Sunday, October 4, 2015

School Librarian as Collaborative Teaching Partner

It is the eve of World Teacher’s Day and I write this — a short piece on the teaching role of a school librarian.

As a school librarian, I am honored to work side by side with teachers for the past twenty years — and counting. My experience working with them has been, in general, meaningful and lifer affirming. Providing co-teachers with resources they need in the classroom and giving them access to an array of instructional materials and information for professional growth activities has been the core of my role as a school librarian. Organising the library as a learning hub and creating a digital learning environment for teachers and their students come in second. This is another exciting part of my job and one where I find a creative outlet using technology. The most challenging role so far, to me at least, is that of a team teacher or assistant teacher of research and writing.

Experience has taught me that, while teachers welcome the assistance given to them to access useful information and helping them create learning environments for their classes, working in collaboration with a school librarian for instructional and teaching purposes is something new. What is new can be risky. New things mean change. Change can be a source of discomfort and fear. For one, collaboration requires a different mind set. It is founded on trust and respect.

School librarians who are willing to venture into collaborative working teams with teachers should be well prepared to be trusted and respected and to do the same with their partners. These things are earned through hard work over time.

So how does a school librarian prepare for this?

1. Be sure that you know how to teach research and writing. Start by practicing what you preach. Research and write. Write research papers. Research is as simple as asking a question and finding answers to the question — more on this in future posts.

2. Understand the language of teachers. Converse with them. Know what matters to them. Good teachers will always talk about their students’ welfare and well-being. Make this a common ground. Aren’t you interested to make students readers for life?

3. Know how to teach. If your LIS education did not prepare you for this, LEARN it! Check MOOCs on teaching, educational technology, Information Literacy and the like. Read up on books on education. Join a professional learning network of eductors Build a personal learning network. These two are different and I will discuss each in a future post. Attend seminars and conferences where teaching library skills, IL skills, research and writing are topics of conversations.

4. Seek support from leadership. If you haven’t join in any faculty meetings, request that you be included. Too shy to do this? Then you will never be able to collaborate with teachers. Your school library won’t get maximum use by students. How can you build the collection and develop a reading community if you are removed from the discussion hubs of teachers and school leaders?

5. Strategise and plan. Numbers 1-4 can be written down in a three year development plan of the library. While you are planning and strategising in preparation for teaching collaborations via the school library’s services and programs with you as the conduit to teachers, promote reading and the use of the library’s resources, technology included.

When school leaders see an eager school librarian stepping up to the role of a team teacher, support is given. Trust and respect will be earned.

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