Head for the Edge, Library Media Connection, April/May 2008
Not long ago library media specialist Tere posted to LM_Net that she was “caught” reading during the school day. Her co-workers reactions?
“Well you would have thought I was lying down taking a nap. Everybody that walked by my door … made a comment. “I’m going to give you a job.” “If you’ve got time to read, I’ve got something for you to do.” etc. Next time, I’m going to go hide behind the stacks to read!”
Another LMS, Allan, soon posted an interesting reaction:
“I don’t give a hoot what people think of me or what I am doing. When I have received a remark about “wouldn’t it be nice if…. [one could read on the job]?” I have responded. “Yes it is very nice.” If I am feeling a little nasty or don’t like the tone of the remark, I have responded “I would be more than happy to get you some information about a library school …”
While many of us have probably wished we could say these sorts of things, we don’t. And for some good reasons including job security and our concern about how others view our profession.
Mark’s views differ from Allan’s remarkably:
“I made it a point to always be busy, to be seen to be doing something. (It was NEVER of case of having to find something to do, it was a case of which job was most pressing.) I did this because its the kind of person I am, but also because of the extremely negative comments I heard about a predecessor of mine who was often seen reading the newspaper or a book, “on the job”. Sadly, the general public or faculty will never understand that keeping up with current events, what’s new and valuable in literature, non-fiction, professional journals, etc. is part of the job. Their view will always be ‘I never have time to take a breath. How come he can sit and read all day?’ or ‘We didn’t get a raise this year and we’re short a math teacher… and we pay him to sit and read?’ Now, imagine those thoughts in an administrator’s head.”
My personal rules about on the job reading have been to read only at my desk (no slouching in the bean bag chairs), read always with a pen and paper my hand, and read only materials directly related to my job. I also thought it important to be seen reading when I could be a role model, such as during Sustained Silent Reading time. Oh, I was also very careful never to be seen leaving my building at the end of the day without a bag o’ work - just like the other teachers.
It’s a sad world where reading equals slacking. But given the lack of respect society shows for professional growth and reflective practice of educators, it isn’t all that surprising.
Although the LMS is among the hardest working professionals in a building, s/he has one of the few positions in schools with discretionary resources - time, budgets, and tasks - so therefore needs to be transparent about how he/she “spends” all those resources, especially time. Transparency is the only way one can combat misperceptions about our jobs.
So how can one add transparency and improve others’ perception of our jobs?
- Talk about what you do in the teachers’ lounge at break and lunch time. And yes, you should be taking breaks and lunch. Talk about what you are doing at staff meetings and before and after school. No hiding your light under a bushel.
- Send out a regular newsletter to your staff about the neat things you are doing with classes and teachers, new resources, and handy hints. If teachers don’t seem to be reading it, try Alice Yucht’s technique of taping the newsletter to back of the stall door in the faculty restroom. She calls this her “toilet paper.”
- Track the use of your resources and send summaries to your staff. Let people know circulation figures, numbers of kids using the media center, how many lessons taught, webquests created, book talks given, and new materials processed. Don’t just share this with your principal – let the whole staff know.
- Try documenting student skill attainment using evidence-based practice techniques. What did the kids learn? What were the assessment tools used? What did you learn as a result? Share your findings at staff meetings.
- Share how you spend your budget and solicit input for acquisitions. Nothing like a clear accounting using a spreadsheet to let others know that you are spending resources to support their goals.
We all need to work with the understanding that perceptions are as important as reality in our profession. And how we as individuals are perceived is how our whole profession is viewed.
I suppose I should stop reflecting with my eyes closed – it might be perceived as napping.