“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Pogo said it well, didn’t he? But what did he really mean? Allow me to muse on this since it’s been on my mind as I look at the continuing dismal picture that is Georgia’s K-12 public education.
It is this writer’s humble opinion that Pogo was commenting on the fact that we are all personally responsible for the polluted waters in which we live. It reminds me of a concept in Zen Buddhism that says (and I’m paraphrasing) if you meet an obstacle in your path that does not yield in spite of your every effort to overcome, then you need to understand that you put it there yourself.
Every single day I see emails and hear stories from teacher-librarians about how things don’t work in their schools. The culprits range from uncaring administrators to micro-managing central offices to incompetent clerks to not enough money to… You get the picture. Yet in nearly every one I yearn to hear the suggestion of a solution. Take a look around this state at the teacher-librarians that are making their programs work and are making a difference in their schools and the one thing you will NOT find is an absence of any problems like those mentioned above. They work in spite of those things, folks. So what makes the difference in programs/teacher-librarians that work and those that don’t? I belive it is a kind of divergent thinking exhibited by those who are successful.
Do you have an uncaring administrator? Okay…maybe you’ve talked until you’re blue in the face but nothing has changed. Have you thought of a different approach? Maybe that administrator needs to be shown what you do, not asked if you can do it. Maybe that’s a person who will be impressed with results and turned off by complaints. Maybe you should take a moment and re-examine how you’ve dealt with this person in the past and get suggestions from your successful colleagues about how they’ve overcome this issue. It IS possible but the possibilities begin with YOU.
Do you have a micro-managing central office? How have you approached your building level staff for ideas and suggestions on implementing successful programs? Is there a colleague at your school that is able to get innovative lessons/ideas into practice that you could collaborate with? Sometimes approaching successful staff members with an attitude that includes admiration, respect, and “how can I help you make it even better” will go a long way to changing the status quo.
Do you have a clerk that has no training or experience in a media center? First and foremost, ask yourself what you have really done to bring that person up to speed. Maybe you’re working with someone who needs their duties spelled out in a list format prioritized by daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. Is it extra work? Yes, but isn’t it better than simply complaining that the assistant isn’t assisting? Working with someone who carries a bad attitude with them is probably the most difficult thing in the world and will bring you down quicker than almost anything else. Does that mean you throw up your hands and give up? Well, you could but how does that make YOU look? Find a spot in your school or your media center where you can go and center yourself. Take some deep breaths and repeat “I can handle this. I can rise above this. I can smile and do my job.” I’m not a Pollyanna, folks. I’ve been there. It’s hard. It’ll make you question if you’re really doing what you were meant to do and it’ll make you question whether you even want to get out of your bed and show up every day. But keep one thing in mind – you serve a purpose that is more global and far-reaching than just about anyone else in the building. Allowing one person with a bad attitude to subvert that purpose is ultimately on you. And, who knows, if you can find a way to shift your focus from problems to solutions you may find an administrator willing to entertain suggestions on solving the issue. Show that administrator how your program works, how it affects every single stakeholder in your school community, and how appropriate personnel makes a difference and you just might get some relief from an untenable situation.
These are difficult times made more trying by the economy and a social climate that places public education and public school teachers somewhere in the spectrum of used car salesmen. What are WE doing to change that? Look critically at your situation and determine where your realm of influence ends – then work backwards. Change your world and change the world of a student. That’s why we’re here, after all, isn’t it? To improve student achievement? To help them navigate the tangled overload of information thrown at them every day? To help them think critically about what they see or hear or read? Yes, there are problems – deep problems – but look at them in terms of solutions and you will soon find your focus in a different place. You do indeed have the power to move the obstacles, my friends. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you and don’t be afraid to tackle it head-on. You make a difference when you choose to do so. What will you do differently today?