Have you been trying to collaborate and it just isn’t working? Afraid it is too involved? Are you actively collaborating and need a fresh new approach? If you have had any of these questions, you might want to considering thinking about labradors.
That’s right. Labrador retrievers. Collaboration is as easy as thinking about what kind of lab you are yellow, chocolate or black.
Now, the legend goes that yellow labs are known for their docility. Calm strength in the face of adversity, these labs deal with a multitude of strange and bewildering audiences with a straight face and placid demeanor. Never one to let a small child go without a lick, or let a a tail or ear tug happen without turning and giving a kiss in return. This dog has the patience of Job.
If you were to count yourself a yellow lab type, you would be the one who would ask that grumpy teacher to try a new technology and when they snapped and said, “Are you out of your freaking mind?” You would smile and say, “Think about it. Perhaps we could talk after spring break. When things calm down for you. Here’s a cookie.”
Yellow labs are never thwarted. They preserver. They have alternative plans. As my mother-in-law used to say, they have something saved away for a rainy day. In other words, you are very, very sneaky and hide those plans with a very calm exterior. Good work, yellow lab!
The chocolate lab is known for his craziness. Rarely slowing down, they go, go, go until they collapse. These labs will often dress in costume and are famous for crazy antics. They are the ones who concoct grand schemes and run out on the bleeding edge. Does any of this sound familiar to you? You might be a chocolate lab.
The danger for chocolate labs is in getting caught up in the toys (technology) and becoming obsessive. Librarians who might be chocolate labs could lose focus on the collaboration. The joy is working on project with a partner who loves the technology as much as you do, but who wants to create a unit and an assessment that makes sense for the students. The technology is only a tool. Start slow chocolate labs, you may be overwhelming to some shy souls. Let your successes speak for themselves. Let your partners sing your praises. Perhaps, take up the suggestion of our blogger Katie Archambault in her post Marketing 101 and create a digital newsletter to announce what is going on in your library.
Now, the black lab is supposedly the most versatile of the labs. Calm, yet able to mix it up when she wants. This lab may have it all: the ability to manage technology to run with the tech dogs and still have the calm demeanor to pacify the rough crowd. Black labs are able to see the forest for the trees. They are both zany and solemn.
And yet, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the color. If I have discovered anything in my five years as a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs, it is that each dog is an individual. Just like each one of you. You may think you are shy or no good at playacting, but it simply isn’t true. You may think that only certain types of people are good at collaboration and you aren’t, and that it isn’t true either. Everyone CAN be good at collaboration. Collaboration is like a marriage. It takes work.
And just like that first date, it might be rocky and you might think, “He is not going to work out.” And then suddenly, there you are at a national conference presenting together. True collaboration in action!
How did I get from labs to collaboration models? That started when I began reading AISL member Joan Lange’s book on collaboration, Collaborative Models for Librarian and Teacher Partnerships, and I learned that collaboration is a more rich process than I ever imagined. The highest level of collaboration is, in fact, where the librarian works with her colleague to jointly plan, teach and assess the unit (Kymes, Gillean). I’ve had that experience a couple of times, but it is not the usual one. And I imagine it is also not your usual experience either. That’s why I was heartened to find out that collaboration included:
- Coordination: Minimal involvement, little to no preplanning. For example, this would be like the blogs I helped the French teachers set up for the classes so that they could have online journals. Very last minute and quick, and I have no further involvement.
- Cooperation: Teacher requests involvement, but limited; separate and independent objectives/teaching. For example, this would be similar to having a request in advance from the freshman biology teacher to teach her how to use Libguides. In addition to teaching her how to use and set up a class site, she also asked for a resource page on wolves in Yellowstone. I gathered all the online resources and directions to print resources and put the page together for her on her site.
- Integrated instruction: Teacher and librarian formally plan and integrate lesson together. For example, this would be like the one unit class I developed with the AP Language, AP Government teachers on Media Bias in the 24 News Cycle. We developed the curriculum, the objectives and the assessments together. It was lovely.
- Integrated curriculum: Administration gives time and support to a scaffold that encourages integrated curriculum and lesson planning across all grade levels (Horman, Glampe, Sanken, et al.) I haven’t seen this, but now that our school has an assistant headmaster who will be in charge of curriculum across the divisions, this is the goal. If you have this currently happening at your school, please comment!
It all counts. Whether you are there in the classroom with the teacher teaching or whether you helped gather the resources, it counts as collaboration. Think of it as stair steps, without necessarily being hierarcical. What I mean by that is that providing resource assistance is not demeaning. It is useful and helpful and you should do it. Working with faculty on integrated instruction is amazing. Can you do that for every class? No. Pick and choose what you want to do.
If you are interested, I can talk next month about how to choose a collaboration partner. Let me know!
And by the way, I’m a reformed chocolate lab!
Great post, CD! It’s very encouraging to realize that there are different levels to collaboration and to recognize that, even if we don’t always manage fully integrated collaboration, we have done projects at different levels along the spectrum. Love the lab metaphor!
Thank you! I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough if I am only gathering resources or not collaborating at the HIGHEST levels. All of it is good! 😎 Oh, your book just arrived and I am very eagerly waiting in line to read it!
Interesting reading, CD – lots to think about! Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks so much Claire! Joan’s book is great. I will be writing a more in-depth review a bit later.