In our conversations about collaborative cultures, it is important to remember that classrooms and school libraries are situated within a system called “school.” Systems have structures that support or hinder the growth of their members. Teacher isolation is one structure that has – for far too long – created barriers to educators’ professional development and to school reform.
“Teacher isolation is so deeply ingrained in the traditional fabric of schools that leaders cannot simply invite teachers to create a collaborative culture. They must identify and implement specific, strategic interventions that help teachers to work together rather than alone” (DuFour 14).
When we consider how school librarians can serve as essential leaders in building a culture of collaboration in schools, we must consider the structures within which we work. Fixed library schedules are one tradition that thwarts school librarians’ efforts to serve as equal partners in instruction with classroom teachers.
In fixed library schedule schools, learners come to the library once a week for a brief lesson and book checkout. Often times, classroom teachers do not stay in the library with their class. There is very little instructional time and whatever concepts or skills are taught are not revisited until the next week during the regularly scheduled time. This practice is contrary to what we know about how people learn. It is not a best practice.
Roger Grape is an elementary school librarian in Dallas Independent School District. He created a digital advocacy story targeted to a school principal audience to promote flexible scheduling in libraries. He advocates for giving classroom teachers and school librarians opportunities to coteach and co-facilitate student learning. As Roger notes, with the support of two educators and given the time they need to practice deep learning, students will achieve more.
Check out “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling” by Roger Grape! (And thank you, Roger, for giving me permission to share your work.)
DuFour, Richard. “In the Right Context: The Effective Leader Concentrates on a Foundation of Programs, Procedures, Beliefs, Expectations, and Habits.” Journal of Staff Development 22.1 (2001): 14-17. Print.
Grape, Roger. Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling. Mar. 2013. YouTube.com. 1 Apr. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWo3FWmQVhM>.