With the arrival of the holiday season, I have been taking stock of the many things for which I am thankful. I wanted to share some of these reflections, as I think they have some direct bearing on being a good school librarian.
Tools and Resources
While there are undoubtedly cautions and caveats to be made, I’m thankful for how incredibly easy technology has made our lives. It’s easier than ever to communicate with others, find information, create new works, and share with the world. I am thankful for the cornucopia of resources that are available to improve the lives of teachers and students. There are some I’ve already written about (DIY PD, Reddit, Digital Book Club Tools). But there are so many great tools out there to help librarians curate and share information and materials. I’m sure I’ll have more to share in the future, but I bet you all have your favorites, too! Why not take a minute to share some with a colleague?
I am thankful for the wonderful community of learners and librarians to which I have been introduced. As a library and information science student, I have had amazing conversations and learning opportunities with my fellow students. It is truly amazing to know the wonderful, enthusiastic, caring individuals who will soon be joining the library profession. I think it bodes incredibly well for the future of libraries that students like my classmates are preparing to make their marks.
Of course, it’s impossible to think about the students without also recognizing the wonderful work being done by the professors. This is my third advanced degree, and I’d be hard-pressed to find matches for my library professors’ earnestness and engagement with the profession. They have provided sterling examples of what good librarianship should look like.
In addition to the academic community, I’ve found myself extremely thankful for the professional networks of librarianship. The posts from LM_NET and the ALA Connect posts for both ALA and AASL have provided so many great ideas, resources, and examples of a community helping its members.
In fact, as I was writing this post, another LM_NET digest came through from a colleague who was thinking along the same lines. Rhonda Lesperance praised all the “mentors and colleagues, including the ones on this listserv, [who] have come to [her] rescue, alleviating stress and self-doubt so many times…” To my mind, this represents community at its finest. If you haven’t yet, you might want to take a second to thank that “libraryland” person who’s help you have appreciated.
I have been an education professional for a few decades. In that time, I’ve worked with a lot of administrators — on average, a new one every 1.5 years or so. I’ve also been an adult student for almost 15 years. That has exposed me to a lot of different professorial styles of classroom leadership. So I am thankful for good leadership when I get the chance to experience it. In the past few years, I have had the pleasure of benefiting from two particular fonts of excellent leadership.
From an Instructor
Dr. Joyce Valenza has been a professor of several of my MLIS degree classes, as well as serving as my academic advisor. She’s also been an incredible leader in all things related to “libraryland” — from leading conferences to arranging tours of school libraries to engaging with luminaries from across disciplines. In addition to being an important figure in the library profession, Dr. V seems to always find time to work with her students on a very thoughtful and personal level. She seems to always be there with constructive criticism and kind words. And her willingness to lend her voice to help amplify interesting ideas is what led me, in large part, to be writing for Knowledge Quest. I honestly don’t know how she does it all! But it’s thanks to her engagement and encouragement that I have felt myself professionally renewed and engaged in a way I haven’t for many a year. So I am very thankful to have crossed her path!
From an Administrator
I have also had the great good fortune to work with Chantal Simonelli, my school’s vice principal, for the past few years, who has been an unstinting supporter of educators. What makes Chantal special among the administrators I’ve worked with is that she goes out of her way to say, “Hey, you did a great job with that! Thank you!” Her unsolicited kindness, sincerity, and gratitude are refreshing, and have frequently changed a bad or mediocre day into a good one.
When one is fortunate enough to encounter leaders like these, who lift others up on their own shoulders, it deserves a moment of thankfulness! If you know of a leader who has made things better in your neck of the woods, maybe now is a good time to give them some kudos. Everyone likes some positive feedback! And if you’re having trouble coming up with an idea for a gratitude-deserving leader, maybe it’s time for you to think about ways you might provide some of the leadership that’s needed. Libraries, after all, are the heart (and soul) of a good school, and librarians are the ones who get to lead them.
Don’t JUST Be Thankful, Try New Things!
The other day, I was talking to my students about how thankful I was for my supportive parents and wonderful teachers throughout the years. I mentioned how it was often at their urging that I sought out new experiences and learning opportunities. Because of their suggestions, I ended up trying a whole lot of different “stuff” over the years that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have. A lot of it didn’t suit me, but some of those experiences changed my life for the better. If not for those wonderful folks and their recommendations, I would probably not have ended up in the wonderful place I am now.
This led me to the corollary that I shared with my students: It’s incredibly important to try new things. Many times, I’ve had someone suggest that I pursue an opportunity that I wasn’t wild about. Frequently, though, those things I wouldn’t have pursued on my own turned out to lead me down an interesting path. And it’s hard not to learn something when you’re in a new space — whether that space is physical or purely mental!
Old Dog, New Tricks
As a twenty-plus year veteran teacher, I am an old dog. But it’s important for even an old dog to keep trying to learn some new tricks. So with thankfulness covered, and the new year coming up, be ready to try some new things! You will not like every new thing you come across. But one of my guiding philosophies has become, “Even if it all goes completely wrong, I’ll still come away with a good story!”
If nothing else, encourage your sense of play — play around with a new tech toy, play with some new ideas, play with your colleagues! You don’t have to be a puppy to enjoy some frolicking, even if it’s just intellectually. And if it all goes to hash, you can be thankful again — thankful that it’s finished! But maybe you’ll be thankful to yourself for taking the time to explore and gain some new insights.
Author: Steve Tetreault
Steve has been teaching middle school English for 20 years, and is finishing his last semester as a school library media specialist student. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!