How do we respond?

On her blog, TechnoTuesday, Cathy Nelson shared a dilemma many librarians (and tech staff) face.

How do we keep from getting demoralized when we are truly attempting to raise the caliber of an assignment and teachers feel they are too busy or too concerned with an upcoming standardized test or just reluctant about accepting our feedback?

Part of the problem, I think is that we aren’t partners with teachers in these sorts of situations.  Much too often, it feels as though we(both tech and library staff) are add-ons, support staff, rather than collaborators.  We want to be partners, but perhaps we aren’t perceived that way.

How do we change that paradigm?  It is hard hard work, especially on a large staff, with teachers coming and going annually.   Headway can be gained, but then lost when teachers run out of time for planning or a particular year is very busy.  But to me that is a symptom that the paradigm hasn’t really changed–that teachers don’t want to bother you, or don’t perceive your role as one of collaborator.

Is that about you?  Well, sometimes, it is.  Sometimes it can be about your approach, true.  But it’s also about teacher training and teacher paradigms.  Teachers are soooo used to being independent entities(especially at the secondary level).  You close the door and teach your own class–and for many, it is rare to truly collaborate in instruction.  It’s just not the paradigm that the campus functions within, in general.

So is it any surprise that teachers wouldn’t be accustomed to having instructional partners?

Consequently, part of our job becomes p.r.–being invitational, doing workshops, attending committee meetings, going to departments.  And even with doing all that, sometimes the paradigm still doesn’t shift for a majority of teachers.

So it can be very frustrating.

Let’s say we could redo things from scratch.  What would be an ideal way to improve the environment for collaboration for teachers?

–Leadership–how can the principal create an environment where teacher collaboration is the norm, not the exception?  How can department chairs encourage this as well?

–Technology use–What technologies could be used to encourage collaboration?  Always a good question since sometimes teachers are reluctant to try things outside their “route”, so to speak.

–College level teacher training–How could the student teaching experience change so that collaboration is an expected part of the process, and valued?   It still seems the process is to place a student teacher with one cooperating teacher, to work basically only with that person, and little training is given in terms of how the roles of other staff help a teacher.  Why not train student teachers on how to work with librarians, tech staff, counselors?  And share with them in their college programs how those staff members could be helpful?

–Our own approach–Our own approach has to be respectful of classroom priorities, both the theoretical and the practical ones.   We have to find inroads that meet teachers where they live.  We have to continue to share our message and our vision for our school and for our students.

Cathy shares an excellent description of engaged learning:

Students love assignments that call for creativity, collaboration, choice, authenticity, and excitement. They don’t even realize the assignments are standards-based and that they are learning.

How do we share that message with teachers effectively, in a manner that it gets heard?

One of the things that makes this task so difficult is that it is ongoing.  There’s never a point at which you think–oh, the entire campus gets it.  Teachers come and go, pressures change, leadership changes, and so it seems like it is an ongoing, evolving effort that one makes.

At times like this, I think again of Anne Lamott’s wise words–how do we change things?  “Bird by bird.  Bird by bird.”

Ideas?  How do we work towards changing the paradigm?

Photo credits:

Two Willet shorebirds in silhouette on wet sand during a golden sunset on Morro Strand State Beach in Morro Bay, CA

Paradigm Think Modern

2 thoughts on “How do we respond?

  1. Carolyn,

    We’ve been addressing this at our school too. It’s a difficult one. I think part of the solution is getting the faculty heads on board and building resources for their specific curriculum, such as building pathfinders for research we know every class will be doing. And being as visible as possible, too, at meetings and in committees. But it’s frustrating when you make your “services” (or willingness to collaborate)clear, and people aren’t responsive.

    But I don’t know. Although staff change, I think that the presence of a “library culture” in a school does stick around, if it’s there. Creating it is the hard bit.

    Megan (Doing the TIB project with you)

  2. Yeah. It can be frustrating. As a “tech-integration facilitator”, (I hate that title.) I’ve noticed that if the school is very procedural (which most are), then things become even harder. Forms need to be filled out, plans set, meetings attended…and in the end, all this time spent doesn’t necessarily make for a better lesson. (It often prevents good lessons from happening in the first place.) Often, quick planning, based on things that matter to students and that are worthwhile, end up creating great lessons. This isn’t underplanning–it’s simply not complexifying unnecessarily and staying focused on things that will affect students’ lives.

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