I know the discussion about fixed versus flexible schedules is one that has been happening forever. Let me start by saying I am not sure what the solution should be or even if there is one. I am just thinking out loud about my “Year of Momentum.”
As the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) puts it in their position statement, “Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology.” (Position Statement, 2014) That “regularly scheduled classes in the school library to provide teacher release or preparation time prohibit this best practice.” (2014) Even with this statement there are still many school librarians, especially at the elementary level, who have a fixed schedule to provide teachers with planning time. Since I am one of the many, I decided in the fall of 2014 to join a think tank run by Professor David Loertscher of San Jose State University. The discussion was to see if there was a solution to the fixed versus flexible schedule debate.
Something I discovered is that those who have a strictly fixed schedule are still doing amazing things! They have not let a fixed schedule impact the learning goals for their students. Many of these learning goals included inquiry-based projects where student choice helps to direct the learning. These are people who are really working to provide the best instruction they can. Within the think tank there were also some who felt that a fixed schedule allowed them to reach all students, because there were some teachers who would not be willing to work with them otherwise. In this model the co-teaching opportunities were few, if any.
There are many people in the same position as I am where they have a fixed schedule, but also have time where they can co-teach, collaborate, and provide open access. They use a hybrid model. Although, this is not a perfect model it does lend itself to added collaborative opportunities such as co-teaching and additional time for project work.
So at the start of the 2014–2015 school year, my administrator was completely on board with me switching to a flexible schedule with the first and second grade students. I work in a preschool to second grade building so we planned to remain fixed with the preschool and kindergarten students in order to provide consistency for these young learners. Co-taught lessons could still happen in these classrooms on an as needed basis. The students in first and second grade would still come to check out books weekly, but there would be no formal lesson at that time. When this was presented to faculty as a possibility it did not go over so well. The loss of planning time was not something they had expected and in retrospect it was not the right time of year to spring it on them. So I returned to a fixed schedule with the idea that I would try to push into the classrooms at every opportunity.
I am proud to say I ended the year with over 121 collaborative hours with twenty-five of those hours being co-taught lessons. I was able to work with almost every grade level on at least one project throughout the year. I had gained momentum.
With the concern that momentum would only take me so far we decided to stay with my hybrid schedule for one more year. Leading to the 2015–2016 school year being titled the “Year of Momentum.” The goal for this year is to continue to work with the teachers on the projects and lessons that we have already developed. As well as to get all of us thinking about how the library can be built into the curriculum even more. By giving teachers a whole year to process the idea of a flexible schedule, the hope is that the roadblocks will be less and the opportunities will be more. I have to admit it is sort of scary to think about, but I am hoping it will lead to amazing things!
For more of what Professor Loertscher shared as part of the think tank you can check out: http://bit.ly/1AuG1ig.
“Position Statement on Flexible Schedule.” American Library Association, June 2014. Web. 19 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/flex-sched>.
Author: Kelly Hincks
I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school 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 school 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, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).