Feb 15, 2009

I Wish I Could...

I will soon be finishing my fifth year as a High School Library Media Specialist. There are some really exciting things going on this year in my district. First of all, there are several opportunities for departmental doors opening (on their own accord, not with me using a pry bar) to some serious inquiry based learning and more curriculum centered around young adult literature. Secondly, teachers and administrators are coming together in a working committee to discuss opening up access to web 2.0 sites for students and trying to "mostly" eliminate online censorship for educators. Next, we received AdvancED accreditation for the entire district and the Media program was listed as exemplary. Finally, in these troubled economic times, our library budget looks better than ever! Our business department helped us address the issue of underfunded material accounts and I can honestly say that as long as we can rely on state and privately funded online resources, we are well funded to provide for our large body of students.

We've come a long way baby! So why do I feel such a disconnect lately? Why am I rethinking my future in libraries and education. In light of such exciting possibilities, why do I feel so overwhelmed and unprepared? Did I make the right decision about my post graduate education centering on education and curriculum instead of LIS. Is this just a five-year itch? Will I feel differently after spring break or summer vacation? Calgon take me away!

I think part of the disconnect is this: I wish I could teach a class. I wish I could get to know more of my students and create learning relationships with them. I wish I could teach two sections a semester on research and inquiry and/or on YA literature. Actually, I wish that all of the students in my high school could have the elective opportunity to take a course like this, not just 100 or so a year. Why? Because I really believe that any student who would take "my" course would reach new heights of academic and personal success. Now, if I said this to anyone else than a teacher-librarian, I would be labeled a naive dreamer or a self -entered boaster. But really, we librarians see the possibilities, right?

OK whiner (some of you might be thinking), "Just Do It!"

If I told my building administrators that they could open up a new elective course next semester they would probably be so very thrilled. Four new sections a year, without having to hire another teacher? That is the educational lotto for them, right? But alas, I am only one captain in a ship of over 2000 sailors (students) and 150 officers (teachers). I can't sacrifice the needs of the many for the benefit of the few. I need to protect my "exemplary" school media program. I can't, in good conscious, tell my teachers that I am always unavailable for two periods a day. This may be their prep period when they can meet, or it may be that they need me to collaborate on a lesson, or book talk to their classes, or teach a few days of inquiry skills, or the several other things I do throughout the day that are essential in serving teaching and learning. Believe me, I am always motivated to cut out the "non essentials" and I can spot those duties a mile away.

Then there is the other administrative duties that are extremely important to a successful high school library media program. The cleaning up of a messy union catalog to make searching a better experience for my students. The yearly weeding of a collection of over 25,000 materials. The systematic collection mapping to ensure a strong collection and that tax dollars that I have been given control over are used to purchase the absolute best in materials for my students. The leadership duties of heading up building technology issues. The professional development I plan and implement. And, of course, the constant communication it takes to get more inquiry based learning infused into the curriculum school wide.

Then, there is my own abilities I must consider. How much can I do? How much time can I give to my profession? How do I balance family, my own continuing education, and the time it would take to provide the best possible service and education to my students and staff?

When I was in library school, we talked a lot about making programs essential. We were charged with changing the way administrators, teachers, students, and other stakeholder see and use the school library media center and impacting student achievement.

I have worked hard to meet these benchmarks, and now I think I am dealing with the questions of the aftermath. "How much should I do?" "How much can I do?" "How can I achieve my own professional dreams in the current system." "What do I do next?"

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