Monthly Archives: June 2013

Jumping Ship

Jumping Ship

I’ve just read Glenn Colquhoun’s book of essays and poems called Jumping Ship and found it so compelling I’ve been finding any excuse to talk about it. Colquhoun’s writing is inspirational and profound at the same time as being down to earth and satisfying. Here are 3 reasons why I loved this book:

1.It speaks to me as a Pakeha trying to define myself and figure out what my culture and story is. It is both challenging and affirming. He writes: “As an immigrant culture it seems at times that Pakeha are a book without a cover, one with the first chapter missing. For me, being Pakeha is extremely exciting. It means we get a chance to write that chapter, or at least compile the stories that reveal it.” He also says this: “The most difficult thing about majorities is not that they cannot see minorities but that they cannot see themselves.” So true! And this: “It is unbelievable that Pakeha, so recently exposed to what happened in the past, can have so quickly grown tired of claims against them, rewarding themselves with the right of a backlash. This is the argument of a man beating a woman who, when dragged off her by others, complains that everyone is against them” God I wish every Pakeha would read and reflect on these ideas. Maybe the constant stream of racist letters to the editor about treaty claims in my local paper might ease off a bit.

2.For what he says about teaching poetry in New Zealand. He asks why Nga Moteatea is not taught in schools. Why is this most incredible poetry not more widely known and celebrated? He suggests it is time for a new translation of Nga Moteatea “so they can be introduced to a wider world… and to shine light on them and to revitalise our own language and literature”. wouldn’t this be so amazing?

3.For what he says about pain and sadness and loneliness (or ‘ache’ as he calls it). In a society that focuses on always ‘being positive’ and seeing the ‘glass half full’, it is refreshing and touching to read something so deep and thoughtful about this side of the human condition. We often cover up our experiences of pain and grief or diminish this feeling in our interactions with others which often makes it hurt more. It is too hard to summarise what Colquhoun says about this here. He uses his own experiences and his own abilities as a poet and doctor to explain his ideas. Read it, I guarantee you will be moved.

This is one of those rare books that I will be re-reading, referring to, and raving about for a long time to come. Jumping Ship (2012) is written by Glenn Colquhoun and published by Steele Roberts.

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Finding your Fit

This is a follow up to my post yesterday about the benefits of defining your values. Once you’ve got your values sorted, then you can start to think about how they align to the values of any organisations that you are involved with or work for. garage final alignment 01 Garage Final Alignment by Dr John Bullas on Flickr CCLicence

In the past, I have done this without realising what I was doing – I subsconciously found a way of lining myself up within the culture of my workplace or other organisations I’ve been a part of.

Now I do it in a more explicit way, and as a leader, I try to talk about this often with my team. It’s a strategic way of thinking and working, which can be incredibly beneficial to both you and the organisation. Having a good awareness of the relationship between you and the organisation may help you feel more connected and involved – both parties will get a lot more out of the relationship.

Here’s an example of how I have aligned the goal and values of my employer The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic (on the left) with some of my own values and their associated behaviours (on the right)

This is a really satisfying exercise to do – well worth it if you have the time. If you find it very difficult to align your own values with those of your organisation, then this may be something to think about. It could be that there is a mismatch between what you think is important and what the organisation you are involved with thinks as important. Is this the right place for you? Hopefully this isn’t the case though, I’m sure you can find some good connections.

(Of course, all this assumes that you know what your organisation’s values are. If you organisation does not have stated values, then consider its goal or purpose, and the general culture of the workplace. How do you fit with this culture?)

Grow your Confidence – Identify Your Values

“Values are like fingerprints, nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do” – Elvis Presley Fingerprints Fingerprints by Laura on Flickr CC Licence

My values centre on family/friendship, autonomy, authenticity, compassion, learning, work ethic, service, security, wellbeing, nature, art, and having fun. I consider that my professional purpose is to make a difference to people’s lives by helping them develop lifelong learning and information access skills in a socially inclusive way.

One of the most beneficial activities I have undertaken as a professional librarian was to consciously identify and clearly articulate my personal values and my professional purpose. What I mean by values are the things that a person considers most important in their life. Values are the beliefs or principles that you hold most dear. A purpose can be defined as a statement about yourself that guides your personal and/or professional life.

Our values determine the way that we live our lives, they determine how we carry out our professional practice, and when we are in leadership roles, they determine the way we lead. Note that everyone undertakes leadership roles in one way or another, not just those in formal managerial or team leadership positions.

Before I undertook this deliberate activity of identifying and articulating my values I subconsciously knew what was important to me, but only in a vague sense. Some people seem to develop a clear sense of their own values, but my sense of myself was a little blurry. This subconscious way of knowing was fine, and has guided me well throughout my life. But once I took the time to make this way of knowing more conscious and explicit, it took me beyond ‘fine’ and into a realm where I have grown in confidence and self-esteem. Knowing my values provides me with clarity, energy, and helps me act more consistently and makes decision-making easier. This self-knowledge also helped me to define my professional purpose. This is helpful as having a clear purpose will help guide and motivate your decisions and activities in your working life.

Knowing your values can also help define your personal purpose too. For many people, their professional and personal purposes will be one and the same. Great leaders such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Kate Sheppard, Nelson Mandela and Te Whiti o Rongomai are examples of people whose purpose in life was singular, and as a result, super strong. Their passion and achievements arose from strong self-belief and self-knowledge of what was MOST important to them.

In my own small way, by working out what my personal values and my professional purpose are, I think I have become a better library practitioner and have taken steps towards becoming a better leader.

This clarity around my values and purpose has also helped me to develop my ‘authenticity’. Authenticity can be seen as congruence between a person’s values and the way they act. Bill George (2003) believes authentic leaders demonstrate four qualities: understanding their purpose, practicing solid values, leading with heart, establishing connected relationships, and demonstrating self-discipline. Doing the work to define what your values and purpose are is a key step towards being more authentic.

What are your key values, and do you know what your personal and or professional purpose is?

Some resources I’ve found helpful in understanding myself and my values:

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. London, England: Viking. (Essential reading for all introverts)

George, B. (2003). Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London, England: Bloomsbury. And all of Daniel Goleman’s other books.

Roberts, S., & Rowley, J. (2008). Leadership: The challenge for the information profession. London, England: Facet.

In tomorrow’s post I will write about the importance of aligning your values and purpose with that of the organisation you work for.

Information Literacy – Back on the Agenda

Warm fuzzy – information literacy is back on the agenda at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

Just a short post today for #blogjune.

Thought I’d share this email I got today from the Programme Leader for our in-house course in adult teaching and learning, which we call Poutiriako. All new teachers at our polytechnic do this course if they don’t already have a teaching qual.

“From: XXXXX

Date: 6 June 2013 2:13:23 PM NZST

To: Lee Rowe

Subject: Poutiriako

Hi Lee, as you know Poutiriako was modified this year to only be course 1 so I had to leave out quite a bit including the Information Literacy Section. However after offering two courses of the new version, I feel we need to reinstate this session as it is important and the students have always got a lot out of it. Would you or someone on your staff be able to offer it Wednesday 10th …”

Yahoo we’re back on the agenda and valued! This is exciting to me, because this course provides such a powerful embedded opportunity to educate our teaching staff about the value of information literacy skills for both themselves and their students.

Libraries, Learning Commons and Pastoral Care

Learning Commons, Libraries & Pastoral Care I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading about pastoral care lately. Pastoral care to students is written in to most employees’ job descriptions at the polytechnic where I work. It is a particular responsibility of teaching staff, but it is also the responsibility of employees in the Learning Support team, which includes The Learning Commons and its staff, which I manage.

In the past, as a library professional in a more traditional library team, any notions of pastoral care were hardly on my radar, although I realise now that library service does involve providing pastoral care. Now, as part of an integrated library and learning support service, it is very much on my mind.

There is a huge need for pastoral care in our institution. On a daily basis we see or hear from students who are living in extreme poverty and or facing any number of different challenges such as homelessness, depression, family violence, bullying, drug addiction etc. These students need our help before they can even think about learning.

But what exactly is pastoral care, and how (or even if) should we be providing it? There is no one clear definition anywhere in any of our institution’s policies or documents. It is rather a nebulous term that can be interpreted in so many ways. That ambiguity is possibly a good thing, but it lends itself to rather personal interpretations of the level and extent of care that each staff member provides to students.

Wider reading about pastoral care in education is more helpful, and has helped me see that the provision of pastoral care can be seen in terms of a continuum. At one end is simply listening, clarifying a need, and then referring on to another person or agency if unable to meet the need then and there. I think that the traditional library reference interview could be seen as an example of this. At the other end of the continuum is counselling. We provide a free professional counselling service to students, which is great.

What I think we need to be more clear about is the area in between these two ends of this continuum. Some of my team’s job descriptions have a greater emphasis on pastoral care than others – these are the employees who administer our hardship grants from within the learning commons. We have a few employees who students are drawn to, people with whom the students are more comfortable sharing their problems with. The pastoral care that these staff provides sometimes moves into that ‘in between’ space. These wonderful employees make a concrete, very visible difference to whether students complete their course of study. Without being given a referral to the foodbank or a $20 bus voucher we would lose them for sure.

What has become very clear to me, as a learning commons manager with pastoral care responsibilities is that it is vital to put the appropriate professional support, structures and boundaries in place to support employees providing pastoral care, in order to keep them and the students they help safe. Regular mentoring or professional supervision may be required.

What is also important is a collaborative approach where support staff, teaching staff and health professionals work together in a cohesive way, whilst being mindful of confidentiality and professional ethics.

As library roles become more hybrid, these are areas we need to consider carefully. It maybe that in your team, you decide to keep the level of pastoral care at the beginning of the continuum. If you venture further along the continuum, then this requires a much stronger framework of support and a proper process. So some interesting questions for library professionals here.

What is the relationship between pastoral care and library service? What frameworks for support exist in your institution?

Love and Banality in Social Media

Today’s post for #blogjune is inspired by Megan Nicol Reed’s column in The Sunday Star Times’ Sunday Magazine. Reed writes that social media is the home of “banality” and “Twitter is just another vehicle for those aboard to wedge their own heads up their arses a little further”.

I love Reed’s colourful way with words, and I respect her views about social media. I always enjoy reading her columns, even this one. However in this case I have a different view. But first I’d like to say that I don’t think it really matters whether you’re on board with social media or not. It’s a personal choice whether you engage with it or not, and as DK, the social media guru (@justadandak) periodically reminds his own network, “Real life has more bandwidth”. There’s nothing quite like getting out on the mountain bike, or having a face to face conversation with friends, family, or workmates.

However I don’t agree with Reed when she says “there is no love on Facebook. Nor is there on Twitter”. From my observations I see plenty of it. Especially on Twitter. Perhaps it is the nature of the people in my network or the type of people I follow, but I think social media is full of kindness, generosity, and much uplifting of spirits in general. When people tweet, or share a link, or say something that’s important to them, other people are generally very encouraging. And if they’re not, then it’s easy to unfriend or unfollow. There’s a real learning culture there too – Twitter has become my best personal learning network.

Reed notes that FB is losing millions of users, and I admit I’m getting bored with it, especially now I have to navigate around all the ads that seem to be taking over. I’m not into Candy Crush Saga or NZ on Sale thanks very much. Maybe FB is losing a bit of its love factor. But Twitter and other social networks like Tumblr are still growing, and I think it is because they are overwhelmingly positive and encouraging places. I’m not naive, they do have their dark corners, but they’re avoidable.

As to social media being the home of banality, yes, there’s definitely a lot of that. But there’s also a lot of inspirational, clever, witty, incisive commentary coming through. Following the Twitter conversation whilst the Marriage Equality legislation was going through Parliament was incredible. There’s a lot of irony, but not so much cynicism. And what’s wrong with a bit of banality anyway, it’s pretty much the stuff of everyday life, so why not share a bit of food p0rn every now and again. Like this, a chocolate sacher forte my son made:

Most of the conversations we have with each other in real life are pretty banal (unless you’re the Dalai Lama perhaps) and that’s what many people say Twitter is all about: the conversations.

So thanks to Megan Nicol Reed for inspiring my post. It’s helped me clarify why I enjoy social media. I don’t think anyone is missing out by not using it, but I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon.

So here’s to Twitter and its ilk. Long may the love and banality last.

Letting Go

First blogpost here since 2010. I’m taking part in BlogJune (write a blog post a day for the month). So here goes:

I work as a manager of a learning commons in a polytechnic. As a result of reflecting on my ‘leadership practice’ for some study I’m doing, I discovered one of the things I really need to do more of is ‘let go’.

One of my key values is autonomy – I like to be able to work in an autonomous way, and I enjoy seeing my colleagues work autonomously. However sometimes I have a tendency to retain control of situations. For example in team meetings, if an issue comes up which is a bit challenging to find an answer for, rather than throw it back to the group to work on, I might say “Leave it with me, I’ll sort it out”…which doesn’t actually help to foster anyone else’s ability to be autonomous, or develop new skills, or confidence, or inspire creativity. Not entirely sure where this tendency comes from. I think this must partly be about power. Maybe I like to think I know more than anyone else, and I have all the answers. Or maybe I’m scared of what will happen if I’m not controlling the situation. It might all turn to custard, and then someone will put the finger at me…yes me!

I do know that teams have great capacity for finding creative solutions to problems. I’ve witnessed this over and over, and most of the time I’m pretty good at letting this happen, and allowing people to make learning mistakes. But just occasionally…

Anyway I’ve been practicing letting go, and am getting a little bit better. In fact maybe I’ve gone a bit overboard. For example, I’ve pretty much let go of worrying about the Help Desk Roster (which I coordinated for a long time) and whether we’ve got enough cover, as the two team members I’ve delegated it to have both been so awesomely excellent at sorting it. But late last night, I was asked who was working tomorrow, as the Saturday staff member was on annual leave. D’oh…no one! Arranging this is still my responsibility. I’d let go to such an extent I had forgotten to arrange cover, and as it was too late to ask anyone, I’ve ended up working myself. (Which I don’t really mind at all, and it’s very quiet, so it’s giving me the time to write this blog post!). I haven’t asked the staff member who does the roster to arrange cover for Saturdays, so the ball was in my court.

So this letting go is a bit of a balancing act. Yes, my colleagues are perfectly capable of doing most (in fact probably all) of the things I do, and I need to trust they will find their own solutions. The team have figured out the things they now own, and are responsible for. I just need to remember the things I haven’t quite let go of!

Happy BlogJune everyone.

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