Saturday, March 12, 2011

Standards of Professional Excellence

Is this all too much to expect? How realistic is it to have standards which categorically state "professional excellence"?

Whilst it is a wonderful aim, something to which one "should aspire", is it not placing an undue burden on an individual to create the expectation that these are the standards they should achieve? Certain personality types (owners of which shall remain nameless) could be ready for a career long guilt trip of all the things they haven't achieved rather than focusing on the needs that they meet for the library users on a daily basis. I suppose that it is all a matter of perspective and a large dose of common sense, but when you have a document that your bosses can point at and measure you against, it can be somewhat daunting.

One thing that did strike me as unique for the teacher/librarian (T/L) is that it really is a balancing act - that unlike most professionals who just need to perfect and polish one set of professional skills - T/Ls are wearing two hats simultaneously. Not only are T/Ls expected to posses the "curriculum knowledge and pedagogy" that a teacher should but this is combined with "library and information management knowledge and skills". So it is a combination of two professions, with their own professional standards and skill sets mixed into one mega role. A big job and as the ASLA document acknowledge "complex" work. So you can understand why there might be the need to frame standards in terms of "excellence". However, I can't help wondering if the New South Wales model of Teacher accreditation might be a more workable solution.

For the "new scheme" teachers as they are sometimes called in New South Wales, there are a set of standards that they are expected to meet to be qualified and deemed "competent". As a T/L with big yellow L plates currently on my back, standards of excellence is something that I would love to achieve, but you need to crawl before you can walk. It it says in the ASLA document that the standards are for "excellent, highly-accomplished teacher librarians". Fantastic, but what about the human, feet of clay individuals amongst us, who are just starting out in the profession? The three levels that the NSW system has of "competent", "highly accomplished" and "leadership" gives a framework in which you can see the progression and skills acquisition that happens with anyone in a profession. I feel like I am staring at the top of Everest when I read some of the standards and wondering in which lifetime am I going to be able to achieve them and get everything else done. Or that my "professional palette" is monochromatic.

Now that I have had my meltdown and hissy fit - if I take the document in the spirit that it was intended - "primarliy intended for use by teacher librarians as a framework for ongoing professional learning", then it is a good guide or checklist to make sure that you are ensuring that you are developing your skills, knowledge and attributes so that your professional palette isn't monochromatic. I suppose it is just like the balancing act of the two professions, you need to balance the aspiration of achieving with the standards of excellence with the working towards and developing as a professional. Easier said than done!

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