The role of the teacher librarian is fulfilled in a school that believes in collaborative practice and where teachers are leaders. But many teachers see working with other teachers as a major challenge. In fact they might fight against this.
In such circumstances what would be an appropriate response from the TL?
The TL’s job is about people (NSW DET, 2010). Softly, with regard to the people in the school community, but with zeal and consistency, would be an appropriate response from the TL. Essentially, embracing the multiple roles that Valenza (2010) has outlined for teacher librarians and simply being the best TL possible, is the way to go. Collaboration occurs more easily with principal support (Farmer 2007), so the first objective would be to get the principal onside. Other key staff members to have on the TL “roll” include the STLAs and head teachers (especially of teaching and learning). These staff members might ‘grease the wheels’ in terms of encouraging other staff to collaborate with the TL.
Being visible (virtually and physically) in the school community by taking a leadership role and becoming involved in committees and providing professional development opportunities for staff will make sure that the TL is known to, and hopefully respected by, teaching staff. Target reluctant teachers and ‘soften them up’ by sending them the occasional useful resource. TLs should take the initiative by approaching teachers either individually or as a group and offering services using concrete examples with possible collaborative tasks. Word of mouth is still a powerful motivator and reluctant collaborators might be more inclined to ‘give it a go’ once there have been some successful TL/teacher collaborations.
Finally, understanding that 100% collaboration might not be possible or even feasible (imagine how busy the TL would be if every single classroom teacher was clamouring to collaborate!).
From your reading so far, can you build a convincing argument for collaboration between the TL, Principal and teachers at a school that you know?
The literature is adamant. Students benefit from teacher collaboration. Using action research as proposed by Harada (2004) can assist the TL in making a case for collaboration. At the school I work in (as a classroom teacher) I would definitely call in the head teacher of teaching and learning to assist me with collecting, collating, analysing and presenting any action research I decided to undertake (imagining I am now a TL). She is a gun at using NAPLAN and HSC results and other data.
Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: catalysts for collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.
Harada, V.H. (2004). Action research: How teacher-librarians can build evidence of student learning. Scan, 23(1), 27-33.
NSW Department of Education and Training. (2010). School Libraries 21C. Retrieved from http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/assets/pdf/21c_report.pdf
Valenza, J. (2010). A revised manifesto. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2010/12/03/a-revised-manifesto/