Do you want to try a collaborative project on a new topic or with new teacher? Email is an obvious and easy way to start the planning conversation, but it's still a subtle and fine art. Here is an example introductory email, with some tips to remember when planning collaborations via email.
- Be friendly but professional. Be aware of writing that is too "cute" or informal. Avoid the over-casual greeting, e.g., "hey, Suzanne." Watch going too far in the formal direction, as well. Be brief and engaging, and try not to sound like you're quoting a textbook or curriculum guide.
- Be sure to include some questions and openness in a correspondence like this. This can be a tricky balance to achieve: being detailed about ideas so the person can envision the benefits of a collaboration, but without sounding like you have mapped out the whole learning experience already. Use simple phrases like "maybe we could," "I was thinking that," "perhaps the students might," and similar starters to invite the teacher's ideas, too.
- Be aware of the use of "I have" when you describe materials in the library collection. It's ok from time to time, but be aware of using this phrase all the time to describe the school library collection. It's semantics, perhaps, but a key component of communicating what the library IS and DOES is emphasizing that it's everyone's, not "mine." You may hear the phrase all the time—"my students," "my class," "my lesson"—but school librarians are in a different, more visible spot. Try "our collection has" or similar, when you can. When you repeat this, people will start to notice and think of the school library as belonging to the school and the students, and not just a place that "belongs to" the librarian.
- Do your homework. Refer to the teacher's content area and/or standards, not necessarily verbatim, but with terms that show that you are familiar with the unit or topic.
EMAIL SCENARIO & SAMPLE TEXT
Scenario: Center Middle School, grades 6-8 building. I'm writing to Spanish teacher Eric Prince about a possible collaboration for Día de Los Muertos.
Date: September 26
Subject: Inquiring about Spanish class collaboration for Day of the Dead
It was good to see you at the faculty meeting this morning! I noticed that you signed out the library for your seventh graders for a couple days at the end of October. I was wondering – will your students be working on a Day of the Dead activity? We have a couple of new books on Día de los Muertos that might be helpful to you, including a new copy of Pablo Remembers, which I think you used with your classes last year. Also, I just came across a website from the Smithsonian Latino Center that I'd thought I'd send your way: http://latino.si.edu/DayoftheDead/.
The site has an interactive feature where students can build their own altars, and there are some brief sections of text about the holiday and its history. I wonder if you might want to work together on a collaborative lesson plan using this site, or maybe I can lend a hand or some materials with other activities that you might already have in mind?
I noticed in the World Language Standards for middle school, that along with the standards on cultural contributions and celebrations, there are also some standards that relate to culture in stories, photographs, and even art. Maybe we could have students create a piece of art to learn this standard – sugar skulls, or an altar?
I'm interested to hear your thoughts on these possibilities. Maybe email me and let me know, or stop in the library during your prep fourth period this week. I'll be supervising tutorial students and we can chat then.
Thanks, Eric! Have a good morning, and talk to you soon!
Center Middle School Librarian