For many years, each grade level at my elementary school had a year-long theme. Typically, this theme came from either their science or social studies curriculum. My fourth-grade team's curriculum focused on Indiana history, so they used the theme "There's No Place like Home." It was a perfect connection to the year they would spend studying the history of their home state.
The theme led to many connections for collaborations over the years. When I came in 2002, they had been using this theme for many years, yet we still found a variety of ways to collaborate and enhance the theme by working together.
The theme also led to some great collaborations with our special education faculty. They often would try to stick with the grade level theme, but at the same time there were places where we needed to modify or alter projects for them. I still remember the first time we did that because the special education teacher sent me a note of thanks. She said no one had ever worked with her students before.
I have to admit I was shocked. The school library is for everyone! I couldn't have imagined not working with her students, so the idea that this was the first time anyone had tried really was hard for me to take in. Our job is to work with everyone—every student, every teacher. But, how do we make sure we really are working with everyone?
Think about all the teachers you worked with last year. Now consider, who didn't you work with? What teachers and/or subjects didn't visit the library? As you look at your list, think about why:
- Does the library provide materials (in whatever format) to support their curriculum?
- Did you reach out to these teachers to see how the library program could support their work?
- Are they new to the building this year so they haven't had a chance to discover the wonders of the library yet?
- Does anyone else in their subject area work with the library?
- Perhaps maybe your personality and the teacher's personality don't mix too well?
Then, make a plan for moving forward. Consider how you could begin to build relationships with those teachers and/or subject areas.
- Review their curriculum and standards.
- Ask for teachers' input on what the library could add to the collection that would be helpful to them.
- Begin to send ideas to them for collaborative opportunities.
- Consider what areas their students are struggling with where the library could be of assistance.
- Think about ways to work around personality conflicts. Remember the students' success is the important outcome.
The end result is building a connection that opens the door to including everyone. It doesn't matter what the subject area is, the library is there to be an integral part of what is happening in the school. The library is there to be a part of education in every subject.
As you build a library program, you often have to work with those who are most interested, but then moving forward, you search out the others who haven't had the opportunity to work with the school librarian. In the end, some of the most resistant folks become some of the school library program's biggest advocates. Consider that fourth grade theme. I want people to think "There's No Place like the School Library!"