By Laura Thomas
One of the perks of my work is that I never know what’s coming next. I’m a school coach and, more important, a servant leader. My job is to try to fill whatever need comes along — sometimes on my own, sometimes by finding the right person for the job. This fall, the need in one of our local communities was simple: They needed a librarian — but only one day a week. Their little school library wasn’t being used because there was no one to manage the collection, no one to “do” library for the 55-student, K-6 school.
Being as how our whole theory of action at Antioch University New England (www.antiochne.edu) can best be summarized as, “see the need, meet the need,” there was only one thing I could do (after trying like crazy to find them a library media specialist and creating and launching a master’s degree program for education technology-focused library science to try to keep this problem from coming up again). I became the librarian.
Let’s be clear: The last time I had nongraduate students, the Internet was new. Common Core wasn’t even a twinkle in the eyes of its developers, and I was a much, much younger woman. Also, my students were adolescents.
I knew had a lot to learn.
It hasn’t been that long since I started, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Standards can drive you crazy if you let them drive the bus, but getting them wedged in around the edges of good teaching is possible if you have a principal who supports you and state policy that lets that happen.
- Inquiry-driven, problem-based learning works but you have to build a community and learn all the names first.
- Elementary students aren’t that different from teenagers but keep a copy of Yardsticks: Children in the classroom ages 4-14 (Center for Responsive Schools, 2007) close at hand.
- The Internet? It can be a total time suck when it comes to lesson planning. Curating two or three good sites for ideas is enough. Finding those two or three? Harder than it should be. I keep mine on two Pinterest pages: (https://www.pinterest.com/lthomas413/library/) and (https://www.pinterest.com/criticalskills1/library/) because Pinterest is my new best friend — along with Google for Education, (https://www.google.com/edu/) and my blog, The Critical Skills Classroom (https://antiochcriticalskills.wordpress.com/) because organization is EVERYTHING.)
- Collaboration is the key to everything. (I already knew this, but I’m learning it again.) My mentor, the other teachers in my building, the other library science experts that I’ve connected with have been generous and patient. They don’t’ get enough credit.
- There’s nothing that makes me happier than kindergartners lying on their bellies listening to a read-aloud.
While I wish with all my heart that there had been a certified, fully qualified LMS to fill this position because every kid deserves well-qualified teachers in every single area, I’m also intensely grateful that I got this chance and I’m committed to doing it justice by working on my certificate now, in fact! I wish every faculty member in every teacher preparation program in the country had an opportunity like this. Learning to be a librarian has reminded me of why we become and remain teachers, and it has given me just a tiny taste of what it means to teach in the 21st century.