Touching the Future
I had occasion lately to update my Teaching Philosophy. As I was writing it (or rewriting it, because professors get to do this a lot), it occurred to me once again what a privilege it is to do the job I do. My job, as I try to explain to family members and new acquaintances, is to prepare school librarians for their careers.
This alone is a fine thing. People come to our program at the University of Georgia in search of a new career. From many options, they have chosen to be school librarians. They are smart, and they are highly motivated. In most cases, they express a desire to help young people make the most of their lives and opportunities. Teaching these people is a great privilege and pleasure.
The thing that they may not yet realize is the potential for great impact they will have in the media center. A regular teacher works intensely with perhaps 20-30 children per year in elementary school, up to perhaps 100 per semester in high school. Over a career, teachers have great influence over many young people.
However, a school librarian influences every student in every school. Just by math alone, this amounts to a minimum of hundreds each year – and often thousands, in our larger schools. Over time, the number can become quite staggering.
Of course, the degree of that impact depends upon many different things, but the potential is always great. This is one thing I know for sure: the school librarian at Morgan Elementary School in Bibb County who took me under her wing as a “library helper” when I was in 6th grade is probably the person most responsible for the career I have today. I would not have thought to consider a career in school libraries without her kind example and dynamic way of running a busy library for a large school. (Her name is Mrs. Janet Walton. I loved to read and all things about libraries; she encouraged me. She also treated me kindly when a neighbor’s dog “ate” my library book.)
As school librarians (or media specialists, or whatever we want to call ourselves), you have opportunities every day to make a positive impact on many, many children. Every act of teaching, selection, technology integration, staff development, etc., on and on, has the potential to make that difference. Every time you support a teacher, you are touching each of his/her students. You may not recognize any of your actions as important, but they are. You can never tell when one smile or word of welcome to a certain child might be a turning point on a particular pathway.
There is one more way that you can have great impact. I supervise the internship experiences of all our school librarian candidates. Daily, I am thankful for the many mentors out in the field who make these internships possible. Hosting an intern is a lot of work. When I view the final documentation that students produce of their experiences, I often marvel at the effort spent by mentors to explain what they’re doing and to offer feedback and encouragement, and to tolerate the disruption inevitably caused by a well-meaning extra adult. Working with these future school librarians, however, allows each mentor to touch the lives (in advance) of all the students who will be touched by that student librarian.
As February gets off the ground, we are in the depths of winter and it seems like summer vacation will never arrive. It’s easy to think that what you do is unappreciated and unnoticed. But your work does matter, and occasionally someone will say “thank you.” I say “thank you” to the mentors out there, and to all of you, for your excellent work for the children of Georgia.
University of Georgia