fishAre you a loner?  I don’t mean someone who doesn’t like to socialize. I am referring to the type of person who prefers getting a job done alone, without help from others. Since you are a librarian, you want to work collaboratively or, if you are on a fixed schedule, cooperatively with teachers. Doing it together would be the way to go.

For most teachers, their classroom is their kingdom and they run it the way they like.  Once they close the doors they are in charge. They are loners and they like it – and if they become librarians, they carry this outlook with them. Although librarians bemoan the difficulty they have in getting teachers to collaborate, the truth is, many teachers don’t like to collaborate with any one.

This is a generalization, of course. It doesn’t apply to all teachers, and with the formation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in schools, more of them are sharing their lesson plans and experiences with their colleagues, even if they don’t do so willingly.

I can remember when students hated to do a group project but today’s students by nature prefer to work with others.  They discover the latest app from their friends, game in partnership, and share information is their preferred learning style.  They are comfortable in the participatory culture.

I honestly believe most librarians are now this way as well but we need to recognize the presence of the secret loner within ourselves and the not-so-secret loner inside teachers. We often blame teacher reluctance to work with us on NCLB and the Common Core, but in reality it has always been this way.  The pressures have just made it more noticeable.together

How can you convince teachers that doing it together is better? (And convince some of you as well.).  Long before NCLB and the presence of computers in our lives, I struggled to get a science teacher to bring her students to the library.  She taught a special course called The Human Experience (THE) which connected science to everyday life.

THE was exciting and relevant. Among other things, kids learned about heart transplants and how they worked.  The course content was solidly packed and the teacher felt she had no time to “waste” in the library.  Sound familiar?

Because we had a good relationship, (you might remember how I have stressed the importance of building relationships), she grudging gave me one class period to work with her students on their current research assignment.  I discussed research strategies with them and showed them the resources (all print at the time) that would best meet their needs.

When the assignment was complete the teacher was extremely pleased. The kids had done a much better job than in the past.  What amazed her even more, was that the one day in the library had a positive effect on the rest of their projects during the year.  The next year, she sought me out to begin collaborating often.

together-2Not only did the students learn something valuable, the teacher did as well.  As a side note, the teacher went on to become a principal.  Her views on the value of the library and the librarian came with her on the administrative level.  It’s amazing how we affect our future positively and negatively by small actions.

I understand the inner resistance to working together.  Time is precious.  You know what has to get done.  Someone else might not bring the same commitment to the task.  It won’t come out the way you intended.  But that’s not all bad.

copyright Leo Lionni

In getting over my own “loner’ tendencies, I discovered some basic truths I think our students already know. No matter how smart you are, you don’t know everything.  And while someone else might not have as much knowledge as you on a given subject, the differing perspectives very often brings about a richer final product.  And like the teacher, we all learn and grow in the process.

Are you a loner or a natural collaborator?  How can you get passed any loner tendencies you have?  What have you learned as a result of collaborating?

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