Some of my most rewarding instructional partnerships were with first year teachers. Remember what it was like to juggle planning lessons, teaching, classroom management, and the general expectations of a new workplace that first year? As the school librarian, I always made it a point to visit new teachers as they were setting up their classrooms (so exciting!). I often appeared in their door with a wagon-full of books to use for displays and read-alouds during those first days of school. I let them know what the library had to offer both in terms of resources and collaboration. In many ways these first encounters were simple offers of friendship. “You know where to find me if you need something.” These were small but important beginnings.
While the school year generally starts in August or September, it’s not unusual for new teachers to enter classrooms throughout the year as long-term substitutes or to fill other unexpected vacancies. These new teachers may have considerable work to do entering classrooms midstream and joining a well-established school culture. As the school librarian, you can become their best friend! Reach out to these new staff members with general offers of resources and information. Some of these new teachers will be fortunate to join established teams of teachers and find mentors who are already engaged as instructional partners with you as the school librarian. But others may not be as lucky and a few welcoming words from you with offers of assistance will go a long way toward building a strong future partnership.
I was fortunate to work in a school with a strong collaborative culture and principal support for grade level planning with the librarian. Yet, I was constantly reminded that the work of building instructional partnerships is ongoing. Many, if not most schools experience staff turnover and not just at the beginning of the year. Step in early to introduce yourself and go out of your way to say hello in the hallway or teacher’s lounge. Ask how it’s going and offer your ideas, energy and time. Especially in the middle of the school year, you may get busy with those teachers and teams with whom you have developed collaborative relationships. But you can’t afford to overlook these new teachers, and they will be grateful for your attention. This gratitude will likely return to you for months and years to come.
So if you are reading this and someone new has joined your staff, stop now to reach out to them.