Monday, September 12, 2016

Not quite Marian, Madame Librarian

When I worked at TCS, I ran the library along with teaching my classes.  At the time, I only had three periods in which I taught, so running the library the rest of the day was my main responsibility.  I enjoyed it.  Most of the students who spent time in the library were readers, so they were fun to talk to.  Plus, I became pretty skilled at recommending books to both avid and reluctant readers.  Since I also had to order books, I got to know vendors, recommended reading lists and new authors pretty well. 

I always thought that I’d like to go back to school and get a master’s degree in library science so I could work in a school library full time.  Returning to school hasn’t happened yet because my life keeps getting in the way.  I’m aware of the fact that librarians don’t make very much, despite the education that they must get to earn the title of “librarian.”  The librarian jobs are also rapidly disappearing, due to funding cuts and the fact that librarians are slowly becoming less necessary.  So if they’re still around in the next few years, maybe I’ll go back to school and get that degree.
In the meantime, I had to keep the TCS library going.  That meant hounding students to return books, keeping up with inventory, billing parents and students for missing titles and trying to help out the English teachers with what they needed.

What I found was that the library is a microcosm of the school district.  However, administration handles the library, and the librarian tells you how the district feels about its employees and student population. 

Allow me to give a few examples.  Schools today are hell-bent on adding “technology” to the classroom.  We hear the words “technology” until our brains begin to melt under the weight of it.  The first place you should see evidence of the school’s commitment to its use of technology should be the library.  Some may say the computer lab, but the fact is, computer labs are part of the library anyway, or they should be. So if you walk into your school library, and you don’t see any computers for student use, the district isn’t that interested in technology.  They’re paying lip service to “technology.”

How is the librarian treated?  Does she have time to assist the teachers and students?  Is s/he given time to work with students who need help, or finish inventory?  When I was in charge of the library, I was constantly being pulled to substitute in other classes, or worse, house the ISS students in the library.  This meant that the library stayed closed most of the day because I wasn’t given a classroom in which to hold my regular classes.  My classroom WAS the library. 

Our school was so proud that we had an actual working library.  The problem was that students couldn’t use it most of the time.  The principal was so pleased that we had a real library that he would hold job interviews in there, administrative meetings and whatnot.  In fact, he liked to show the room off to visitors, frequently while I was in the middle of holding classes.  I tried to carry on as if he wasn’t there, but it was hard to do when he was talking so loudly to the visitors that my students couldn’t hear me.

The biggest problem I had was that no one seemed to think we needed more books.  They’d see books on the shelves and say, “You’ve got lots of books!”  Never mind the fact that some of these titles were more than 10-15 years old, and the students were completely uninterested in them.  Or the fact that many of them were class sets that had been ordered years before and were no longer part of the curriculum, but it seemed wasteful to throw them away.   Those books packed the shelves, and the newer ones we had quickly were stolen.  Our actual collection shrank every year, but the principal insisted we had "lots" of books. 

After two years of running the library, I decided to gracelessly bow out and just teach.  My school said I was so good at what I did, they wanted to keep me in the stacks full time and give me a generous pay cut.  I said no, and the job of running the library went to an administrative assistant whose idea of “running it” meant keeping it closed because, according to her, students tended to get “out of control” in the library.  I still ponder over what she meant.  I hope that the students were breaking into song and dance numbers, a la High School Musical.  They probably weren’t, but a bitter ex-librarian can dream, right?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG - The lazy days of summer will drag on through winter

Ever feel like you're running out of ideas and motivation and energy and uh... other stuff?  Maybe it's just me.

It's bad enough that I missed posting on IWSG day last month.  Despite the multiple reminders I put on my calendar, phone, and to-do list, the day went by without the thought even crossing my mind.  Is this the sign of advancing dementia?  If so, that would actually be a comfort.  At least then I can be assured that my failure to follow through isn't completely my fault.

For some reason I find myself dragging this school year, not just with my students and grading and giving feedback, but in my writing as well.  Ideas don't seem to be forming, and when something weird or funny happens at school, rather than writing it down, I just think, "Huh!"  That's about the extent of my effort.  I tell myself that I'm waiting for inspiration to hit, but maybe I'm just ducking as she swings at me.  I can't say that I'm busier than before because I'm not.  I'm just lazier, maybe?  Or more tired?

One of my teacher friends said this shows I'm looking forward to retirement.  I'm not sure about that.  I don't think that not having to work means that I'll have more time or energy.  This summer I had more free time than ever, and I accomplished even less.  Maybe I could blame my husband and his desire to have us "run" another race as the reason for my loss of energy and enthusiasm.

I'm not just feeling insecure about my waning motivation; now I'm beginning to worry.  I plan to do something about it immediately.  First, though, I'll take a nap.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Where are they now?

In case you're wondering (which I'm sure you weren't, but I'll answer the question you didn't have anyway), yes, teachers spend quite a bit of time thinking about their students.  For me, I often ponder what happened to past students.

For example, I wonder what happened to Serena, a freshman I had in writing class who was phenomenally talented.  I hope someone else saw her talent and encouraged her to develop it.  Serena wasn't always the best about completing assignments, but the sheer ability was sometimes awe-inspiring in the assignments she did turn in.  I hope to someday see her win the Mann Booker prize.

Sometimes I think about Nathan, a sophomore who was incredibly frustrating to me.  Nathan couldn't or wouldn't do anything in or out of class, and his grade hovered around the 30% mark all the time.  But his father died in a freak accident the year before I started teaching him, and while he never seemed unhappy, I wondered if he'd lost the ability to care.  He wouldn't meet with the counselors, come in for tutorials or even take me up on offers for extra credit.  Maybe I could have done more for him.

Connor was another student that I miss now.  He was so stubborn, refusing to try and do things differently and constantly at war with his mother, who quickly recruited me to give extra assistance to her son.  Our tutoring sessions always ended with me telling Connor to repeat the phrase, "Your mother is always right."  She definitely was.  Once he started listening to me, and by extension, her, his grades shot up.  He's at a magnet school that has a special music program, and I wish I knew how he was getting along.

I keep in touch with several previous students on social media.  When they were my students, I wouldn't accept friend requests or follow them, but I'm always surprised by the flood of requests once these same students graduate.  I'm watching some make their way through college and move into their first real jobs after graduation.  It makes me feel like a parent, watching my babies grow up.  

I imagine that teachers probably feel the way parents do, in that we're always proud and slightly worried about our kids.  How are they doing?  Do they need anything?  Do they remember what I taught them?  Are they happy?

Though, I don't care if they're happy, as long as they use correct grammar in their social media posts or thank you notes to me. Good grammar makes me happy.