One conversation I had early on with a teacher at my school was how she was surprised that I collaborated with everyone. We did projects with our special education classes and looked for ways to collaborate with our related arts classes. One such collaboration I wrote about many years ago was with our music teacher. We used to do a project each year where her students would investigate composers. She and I would divide her class in half and I'd work on the research with them while she helped them figure out their final project. We had several different versions of the final projects over the years, but it was great to spend some time exploring research with a different content area (Harvey 2007).
What I didn't know then, but learned later, was how important those collaborations were to our library program. I was fortunate enough to work under a flexible schedule in my elementary school. As you can imagine, there were bumps along the way, but we somehow always made it work. One such bump came the day we got a new principal. I had been working to help him see how our library program worked, but it was still very early in the year. The new principal was looking for a way to get common prep time in our building. He pulled in the related art teachers to talk about options about how this could work. (Keep in mind, I was not at this meeting.)
Not surprisingly, at one point the library came up in the conversation. Instantly, the music teacher jumped up and said, "absolutely not. I need access to the librarian just as much as the classroom teachers do. We can't possibly have the library in the related arts rotation." I can tell you that as this story was relayed to me later I was so impressed and happy to have that support. Our library remained in a flexible schedule partly because we had built that collaborative relationship with the related arts teachers. It was just as important to them as it was to the classroom teachers to have access to the librarian when they needed it.
This is a perfect example of how you never know when something you do is going to come back to help you. The relationships we are building with our teachers are key to the long-term success of the library program. When we can help them understand how we can help them reach their goals, we can develop them into the advocates we need to build the best programs possible for our students. It demonstrates the importance of finding those teachers beyond just the classroom teachers—special education, speech, related arts, guidance counselors, etc.—and seeing where there are opportunities to work together. The list of possibilities could go on and on. The issue this month is full of ideas and examples of amazing collaborations.
I think back to that story, which is now many more years ago than I care to remember, and it still makes my heart thankful. Anytime someone else recognizes what you do, how important it is to them, and speaks out on your behalf, you can't be anything but grateful. I'm sure there are other stories I never heard about, and maybe some that didn't have this kind of happy ending. But, I am so glad for the time I had to collaborate with my related arts friends, and I'm so appreciative of their support. It's important that we are supporting them, too!
Harvey, Carl. "The Sweet Sounds of Collaboration." School Library Media Activities Monthly 28, no. 7 (March 2007).