Friday, February 17, 2012

Stop! Collaborate and listen!

Sorry for quoting Vanilla Ice's seminal work, I needed something to console myself for accidentally deleting the draft of my post. It was quite literally a facepalm moment. Anyway, I'm going to try and recreate what I had written, but I highly doubt it will be as good as the one I deleted (as far as you know, it was the best blog post that had ever been written, simultaneously the worst also, thanks Schrodinger!).

I'm going to make a bold statement, it might offend some people, I hope you're sitting down: if you, as a school librarian, are not willing to collaborate effectively, then you have no place in the future of education. Wait, I'm going to amend it: if you, as a 21st Century educator, are not willing to collaborate effectively, then you have no place in the future of education. It's as simple as that.

All of the readings this week were very explicit: collaboration is essential to the role of educators, especially school librarians, if we cannot collaborate with our educational community, then we are not going to be able to provide our students with the education they deserve or need. Now, what exactly is collaboration?

Collaboration is not cooperation. Yes, there is a difference, the first is working together towards a common goal; the second is helping out after the planning process has taken place, it's finding out where you can fit into a lesson that has already been planned. However, collaboration requires cooperation, of course it does, we need to work together, just sooner and more frequently than we expect to or have done in the past.

There were two major things that struck me throughout all these articles. First, that working collaboratively is a form of  professional development. I had never thought about it like that before. When I think professional development, I picture boring inservice meetings with tepid bottles of water, stale muffins and uncomfortable chairs. If we are working together, researching, questioning, and developing new ideas, we are forced outside of our normal box of thinking, forced to get the background information,  make new choices. We are also developing the ever important personal and professional network. The only real roadblock I see, and it is a big one, is the focus on equating teacher pay with student performance, this effectively puts our educators in competition with one another, which does not breed good will and a spirit of collaboration. However, I do see plenty of educators still willing to put themselves out there, sharing their knowledge for the betterment of the group, we just need to foster that.

The second major realization I had, was that we, as adults and educators, are subject to the same learning styles as students. Which means, we learn best socially and in context. Which means we are going to go through the same emotions that Kuhlthau outlined in her Information Search Process, this includes apprehension, confusion, and uncertainty. IN fact, I think going through this process will make us better educators, knowing how to muster through the process and come out with new knowledge. It also means that it can be a gamble sometimes, because it's not always going to work. Teachers aren't always going to want to work with us, administrators aren't always going to see our value, but, as all the articles pounded in, we cannot give up! Our role is far too important and the education of future generations is far too important to give up at the first sign of trouble, and what kind of example does that set for students?

So, collaborate. Whether it means planning an entire unit with a teacher, including co-teaching and assessment, or it just means teaching the students how to use a tool such as Google Docs. It will take time, energy, failure, confusion, apprehension, small victories, and extra hours, but what worthy cause doesn't require all these things?


  1. We expect our children to grow up in a world and interact with other adults, right? We need to model adults interacting. Indeed, collaboration is key.

  2. The connection you make between collaboration and professional development is interesting--why not keep up on best practices, etc. by working together and learning from each other?


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