I wrote here in the blog recently about theme of stakeholders in the May/June School Library Monthly, and the article that first drew my eye was Alyssa Johnson’s piece about first-year teachers. Johnson writes from the perspective of a current graduate student and prospective new teacher for the Fall of 2013.
In thinking about the potential to build relationships between the school librarian and new teachers and even student teachers, I tend to get really excited. I envision assembling this cadre of collaborators and eventual advocates for the school library. I see new opportunities for student learning in the library. I see people who bring new ideas and enthusiasm, people who just need someone (as in, the librarian) to help them flesh it all out with technology tools, books, and strategies for instruction.
Johnson’s words gave me one of those moments when you remember something that you used to know. She writes,
“School librarians, however, should be careful not to inundate first-year teachers with too many resources or too many tools. Instead, they should pick a couple of favorite examples and introduce more as teachers settle in.”
I forgot that I used to know what it was like to be a first-year teacher. Amidst the relief of getting a job, the thrill of finally having my own classroom, and the anticipation of that first paycheck was the general feeling of being overwhelmed. All the time. I envied the veteran teachers who could say things like, “well, last year when we did this,” or knew the parents of kids in my class. They had lessons to tweak and switch up; I had lessons to create. In the weeks before the school year started, I was so busy making labels for everything, buying pencil boxes, and trying to make the room look presentable that I wasn’t organized enough or ready to accept help or think about teaching a lesson that was a month away. Getting my first graders through the morning and through the cafeteria line in one piece were my foremost thoughts. Alyssa Johnson took me back to that mindset.
She concurs that it’s important for school librarians to reach out to new teachers, and offers suggestions for helping out with those things that are priorities for new teachers “right-this-second” – like getting to know the kids’ interests through favorite library materials. This is the new teacher side of the equation; I can fill in the librarian’s side and translate this to, “it’s ok to wait to show her all the reference databases and new e-books and explain how I reorganized the fiction over the summer.”
My lesson from this article is that the cadre will come together in time. New teachers will probably want to ask questions, seek resources, and chat about collaboration opportunities. It’s just a good idea to let the new teachers get those kids to the cafeteria first.
Reference: Johnson, Alyssa. “Meeting Needs: First-Year Teachers.” School Library Monthly 29, no. 8 (May/June 2013): 37.
Image: New York teachers at City Park, New Orleans 02.23.11 069, by lsgcp on Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.