FOSIL Group member Darryl Toerien continues his feature series – Between the Library and the Classroom: Becoming Integral to the Educational Process – for The School Librarian, the Quarterly Journal of the School Library Association.
The School Librarian, Volume 70, Number 1, Spring 2022
I write this from the perspective of a new year in a new country (Guernsey), new school (Blanchelande College) and a new role (Head of Inquiry-Based Learning), so an added measure of reflection is to be expected.
I am particularly mindful of Octavia Butler’s warning in the Parable of the Talents (1988):
When vision fails/ Direction is lost.
When direction is lost/ Purpose may be forgotten.
When purpose is forgotten/ Emotion rules alone.
When emotion rules alone,/ Destruction… destruction.
Inquiry, as an instructional approach to curriculum content, to which the library is integral, provokes an emotional response. This is good, insofar as emotion serves a purpose, and in the case of education, a “transcendent and honorable purpose” (Postman, 1996).
This is important for two reasons.
Firstly, purpose gives shape to resolve. I have long held that the fundamental purpose of the school library is to enable students to come to know and understand the world and themselves in it through reading, both nonfiction and fiction. This process of coming to know and understand is a learning process, and specifically an inquiry learning process. This purpose, in turn, aligns the school library with the fundamental purpose of school – knowledge and understanding – regardless of whether the school, or the broader educational system in which the school operates, favours an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning or not. In the service of this purpose, the school library expresses its essential nature, and finds allies in those colleagues who view the educational process in the same way. The particular shape that my resolve takes, then, and which is enacted through the library programme, is to enable reading for knowledge and understanding within an inquiry-based model of the learning process, and this within the curricular constraints of UK GCSE and A-Level qualifications. Having clear shape to my resolve helps me to balance impossible demands on my time, which goes a long way towards ensuring a balanced library programme.
Secondly, purpose strengthens resolve. In choosing to work in a school library, I am choosing to serve a “transcendent and honorable purpose”. This lifts my eyes above the struggles of today to the hope of a better tomorrow – one that I strive towards with likeminded colleagues, both near and far. In doing so, I am preparing myself, my colleagues, and my students for a future that will make demands of us that the school library uniquely equips us to meet.
The revolution will not be televised.
The FOSIL Group is an international community of educators who frame learning through inquiry, which is a process and stance aimed at building knowledge and understanding of the world and ourselves in it as the basis for responsible participation in society.