I have been struggling with where to put my energy as we continue to work on implementing College and Career Ready Standards. I am convinced that school librarians are in a key position to add value to their schools right now because of the welcome and very specific emphasis on research across the curriculum. Add to that the more general focus on skill building that students can apply to all the content areas. This is where we, as school librarians live! Bring it on. I am MOTIVATED.
Then I start to dig and try to figure out where to begin. Yes, the standards themselves provide general guidance. Experts abound on the internet and all of them seem eager to help. I am lucky enough to have solid guidance within my district because USD #417 has an outstanding Curriculum Coordinator in Kelly Gentry. Still, these standards are BIG. So much is involved in comprehending them and sorting out the accuracies from the misunderstandings and downright misinformation that I become paralyzed fairly quickly.
Still, this is the opportunity I have been waiting for my entire career to really help my district in a concrete, visible, valuable way that taps into my unique skills as a LIBRARIAN. As Kristin Fontichiaro points out in her slides that she posted on her Active Learning site just today, research skills are the hidden CCSS Goal and "about 1/6 of the standardized tests will cover research skills" yet "hardly any of the educational conversation is discussing this." (page 21 of the gumdrop.pdf presentation)
Kristin herself poses my most burning professional question right this minute, "How can I leverage my limited time to have the most impact on my school?" (page 23)
While I was trying to sort out my focus earlier in the summer, I developed a Powerpoint presentation on a different topic all together, became distracted by this issue, and made an animated slide to keep me on track. Yesterday afternoon, I spent an embarrassing amount of time recording the video at the top of this post just so I could stay focused!
The most important thing to remember is that the school librarian is at the center of my little graphic, NOT libraries. As a profession we fought so hard and so long for the physical space to house a library that we have painfully discovered in recent years that the library space and the clerical expertise to keep that space functioning are what our stakeholders value.
I am often taken aback when some administrator or teacher in my district supports me by saying, "You do so much more than a librarian." To me, the curricular, technical, teaching, professional development things that I do are what MAKE me a librarian. All the different aspects of my job are non-negotiables. They prove my professionalism and value, and they are not extras. To me, the librarian is what adds value to the library space. We are the ones who drive the direction of our libraries and make that space meaningful, or not.
To achieve our school(s)' goals (notice I do not say our library goals), based on the proven fact that our time and energy is limited, we have to put our energy where it has a high impact. What we do has to matter, and we need to leverage our projects so they hit as many people as possible. In my view, to do that, we must be involved in professional development. The good news is that in many districts, professional development is a concrete area of need, and if you express an interest in helping out, like magic, you are helping out! Professional development is not a bed of roses, but if you do it well, it is rewarding in surprising ways.
In my experience, a time of stress is not the time to start a self-improvement project. I need to play to my strengths. Each of us have different strong areas. We have to figure out what those are and focus on them. For example, there is absolutely no point in me trying to be like Gwyneth Jones. She is great. I love her stuff, and I use it on occasion, but my strengths are not hers, and it is a big, discouraging waste of time to try to be her. If I am pouring my energy into going the extra mile for my school, I want to go in a direction that I am going to enjoy. I need to do something that is natural for me. Otherwise, it won't be long before I quit in a cloud of failure.
Whatever project I am working on to support common core implementation needs to be responsive to the needs of my school. I cannot work in a vacuum, independent though I may be. We are in this together. I don't appreciate it when people forget I am a part of the team, but I am sometimes just as guilty of not listening, of doing my own thing, and not responding to the need that is so obviously right in front of me.
Finally, my tendency toward the grandiose is not appropriate here. I have to keep it simple, start small, and come up with something I can manage. (Martha House)