Teachers College Community School and Gottesman: Relationships Between Schools and Academic Libraries
On March 6, 2014, 2nd graders from Teachers College Community School made their way to the Gottesman Libraries to visit the exhibit Transformations of Text and participate in the Finding the Song workshop. Transformations of Text is the work of Susan Ruth Cohen, currently a student in the Art and Art Education Ed.M. program as well as a Teaching Artist and museum educator at the Queens Museum. While Transformations of Text encompasses three bodies of work, the second graders were there to engage with Cohen’s poem and painting series, Colorsong, and explore creative ways to engage with and transform text. The goal of the worksop was to model how words could be be interpreted as imagery, music/sound, and physical movements, inspiring students and educators to think creatively and approach text in a non-traditional way.
Cohen began the workshop by speaking about text and titles in relation to art, asking students if they ever titled their art or thought about text and titles before making art. She then introduced the students to the poem Colorsong, which she had written before the paintings ever existed. As she read aloud, Cohen guided the students through movements meant to bring the poem to life and encouraged students to create their own movements. After the read-aloud, Cohen and the students talked more about the poem, imaging ways the text might be represented by movements, drawings, and colors. The students each chose a line of the poem and created a drawing inspired by that line. The drawings ranged from literal interpretations of the lines to abstract colors and shapes. The students then traded drawings and began to write a creative piece about the image, transforming the poem-inspired imagery back into text.
Successful workshops and education programs like Finding the Song raise questions about the relationships between K-12 schools and academic libraries, particularly at schools like Teachers College where the primary focus is education. Many higher ed. institutions have strict policies regarding children under eighteen, either limiting their entry to the school or even banning them all together from campus, even if the schools have an Education program. However, there are also schools and programs that actively seek out relationships with schools. One of the most successful examples is Bard High School Early College, a partnership originally between the NYC Department of Education and Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY that has also been extended to Newark, NJ, Clevland, OH, and soon Baltimore, MD. At BHSEC, a public school, 9th and 10th grade students receive a concentrated version of the high school curriculum, and in 11th and 12th grade they take college classes, accredited through Bard College, and graduate not only with a high school diploma but an Associate in Arts degree. One of the ways that Bard enhances these students education is through the library system. The students at BHSEC have access to college level libraries in their buildings, and have complete access to all of the digital resources provided by the Stevenson Library at Bard College.
In a similar vein, Teachers College has also partnered with the DOE to establish Teachers College Community School. TCCS is a DOE-managed public elementary school (i.e. not a charter school), that serves Upper Manhattan and currently hosts grades Pre-K through 3, with plans to eventually become a Pre-K- 8 school. TCCS’s goal is to provide a school environment that takes into account children’s academic, social, emotional, and physical development and to focus on important connections between learning, health, and family well-being. As a university-assisted school, TCCS benefits from its relationship with TC in ways that a traditional elementary school would not. TC assists the DOE in selection of teachers and curriculum design, as well as providing academic enrichment opportunities, like the Finding the Song workshop, and providing speciality teachers that TCCS would not be able to afford on its current DOE budget. The TCCS website also states that the school has access to TC facilities, including auditoriums, art studios, science labs, and, of course, the library.
So, clearly there is a huge benefit for public schools, be they elementary or secondary, to partner with academic institutions, but is there a benefit for the academic institutions? For a school like Teachers College, the answer is absolutely yes. It is necessary for students preparing for careers in education to actually engage with current students, and while many TC students will be used to going out of TC and into the classroom for observations and student teaching, it is unique to have elementary school students come to the university. In the case of workshops like Cohen’s, TC students not only have the opportunity to observe and engage with the work a colleague is doing, but also observe firsthand just what kind of impact that work has on K-12 students. TC students may discuss the educational work they do outside their classroom with their peers, but it’s an entirely new and beneficial experience to actually get to witness that work, and those experiences may not be possible outside of a setting like Teachers College due to limitations on who can observe a teaching event or how many observers there can be. But while one might not have the option of attending a classroom during a colleague’s student teaching, they certainly have the chance to attend if the event takes place in an easily accessible place like the Gottesman Libraries.
Here at the Gottesman Libraries, we seek to provide our students with whatever resources they need to enhance their education, and the relationship between TCCS and Teachers College is certainly one of those resources. TCCS students benefit from having access to facilities and services provided by Teachers College, and Teachers College benefits by having an elementary school student body that students can engage with not only within their own classrooms but also on the TC campus. The library is a place that can facilitate that relationship, giving the TCCS and Teachers College communities a place to meet, interact, and learn from each other, and we look forward to many more successful workshops like Cohen’s Finding the Song.