Saturday, May 21, 2011

Collaboration - Turning barriers into opportunities

If you consider the issue of collaboration in any professional environment it is one of the best parts of any working environment. Collaborative practice in any learning organisations is vital and the synergy is energising and often sees a highly positive outcome for teachers (excellent job satisfaction) and student (improvement achievement and deeper understanding). A cohesive group has the ability to be greater than the individuals that make it up. And doesn't mean that there has to be agreement - if approached as a problem solving process - collaboration can see the very obstacles that give people many headaches in their working lives disappear - or at least be reduced.

Sarah Lusher-Main on the CSU Forum on 17 May 2011 posted an excellent summary of the elements in play when considering the issue.

This topic was perhaps of the most interest to me and where I learnt the most as I previously did not understand the importance or depth of learning that can be achieved through collaboration between the CT and the TL.

Successful collaboration has so many obstacles:

  • time tabling flexibility,

  • CT lack of understanding,

  • interest or support,

  • schools culture,

  • state culture,

  • value placed on the TL,

  • principal support,

  • TL lack of curriculum knowledge to name a few.

So many different articles with different information. Take aways from literature:

TL is the key stake holder
different teaching styles do not matter just an interest or desire to collaborate
principal support is paramount
a good professional relationship between TL and principal is very important
flexibility of timetabling important
TLs knowledge of the curriculum important and deepens with collaboration
develops information literacy
it is under used/not used in many schools
CT may not understand or know about what the library has to offer collaboratively
can be very simple - one lesson or complex - whole units
successful collaboration builds sense of trust between TL and CT
collaboration is not as prevalent as it should be after a long time of TLs understanding its benefits
Tl's need to be confident in collaboration to get it going in their school
all library staff need to be on board for it to be successful
RFF should not coincide with a classes library time as it may disengage the CT from the library

So it got me thinking - instead of seeing the barriers to collaboration - addressing the list as opportunities for the teacher librarian to turn them into opportunities to ensure that their vital in the learning hub of the learning organisation is valued, support and maintained.

Lack of time tabling flexibility - consult with those who do the timetable and make them aware of the needs of the TL and how they need to be factored into the timetable.
Lack of understanding of the classroom teacher - like many things on the list of the obstacles to collaboration - if there is a lack of understanding, support, valuing and limit culture to do with the library then the TL needs to be proactive and advocate their role - show those just what the Library and the TL can do for them.
Lack of library culture within the school - again the TL needs to change it through being a proactive advocate.
Lack of interest or support - again the TL needs to change it through being a proactive advocate.
Lack of principal support - again the TL needs to change it through being a proactive advocate.

So it means that barriers or obstacles are really just opportunities in disguise and it is up to the teacher librarians to really be the biggest advocate for what infinite possibilities the library can offer - if the perception is that a library is just a warehouse for books - then change that perception. If the perception is that the librarian is just someone who shelves books - then change that perception. Creative solutions to what may seem like intractable problems is what is called for. In the web 2.0 age sharing and collaborating the collective wisdom of all the teacher librarians out there - many solutions to age old problems will be found.

I was lucky enough to host the TL Network Conference for the South West Sydney Region at my school this week and what struck me is that there is so much that can be achieved when collaboration is embraced.

Teacher librarians need to be and often are, many things to many people. They connect people with information and act as a guide and facilitator the access to the information and books they need. And we are also those who can equip the library users with the best strategies for their searching for the information that they need. They ARE NOT gatekeepers to the information - that just conjures up images of trolls under a bridge - scary arbiters of who or who may not pass into the world of knowledge and imagination. Rather the modern librarian is the locksmith to open the doors to the worlds of knowledge and creation. But the role always changes in response to the changing landscape and essentially the modern teacher librarian needs to be innovative, enthusiastic, passionate, flexible and open to new ideas in order to be that great proactive advocate for their library, their role to overcome any resistance to collaboration and ensure that the understanding of their role is fully understood by others and not positioned by misconception.

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