Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

I am currently volunteering in the library at an elementary school. The school principal has communicated to the teachers that children who wish to spend 30 minutes in the library must bring one or more of the following: a book, paper and art supplies or games (LegoBlocks). The librarian discourages any child from browsing in the library (somewhat of a contradiction). When a curious child is drawn towards the shelf, the librarian almost rebukes them and sends the child back to her classroom with a request to bring a book or art work or games.

As a volunteer, I am currently refereeing the students and preserving the "status quo" imposed by the librarian. There is an opportunity to change minds of the librarian as well as the teachers in a SF way so that the system can support the creativity and spontaneity of the child that wanders into the library.

Feel free to chime in if you have any SF ideas that I can incorporate and become a more active volunteer.

Thanks in advance.

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Ramu: this sounds fascinating. As tempted as I am to offer advice, I must restrain myself and ask you this instead: who is the customer for change here, and for what? Is this a problem for who? And what are they prepared to do about it? I might propose that you find out that first, before any 'mind changing' discourse occurs. That's just my blithe opinion. I will follow this with great interest...!

Hi Ramu
I'm puzzled by the school principal and librarian's attitude. Hence rather than asking "Why?" I'd suggest approaching them with "You must have a 'good reason' for these practices?". Hopefully you will get some clarity about the presumed goals and benefits from this practice.
If these benefts and goals seem reasonable you might have to live with this and turn your thinkng to "What's the best that things can be given they are going to behave in this way?". More likely you may be able to introduce a discussion around other possible ways to achieve these benefits and goals. that doesn't involve the current restrictions - a both/and respponse.
Best wishes
Hi Ramu, as I understand, your concern is:

"As a volunteer, .... There is an opportunity to change minds of the librarian as well as the teachers in a SF way so that the system can support the creativity and spontaneity of the child"

So, as I understand it, to change something is YOUR intention and you have received no request from the librarian, a teacher or a child to support the creativity and spontaneity of the childs. So, the "customer for change" in my understanding are YOU.
So, my question: What would YOU like to change?
Do you want to become more resilient to accept the "status quo"?
What else? Based on what request from whom?

Cheers, Hans-Peter
[Responses to the questions that were raised...]

> who is the customer for change here, and for what?

I agree that there is no offical customer for change. I personally regard the children who come to the library as the customer who is seeking knowledge and insight in a relaxed atmosphere of fun. I notice the subtle point in your question. The (reluctant and unofficial) customer for change is most definitely the librarian. The principal is my advocate and has adopted a mostly hands-off approach (at least so far). It seems somewhat unnatural to have a "no browsing allowed" mandate for the children who come to the library. It appears that the librarian would rather avoid the mundane task of re-shelving the books after the children have browsed the books in the library. When I parrot the librarian's message to the children that "no browsing is allowed", I get a perplexing look that reminds me of a potential Dilbert cartoon that stifles a person's reflexive actions. Most children are in kindergarten, first and second grades.

Hans-Peter rebutt's my assertion (above) and states that I am the customer for change. I can understand and agree with this viewpoint.

> Is this a problem for who?

I have watched over the past couple of weeks that some children would wander over to me and confirm in a hushed voice whether they can browse the books from the shelves, in addition to the self-directed work that they may already be doing. Not all students are able to sit quietly in their chairs throughout the 30 minutes. Some students prefer to move around and interact with the books during the book browsing process and I personally feel that we need to respect this approach. I challenge the viewpoint that knowledge acquisition can occur only in a sedentary position. The "no browsing allowed" mandate, although not an official school policy, is an unexpressed problem for the children since it causes some of them to become disinterested in staying in the library, reduces learning opportunities for informal reading, and stifles their creativity.

> And what are they prepared to do about it?

In the absence of challenging the "no browsing allowed" mandate, the children seem to be unlearning the natural tendency to feel attracted towards the books. This can have other unforeseen sideeffects.

> Ask the librarian: "You must have a 'good reason' for these practices?".

Yes, I will pose this question.

> "What's the best that things can be given they are going to behave in this way?"

Ok, I will add this question to my list. In the event that the librarian is unable to provide a workaround that will reverse the "no browsing allowed" mandate, off the cuff, one idea that I was thinking was to load a few e-books in my computer and then let some students browse the e-books while they are interacting with me. Then I can "minimize" the potential loss towards feeling attracted towards books while the kids are in other locales.

> What would you like to change?

1. Negotiate with the librarian and relax the "no browsing allowed" mandate and encourage at least limited book browsing. May be not the entire library but at least a couple of shelves that correspond to the children's grade levels. This could be a "small step" in the change direction. If I encounter resistance, then I can try and exert influence via the principal.

2. Become a more active (not passive) volunteer resource for the students so that I am regarded as the "go to guy" for browsing assistance and knowledge acquisition, if required. This needs to happen over time so that I can gain more allies among the students. On the other hand, if I am merely a fly on the wall (aka passive volunteer), I will merely be an extension of the librarian who is overseeing the "no browsing allowed" mandate.

> Do you want to become more resilient to accept the "status quo"?

Yes, I can become resilient to accept the status quo. However, I plan on doing some version of point 2 above so that I can increase my 1:1 interaction with the children.

> What else? Based on what request from whom?

I thought that it will be nice to build a collage of the different activities that the students are involved in the library. This art work can also be used as a medium to share the conversation with the librarian, teachers and students so that we can change minds in a direction that favors stimulating creativity and spontaneity.

Hope this helps.






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