What Collaboration Looks Like Here

There are many advantages and disadvantages to working in a school with an almost universally inexperienced staff. 90 percent of the staff here are in their first or second year teaching. Most of these teachers are overwhelmed because of how difficult and time-intensive teaching can be. They are searching for help. Thankfully, I am in a position to be able to help since my schedule is more flexible than most. I’ve accepted up to 12 classes in the library (6 periods in the day, all double booked) and, rarely, I’ve had a few days during this school year with no classes in. I am able to watch classes, help people plan, and schedule time to work with teachers.

When it comes to research, I am happy that the staff has accepted the help of the library. In almost every class and grade, when a teacher wants to do research, they seek our input on what would be best. Tomorrow, we are starting a research unit with a senior English class. On Monday, we gave the Trails (Tool for Real-Time Assessment of Literacy Skills) preassessment which was developed by Kent State University. The next day, the teacher came down during his planning period. The teacher, my co-librarian, and I sat down for about an hour. We all analyzed how students did on five different research areas (developing a topic, organization, finding sources, evaluating sources, and using information ethically), pulled out students who had already mastered certain skills, matched kids up with specific skills and lessons, and planned out the whole research unit collectively. We had some disagreements, but there was no fighting or bickering. We worked on it until we all came to agreement on what would best help these particular students. We even were able to find enrichment activities for the students exempt from specifics lessons. Now, we are all very confident in the sequence that’s planned and that it will meet the students’ individual needs.

This is not unusual, which is really the point of this whole post. What amazed me upon reflection is that this is so commonplace here. Nearly every time someone comes to the library, whether for a whole unit or just one lesson, we go through this same process to meet the needs of the students. It’s not just the library, either. A lot of teachers are co-planning and collaborating with other teachers in their department (Next step: get teachers collaborating with people outside their department.). This is not a burden for anyone; collaboration has become part of practice and that is a wonderful thing.

  • Debra Gottsleben

    Jason your school sounds wonderful. That is not the culture at my school. Sometimes being in a place with no set traditions can be very beneficial. We hadn’t used TRAILS before and maybe we should start using it. Collaboration is so hard here that we call collaboration the “C” word! Well now I motivated to work with my colibrarian to start using this resource. We are frequently so busy that it is hard sometimes for us to get together to plan. How many students are in your school?

  • http://jasontbedell.com Jason Bedell

    Debra,
    Thank you for you comment. Collaboration can be really hard. One of the things we do is that we have a question on our reservation form asking “when,” not “if” the teachers want to collaborate with us. (Link to Google form: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=cjNkdHNlNUcyTGFnX29GTThuaWpFSUE6MA). We’ve been training our teachers since the beginning of the year to expect to collaborate and now they actually appreciate it. It is hard, especially with time. 1 thing my partner and I do is stagger our hours. I usually show up at 5:30 in the morning and she stays until 3:30-4 in the afternoon, so at least one of us is usually available. We have about 1,100 now but are growing rapidly. I expect to be up to 1,500 with 3 years. It’s definitely not the easiest part of my job, but seeing it pay off for students and teachers has been wonderful.