Monday, January 31, 2011
The Superbowl is next week, and the commercials have already started. One batch of ads features eager guys and gals gearing up for sporting or social events with the rally cry of, "Here we go!"
With all the tough education finance news we're hearing lately, it's time for librarians to gather around a rally cry and forge ahead.
It's not pretty out there. In Texas, our friends in Austin ISD are facing cuts of 22 secondary librarians. In Grand Prairie ISD, librarian and tech positions are being combined, leaving these persons to reapply for the "new" jobs which will number about one-third of previous jobs. Funding for K-12 databases and other valuable library programs is in danger.
In response, listservs have been abuzz. Some librarians have felt the need to complain in this very public venue about a variety of unrelated topics. We've heard about the hardwood floor in one superintendent's office, how coaches aren't being fired, and how much time our schools spend in state testing.
None of this is doing our cause any good. It's uninformed, unprofessional, and unproductive. Sure we're worried and upset, but let's focus our energies on positive action.
1. Send a brief email or make a call to your legislator. Briefly summarize how librarians make a difference in student achievement. Need data? School Libraries Work is excellent.
2. Meet with your principal briefly every month. Bring a one-page sheet to leave with your administrator that focuses on how your library program impacts student achievement (See a trend?) This may include circulation stats, the number of classes in the library that month, how many times you've collaborated with teachers (formally or informally), and specific examples of research and instruction in the library that helps kids. Share new ideas. Enlist support. Ask for their feedback.
After the meeting, email to thank the administrator for their support and include an electronic copy of your info that may also include pictures of programming and instruction, and links to your blog or other things you want to share.
A note about meeting with your administrator. Many librarians have said they skip this meeting because, a) their principal is really busy, b) it makes them uncomfortable, or c) they don't know what to say. This meeting is critical. Don't skip this important chance to let your principal know how you make a difference with kids. Don't assume he/she knows what you do and the impact of your program.
3. Get to know your teachers. One of our librarians eats with a different grade level each week. Another has started a teacher book club. Ask the ones who really collaborate with you to tell their peers. Ask the ones you never see what they need. Provide specific ways you can help in case they can't think of anything!
4. Involve parents. Remember when you were a teacher and you called parents occasionally just to say something great about their child? Do the same as a librarian. "Hello, Mrs. Smith? I'm Tim's librarian, and I just wanted you to know what a great reader he is."
5. Participate actively in professional library organizations.
6. Have a professional web presence.
7. Volunteer to serve on campus and district-level committees. Once you're there, be positive and look for opportunities to advocate for libraries.
8. Serve on curriculum writing-committees for the district and work to ensure that the library/librarian are mentioned specifically in curriculum plans. For example, the implementation phase could say something like, "Work with your librarian to..."
9. Be about kids. Everything you do should focus on helping kids.
10. Do more. Know more. Be more.
Tough times? We're ready to face them. Here we go!
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The other day someone said that January is turning into another October, and if you're in the school business I probably don't have to explain what that means. It's nuts around here! Take that crazy busy-ness, add in a dose of winter blahs, and you may be feeling a little stressed.
This put me in mind of the fabulous title of a book Sharon Draper has written for teachers, Not Quite Burned Out but Crispy Around the Edges. Draper came to our community-wide book festival a few years back, and teachers and kids alike loved her.
I also read a great article from the January/February 2011 Library Media Connection a couple of days ago called "Avoiding School Librarian Burnout: Simple Steps to Ensure Your Personal Best." Author Margaux DelGuidice does an awesome job of offering ideas, and I would encourage you to read what she has to say.
Ditto for "A Refreshing Conversation" by Thomas R. Hoerr in the March 2010 Educational Leadership (Thanks, Carol!)
So with thanks to Draper, DelGuidice, and Hoerr, below are a few tips on coping with burnout:
1. What do you love about your job? Choose a couple of things and focus your time and energies on them, especially while you're feeling stressed.
2. Slow down. I know. Like this is going to happen. But you can start small. Instead of race walking to the bathroom, walk at a normal pace. Breathe while walking.
3. Eat lunch. Honestly, will it make a giant difference if you eat your sandiwch while standing up? Even on the busiest of days you can take five minutes to sit down, rest your feet, and actually chew your lunch.
4. Cut down on multi-tasking. Admittedly this is about as futile as limiting sugar intake, but try multi-tasking only on the little things that don't really matter. With the important things such as helping a student find a book he will enjoy, focus your full attention. Both of you will benefit.
5. Cultivate relationships. The few seconds it takes to stop and chat with a friendly co-worker will not only lower your blood pressure but could be the basis of a new collaborative effort.
6. Mix it up! Do new things OR do old things in new ways. I have a friend whose new year's resolution is to do 11 new things in 2011. My dad occasionally writes with his left hand just to work out the other side of his brain.
7. Put at least one thing on your Stop Doing List. Really. Just let it go.
8. Don't mix work and your free time so much. Is it a self-imposed deadline? Go home and complete the task when you're feeling fresher.
9. If you must take work home or stay late, give yourself a little reward for being so good. You deserve it!
10. Step back and remember why you love what you do. You make a difference!