When I first started as a librarian, I had to fish for collaborative teacher friends. I didn’t wait in line for them to swim up to me, but I floated around the building with a baited hook. My pick-up lines included, “How can I help you?” “How can I connect to your curriculum?” “How can we work together to increase achievement?” I’d leave little weekly notes in teacher’s mailboxes to see who would befriend me.
Initially, teachers may have collaborated out of pity, but they returned for the fun. They were hooked. I remember modifying an insect unit with a first grade teacher so that kids would not only have to “report” on their insect but speak in the first person voice. I remember reforming a biographical presidential biography report to a first person campaign speech, and I remember teaching perspective because a fifth grade teacher said he didn’t have time. It was a slow walk down a long road, but we eventually reached that collaborative plateau.
When we successfully collaborate, it weaves us into the fabric of instruction and it enlarges our students’ world. It allows students to travel on our Internet Superhighway to destinations unknown. There are a few levels of collaboration, and dare I say we have experienced them all? We have covert collaboration, low-level collaboration, and full-collaborative planning.
As you read and ponder the collaboration articles in this issue, assess your own research and collaboration station. Here are a few professional pick-up lines to ponder using:
- Let me help you take your students on a learning journey.
- How can I help you during this busy season of test preparation? Is there any topic you’d like me to cover?
- I’m beginning to think we’ve cheated our students from a world-wide experience. Would you like to help me remedy that?
- Our world is so large. Let’s look at your curriculum topic from multiple cultural perspectives!
- Do you have any topic that you loathe or are avoiding because it’s “stale?" I’d love to give it a makeover with you in the library!
- Would you like to send your students to the library to investigate where in the world your science topic is in trouble? (Let them create a Science Moment to share).
- Would you like to send your students on a learning adventure to investigate the “where in the world” news on your Social Studies topic? (Let them create a “Where’s Waldo Today” report)
- I’m working with the students to create “How I can change the world” messages. Could we tie this to your science, math, health, or social studies curriculum goals?”
- Would you help me meet my APPR goals? I really need to collaborate with someone as it states here on the state form.
A couple of years ago, one of our local new librarians asked me how to make her mark and incubate collaboration. I told her to ask her principal for the “item analysis” from the ELA testing for each grade level. When I saw her principal about a month later he stopped me and told me, “I never had any librarian ever ask me that before. I was shocked.” She scored big time and immediately was seen as a co-teacher and academic achievement partner. That’s the goal of collaboration. That is the essence of achievement. If you have never taken this covert-collaboration approach, don’t miss Diana Wendell’s article on using ELA data in your instruction.
We were raised in a linear sequential world and, if you’re older than 30, you probably were too. Days were predictable. Life was predictable. Expectations were known and unknowns were the goal of elimination. Fast-forward to today: We live in a random-access world, random-access reading, and dare we say, “random-access friends?” Our students’ connections and BFFs may change as often as their socks. Our world which spins around every 24 hours, can now be surfed online in about 24 minutes. That is why our linear-sequential-scheduled-silo-defined education system must change. It is imperative that we help enlarge a student’s world via collaboration. Silos retain walls. Collaboration expands them. Go pick up a few professional colleagues and collaborate.