I decided to move from classroom to School Library because I wanted to have a greater impact on all students in all subject areas. I was eager to collaborate with teachers, which was, after all, touted as the most important reason a school needed a certified School Librarian rather than just a clerk to check out books. I soon realized only librarians know that collaboration is supposed to happen!
Why should that surprise me? I only learned about it during my library coursework and from fellow librarians, so why would I expect other classroom teachers to know it? We may lament that teachers are too locked into their curriculum to make time to collaborate, but really it’s our responsibility as School Librarians to promote collaboration. We can’t expect teachers to come to us; we have to go to them, and we’d better have some incontrovertible examples that their students will benefit from a Library Lesson.
I believe we need to quit thinking in terms of “marketing our library” or “our resources” or even “ourselves” as a way toward collaboration. We’ve been marketing this way for years and no one hears us. Instead, let’s offer a specific “product” to teachers—a particular lesson that gives students a particular Information Literacy Skill that is essential for their future and, more importantly, that gives the teacher a better assessment product from students. This is why professional development with our fellow librarians is not just helpful, but integral to us as teachers.
Professional Development & Essential Lessons
The librarians in my school district have mapped out very clearly the essential skills students must learn at each grade level, meticulous that, what is needed to learn and understand them, has been taken care of at prior grade levels. We have a clear pathway, with stepping stones along the way, to guide us through a concise and specific K-12 Library Information Literacy Scope and Sequence, written in Information Literacy Standards language that we can translate directly into meaningful lessons for any grade, any subject, any teacher. It’s a great foundation, but it won’t ensure that all kids in X grade learn the information literacy skills they need to prepare them for X+1 grade…or for their future.
What I’d like to see through collaboration with other librarians is the creation of “Essential Lessons.” Information Literacy skills are applicable across all content, so we can develop “Essential Lessons” for introduction, reinforcement, and mastery of a grade-specific skill through the entire grade level curriculum. If we know kids at X grade level need to master Info-Lit Skill Y, then we can create Essential Lessons to introduce that skill into Teacher A’s English/Language Arts lesson, reinforce it through Teacher B’s Social Studies lesson, and help students gain mastery during Teacher C’s Science lesson. This scaffolding is already happening in the classroom, so we librarians need to embrace scaffolding Essential Lessons rather than teaching a discrete lesson for whichever teacher we can convince to collaborate with us! To do that we need a way to wade through everyone else’s ocean of curricula in order to create those “products” to market to teachers and convince them of the value of our Library Lessons.
I’ve written previously about my Curriculum Matrix and using it to create my Library Lessons. Because I used it to scaffold my lessons and market specific lessons to teachers, my teachers began to seek me out for a library lesson if they even sniffed an opportunity to visit the library during their units. I believe such a document, created through collaboration with other librarians during professional development would help us create Essential Lessons for every grade level and subject area. We could then market each Essential Lesson to a particular teacher to peak their interest and convince them of the value our lessons provide to them and to their students. When students produce a significant assessment product, the teacher will want us to teach another lesson later on, which gives us an opportunity to either introduce or reinforce another Info-Lit skill through an Essential Lesson.
Through nearly 25 years of Professional Development I’ve learned a little something from every session, no matter how inconsequential it may have been to me as a Classroom Teacher or a School Librarian; however, the best PDs were the ones where I’ve collaborated with others to create something that generated authentic, relevant learning for students. Classroom teachers have created “essential lessons” for Common Core State Standards, C3 Framework for Social Studies, and Next Generation Science, many of which integrate ISTE Technology Standards. Significantly missing are “essential lessons” which integrate the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. We librarians can use our professional development opportunities to create such lessons, thereby promoting collaboration with teachers and ensuring student success for future endeavors. We owe it to both our teachers and our students to do this!