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Please share your experience and expertise in transitioning an elementary school with a fixed schedule to a flexible schedule.

We’re looking for specific strategies that will excite classroom teacher colleagues about the benefits to students and to themselves.

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Yes, yes, yes. Classroom teachers who "stick around" can be your first converts to coteaching and the benefits of flexible scheduling.

Here are some ideas for getting that teacher involved in the lesson (even if you haven't discussed the lesson in advance of the students appearing for the regular time slot). These are mentioned in an article I wrote for the June 2008 issue of Teacher Librarian:

1. While one educator reads a text, the other can record students’ ideas.
2. Jointly model the learning tasks, such as brainstorming ideas, co-authoring a draft, or using the rubric for assessment.
3. Both educators can provide think-aloud responses to questions to show a diversity of responses and demonstrate other metacognitive processes.
4. Model cooperative learning, such as partner sharing, discussion procedures, and debating techniques.

When we team teach, we can demonstrate and experience the adage that “two heads are better than one.”

And keep working toward a flexible schedule - which is a best practice for students and educators alike!
For those who provide planning time for classroom teachers, the first question to ask is the "specials" time contractual or traditional. If it's in teachers' contracts, then you must work as a cohort of librarians at the district level.


Could you elaborate on this more? Do you mean, if the contract signed by the librarian is a teacher contract or something else. What is the difference between contractual and traditional "specials" time?

Hi Sandra,
What I mean by contractual planning time is when the district has a written commitment to educators for how much planning time they are allotted during contract time (during the actual school day). In some districts, librarians are used to provide some of that planning time on a rotational basis (with art, music, P.E., or other "specials" teachers).

In other schools or districts, there is no written agreement as to how much of teachers' contract time is planning time (without students), and the library being part of the rotation is simply a "tradition."

If librarians are on teacher contracts, then by rights, they also have the right to the district's contractual obligation for planning time.

The bottom line for me: Librarians should not be providing planning time for teachers. They should be co-teaching and integrating the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum. This requires a flexible schedule as the AASL Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling states:

Congratualations! At least your principal tried at the school where you were the teacher's planning period. That is the reason that I can't shift to a flexible schedule. At this school, library is an "activity" and the teacher's planning period. They aren't budging! :( Oh usual, students lose again...
Thank you for sharing your ideas. I also believe that flexible schedule is a challenging topic. The challenge I had in my previous job was that my middle school had flexible schedule but since all the elementaty schools in the district were in a fixed one, my principal wanted to change it. The reason my principal gave is that teachers would make the library part of their weekly routine and he believed that students will benefit more by visiting the library every week. His intentions were good but I was really worried because I don't think that a fixed schedule would work for a middle school environment. My view is that with a flexible schedule I would be able to provide a variety of lessons and I would be able to take request from teachers. In addtion, with a flexible schedule I was able to attend to teacher meetings to find out their needs. My question is how a middle or high school can go about on defending flexible schedule for their library? What are the benefits for having a fixed schedule?

I was wondering how you convinced the administration that flexible scheduling was integral to a successful library program? I currently work for a district in which we do not employ teacher-librarians, let alone utilize a flexible schedule. The task of altering the current system seems daunting. How do I get the administration on board so that I have the resources necessary to implement flexible scheduling (as well as hire teacher-librarians)? Any suggestions you can share?

Thank you!
This is always such a good topic; and although this discussion began months ago, January is a great time to make changes to your program schedule.

I have a completely flexible schedule, but I see preK and Kind on Mon and Fri respectively. I have 9 sessions between the two grades, and I want to see them as often as possible. However, all of these teachers are very flexible and will make adjustments as necessary to accomodate other needs. When we are out of school we do not make up lessons, but plan around it.

I have some grade levels that plan more than others. I have some teachers who want more than others. Teachers know that I am here for them and very flexible. One teacher who is always missing the planning session, or even her assigned time for a lesson contacted me in December. Teacher: Will you be seeing us again before Winter Break? Me: Of course if you need a library lesson. What are you doing in class? Teacher: I have begun a new theme that will extend into the new year. We are learning about 'Me in the World.' Do you have any lessons for this theme? Me: Certainly, can you meet with me to plan a little bit? Well, she wasn't able to find a planning time, so I caught her in the hall when she was picking up copies and we planned our first session. It was wonderful!!

I am comfortable planning like this or planning in a formal fashion. I really utilize all this flexibility to provide for the needs of our teachers. The up side for me is that I only repeat about 30% of my lessons from year to year. I prefer this and like the creativity. I also know that we truly meet the needs of students which are ever changing.

Here's my planning mode:
-formal planning is a set time for a content teacher or a grade level; we meet, plan and schedule specific lessons
-informal planning happens at lunch or in the hall; I know our curriculum and our collection; I can create good lessons from the tiniest of ideas
YES my teachers are always involved. I make sure they have specific tasks, because I have learned that many times teachers are not prepared for team teaching. It is up to me to create a team effort and so I plan tasks for teachers and students as well. Usually over time I develop an instinctive method with teachers and they begin to chime in teaching with me, but lately we have had big turnover, so I keep teaching teachers and students alike.
How can I find out what school districts are partial to flexible scheduling before applying for positions? Are there any states where it is a state-wide policy to support this? I definitely want to make sure the next jobs I apply for are ones where flexible scheduling is permitted. I am currently working in the District of Columbia where our public school system has no office of library media services (they've been advertising the director's position for several years now), and when I first took my current job 2 years ago the then-principal at the school agreed to implement flexible scheduling - I do not know whether they'd had it previously, I don't think so, but their last librarian had quit in November of the previous year so they'd had nothing at all for quite some time. That principal then left midyear himself, and the next 3 principals we had (2 interim, 1 "real", but fired in October of this year) agreed to allow flexible scheduling to continue.

Our latest principal decided to revamp the specials schedule in December of this year, and flexible scheduling went right out the window, as did teacher-accompanied library time because the teachers were now to have collaborative planning periods during library time (although only a few of them continued to meet regularly after the first week). I am pretty angry and frustrated that all of the services and collaboration (with those teachers who were so inclined, as about half of them were) I was once able to provide have now come to a screeching halt, as has my ability to maintain the collection beyond basic check-in and checkout. I would leave in a heartbeat if I could find another midyear opening nearby, as I am so angry and frustrated that the principal not only did not listen to my concerns in changing the schedule (she did not, in fact, provide me with a copy of it until right before it was due to go into effect), but she gave me a formal performance evaluation 2 days (!) into the new schedule and gave me a very poor evaluation for teaching a class I'd never seen before. I am even contemplating trying to find some kind of non-school job to tide me over for the rest of the year, and would do so if I didn't think it might hinder my chances of finding another school position outside of DCPS for next year. (Needless to say, I'm providing the names of several of my former principals as references, not the name of the current one who's only been on the job - in her first principalship, no less - for 6 weeks.)

If anyone can weigh in with names of school districts/states where flexible scheduling is the norm rather than the exception, I'd really appreciate that. I'd prefer to stay in the mid-Atlantic region if possible (I am currently certified in Virginia and Delaware as well as DC, and my Maryland certification is pending), but I may consider moving further afield to expand my opportunities as I am certain now that having a flexible (or at least partially-flexible, or at least teacher-accompanied) schedule is the only way I can stay in the K-12 librarian field.
Dear Maria,
I don't know the answer to your question. I do know there is a national search service for school positions, including library positions at:

I believe you can stipulate you're only looking for opportunities to work in a flexibly scheduled library. (As a note of caution, however, I have known far too many teacher-librarians who lost their flex schedules with changes in administration, site, district, or state policy changes, budget cuts, and other unforeseen events. I wish there were guarantees...)

You might want to post in inquiry (an informal job wanted ad) to LM_NET as well.

I'm wondering why the director position in Washington, D.C. schools has gone unfilled. Can you post information about the position here?

Good luck!

Judi, who has served in fixed, mixed, and flex scheduled school libraries and can testify to the benefits of flexible scheduling for ALL stakeholders
I work in Fairfax County, Virginia--just over the line from the District. Ours is a big county district--over 200 schools, I think. In the elementary schools, even though Library Services recommends a flexible schedule, there are still schools with a fixed schedule and many of them cover teacher planning (The principal is the prorgram manager of each school and we all know that "but we have always" is a major roadblock to change).
I am in an elementary school K-6 with about 800 students. I see K-1 on a fixed schedule every week, Grade 2 is on a fixed schedule 45 minutes one week and 15 (checkout only) the next. Grades 3-6 are flexibly scheduled for instruction but I do see most classes every week for a 15 minute checkout (mostly two classes at the same time so that I have room in my schedule for instruction). I was hired when this school opened six years ago and had the complete support of the principal to set the program up how I saw fit.
There aren't any openings right now in the middle of the year, but we have had 15-20 openings each year for the past several years. Have you checked with Arlington County and Alexandria City? They would be close enough, too, perhaps without moving. And if you apply in our county, Library Services can let you know which of the available schools have flexible scheduling.
I work in a large K-2 school (870 students) in a small district. My first year was a full-fixed schedule - our school counselor and I were both seeing 45 classes/week. The second year I pursuaded my administration to allow me to bounce library class off of counselor class each week, opening up about 14 hours/week for collaboration. (During week A, Mrs. Jones' class would go to library at 9:00, but during week B, Mrs. Jones' class would go to counselor at 9:00.) This allowed our counselor to have time to see her scheduled classes and to see small groups and individuals, as well. We were both able to take a huge stride toward best practice! Over the last 3 years I have steadily been building our collaborative program, and our teachers have been learning to think of the media center in a different way - not just a baby-sitting service, but a place where authentic and integrated learning can take place. Next year we will be losing a grade level - we will be K-1, and I have been assured that I will be able to maintain the bi-week schedule. I will say that the transition takes a lot of work, a lot of relationship building, and a lot of collaborative lesson pitches, but it is well worth the work. Every day is different!
That sounds like a great compromise. I work in a K-8 school with scheduled classes for grades K-3 that are prep time for teachers. My principal set up my schedule in such a way that I have 2 days with no scheduled instruction. I use these days to collaborate with middle school teachers, since I can see all hours that way. I have large blocks of time in the afternoon that I use for co-teaching with 4th and 5th grade teachers. I have a full time secretary who can handle checkout when I am teaching. She is really the person that makes my extensive teaching load possible, while still allowing flexible book circulation. My media center is big enough that I can teach even while another class or small group is checking out books. In fact, upper elementary grades (3 up), use media center book check out as a center during reading instruction, meaning that I see most upper el kids twice per week. Checkout is done independently in small groups and formal instruction is scheduled either collaboratively, or as a prep. Informal instruction, of course, happens all day, every day.


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