I am giving a talk to something like 700 New York City Public School librarians tomorrow, http://11libraryservicesfallconference.wikispaces.com/ — I hope to meet some of you there. The theme, of course, is about the Common Core standards, what they mean, what to do, the road ahead. I offered to share my ppt. with the teachers and librarians at one of the schools I visited in NC last week, because they were in the midst of exactly the same discussion. And one of the fine librarians there mentioned the third C — the key to it all, but the C which is proving most difficult to put into place: collaboration.
The CC shift will only work if teachers turn to librarians, if librarians assert their knowledge of books, young readers, and nonfiction, if Language Arts experts who have familiar ways of teaching the elements of fiction turn to their Social Studies and science colleagues who are accustomed to teaching critical thinking and scientific method. Now of course collaboration has always been a good idea — but from what I hear, it is a lost art. Everyone in the school is under pressure — from test scores, job cuts, technological demands — and so hunkered into doing what they do, in their own silo, their own track. So even if there were no new standards, it would better for schools if the culture of survival began shifting to a culture of collaboration. But, in fact, there are new standards, and they will fail miserably if the professionals in the school building do not pool their knowledge.
A side note here — somewhere in ALA’s guidelines for what MLIS programs should teach is language about self-assertion. Librarians need to take that seriously — you cannot wait to be asked to the dance, nor sulk and be hurt if you are ignored. Sasha is on his local travel basketball team, largely because he understands the game and is good at spreading the ball around. In a recent practice another kid who is not as skilled as he is hogged the ball — thinking he was displaying his skills. Of course the coaches realized that actually showed how little he knew about the game. But Sasha was wrong too — he fumed, sulked, and got angrier and angrier at his teammate, rather than demanding the ball. He didn’t like the lecture I gave him — but it does no good to be silently right, if someone else is being assertively wrong. The team is hurt if it splits into factions nursing grudges — and the same is true of the school. Collaboration is king, long may it reign.