Apr 5, 2009

Still Mucking Around

As I consider my discontent further, and try to find my road to research, I am thinking back on three pieces of advice I have gotten recently.

The first was from my husband (who clearly didn't coin this phrase, but I first heard it from him). He was not talking about public education, but investing in the stock market, which requires a good amount of research in order to be successful.

Invest in what you know.

I would also include ...what you love, and ...what most interests you. At this stage in my life I think all three pretty much connect in one form or another. Please just take my word for it and do NOT make me illustrate with a Venn Diagram. God I hate Venn Diagrams.

I would also argue that a person cannot really and truly "know" something unless they experience this "thing" first-hand on a daily basis (except of course on school vacations and other major holidays...).

This piece of advise is really common sense, but I guess I don't have a whole lot because I needed to hear it. Why would I spend time concentrating on anything else when I will be investing my time, money, and my soul (I think this is a requirement of admissions to a doctoral program) for this research.

So, by following my husband's advice and defining what "know" really means to me, I have narrowed my focus professionally (not personal, my family would be at the top every time) to the short list below (in random order).

High School Education
Library Science
Information Science (including web 2.0)
Writing (Probably what I know the least but it is more than a passing interest and I am actively involved)

I know a little about cooking, playing guitar and piano, and knitting, but not enough to warrant giving away too much of my time, money, and soul to further my investment. Maybe someday I will be a one woman band while whipping up a souffle and knitting sweater vests, not probably not in the next 100 years.

The second piece of advise was given to me, at different times, by two of my professors at Butler University (Shelly Furuness and Jody Britten).

Isolate the things about your work as a High School Teacher-Librarian that trouble you, that you feel are just not right, then decide if you want to change it.

Notice they didn't say "then decide if you can change it." As master teachers they did not limit my creative problem-based thinking by undermining my confidence. All learners can do that just fine on their own. What learners need is someone to believe in them. I digress...

So, how could I make change? I could stick around where I currently work and try to be a change agent at my school. Or, I could identify other educational environments that are more in-line with my academic ideology and have already implement changes, or are on their way. Regardless, I still need to narrow my focus on those things that rub me the wrong way.

Some people would say that I have another option: leaving the profession. Don't get me wrong, I do have those fantasies of leaving in early June and forgetting to come back in August. I could work at Starbucks (yummm, soy vanilla latte) or work in a Book Store (yummm, soy vanilla latte and that new book smell). I think all teachers AND librarians have at one time or another.

I didn't include leaving as an option because being a YA Teacher-Librarian is not a J.O.B. but a calling. Even if I didn't need the money (which is in no way lucrative or even desirable for most people with my level of education) I am not sure I would be happy doing anything else, at least not in this stage of my life.

The third piece of advise came from Dr. Britten about two months ago.

Articulate why these things are wrong and how you should make changes to the power holders in a way they could understand and not ignore.
Basically, beat them down with it. Leave no room for someone to come along and say, "Brunner does not know what she is talking about." One of my dreams is to start a free public charter school. When I look at research and learning strategies, I always see things through this lens. What would MY school do differently. Even if I was CEO and Principal of a new school, I would still have to answer to many people.

So, in short I am working on articulating what I think is wrong and then the why and how these things can be changed.

The what will come from mostly from my own organic experiences (invest in what you know).

The the why and how will come mostly from those who are much smarter than me and have hopefully done some of the work. (content area professionals, education researchers, master teachers, and proactive librarians) and those that will have the most to gain or to loose from my work.

Often times in education we forget ask the end users key questions: What do you want? What would make things better? What can we do for you? What are your goals?

In my case, the ultimate end users who could benefit or not from my work are are my students, current and future. Second on the list are high school educators including other YA teacher-librarians. Third, the community at large. Every citizen, domestic or global, has a stake in public education.

Tomorrow, what "I" think is wrong and should be changed in public high schools today.

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