In August of 2020, I started my seventeenth year in education and my fourteenth year in a school library at Liberty High School in Lake St. Louis, MO. As I began to plan for the year, I felt the overwhelm that I know all of us, regardless of tenure in our libraries, experienced. The programming, the flexible spaces, the collection of tech–many of the “Future-Ready” elements I had dedicated time and money to build or curate–suddenly weren’t what teens or staff needed as our school district launched with a hybrid schedule. And that general “groove” I’d found myself in professionally for the last few years? It was gone. I felt scared, I questioned my value, I didn’t know how to help.
I did, however, have a dynamite network of local school librarians I had grown even closer to in the first few months of the pandemic, thanks majorly to our frequent Zoom meet-ups. And as I began to kick around the idea of trying a school-wide shared reading experience, I felt safe asking for their opinions and guidance. Was I too ambitious? What did they think about my book choice? Would they be interested in collaborating? These amazing women were immediately supportive and open to working together so the project could benefit not just my school community, but theirs as well. We dove in as a team, choosing Kate Moore’s The Radium Girls, titling the program, “One Read,” and dividing the work.
Through our collaboration, we created a shared slidedeck full of lesson ideas, discussion questions, video links, activities, and more. We connected the book to various curricula including science, health, English language arts, business, art, and social studies, and we even took a group trip to film a virtual field trip of one of the towns featured prominently in the book. We agreed on a program hashtag, created a kick-off video, and created our own t-shirts. We even got our hands on a couple of Geiger Counters to enhance our students’ learning. We geeked out! Multiple switches to and from remote learning in my district complicated our efforts to talk with students about their One Read experiences, but teachers shared grateful emails and visited us in person to speak about how they were engaging students with the content. Continue reading Finding a New Groove with Community Collaboration