Tag Archives: librarianship

On A Fool’s Errand?

Over the past few months, I have become increasingly confident in my decision to pursue school librarianship.  It’s an ideal fit for me and my talents, and I can’t wait to enter the field as a professional and begin making a difference.

Yet, I have my doubts.  Why? Because right now, it kind of feels like only a fool would want to enter the field of education, particularly public education.  All you have to do is read the news, or skim it, really, to hear the vitriol being directed at teachers.  Teachers have it easy, you see, they only work until about 2:30 in the afternoon, and they get summer break! And they make lots of money! And some of them don’t even bother to show up for work!

It is discouraging, to say the very least, to read about stories like that of my friend, who works in a struggling Kentucky high school and will be fighting to keep her job in the course of ten minutes Monday morningTo hear Scott Brown, the enlightened governor of Wisconsin, insisting that he must curtail the greed of teachers (while others of his party vigorously defend the tax cuts for couples making $250,000 a year or more – the inconsistency, it burns).

Here’s the thing.  I do not plan to take my job lightly when I begin working.  To plan creative lessons, to envision collaboration with subject teachers, to teach your children to have the technology and critical thinking skills they will need to succeed in life? That takes effort. Effort, planning, careful thought, and a lot of time.  Time that extends past 2:30 pm.

I am entering the field of education as a school media specialist because I believe I can make a difference, that I can help change the lives of students, and because I believe strongly in what the profession stands for.  But, Mr. President, if you want to know why more bright, young people aren’t becoming teachers,* I would ask you to open the newspaper and really read what our nation’s leaders are saying about its teachers.  We are not a culture that values teaching or teachers. We are cutting teaching positions in a time of economic crisis.  Teachers might have the most important job after parents in terms of shaping the future workers and leaders of America, but what they do is not appreciated.  Sure, everyone can recall a favorite teacher, but those fond memories do not translate into the public rhetoric or support for teachers from those in positions of power.  Until that happens, Mr. President, I suspect many of my peers will maintain the same attitude: it’s nice, but why would I go on a fool’s errand when life could be that much less stressful?

*In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama discussed his vision of education for America’s future, and spoke of wanting to encourage more bright, talented young people to pursue careers in education.

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Banned Book of the Day: The Harry Potter Series

Oh, Harry.  The boy-wizard who sparked a craze.  His magical world of Hogwarts, quidditch, moving pictures and epic battles against He Who Shall Not Be Named captivated young and old alike, triggering a renewed appreciation, perhaps, for the genres of children’s and young adult literature, and spawning a marketing frenzy.

Harry’s popularity, however, came with the dark side of fame as well: the inevitable chorus of those who cried that the book was filled with evil, Satanic forces that would lure helpless children into the darkness.   This is against the Bible, they cried, ignoring the fact that the Bible plays and should play no role (nor should any other religious text, for that matter), in determining the place of Harry Potter on the shelves of publicly funded libraries.

This is absurd. Though I understand that there are parents who would like to prevent their children from learning about what they believe to be occult, demonic forces (not that I agree with their rationale, but I respect that they have a right to raise their kids as they see fit), if parents wish to restrict their children’s access to certain materials, the onus lies on them to do so.

The librarian and the library cannot and should not be the censorship police, restricting access to a book because a particular group feels the book is inappropriate.  How is it fair that all the children in a particular community of classroom be deprived of the chance to read a particular book simply because some find it objectionable?

Banned Book of the Day: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird, the classic work by Harper Lee depicting race relations in a segregated Alabama town in the Great Depression, is a book that routinely makes it onto required reading lists across the country.  The story of standing up for what is right, defending the innocent against allegations made out of bigotry and prejudice is a powerful one. Yet, TKAM is also one of the most contested books out there.

In its brief list of books challenged in 2008-2009, the ALA gives a brief reason for why a book was challenged in a particular county, city, or school.  The one selected to explain the request to remove TKAM from the shelves is as follows:

A resident had objected to the novel’s depiction of how blacks are treated by members of a racist white community in an Alabama town during the Depression. The resident feared the book would upset black children reading it.

The intent is not sinister like many attempts to ban books are, but that doesn’t make the rationale any better.  TKAM depicts the realities of life in the Deep South in terms of race relations.  Blacks were not afforded equal status as whites, they were routinely denied their basic rights, they did live in a world where they could be accused of a crime simply for looking at a white woman the wrong way, and they did suffer.  It’s not a particularly glorious moment of American history, but it did happen.   To call for the removal of such a book now because it depicts a historical moment in American life that does not fit with our ideas of racial tolerance today (however flawed those may be), is absurd.

It is equally absurd that the resident felt concerned that black students reading the book would feel upset by the depiction of black people in the book.  So what? The power of literature is that it provokes feelings within us, both good and bad.  We are still dealing with race issues today, and to my mind, there is absolutely no harm in exposing students to something that might upset them, because it can be turned into a great teaching moment.  Kids might feel compelled to talk about racial injustices they’ve observed in their own lives, they might want to know more about what life used to be like for African-Americans, and they might even take away a reminder about the importance of standing up in the face of bigotry.  None of these are bad things.  They might get none of this from the book, but that does not matter.  What matters is that we should not be deciding to restrict access to books on the off-chance that something in there might offend someone.

One Week In

It has now been a week since classes started.   This semester is going to be a lot of work in some ways, but I’m very excited.  It’s always nice to get confirmation that you’ve chosen the right path in life.

I suppose the first thing I should do is explain why I’m willingly putting myself through four-five years of grad school and two separate degree programs that really have nothing to do with each other.  Everyone is understandably curious, and it’s a valid question.

The simple answer is that I’m selfish and didn’t want to have to choose between the two.  School librarianship is hugely important to me because it means working with children.  Teaching them, interacting with them, helping them to become (for lack of a better phrase), life-long learners.  I was lucky to grow up surrounded by books, with parents who read and read to me, and access to great public and school libraries.  Not all children have all of those benefits, which makes school librarianship that much more important, because it’s where kids spend the majority of their day for most of the year.   More than that, however, it’s the chance to really make a difference in a kid’s life that speaks to me. As someone pointed out in my curriculum class last week, a teacher has a limited time frame to work with students.  Seven or eight months to achieve their objectives for the year and hopefully inspire a little bit something more in a kid’s life, and then they’re gone, handed off to the next set of teachers.  A librarian, however, has several years to work with students.  If you begin working with them at the age of 5, when they’re fresh new students and continue seeing them until they’re 8 or 9 and ready to go to middle school, that’s a huge chunk of time to develop relationships and cultivate learning.   Is it always easy? Of course not, nothing in education is.  But, if there’s one thing my time in Taiwan taught me, it’s that slogging through the nitty gritty to get that moment of insight, that lightbulb going off, or triggering a kid’s innate curiosity to learn more is completely worthwhile.

And then there’s acupuncture.  I know there are people out there who dismiss it as fluff science, voodoo, or quackery, but all I can speak to is the difference it has made in my own life and in the lives of people I know.  I suffer from eczema that, at its worse, completely rules my life and makes it rather unpleasant.  My sleep is disrupted, normal movement is impacted, my mental health takes a beating, and more.  I also have other health issues that are less serious, but bothersome nonetheless.    Acupuncture has made an enormous difference to my quality of life, and as I’ve undergone treatment, I’ve learned to be much more aware of my health and well-being, which is empowering.   I’ll admit that part of my desire to study acupuncture is to gain greater insight into my own health, but the knowledge that I could also help people live better lives, to be healthier, and to be free of pain, is immensely satisfying.

It’s going to be a hell of a ride, but it promises to be an interesting one.