Talking about collaboration with students in the Masters of Library Science program at the University of Maryland is invigorating. And it's most certainly an experience not to be missed.
But, as was the case during their visit last year, there's never enough time to discuss everything you want to cover... especially when it comes down to a topic so many of us feel so passionately towards. Therefore, I opened up the floor for some follow-up questions (albeit via a feedback form distributed at the end of class). My attempts encapsulate the nature and strength of collaboration for my special guests is available below in the form of a SlideRocket presentation. The students' questions (and my responses) follow. Enjoy!
Oh! And if you have any wisdom or awesome stories to share with our MLS students about collaboration, please do so in the comments below!
1. How do you decide who to pick for a first collaborative partner when starting out?
The first person with whom I collaborated when I first became an LMS was our Technology teacher. We had instant teacher chemistry and were excited to try out new things with our students, so collaboration seemed like an obvious move. I believe the first classroom teachers I collaborated with were our Kindergarten team. Of all the grades in the elementary school, Kindergarten has the most flexible curriculum and they always seem open to try new, adventurous things.
2. What are some strategies you have to collaborate with unwilling teachers?
Collaboration is all about affirming what each partner brings to the table. If I collaborate with a grade level of teachers, there's bound to be at least one who is not as excited or interested in the collaboration, but is going along with it for the sake of the team. Often these reservations are less about you and more about whether or not the teacher is comfortable with the tools used in the collaboration, the approach of the content in a way that he/she is not familiar with, or any myriad of reasons that we all feel when trying something new (amid feeling an incredible amount of pressure to improve student performance on core areas). Making the collaboration easy, well-planned, and replicable will instill confidence. Like in the classroom, I also give help where support is most needed. That means those "unwilling" teachers end up getting the very best of me in the collaboration.
3. Do you have administrative support?
Without question. Making your library media program visible to your administration and transparent throughout the school will strengthen it tenfold. My administration knows what I'm doing, trusts my vision for the library media program, and provides the support necessary for me to accomplish great things.
4. What is something you have wanted to try that you haven't been able to yet?
I have my heart set on gamifying my library media curriculum. Gamification is a major focus of my professional reading and I would encourage anyone interested in learning more to become active with the Level Up Book Club. I'm about to begin a collaboration with a 5th grade teacher to attempt to accomplish this very task. It will probably be one of the biggest academic adventures I've pursued to date!
Do you use parent volunteers?
As often as I can. My parent volunteers shelve books as well as assist with Kindergarten lessons.
Do you participate in parent-teacher conferences?
Not typically. Often parents will schedule a time to come in and speak with me if they have a concern over their child's Library Media grade, but this is a rare occurrence.
Do you take summers off to recharge or do you continuously work?
I feel like I'm working continuously, but it's never on the same project. Summer offers opportunities for some amazing professional conferences (ISTE, ALA, AASL), but it's also full of a ton of quality time with my family. Being married to a teacher definitely has its perks.
Can you please share some examples of your plan book regarding scheduling (both short and long term)?
|Weekly planning book. Note the scheduling of lunch, grading, etc.|
|Long range plans. Note the tabs for previous years.|
I read a lot of books and a ton of book reviews from professional journals. I also try to be as aware as possible of what my students are checking out.
How do I find time for all of this?
I have found a way to bend space and time, creating longer hours and expansive days when needed. The trick also works pretty well when waiting for the oven to preheat.
How do I share (with an online community) lessons that include county curriculum identifiers without getting in trouble?
As a rule I never share materials online that belong to the county. I refer to what our students are currently studying at their grade level, but most often point to Common Core State Standards or public documents when referring to our county's curriculum.
How did you get into this field?
I taught 4th grade at a school with a very amazing library media specialist (Louise Wall at Waverly Elementary). I immediately began working on my Master's in SLM before even finishing my first year of teaching. The position opened up at Longfellow Elementary just as I was being surplussed from Waverly (on account of the redistricting of a number of students from our school when Veterans Elementary opened). It was the best result I could have hoped for. Quite a lemons-into-lemonade story!
What is your long-term goal?
To write books for children and, if I have the talent and merit, to maintain a sustainable income through it.
Could you please describe classroom management at the elementary level? It's still a bit of a mystery.
Read The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong (available here). It's an ideal resource for first year teachers and those entering the teaching profession. I also really like Magic 1-2-3 for Teachers: Effective Classroom Discipline Pre-K through Grade 8 by Thomas W. Phelman (available here). Both titles are a little dated, but the information and approaches to classroom management are still very relevant.
How do you find time to do it all and still learn all the kids' names?
Learning the kids' names is the easy part. That's like remembering the name of a new friend. A little practice and you'll find the names are actually really hard to forget... even years later :)