There are many schools of thought about picking a collaboration partner. There is the appeal of being associated with a successful teacher, someone who already has clout among his or her peers on the campus, and that is respected by the administration. There are the middle-range teachers–those who are becoming more comfortable with their role, the curriculum, and who might be willing to take a new risk. Then there are the teachers in need of assistance–those who are very new, or new to a grade level or content area, or those that are in danger of failing.
Which should you choose?
All of the above!
Let’s start with those that are floundering, or so new that they haven’t hit their stride. The advantage here is that you are doing an ethical service to the students in that teacher’s class. You are also approaching the teacher in a non-threatening, non-evaluative way and modeling good teaching, classroom management, and understanding of the curriculum. If you take on a teacher in this group, be sure to maintain a supportive relationship, and don’t go straight to the administrator who evaluates that teacher with a report of what is not going well in that classroom, even if you get an eyeful! Do take time to report the good things that came out of the collaboration to the administration. They will probably be thankful for the mentoring you offered to that teacher, and especially thankful that those students spent their time engaged in meaningful learning while you were collaborating with the teacher. This type of collaboration is much more work on you, and isn’t at all where you’d want to start if you were new yourself. But the rewards should be great. Some would say that your association with a failing teacher is something to be wary of. Do be aware of that and make sure that you balance these types of collaborations with others so that isn’t a concern.
When you choose a teacher in the middle, you are able to approach things on a more even playing ground. In this case, you are each bringing skills and experience to the table and you are negotiating the lesson design around your strengths and weaknesses–be sure to know yours going in to the collaboration. In many cases these teachers are ideal collaboration partners! They aren’t so experienced that they are set in their ways and they are willing to take some risks. When you work in this type of pairing, you will both want to do a lot of reflection as you refine the lesson and plan to work together again. Be sure to plan in advance for this time to reflect and debrief after the lesson.
Collaborating with that veteran teacher can be a risk for you, but it is one that you should always take when given the chance. Just don’t take the opportunity lightly and be sure you are knowledgeable and have done your homework going in to this arrangement. The benefit here is that by showing that you can keep pace with this type of teacher, bringing your expertise in library and information literacy to the table, you are building your reputation at your campus. Word of mouth about what you can do will spread faster than you might expect. Be sure to take lots of pictures and promote these types of partnerships and help spread it yourself!
The best type of collaboration partner? One who is willing! Sometimes that’s the only criteria you can use. If so, seize the opportunity and make the best of it!
Next week, we’ll do part four on Keys to Collaboration and look at how important the reflection piece is when you’re collaborating.
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.