Last week I wrote about the first five recommendations for being heard – and therefore recognized – in John R. Stoker’s article “How to Achieve Recognition by Results.” These recommendations were:
- Continue to do the work
- Look to make a difference
- Support others in their work
- Humbly be right
- Offer concrete evidence.
Now, the next five ideas.
Stoker’s sixth recommendation, Be Collaborative in Your Efforts seems almost a waste of time to mention. This is at the core of your work. You have been trying to get teachers to collaborate with you and they haven’t been responding. In the business world, this suggestion translates as “be a team player.” While you do need to be using ideas to get teachers to collaborate or at least cooperate with you, reach beyond the teachers.
We have seen repeatedly that having a supportive principal is a sure road to working with teachers. Once you have that support, you need administrators to view you as a team player. Listen carefully and figure out what your principal and/or superintendent want to achieve. Then show them how you and the library program can help make it a reality. Just a word of caution – you don’t want the teachers to think you are brown-nosing. You will lose them completely. They may not be as good at showing administrators what they are achieving, so show how your work involves them and any and all support they’ve given.
You may not realize that you need to Explain Why but frequently you do. This is particularly important with any staff you have—paid or volunteer. When someone offers a suggestion on how to do something in the library and you ignore it because it doesn’t work, the other person feels you don’t value them. Explain to students, teachers, or anyone if you don’t adopt their great idea. When you explain, you could discover you didn’t understand the underlying reason for their suggestion and a great idea might emerge – in collaboration.
It’s so important to Recognize the Contribution of Others. Remember the story of my two principals. As I mentioned in Be Collaborative, every time a teacher does a project with you, let the principal know about it. Focus on the teacher. Have a bulletin board highlighting the achievements of students (and not just athletes) and teachers. You might talk about their crafting skills or other talents. People like to be seen as worthy.
Recognize that schooling and degrees does not guarantee intelligence and the lack of them indicate that someone isn’t smart. I once had a volunteer who had only an eighth-grade education. Her whole manner seemed to suggest a lack of intelligence. It turned out she was smarter than many teachers and saw things I missed. I was fortunate to have her in charge of my volunteers for several years. And yes, I let her know how valuable she was to me.
Be open to advice from custodians, secretaries, and students. The academic decathlon students I advised were fantastic computer nerds. When the tech department considered purchasing a new firewall, they had my kids test it out. They broke through it in slightly over a minute. The tech department was appalled. The kids were quite justifiably proud of themselves. And I was glad they were on my side. I applauded their skills although in this case and for obvious reasons didn’t publicize it.
Leaders don’t make followers. They create Leaders. Look to Develop Others. When you commend their talents and help them become better at it, they develop into leaders. And they also become your followers and collaborators.
Over the years, I have encouraged librarians to take on bigger tasks and many have gone on to do great things in AASL. I have mentored scores of librarians and I hope that my books – and this blog – offer librarians the courage to step out of their comfort zones and become leaders.
Finally, and obviously, Continue Learning. We are models of lifelong learners but also learn from your colleagues. Let them know how they are helping you. I planned to be a high school English teacher. When I got my first elementary library job, it was the teachers (good and bad) who taught me how to be successful at that level. When I was transferred to the high school they asked me what I would do there, thinking I was trained to be an elementary librarian.
I learn every day from posts on the School Librarians Workshop Facebook group as well as the other library-aligned Facebook pages. I learn from the e-newsletters I get daily some from ALA and some from business and tech sources. As I have said, you are either learning and growing or you are dying.
So, ten ways to be heard. I hope you heard that at the core of all of them is building relationships. Remember the quote attributed to John C. Maxwell and Theodore Roosevelt — “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”