Communicating with Teachers:
Tips for School Librarians
Why Communication is Important
1. Create your own opportunities. I love the way Kare Anderson, the speaker in the video, talks about looking for opportunities by making connections with people “around shared interest and action” (TED, 2014). I believe school librarians are key players in schools that have the unique ability to see connections between all areas of the curriculum and the needs of students. Skilled school librarians are able to work with community stakeholders to impact student achievement.
Personally, I find that sometimes I need to create my own opportunities. I don’t want to wait around for someone to tell me how to help my students. I look for ways that I can access information to make their experiences easier. Sometimes this means that I need to make a connection with someone that specializes in a particular subject. Other times, it means that I need to find a way to assert how my skills can be beneficial to other people around me. It is my philosophy that learning how to make a difference is much better than pretending that a problem that I can help with does not exist. Besides, I am sure my colleagues prefer to work with someone that enables good things to happen, rather than a person that watches good things happen.
2. Send out a quick survey to ask your teachers about the type of resources they need or have the most difficulty acquiring for class. Keep a list of these needs and try to find at least one special resource to fit each teacher’s need at least once a year. Use the resource that you find for them as a conversation starter and a way to learn more about their specific needs.
3. One thing I have learned is that food is a great way to bring people together. Occasionally invite your teachers to coffee and/or tea and donuts. While they are in the library, share new books or a slideshow featuring programming and services.
4. Meet teachers on their own turf. There are some teachers that just won’t come to the library. So I would go to them with a large cart or basket of books for their class before or after school. This gave me a reason to be outside of the library and to observe everyone in action. As they got more comfortable with me, they were more likely to visit me in the library and to ask me questions.
5. Have a drawing or contest. Ask teachers to complete a task such as filling out a short survey or answering the question of the month to win a small prize. Are you worried about getting the prizes? Each year when I had a book fair, I was able to get a few books based on profits. A couple of books and a few items from the dollar store make great gift baskets for teachers. You can also ask parents and local businesses to donate small giveaways in exchange for a thank you message on your library website for sponsoring library activities.
6. Start a library committee. Ultimately we would like to have a relationship with all of the teachers in our schools. Until then, invite your most receptive teachers, parents, and students to join a library advisory committee to help you make decisions. This will help you to see the needs of your school community from different perspectives.
7. Work with the special area teachers. One of my favorite activities in my last school library was the annual art show. The art teacher was an avid member of our community and formed many relationships over the years. Because of the time that he spent teaching and interacting with the community, I was able to benefit from his relationships. I met a lot of community leaders, artists, and parents because I took the time to collaborate on a project with him. Other teachers were able to see an example of how a collaborative project between two educators brought together the school community.
8. Sometimes our colleagues just need to know that we are willing to do something beyond what is thought of as the norm. If my suggestions don’t work for you, don’t give up. Never be afraid to try something different.
9. Be a technology role model. Teachers like to see technology in action. It is difficult to implement a new technology tool if you have no example of what to do. When I taught, I was always trying something new and teachers would ask me how to replicate what I was doing. Needless to say, sharing my technology helped me to cultivate my relationship with other teachers. Try sending your colleagues examples of how you are using technology.
10. Roll up your sleeves and volunteer. Insist on being a part of the leadership team in your school. Being a part of the leadership team is priceless because you can influence the decisions that impact you. In addition, you will be able to show that you are an integral part of your school community that is able collaborate. Step out of your comfort zone. You will become more resilient.
11. Give compliments. If you are not sure how to start, ask your students about an exciting project that they are doing in class. Next tell the teacher that you heard about how great the project is. Explain that you would like to feature it on the library blog or inside the library. Find a way to archive the project in a digital curation tool such as a LiveBinder to share with the school community on the library website. In addition, explain that you would love to participate in it next year. Be prepared with collaborative ideas for enhancing the project.
TED. (2014, November 5). Kare Anderson: Be an opportunity maker [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Wiw-BLX_3k .