The workdays before school started my first year as a teacher librarian were overwhelming: new school, new teachers, new routines, and a lot more questions than answers. I thought I’d have plenty of time to meet with teachers, plan lessons, set up book displays, update the library website, and reorganize the professional collection. What I really spent most of my time on was keeping the laminator running along with the other machines in the teacher work area off the library. This wasn’t what I was expecting and definitely wasn’t part of my degree training. The laminator and everything else in that room quickly became the only part of my job I didn’t love.
What I didn’t recognize that first year was the opportunity the laminator presented. That’s right, the laminators, copiers, poster makers, printers, rolls of butcher block, and other materials that end up housed in the library are all great opportunities to meet and connect with teachers. Between scheduled school and district meetings, teachers are rushing to get their classrooms set up. Everyone needs the laminator (or whatever other machine), and everyone comes to the library. While there isn’t a lot of time for in-depth planning, there is a lot of time for small talk, helpful smiles, and positive interactions.
I finally realized that my time spent with teachers and the laminator is creating a foundation for future collaborations. This is the time when I can get a sense of the units teachers have planned and get a feel for teachers’ personalities and instructional styles. All that helps me figure out how I will best be able to help and approach them as the year progresses. Of course, this is also when I start in with my soft promotions for the various library programs and connecting their ideas to resources and materials I have available. Subtle, but effective.
All it takes just a few minutes of informal conversation and a smile. The teachers learn that I’m helpful and want to talk about their ideas, and I have a great list of potential collaborative partners.
Last year, I helped a social studies teacher laminate some images showing architecture from ancient civilizations. I mentioned that the library had a number of books with great visuals and information for each of the civilizations he taught. The second week of school he came back to look at a few books and talk about how he could use them with his students. He returned at the start of every unit for more books throughout the year. Each unit, we worked together to plan and use a different strategy to incorporate the books. He even brought his classes to the library multiple times for collaborative lessons, including a great one involving the Renaissance and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The previous year he hadn’t used the library or any of its resources. And, it all started at the laminator.
I can put up book displays between changing the rolls of laminating film and work on my orientation activities after I unjam the printer (again). Making these positive contacts with teachers in the first few days makes me think I really do love all the parts of my job—even the laminator.
By Chav3z17 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Author: Christine James
I am the teacher librarian at Northwoods Middle School in North Charleston, South Carolina. This is my twentieth year in education, all of them working with middle school students. When I’m not trying out crazy ideas in the library, I like to read on the beach, play with my puppy, and try new restaurants with my husband.