“What are we doing today?” Jerome asks as his class walks into the library. Their teacher, Mrs. Jones has just left them at the door. “I’m going to tell you, just wait,” I respond having designed a research project (in conversation with some of the grade level teachers) to prepare fifth graders for an upcoming overnight and out of state field trip. “Oh, Mrs. Jones just said you could read a story to us, she didn’t care.” Jerome’s remark hit me in the gut. It didn’t matter how hard I had worked at this school to reach out to teachers in order to plan meaningful library lessons that were integrated with their curriculum. For some teachers, the only value they saw in the school library was a place to drop their students for forty-five minutes. Other teachers would tell me as they left their students at the door, “Oh, by the way they need to check out a biography today,” and I would be faced with the choice of whether to teach the lesson I had prepared or to drop that plan and teach about biographies, or to do both in a rushed and incomplete way. The library had a revolving door with classes lining up to leave as other classes were lined up outside the door to come in. I was busy; I worked hard and felt good about reaching every child every week. But my doorway told this story: classroom teachers stopped here to leave and pick up. They didn’t really know what happened on the other side of the door, some didn’t really care, and the culture of this school (and its scheduling of the library) allowed this to happen.
This is one of the more painful and revealing memories I have of my first professional school library position in an elementary school with a fixed schedule. Judi’s post about creating a school culture that supports collaboration brought this flooding back to me. Implicit and important to the shared practices that express a culture’s values are the ways of understanding and using time. Time is one of the most important resources we have in a school and we should use it in service of student learning not the other way around. In 1994 the National Commission on Time and Learning prepared a report about American schools entitled “Prisoners of Time” criticizing schools’ promotion of schedules and grade level expectations as being more about time and time served than about student learning. How can we continue to afford this?
Years ago, Donham Van Deusen and Tallman’s research demonstrated that schools with a flexible schedule included more collaboration between teachers and the school librarian (1994). We recognize collaboration as a best practice and this blog celebrates and promotes librarians and teachers planning together. Yet we cannot remain silent about the continuing practice in elementary schools of fixed schedules that thwart our efforts at collaboration and undermine our ability to infuse the school curriculum with twenty-first century skills, resources, and tools. Judi’s research that pre-service teachers eager to collaborate with school librarians encountered numerous barriers including the library schedule and the school librarian should be a wake-up call to us all (Moreillon, 2008). Our doorways should tell the stories of eager learners and instructional partnerships not rigid schedules and rigid mindsets.
Donham van Deusen, J. and J. Tallman. 1994. The impact of scheduling on curriculum consultation and information skills instruction: Part one, The 1993–94 AASL/Highsmith Research Award Study. School Library Media Quarterly 23(1): 17-25.
Moreillon, J. (2008). “Two Heads Are Better than One: Influencing Preservice Classroom Teachers’ Understanding and Practice of Classroom–Library Collaboration”, School Library Media Research. Chicago: American Library Association, September 24, 2008. http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume11/moreillon
National Commission on Time and Learning (1994). Prisoners of Time. Washington, D.C. Accessed online: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/PrisonersOfTime/index.html