For the past few months, our joint blog has highlighted the importance of collaboration for teacher librarians in schools. Collaboration, defined in many ways and present in various manifestations, frames the TL role as an instructional partner with classroom teachers and other learning specialists to improve students’ learning. We need to keep current with pedagogy and technology, so we can talk the talk and walk the walk. Collaboration provides a path for leading from the middle, and sharing responsibilities for decision making and teaching. All of this sounds very professional, antiseptic, and laden with educational jargon, at times. At the true heart of collaboration are the personal relationships that are built on trust and respect, as we work together to create new learning opportunities for kids. We want to make a difference together, not alone. Collaboration leads to friendships, built on common interests, either about content or with concern for the struggles of individual students. With new partners or continuing partners, we share the day to day joys and challenges of people who really care about kids and education. We become a family, a community with deep bonds. When I think about collaboration, I think about my teacher friends, and so when I heard the reports about the shooting in Connecticut, I despaired for the lost lives and the lost friendships, something of which I experienced first-hand several years ago.
I have been trying to wrap my mind around the compelling event at Sandy Hook. How can we make sense of carnage in elementary classrooms where bright smiling faces of eager students are struck down in a blizzard of bullets? Those of us who have experienced the joy of teaching and learning along with our students are shaken to see other teachers and administrators killed in the line of duty. That phrase is usually heard about police officers, or fire or military personnel, but as educational community members we have to help kids be safe, and sometimes the reality is overwhelming. How do we reassure our students and ourselves that the school is a safe haven from an often unstable world? How do we return to that sense of normalcy that helps everyone move forward once again?
When I heard of the unspeakable tragedy unfolding in Connecticut, I was immediately taken back to a day in August 2006. Teachers in my school district were spending a typical in-service day, in meetings and preparing classrooms for the new school year. There was excitement and anticipation in the air. Stories were being shared about the summer, and ideas for new projects were being presented as reinvigorated teachers swapped ideas. Suddenly, the principal came over the intercom and told us to proceed to the cafeteria, we were being locked down. Then the bad news came crashing in, there had been a shooting at the other elementary school, a mile away. And it was devastating to our community. A domestic dispute boiled over into the school and two of our colleagues, our friends, were shot, one fatally. Who could imagine that? What would have happened if it had been a regular school day? The next few weeks were a blur, a community reeling from pain and suffering, but coming together to share and support one another to get through one day at a time. For the teachers, the concern was not just for our pain, but how to make our students feel safe, and to bring hopeful happiness back into the schools.
Concentrating on the kids, and helping each other as the days went by, eased the loss a bit, but that day changed us all forever. The point I would like to make here is that the connections forged in the classrooms and in the schools, between educators, administrators, parents and community members provide the glue that holds a community together in the good times and in the bad times, too.
Right now, the horrific situation in Sandy Hook has cast a somber shadow over the holiday season across the country. That community will never be the same, but time and dedicated educators, parents, and community members will collaborate to find a path for the survivors to reclaim their schools, and rethink safety for all, so that students and teachers can get back to the business of learning-the best business of all!
Wishing you lots of quality family time in the next few weeks,