in 2004 in Adelaide, wireless was quite a new thing. 1:1 computers had been in schools for a few years and newest disruptor in the classroom was 'wireless'. I remember having to buy a NCI Wireless card for my laptop for $50 in order to get wirelessly connected at the conference. It was revolutionary! I could be at a conference and look up materials on what the presenters were talking about. We were starting to feel connected and Don Tapscott's "Growing up Digital" was starting to become a reality in the majority of classrooms.

Of course now, everyone will be sitting at conference presentations with their devices. Taking notes, surfing the net, tweeting, snapchatting .... except me.

I have all the best technology in the world with me, but I will probably sit tomorrow through sessions with my trusty notebook, pen and highlighter. My capacity to find "that article" that was talked about in "that important presentation"is high; but I don't need that instant gratification of looking up the article as the person is talking about it. I need to digest the ideas that they are talking about, then I can process it and then act on it.

As for the "old school" handwriting. I can type as fast as I can talk, my capacity add to the digital discourse is not harmed by taking the time to write, reflect then contribute. I have a system of how I do this that works for me and that allows me to give the presenters 100% of my attention before committing my ideas to the digital landscape.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Five things that are important to me, as a Leader

As part of the Leadership Colloquium course that I am doing, we have been asked to create a "vision" for our leadership. I tried to create a mood board, but I found that "blogging it" was a better

What is your vision for yourself as a leader? What are your aspirations? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to be known?

1. Supporting others, we are all on the same team.

Distributed leadership is a philosophy that my current employer engages in. We are all in it together and we are all on the same team.

2. Nemawashi

Nemawashi (根回し) in Japanese means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback, and so forth. There is also a great saying which is "You can't move the tree unless you dig around the roots". As a change management philosophy, I love this strategy. Yes there are times that you have to bite the bullet on an issue, but for most organisational changes this strategy can be applied.

3. Gratitude 

As a leader, I think that we need to go above and beyond in terms of showing gratitude. I have written a blog post on this.

4. Problems vs. Opportunities

For a brief period of my career I was at Methodist Ladies' College in Kew. Sharing an office with David Dimsey and Mark Scott. We made up the ITLC Team, we team taught Information Technology from Year 9-12. Mark had a mantra, "There are no such thing as a problem, only opportunities" and we used this in the way that we approached curriculum development and our vision.

I'm pretty sure it was a "Dilbert" thing, although the internet would make you believe that everyone from Einstein to John Lennon said it.

I guess that the mindset of "opportunity" means that you are open to exploring solutions rather than creating more problems.

5. Genchi Genbutsu and the improvement philosophy of Kaizen.

Both Japanese philosophies are an important aspect of my leadership toolkit. Whenever there is a problem I like to hit the ground and talk to the people being effected by it. If it is students, I talk to students. If it is staff, then I talk to staff. I also believe in the Kaizen Culture of Continuous improvement. That we aim to continually improve what it is that we are doing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A call to arms; the Pygmalion Affect and the School Library

When we reflect back on our school years, the teachers that we remember are the ones that lifted us up. That see us for more than what we are, the encouraging words of Mrs Tessarge in Year 8 History set me on my path to study Arts at University. But the teachers that were strict had their place as well. They struck fear into students. They demanded that you try hard and their expectations were indisputable. Everyone knew that Mr Jamison was not to be toyed with when it came to the correct uniform! He had drawn the line in the sand and he never wavered from it.

But if we blend the two, then we have an encouraging teacher that sets high expectations (Spiegel, 2012) and these teachers make a positive impact on student performance (Ellison, 2015). A colleague at a former school had the amazing ability to lift students up and expect more from them at the same time. He didn't just pay lip service to the "I'm amazing" Lorna Jane generation, he made sure that his comments were justified and genuine; "You are amazing because .....". 

I've been reading a lot about leadership in organisations and as a result reflecting back on the leaders that brought the best out in me over the years. I came across this article on "Pygmalion in Library Leadership" (Matthews, 2012) where he talks about the habit of Librarians, and also teachers, to say "I'm just a Librarian" or "I'm just a teacher". In order for Teacher Librarians to take their rightful place in schools as curriculum engineers, they need to walk the talk. They are not "just teacher librarians", they are curriculum designers, learning engineers, motivators, organisational specialists, information disseminators.

The role of a Teacher Librarian in schools is going through a massive change at the moment.

When I first started teaching the TL was the quiet Librarian that helped those who came to them. The Library was quiet and the curriculum support was understated. As technology disruptors were introduced into schools, it has taken a while for Teacher Librarians to find their feet again in this changing educational landscape.  Only a few school library leaders managed to make this transition work for them; esteemed educators such as Suzette Boyd who worked at Methodist Ladies' College in the 1990's and wrote a book called "The Connected Library".

Now, our Teacher Librarians need to be fearless. We know that there is a direct link between a properly functioning school library and academic achievement, however schools are decreasing their funding of fully qualified Teacher Librarians.  We need a "call to arms"; we need to be proactive, supportive, researchers and enablers of evidenced based curriculum practices. Others will treat you the way that you perceive yourself (Matthews, 2018) and Teacher Librarians need to champion the good work that both they and their teaching teams are doing in schools. They need to "brand themselves" and carry the flag for curriculum innovation in their schools.

Don't be silent; a squeaky wheel gets the grease.


Boyd, Suzette (2006). The connected library : a handbook for engaging users. Utopia Press, Hawthorn West, Vic

Ellison, K. (2015). Being Honest About the Pygmalion Effect. Retrieved from

Matthews, S. (2012). Pygmalion in Library Leadership. Retrieved from

Spiegel, A. (2012). Teachers' Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform. Retrieved from

Additional Information:

Rosenthal's Experiment and the Pygmalion Effect. Retrieved from

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Importance of Citation

There was a great article from Melbourne Uni (Martin & Angelito, 2018) this week about the most cited source on Wikipedia and it got me thinking about how we teach citation and referencing in our schools.

Citation and referencing has an important role not only in academic work but also from the perspective of teaching students about acknowledgement and gratitude.

When we give students handouts or direct them towards information that might aid them in their academic work, we need to acknowledge why that information is important or credible to our subject areas. Have we communicated to them the importance of running their information through a CRAPP test to see if it is worth while? Is there an author present? If not, should we question it's credibility? 

Including a citation and reference list on our day-to-day teaching resources reinforces that we did not create this information, we curated it and when we ask students to do the same, we have led by example. It takes a village, and we need to acknowledge that village.

"It is hard to expect respect when we don't show it", the same motto can be used with citation and referencing.

When was the last time you included a citation in your work? Did you include a reference list? Or was it all a bit too hard. Were you a bit too time pressed to acknowledge that the photocopied notes are in fact someone else's hard work? Then how can we expect our students to regularly use citation and referencing in their work?

And if you are not sure how to introduce this to your students, have a chat with your friendly Teacher Librarian (that is ... if you are lucky enough to have one in your school).


Martin, D., & Angelito, C. (2018). Who’s citing whom and who’s citing what. Retrieved from

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Teaching about 'The Art of Gratitude'

There was an article in The Age a while back "Is gratitude for the selfish and the smug?" that got me thinking about what we teach our children about 'the art of gratitude'.

Many moons ago when I taught in a small Catholic girls school I was taken back by the generosity of the students and the way in which they displayed gratitude towards their teachers throughout the school year.

I have never taught in a school quite like it since. These students, who were far from entitled, took the time to say thank-you to their teachers for the work that they did. Part of this was upbringing, part was the values that school instilled in the students.

Gratitude appeared in many forms from easter eggs to thank-you cards. At the end of each school year, each form group would collectively buy a small gift for their teacher. The total cost $20, with a card saying thank-you. This small act, even though it was orchestrated by the school taught the students that it is right to give thanks.
"With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognise that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves," (Berry, 2016)
Should we show gratitude to our teachers?

As part of the online Leadership course that I am currently participating in, we have to explore our values as a leader. Gratitude is one of those values that I hold in high regards.  This is probably because of the time spent at Methodist Ladies College in Kew. It was perhaps the most memorable of the various independent schools that I have worked in.  I have a "brag book" to remember my time there filled with letters of gratitude.  Twenty years since I have worked there and although I remember the projects that I worked on and some of the people that I worked with, it is these letters that I cherish the most. Some are from Year Level Coordinators, Heads of School and even David Loader, who was the school Principal. They all acknowledged that I went above and beyond the call of duty to participate or complete a task. I was only there for three years and I have handfuls of these letters demonstrating my commitment to the profession.

Contrast that with another school where I worked there for over 10 years and I have maybe three examples of gratitude. When I spoke to the Head of school about showing more gratitude to the staff, he informed me that the teachers were privileged to work for the private school so why should he need to show more gratitude than that. Needless to say that at the time, they had an issue with staff retention.

You don't need a letterheaded letter to show gratitude to your staff. A post-it on a 'Freddo Frog' or a thank you note for making the effort. It is these little acts of kindness which reinforce the 'value of gratitude' in the organisation.

How do you show gratitude?

Flylady talks about blessing your house daily. Taking the time each day to leave it in a state that is tidy and organised. While most of us struggle with the idea; it is a form of showing gratitude for what we have around us. Making sure that our classrooms are clean for the next teacher is a way of showing gratitude.

Marie Kondo talks about thanking her clothes for the job that they have done by treating them respectfully (Fujikawa, 2018). Not dumping that t-shirt on the ground but thanking it for the job that it has done and then either placing it in the washing pile or back on the hanger.

The WNYC podcast about Gratitude (hosted by Susan Sarandon), raises some important points about how we teach students to both show and use gratitude in their day to day lives. Gratitude is learnt and if we value it in our society we need to teach it.


Berry, S. (2016). Is gratitude for the selfish and the smug?. The Age. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from

Fujikawa, J. (2018). Marie Kondo and the Cult of Tidying Up. [online] WSJ. Available at: [Accessed 6 May 2018].

WNYC. (2018). The Science of Gratitude. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 May 2018].

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Free Animal Bookmarks for your #schoollibrary

Some bookmarks that I made on Canva. You should be able to click on the images print them off on A4 cardstock.

Did your students enjoy them? Ours did!

Monday, April 30, 2018

What do I value as a Leader?

We were given some excellent stimulus material to aid us in thinking about what our values are as a leader. There are the usual ones that you would expect; integrity, flexibility and perseverance.  But as I listened to the stimulus material and digested it, it made me think about understanding as a key value for effective leaders.

In Linda Cliatt-Wayman's TED Talk on "How to fix a broken school?" she talks about understanding what is going on. Talking to students, talking to staff. It reminded me of the Japanese Business philosophy of Genchi Genbutsu. "Getcha boots on" and go and see what is happening. Dunn and Dunn (2016) have an excellent article about Genchi Genbutsu and summarise it as "Go see. Ask why. Show respect.”

An interview with Anneleise Hoogland (Hoogland, 2013) on gathering student voice emotes the same philosophy, "Getcha boots on" and listen to the students. What are they learning? What are they having difficulty with? What are their hopes and dreams?

I often get referred to as a "problem solver". I like to mull over a problem, listen to all different points of views and then come up with ideas to move forward. In that sense, I can relate to Linda Cliatt-Wayman's slogan of "so what, now what". Identify the problem and lets solve it together.


Cliatt-Wayman, L. (2015). How to fix a broken school?. TED Talks. Retrieved 1 May 2018, from

Dunn, E., & Dunn, E. (2016). The True Meaning of Genchi Genbutsu. rever. Retrieved 1 May 2018, from

Hoogland, A. (2013). Looking for learning. ED Talks. Retrieved 1 May 2018, from