I will never forget the time when, as a new librarian, I had that veteran 3rd grade teacher with all of the GT kids ask to collaborate with me on a unit over holidays! One of the most respected teachers on my campus was asking to work with me! It was all I could do to not start gushing and tell her we’d need at least three weeks to get all the way through the research process from start to finish. Thankfully, before I blabbed that all out in a moment of glee, I heard her mention that she was thinking maybe one or two periods would be enough! I’m sure my face sunk, but I realized I was going to have to gain her trust. She needed to know that giving up time to bring her class to the library was going to be a good return on investment. This teacher knew her stuff, and she was not going to turn over her kids to me if I was not worthy.
Let’s face it–time is precious in the school day and there never seems to be enough of it to get to everything. Unfortunately, many of things those things that educate the whole child, like recess and fine arts and even library, end up cut from the schedule. In many schools, each minute is dictated and scripted and teachers feel they have no ability to make their own choices because the tested curriculum drives those decisions. Given this difficult climate it’s a wonder that teachers are able to bring their classes to the library at all!
What do teachers need from us? True, a few would definitely abdicate all responsibility to us and let us teach a six week unit to their students from start to finish, but most are guarding their time with their students carefully. That also goes for when they come to request the collaboration as much as we’d like to sit down and take 45 minutes to plan the lesson, they need us to be concise. And they need us to be effective with the time that we have.
After much preparation for my audition with the 3rd grade teacher, I was ready. And I did okay! I spent a few minutes the day after the lesson extending a quick thanks and reflecting on the things that I thought went well, but mostly discussed things that I’d change the next time. This further upped my trustworthiness and she came back again, giving me a little more time and letting us deepen the rigor. After a few lessons, she knew she could trust me to be organized, informed about her curriculum, and be efficient with her and her students’ time, and that laid the groundwork for future collaboration experiences with her and with other teachers. It takes time, years even, to build good collaborative relationships.
Next week, we’ll talk about how to find collaboration partners and the various schools of thought on where to start.
Author: Jennifer Laboon
Jennifer LaBoon is the Coordinator of Library Technology in Fort Worth ISD. She serves on the AASL Blog Committee, on the Executive Board of the Texas Library Association, volunteers with a local children’s musical theater group, and is an avid TCU fan.