Your Circle of Influence

By Anderson, Mary Alice | Multimedia & Internet@Schools, September-October 2010 | Go to article overview

Your Circle of Influence


Anderson, Mary Alice, Multimedia & Internet@Schools


"If we plant a garden on this campus, Bonnie has the last say; she has to maintain it."

SCHOOL maintenance staff along with school secretaries always appear on lists of the key people a media specialist must get to know at the start of a career. Never an afterthought, they are always included with teachers and students. Who else do we work with and depend on as we build successful media programs? Who else depends on us? Who else can we potentially add to what Gary Hartzell calls our "Power/Dependency Map"?

VISUALIZING YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

Grab a pencil and paper--or better yet, launch a graphic organizer--and start drawing your map and circle of influence. Make a symbol for yourself and the media program; start drawing lines and symbols to represent people or groups you work with now, have worked with in the past, and would like to work with in the future. This is brainstorming with almost no limitations. Asample basic map is represented in Figure 1.

Quite likely you immediately included the obvious people: teachers, students, your principal, and school staff. Possibly you included central office administrators and staff, parents, the PTA, or your professional media/technology organization. After more thought you included IT staff, building and district committees, and community groups. Revisit the drawing again and think about all of the people you have interacted with in the past several months. Include those who have only been in and out of the media center briefly or who you have communicated with only by phone or electronically. Include people that you only peripherally work with. They too are part of your circle and can contribute to the media program's growth and vitality.

When you have done this, think about the importance of people and groups and why they matter to you and the media program. Creating and mapping your power/dependency circle allows you to see how many different people benefit from our programs and services and how many people we benefit from when they provide resources and support.

Building an effective media program is about building relationships. The mapping process provides a visual and expands your thinking of how widespread those relationships are or potentially can be. "Teacher" typically connotes a classroom teacher, but what about the teachers who don't work in regular classrooms? Those include specialists such as counselors, psychologists, content specialists, or teachers who do not work directly with students. They are all part of the school too and are potential members of our circle. In recent years I worked closely with two teachers I refer to as "the Cories," our district math and reading specialists. Like media specialists, they work with teachers so they can help their students achieve. Like media specialists, they face the limitations and challenges of not being "regular classroom teachers." We often discussed how much we had in common, all of us working with busy teachers. Reach out to include the Cories of your schools in your circle.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

A high school media specialist drew her circle several times before creating one she thought was realistic. Her first was ideal, listing the students and staff she hoped would benefit from the media program and her services. She scrapped that wish list, deciding to look closely at the current members of the circle. "Looking at the circle, I can see that too often I focus on my end users when a large portion of the dependency circle is outside of the immediate school," she wrote. "Finally, as I worked on my third circle, I was able to truly grasp the 'circle of influence' idea and drew a circle that was actually realistic. The surprising members of my circle were taxpayers of our community. A large portion of our taxpayers are senior citizens who obviously no longer have children in school. I would like to develop a relationship with our senior citizens that would educate them on the changes in the world of information while demonstrating how our students are learning to navigate that world with our help. …

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