My colleague and mentor, Literate Owl, would be the first to admit that he has witnessed, (and he himself has bared the brunt of) asinine, unfounded, and ill-informed rhetoric in his thirty years as a teacher, parent, and educational advocate. This is especially true when it comes to teacher-librarians having to continually defend their jobs. To this day, his self-admitted ‘obsessive’ passion for school libraries and the folks that work in them has not waned an ounce.
I remember it well.
It was four years ago in the beautiful Kelowna Secondary School Library. I had just begun my ‘new’ career as a teacher-librarian and went to visit my mentor in hopes of gleaning ideas for library layouts, book selections, and even budgeting advice. After a tour of the very new facility, Al took me to his desk sat me down and made it very clear: I am now a teacher-librarian; but I should never forget that I am a ‘teacher’ first and foremost. That is what we are and do. We must never forget that that is where your passion working with children lies. It is that love of learning and teaching that makes working in a school library all that more important and necessary.
Truer words were never spoken…
Now, Los Angeles area school librarians are being asked to defend not only their roles in schools, but as professional educators.
In the basement of the California Mart building in downtown Los Angeles, one can find a series of bright, cavernous rooms buzzing with the sound of the fluorescent panels that hang from a ceiling of exposed ducts and wiring. In the back of one of these rooms sits three long tables decorated with black table skirts along with perhaps a dozen rows of hard, plastic chairs. The room is exceptionally cold. Footsteps can be heard echoing each time someone makes his way to the restroom or to take a phone call. This is the setting for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s hearings for educators who have received a Reduction in Force notice. In other words, this is where teachers come to defend their qualifications in front of a judge in the hopes that someone in the legal system will understand what the students of this city really need.
So begins the first-hand account of the hearings from L.A. teacher-librarian, Ms. Nora Murphy.
Few, if any, educators, need to continually work to prove their value and worth. Teacher-librarians spend a tremendous amount of our jobs advocating for ourselves and our students. It’s a strange place to be where you constantly feel the need (subconscious or otherwise) to defend to fellow teaching colleagues, school administrators, district bigwigs, and of course, the school board of trustees (most of whom really think that I just put books on shelves all day long…) what it is that I do day after day. Week in and week out.
(Note to self: time to ramp up the advocacy and shake a couple of trees…)
I’m a school leader. I’m a collaborator. I’m a technologist. I’m a counsellor. Hey, I’m even a writer, too.
Yes, I am a book-lover. And yes, from time to time I do wander the stacks learning our collection looking to improve its scope and quality for our students and staff.
But, above all else, I’m a teacher. That’s what I do.