School Librarianship . . . The Whirlwind Tour
I honestly don’t know where October went. One minute I was pulling out the Halloween decorations and the next minute I was looking for the cheapest turkey at the grocery store for my Thanksgiving dinner. Part of the issue is that I spent 4 amazing days in Minneapolis, MN for the AASL 2011 “Turning the Page” National Conference.
If you’ve never been I highly recommend that you go at least once. Save your pennies and squirrel away a little nest egg to make it to the next conference – you won’t be sorry. I know there was some recent LM-NET “discussion” about having to pay for the handouts and conference materials and, while I see some points on both sides of the issue, there is no substitute for being there in person. The energy and camaraderie was electric for me. Suddenly I’m in a convention center that is FILLED with people who get me! I can speak the language of school librarianship that is like the mother tongue to me. I can throw out ideas to like-minded practitioners and I am not met with the blank stares of educators who think I’m all about checking out books. I can see examples of student work that brings me to tears with the poignancy and vulnerability they display. I’ll be thinking about these things for months as I work towards implementing some of the ideas into my own classrooms.
Interestingly, after getting back from AASL I turned around and went to GaETC in College Park. And here’s the thing… I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of these conferences in my professional life. At AASL, we talked about tools and new ways of thinking but the underlying message was one of content-rich instruction. At GaETC we talked about the tools and the websites and the smartphone apps with a little less emphasis on content. The message from that conference was about enriching the classroom with technology. Now, I’m not saying that was the entire focus since there were, indeed, educators talking about using tools to transform instruction into a more student-centered model. There were educators talking about making sure the students are the ones creating content, understanding their innate creativity, and becoming confident in their ability to direct and “own” their learning. Is it conceited of me to think that librarians have been talking about this a LOT longer? Why is it that we librarians find ourselves in an echo chamber – speaking to each other about this shift in focus? Why does a system technology director have more clout than a school librarian or even a system media coordinator? And why is it that here at my own school a teacher actually said to me, “I thought librarians were in charge of checking out books!”?
I don’t know the answer. What I do know is this: Andy Plemmons was right on target when he said in an earlier post that we need to start spreading our message to conferences other than our own. We need to be presenting ourselves to NMSA, ASCD, principals’ associations and superintendents’ associations. And this: make sure you have a good quality, mutually respectful relationship with your technology person on the school level. When that person recognizes you as the expert on content and you recognize that person as an expert (or at least willing to become one) on the tools then there is no limit to what you can accomplish. In short, the collaborative relationships we have been talking about (to each other mostly) for years is more important now than ever. Because when your school system or your principal has staff options that include you, you want to make sure you’re included.
BTW: I’d like to publicly thank GLMA and GAIT for choosing me as the Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year. The District Winners: Chris Parker (Henry Co), Andy Plemmons (Clarke Co), Shannon Robertson (Bulloch Co), Cheryl Youse (Colquitt Co), Angela Dallis (Columbia Co), and Beverly Brostek (Glynn Co) are phenomenal media specialists and I am humbled to have been selected from among this group. I think it’s funny/sad that the AJC has been running regular articles highlighting county system teachers of the year but have (to date) ignored the press releases and emails about these district winners and me. Sigh… Onward.