By Kathleen Roy, Library Media Center Director, Cretin-Derham Hall High School, St. Paul, MN
Why are we teachers first? Why not school librarians who do it all? Managers-teachers-procurers-developers-organizers-programmers-etc., etc., etc….
Yes, we do a lot of different things, wear a lot of hats, but what makes our job so significant – in any school, at any grade level – is that we are teachers; we should wear that hat on the top of the all the other hats on our heads. Why? Because the legitimacy of the profession of teaching, both the science and the art, puts us in the thick of what schools do: shaping young people for their next academic endeavor, for their profession, and for life. We librarians could say “that’s not why I went into library work,” but if you are in a school there is no excuse – teaching and learning are center stage.
Why identify with this role above all others? The other roles that a school librarian plays are all tied to teaching and learning, but they don’t entail the actual act of teaching. No doubt those roles support teaching and learning; we need to have a collection, buy the materials the school needs, develop relationships with teachers and students, develop programs, organize “stuff” in our libraries, and yes, even handle the tech side of things. But to teach a student how to find information and use it effectively and ethically, to create a project from a well-researched thesis, to discover new information that leads to new learning, that is the heart and soul of teaching. Moreover, a teacher’s job is to arouse curiosity, foster inquiry, help students plow through roadblocks, and give honest, critical feedback in the process. Across disciplines, school librarians learn the curriculum for each department so they can be well versed in what objectives are taught, how courses are sequenced, and what the learner outcomes are in order to best embed information literacy objectives seamlessly into the project goal at hand.
Our library department recently collaborated with a team of teachers whose disciplines included English, social studies, and religion. We created an interdisciplinary course for ninth graders and worked hard to make connections across these curricular areas. Asking for our library’s help in creating an overview of the Elizabethan period, we created stations for students to learn basic knowledge about the era. Our goal as librarians was to have students learn from the best possible sources, but also learn to navigate print, eBook, database, and web resources.
In concert with the teachers’ goals we set up six stations that were designed to answer the basic questions and create a foundation of knowledge. Our teaching work included the content, but the most important aspect was our engagement with individual students as they accessed the information. Working with small groups, we taught the keys to good searching, note-taking, and summarizing responses. The teachers in charge of the course viewed us as fellow educators, as their partners in an ambitious project.
That’s the reason why I get out of bed and come to work each day; collaborative, inquiry-based teaching and learning. When I left the classroom I was committed to continuing to teach and to grow in the profession. As a school librarian my wish has been fulfilled. Now get out and teach!
About the Author
Library Media Center Director
Cretin-Derham Hall High School, St. Paul, MN
Kathleen L. Roy is the Library Media Center Director at Cretin-Derham Hall School in St. Paul, Minnesota. Kathleen is also a licensed K-12 teacher, and enjoys observing her hobby farm beehives work together as a team to produce beautiful, sweet honey.