Let the Librarians Lead
Note: This week and next RHSU is featuring guest bloggers from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. For more on NNSTOY, check them out here. Today's post is from Angie Miller. Angie is a library media specialist for the Inter-Lakes School District in Meredith, NH, and was New Hampshire teacher of the year in 2011.
When I was in the classroom, I yearned to have a colleague who knew my curriculum and could counsel me in literacy practices and effective and efficient technology integration. A peer who understood adolescent development and would problem solve by my side. One who could talk through the intricacies and complications of guiding students through analytical research. A collaborator and innovator to help push me deeper into my own practice. I was looking for somebody who had superpowers, and she was nowhere to be found.
So I decided to become her myself: I became a librarian.
Librarians are superheroes, after all, and if administrators were wise, they would harness their librarian's powers and use them as the most effective source of teacher leadership in the building.
No other educator in the building has the overview of curriculum that the library media specialist has. On any given day, I find myself working alongside my PE, science, special education, English, and history teachers. Librarians have to know the range of dates covered in US History II and the difference between the material covered in Biology and the material covered in AP Biology. We must fully understand the goals of specific IEPs so that we can help put useful tools into every child's hands. Teachers should rely on their librarians to curate resources and share the heavy load of writing new curriculum with them. Administrators should meet regularly with their librarians to get a school-wide perspective on what kinds of skills are being met regularly and which content and skills might possibly need more focus.
Librarians know technology. We also know when to use it and what tools work best for specific projects. Teachers in the classroom, overwhelmed by the amount of expectations already placed upon them, often find everything that goes into tech integration overwhelming: the research, the distinction between available programs, the selection of the right tool for specific projects, the implementation in the classroom, and the learning curve for mastery. Librarians are always immersed in this kind of research, and can help educators choose which platforms and tools will work best for them. With the help of librarians, teachers can integrate everything from green screens to podcasts to blogs and to publish student work in their classrooms. They can receive instruction on using technology to assist with assignment collection efficiency. Teachers should rely on their librarians to help them navigate the vast world of technological advances. Administrators should rely on their librarians to run personalized and relevant professional development opportunities for their staff.
Literacy begins in the library. Every librarian knows how to put a good book in even the most reluctant reader's hands, but they also know how to select high quality, high interest, appropriate-level nonfiction texts for classroom use. Librarians can help with differentiation in classrooms by choosing a variety of texts at a variety of levels to assist classroom teachers' needs. As a previous English teacher, I am inclined to help students with writing--I spend at least a period each day reading and giving feedback on college essays or English assignments. Every teacher in the building should be teaching literacy, but not every teacher feels confident in doing so, and the librarian is an incredible asset for these teachers. Meaningful research should be happening in every classroom as well, and librarians are masters at maneuvering our way through databases, web sources, interlibrary loans, citations, and MLA guides. Teachers should rely on their librarians to help plan and integrate best literacy instruction within their own practices. Administrators should free up the librarian so he or she can step out of the library and be part of the classroom.
The National Network of State Teachers of the Year claims in its Theory of Change that excellent school models allow for "teacher leadership opportunities that allow teachers to stay in the classroom" and "opportunities for collaboration among teachers." Strong library programs with strong library media specialists fulfill this recommendation. Modern librarians are the problem solvers, visionaries, and change agents needed to assist in professional development, best practices, and improved school morale.
Teachers: Walk down to your library and enlist help. You have a librarian at the ready.
Administrators: Walk down to your library and enlist help. You have a specialist ready to become one of your greatest resources.
Librarians: Listen to your staff, observe, take action. Go be the superhero you were meant to be.