Collaboration: Nourishment for the Professional Soul
Like a lot of teachers/librarians who benefit from having "summer's off," I always head back to school earlier than I should. We don't officially start back until mid-August, but I've spent the last couple of days there trying to shift my brain back into school mode. Time at school without other teachers and students can be productive because while I still run around like a madwoman on those days, I get to be the sole director of that madness. Truly, as someone who sometimes thinks "rolling with the punches" should be listed at the top of her job description, the idea of working uninterrupted can be absolutely intoxicating. However, it doesn't take long before the work I do during those days of solitude reveals itself to be tedious and, ultimately, unsatisfying. Saying it's too quiet may seem like a throw away remark, but really it's hitting the nail on the head, because the noise we make in the library is evidence of the collaborative relationships that make our work so meaningful.
In her AMAZING Ted-style talk at ISTE this year, (I'm still in mourning that I wasn't there), Buffy Hamilton talked about creating enchantment for our patrons through the relationships we build with them. She rightfully pointed out that one of the problems libraries face in our efforts to rebrand ourselves is the fact that we are so often associated with things (be it books, databases or eReaders) instead of people and relationships. (I believe we contribute to this problem in a number of ways, but that's a post of a different color).
In my experience, "collaboration" is a term that librarians most often toss around to describe the work we do with classroom teachers. However, I think we sometimes leave out the other important collaborations we share with students and with each other. Perhaps we're all so worried about defending our jobs that we tend to focus on the collaborations that can most easily be tied to student achievement. Or maybe it's because those "other" collaborations are so fulfilling, so nourishing to our professional souls that they seem too luxurious or frivolous to be really valuable. Hmmmm. Something to chew on, certainly.
Anyway, a few of these other collaborations have recently resulted in some products that I wanted to share.
First, although I've posted this before, I neglected to point out that one of the presentations I did for the Teaching Fellows Conference was actually the product of a collaboration between me and a former student. Several of the photographs I used in this presentation are hers - used not only with permission but with discussion before and after about how and why they could be, and ultimately were, impactful. While I'm glad that this provided her with the chance to extend the reach of her work, I am absolutely in love with the notion of today's students helping to shape the practice of tomorrow's teachers.
Secondly, while I didn't work on this video, I got to see a sneak preview of it at the P21 institute last month. On the face of it, it's a delightful piece about encouraging kids to collaborate, communicate, think critically and create. However, what makes it even more special to me is the knowledge that the product itself is the result of a collaboration between some unlikely co-conspirators in the #edreform revolution. Educators, politicians, business and non profit leaders all teamed up with the folks at FableVision to make this happen. Again, I am smitten by the knowledge that this product couldn't have been created without the very ideals it promotes. Plus, its one size does NOT fit all message is just lovely. Also, just as an FYI, there's a downloadable poster that accompanies this video here.
Finally, I was absolutely knocked for a loop last week when so many people asked if they could share the flyer I made about what teachers/administrators should expect from their school librarians. But my humbled shock morphed into pure inspiration when Donna Baumbach transformed the flyer into this amazing collaborative document using the tool ThingLink. I am amazed. Not only are people sharing some amazing resources/work/examples, but now I simply can't wait to put ThingLink to work in my library.
I end this post with the same feeling I have each year when a new school year approaches: abuzz with ideas. Ideas that I wouldn't have had, had I not indulged in the frivolity of collaboration.