What I love most about going to conferences geared toward disciplines other than my own is that I get to see things from a different perspective. I get new ideas for collaboration, and I get a deeper understanding of the practices of educators and administrators in other subject areas and at different levels.
This weekend, I had the great opportunity to attend the New Jersey Association of School Librarians‘ Fall Conference. As an English teacher, I felt an extra responsibility to really soak in all I could and gather as many resources for my department as I could. I went in with the obvious interest in reading and literacy, but the connections I made by listening to Buffy Hamilton speak about “transliteracy” and her Media 21 project as well as Carol Gordon discuss her studies about summer reading assignments got me to re-examine my school’s approach to our curriculum.
The more I think about new and emerging literacies, the more I see the need for interdisciplinary collaboration with teacher-librarians. Like English teachers’ expertise in reading and writing skills, librarians hold special proficiencies in teaching those as well as new literacies. It seems that restricting reading and writing instruction to English classes is just as ridiculous as restricting inquiry or the information search process to the library. Wouldn’t all literacy, communication, and research skills be so much more meaningful if infused and embedded within the curricula of every other discipline? An English Department colleague of mine believes that English teachers could serve students better if they were utilized as reading and writing coaches in all subject areas rather than confined to building those skills with only the English curriculum. Now, I’m convinced she’s right.