Monday, March 23, 2015

Save the elementary TLs in TCDSB

I don't usually do "political posts". My blog focuses on my teaching practices as a teacher-librarian. However, there are some teacher librarians, in the very board my own children attend, who might lose their position due to budget cuts. 

People are speaking up and speaking out about the importance of teacher-librarians in elementary schools. Anita Brooks-Kirkland wrote a fabulous post about the problem in TCDSB and beyond. When Doug Peterson, shared Anita's post in his weekly "This Week in Ontario Edublogs", he wrote an eloquent testimony to the power of elementary school library staff - and he's not a teacher-librarian. News reports say that the board wants to ensure that "we cut everything that we can possibly cut so that we don't have to hurt the classroom" but my fear is that the trustees won't see the school library, the biggest classroom in the school for all students, as an actual classroom. 

I can't keep quiet. I must speak up. After all, we are talking about the school board where my own children attend. I sent the trustee this letter and I'm replicating it here (taking out the name of the specific schools my children attend). 

Hello Mr. Tanuan,

My name is Diana Maliszewski. My son goes to XXXXXXXX, a school in your ward, and my daughter is a recent XXXXXXXX graduate who now attends YYYYYYYY. I know that the TCDSB is trying to balance its budget but I'm concerned that one of the solutions being considered is to eliminate the 45 teacher-librarians in the elementary panel and replace them with library technicians. 

Let me be very open and transparent with you - I myself work as a teacher-librarian, albeit in the public board. The system in TCDSB that decided which schools received teacher-librarians and which received library technicians was already flawed even before this current debate. My children never had a teacher-librarian. In fact, they were only able to borrow one book a week, because their school didn't (and still doesn't) have an electronic circulation system - they still use a paper card system like I did when I was a child in the 1970s and 1980s. My email to you isn't about the library space, but the people that run and grow that space to help student minds grow and blossom. 

You are probably thinking that there isn't much difference between a teacher-librarian and library technician, but there is. Just because my own children did not have the opportunity to have a teacher-librarian working with them does not mean that I want the TCDSB schools fortunate enough to have a teacher-librarian to lose them. This information may help clarify things. (To quote my source - and teacher-librarians instruct their students how to cite sources to avoid plagiarism and research ethically - I must let you know that I found this information at )

While both positions are integral to the success of the school library program, the Teacher Librarian has the following impacts on student success: 
• Schools with professionally-trained school library staff have reading achievement scores that are approximately 5.5 percentile points higher than average in Grade 6 EQAO results. 
• Schools without trained library staff tend to have lower achievement on grade 3 and 6 EQAO reading tests, both in terms of average achievement and attaining level 3 or higher.(1) 
• The Elementary Teacher Librarian provides the fundamental information and digital literacy skills to bridge student learning in high school. 

Teacher Librarians: 
• Support implementation of new curriculum and teaching strategies. 
• Are a central and collaborative resource for the school. They co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess with teaching partners. 
• Are the literacy partner and technology leader in the school. 
• Have the expertise to evaluate and select resources that engage students as readers and helps students develop a love of reading. 
• Are the technology mentor and coach for staff and students. 
• Provide equitable access to technology. 
• Provide equitable access to authoritative digital and print resources to support inquiry-based learning.

Please speak up for the students by questioning or preventing the loss of elementary teacher-librarians. We are blessed to have teacher-librarians in our TCDSB secondary schools, but without prior teaching or exposure to a teacher-librarian, this leaves our high school teacher librarians with a huge burden to try and help all their students "catch up". Let's not have our TCDSB students lagging behind those in other boards due to this particular cut.


Diana Maliszewski

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