As a teacher or teacher librarian, how often have you heard, “Oh you are so lucky, you have the summer off!”? Of course those are the folks who are on the outside looking in. Those of us in the trenches know otherwise. Summer time is just a different wavelength for many in the field of education. In fact, most teachers I have known, are juggling family time, recreational adventures, and personal professional learning in the few weeks between the wrap up for one school year in May or June, and the preparation for another that may start in the first weeks of August. The idea that educators are basking in a long summer hiatus is a pipe dream.
Even in the reboot and recharge mode, teachers are thinking ahead to the challenges of a new set of students, and how to meet their individual needs. Time without required meetings, committees, and assessments is time to reflect on the big picture. What has been successful and what needs improvement? That kind of time is precious during the crush of the school schedule, and summer provides an opportunity for R and R-and collaboration. As teacher librarians we have to make those connections with our colleagues.
In a recent AASL Blog, Brooke Ahrens asks, “When is the best time?” In her post, Let’s Get Together Thursday, (June 12, 2014) she shares the experience of working with colleagues in her district in curriculum and program planning just after classes ended for the year. As she says, working together beyond the constraints of standards and grades was refreshing, but mental fatigue influenced their progress. She wonders if August would be better, but realizes that time is problematic also. Collaboration and input are important, but what are some possible alternatives to make it happen?
During my years as a teacher librarian, I found that July was a great month for collaborating informally with my colleagues. I would sneak into school early a couple of mornings a week to get my book orders in, unpack books and supplies, or revamp a section of the collection. More often than not, a teacher friend would pop in to say hello. Then the conversation would segue to the upcoming school year and what the teacher wanted to accomplish, and how I could help. Without the pressure of a packed schedule, we could tease out projects that we could plan ahead. Asynchronous collaboration through Google and other social media applications make planning that much easier now.
My school district offered summer incentives for curriculum planning, and I often participated as a resource person in science, social studies, and language arts. College credit for curriculum work was available for participants. Laptops or other new devices were provided for developing curriculum units integrating technology. Stipends were offered for teacher leaders who trained others in a train the trainer model. When I signed on to take part, I often found that other teachers saw me as a true colleague, and I felt part of the team. I understood their challenges, and they understood mine because we had a chance to have deep discussions and share expertise. In mid summer, when most of the teachers had a few weeks to unwind, we found mental energy to be creative and innovative. That energy and planning carried us through during the implementation of our ideas in the next school year and beyond.
So, in July, take advantage of the summer mind of your colleagues. It may be the best time for initiating collaboration. Join a district summer work group if it is available. They usually only work for a week or so. See if any of your colleagues are lurking in their classrooms when you are at school, too. Laugh, chat, and make a plan. Send out some ideas for new books or resources via email, or your blog or website. Stay in touch through Twitter and Facebook. Find a new application that you can share. Screencast a tutorial or find one on YouTube. Cultivate your garden of ideas and invite your friends to the harvest.
Happy summer! And don’t forget your recreational reading!
Ahrens, Brooke. (2014, June 12). Let’s Get Together Thursday-What is the Best Time? AASL Blog. (weblog) http://www.aasl.ala.org/aaslblog/?p=4688
Image: Microsoft ClipArt