by Sarah Deringer, Head Editor, INALJ Mississippi
Inspire Collaboration: A Quick and Easy Guide for Super Busy School Librarians
I finished my first of two practicum experiences yesterday for this semester; this practicum was a 10-day experience at a southern Indiana elementary school, where I saw first-hand the pressures that school librarians face on a day-to-day basis. For elementary school librarians, the pressure can be very intense to get everything done – story times, circulating books, book and technology maintenance, helping teachers find materials for classroom use, advocating for the library, staying current with library practices, and the long list of other jobs that continue to pile up. What is missing from this list but is extremely important for the librarian, teachers, and students? Collaboration, the working together and rubbing shoulders with other educational professionals in the building in order to create a better learning experience for students and maximize expertise and resources, is an important and necessary element for teachers and librarians that is missing for many school librarians.
Because of the many duties a school librarian has, collaboration with other teachers can be put off to the end of the list if not forgotten entirely. Even though my supervising librarian had two part-time aides helping, I saw that it was difficult for her to collaborate with other teachers on lessons and projects. Besides the time crunch, other factors can weigh in – cliques among teachers, lack of knowledge in collaboration, a undervaluing of the school librarian, and more. So, what can a super busy school librarian do to encourage collaboration?
- First, start small. You won’t be able to conquer the whole issue in one day, so don’t get in over your head. Just take it one step at a time.
- Respect the teachers and their schedules. Educators, no matter their title, are all busy. They have a lot to do, and they all deserve respect. Plus, respecting them will help them build respect for you.
- Don’t be afraid to say something. Communication is key. If you don’t say something, they probably won’t know. So if you want to collaborate, just ask.
- Say “Thank you” to those who do collaborate. Showing gratitude can open the door for many more opportunities to collaborate. Say how much you appreciate their efforts to collaborate, and giving them a gift such as candy goes a long way.
Wanting to collaborate is one thing, but actually putting collaboration in action can be difficult sometimes to visualize at first. Here are a few ideas I came up with that a school librarian can use to start small in collaborating with teachers:
- Ask if you can teach a mini-lesson on a particular technological device that may be new to the teacher and students.
- Offer to teach students a mini-lesson on how to use encyclopedias, reference books, dictionaries, and thesauruses.
- Share with teachers your areas of expertise. For example, maybe the class is studying U.S. Presidents, and you know a lot about a particular president. Offer your expertise, even if it’s only a 10 minute presentation.
- For those that are extremely time-strapped during the school day, try out Pinterest. They have an option to have collaborative boards, where you and other teachers can pin together. For example, create a board that is devoted to finding all the resources about the solar system; teachers from any grade level and background can work together to find the resources and pin them to the board. Then, whenever a teacher is uses that subject in the classroom, they will have a place to start looking at information to build their lessons.
Collaboration can be as simple or as difficult as you make it, but when teachers and librarians work together, lessons can become more engaging for students. After all, it’s all about helping the students learn and grow!
Try these resources for more information on collaboration:
The Collaboration Handbook by Toni Buzzeo
75 Outrageous Ideas for Librarians to Impact Student Achievement by Laurie Noble Thelen
Collaboration and the School Library Media Specialist by Carol Ann Doll
Collaborating for Inquiry-Based Learning: School Librarians and Teachers Partner for Student Achievement by Virginia Wallace and Whitney Norwood Husid
The Path to Collaboration: Make It Happen – An AASL Class through the eAcademy
Collaboration: Ten Important Reasons to Take It Seriously by Peter Milbury
Working Together Is Smarter [Infographic] by Joyce Valenza
On Common Core: Cultivating Collaboration by Mary Ann Cappiello and Myra Zarnowski