Fostering Collaboration with Your Specialty Team
Did you know that it’s becoming a fun trend for librarians to foster collaboration with specialty teachers? Wait a minute…I know what you’re thinking! For those of us on a fixed library schedule, just the thought of trying to schedule in collaboration seems a bit daunting! When teachers finally have a moment to plan, our libraries are filled with students. Busy teacher moms and dads have errands and chauffeuring to do after school. There’s no time to plan then. So, what’s the answer? Teacher-librarians are encouraged to collaborate from our very first graduate classes. We know it’s important. It’s just difficult to make it happen. That’s why I’m passing along an idea that originated with a blog post from Laura Trapp, the Trapped Librarian. If everyone on your activity teacher team has the same planning period, I want to suggest that you try to work together and plan a “little” collaboration celebration – during testing week!
Yes, you read that correctly! Think it through with me. Testing week is so stressful for everyone. Many times, our testing week schedule grows a little wonky anyway because local campuses are trying to test students during the same time frames. Since our routines are off-kilter, why not try something that the kids will perceive to be a huge testing treat at no cost to the school? Here’s what we did.
At our school the “activity teachers” lead five classes: library, P.E., music, art, and enrichment. Our team gets along really well, and we try to help each other throughout the year. We help our P.E. coach with the 5K. Everyone pitches in for the music teacher when it’s program time. I’m even blessed with helping hands when a book fair is in full swing! Our team just tends to jump in and assist! It helps that we all have the same planning period on at least a few days, too! However, after reading Laura Trapp’s blog post about collaboration in 2018, I wondered if we could bump it up a notch. I proposed a “Community Week,” which would be planned and led by the specials team.
My idea was to show our students how each activity class extends into the real world. Since “Cultivate Community Relationships” is one of our school district’s core values, it was easy to get our principal’s approval. After that, each of us contacted a guest speaker who would come to our campus and demonstrate how library, music, art, PE, and enrichment (in our case, S.T.E.M) fits perfectly into a kid’s life outside the classroom doors.
Library and Art
For library and art, I arranged two author-illustrator visits. First, Emily Wyatt and Nathaniel Dailey, collaborators of the book, Good Night, Little Rock, showed up with cool PowerPoint slides and a huge pad of drawing paper. They talked with my younger students (K-2) about the writing and publishing process. They also inspired many of my students to write their own little books! Author and illustrator number 2 was Timothy Bauer who enthusiastically performed his graphic novel (called Billy the Dragon) in front of our older students. Afterward, he was begged to read the sequel, which had just been released. During the readings, our students were encouraged to actively (and noisily) participate, which they loved after sitting and testing all morning!
As an extra attraction, our art teacher secured the Arkansas Art Center’s “artmobile” for a week-long visit to our campus. This opportunity literally transported a true art museum experience to our back parking lot. The students loved it! I highly recommend checking to see if your state offers this type of resource as well.
The Parisi Speed School of Conway, Arkansas accepted our P.E. coach’s request to come in and demonstrate conditioning activities with the students. This was a very active session as well, which was perfect during a week when the students typically sit quietly for lengthy periods during testing. Because Parisi’s curriculum is based upon science and sports psychology, the guest speakers shared many practical applications between facts that students learn in school and the goal of becoming a strong, healthy athlete!
Our music teacher discovered that her new student intern worked for the Conway Institute of Music after school. Their director, Jim Skelton, brought in six of his instructors and a large variety of beautiful instruments. To the students’ delight, the group demonstrated many genres of popular music. The musicians also encouraged the students with tips for mastering lessons or investing in vocal training. They called many music students from the audience to demonstrate what they had learned from their own music lessons. It was so much fun – and very impressive! This session ended with a fun sing-a-long… and then… Mr. Skelton amped up the excitement by donating 20 ukuleles to our school’s music program! The students hummed with excitement — no more waiting to share!
Last, but not least, our enrichment specialist invited a representative of our community’s recycling center in to “show and tell” the reasons behind recycling in our city. She showed the students exactly how to start (or to help with) recycling at school and at home. A highlight of her visit was the huge truck that students could walk around and observe in action. She also organized challenging, active games with small groups of students that let them make choices based upon our community’s “recycling rules.”
Energizing Testing Week
All in all, our first “Community Week” re-energized testing week. The kids loved the active learning format of the daily assemblies, and our activity team enjoyed their happy energy! It certainly changed the atmosphere of what is usually a very draining kind of week! Although this year’s collaboration plan had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 ordeal, we are hopeful to get it back onto the schedule for Spring 2021. It was truly a lot of fun, and I’d like to encourage you to start thinking about the resources that are available in your own community. Start early and plan your own unique version of “Community Week!”