Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the Mission Hill School in Boston. Mission Hill is the focus of the current video series A Year at Mission Hill, which documents the learning and growth of the children and adults at this progressive pilot school within the Boston Public School system. The first video in the series offers a good introduction to this excellent school:
As a teacher librarian, I’m very aware of the benefits collaboration can bring to our students. When librarians and classroom teachers plan a lesson together, we each bring different knowledge of content, resources, search skills, learning tools — and these differences are our strength. Numerous studies have shown that this type of collaboration raises reading test scores, but beyond that we know that when we work together, we build learning opportunities for our students that are both richer and deeper than what we could offer on our own. Part of my interest in the Mission Hill School stems from the fact that the entire teaching staff works together to build a schoolwide curriculum. Teachers choose a theme, design lessons, and participate in peer review “Curriculum Shares” to strengthen their work before they use it with students. This is a model that would fit so well with the collaborative work teacher librarians strive to do.
I came home from Mission Hill asking myself what this kind of collaborative culture requires. Time to plan, for sure; the Mission Hill teachers spend a full week before school starts plus several hours each week on shared professional development. Also strong, trusting relationships between coworkers; one Mission Hill staff member told me “we like each other as a staff,” which seems like a prerequisite for the type of peer sharing the Mission Hill teachers do with their newly planned lessons. While I recognize I can’t provide these things at the level they exist at Mission Hill, I can continue to work to build strong relationships with my classroom teachers, and to provide them time to plan and teach with me. My visit to Mission Hill was a new dose of inspiration for this collaborative work, and I feel very lucky to have been able to visit the school in person. I would recommend the video series and a recent book about the school titled Democratic Education in Practice to any teacher librarian wanting to learn more about the collaborative culture of the Mission Hill School.