Collaboration with classroom teachers is one of the many components of a school librarian’s job. Some might even say that it connects all elements of our profession. Working closely with teachers allows for library skills to be taught throughout classroom units and themes. This is a benefit to students as it allows connections to be made across content areas. For many reasons, collaboration within a school can be tricky sometimes, so it is important to identify the things that are working for you to make it successful.
Here are six things I have learned about collaboration:
Know what teachers need:
Having an understanding of the curriculum at each grade level that you teach can allow you to know what a teacher needs before they need it. This can help you provide materials quickly. Additionally, it can allow you to present a new project idea or resource before the unit begins. With some grade levels, I have even used a monthly menu to help teachers see what types of lessons we can do together.
Meet teachers where they are:
Classroom teachers only have a limited amount of time each day. That does not always include time to talk with the librarian about a unit or lesson. In order to help foster collaborative relationships, I have to be present where they are. I make sure to eat lunch each day with a grade-level team. That way I can listen in on what they are working on.
Additionally, I work to invite teachers in. I host a monthly program to share new resources with faculty. I also put books in places around the building, such as in faculty bathrooms, so they have greater access to materials. Finally, I start the year with some form of a letter to my colleagues. Last year’s letter was inspired by Shannon Miller’s beginning of the school year program.
As a librarian there are so many hats that I have to wear throughout the day. It is important for me to know which responsibilities I have to focus on first. I almost always prioritized the things that need to be done to support teachers and their students first and leave the clerical tasks for later.
I celebrate any successful partnerships no matter how big or small. Each project is another opportunity to support students as they learn. It is about building relationships with the students and teachers in your school. Each year I collaborate more than the year before. Time and recognizing the small gains have allowed us to improve on what we are doing with students. If you only focus on the end goal you forget to celebrate the growth along the way.
When the opportunity to collaborate comes your way it is important to be organized. Before the lesson, the teacher and I have discussed the logistics of what we will be working on. We have also talked about any resources or materials we might need. Additionally, I use Google Calendar to schedule lessons. This allows me to send them an invitation so we are all on the same page. We also use a Google Doc to help organize our plans.
It is always a goal for me to make each collaboration as successful as possible so that it will lead to more opportunities in the future. However, when it does not work I make sure we have a chance to talk about why. This allows for both the classroom teacher and me to see where improvements can be made.
Always take the opportunity to share:
When given a chance to share your work it is important to take the opportunity. Anytime that you can share what students are working on it shows the value of your school library and how it benefits learning. When teachers see how your work supports their students that leads to more opportunities to collaborate.
What have you found that works for you? I would love to hear your tips for successful partnerships!
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, MAME.