Your School’s Most Important Resource

Much of my time and mental energy has been consumed recently by a raging debate with media specialists.  But like so many other experiences that I’ve had in the blogosphere, brilliance rose to the top in the form of a quote from one of my favorite media specialists, Pete Caggia.

Pete said:

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

Good on ya, Pete.  I’ve always respected and admired your thinking…and in this case, you’ve put the focus of this conversation right back where it belongs:  On our students.

6 thoughts on “Your School’s Most Important Resource

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Lisa wrote:
    Thank you, Bill, for your bravery in launching this discussion and for your valuable insights. I sense that you are actually one of our staunchest advocates
    Thanks, Lisa….What has completely confused—and angered—me about this conversation are the countless posters and angry email-ers who seemed to have completely ignored the EXTENSIVE praise that I’ve heaped on media specialists in the past few days.
    You don’t even need to “sense” whether I’m an advocate. The first five something paragraphs of my posts have made that pretty darn clear—and yet many of your colleagues have been unwilling or unable to grab on to that reality.
    Instead, they’ve emotionally and defensively and knee-jerk-edly reacted to a post that they believed was an attack.
    Mostly away from this blog—in email, twitter conversations, other blog posts, personal conversations—I was told that I was belittling and demeaning media specialists. I’ve been called angry and juvenile.
    I was told that I need to find a new job if I don’t like the one that I’m in and was asked whether I was having bad dreams when I wrote my original post.
    It’s been embarrassing, actually, to see how some of your colleagues are reacting to my writing because it shows an unwillingness to openly reflect on the core points of my piece.
    The dissonance between the “we’re all a team” rhetoric that y’all spin and the unwillingness to listen when one of your supposed “team mates” points out flaws in your game plan is almost hard to believe.
    Now, I’m realistic enough to understand that the negative reactions are not coming from—or commonly held beliefs for—the majority of media specialists. Your post and several of the other posts on my comments of the past several days prove that.
    But what I will say is that I’ve been involved in enough conversations with enough media specialists over the past 10 years to say that your profession has a problem that goes beyond a small handful of wing-nuts.
    It’s “Advocacy Gone Wild” in more cases than you should be comfortable with—and you’re losing allies that you’re likely going to need on your side the next time some political hack decides that he wants to save a few bucks and cut your positions.
    Does any of this make sense?

  2. Lisa Perez, Chicago Public Schools Dept of Libraries

    I commend you on reopening your comments. Only when we talk, do we profit. I am grateful for you expressing your viewpoint and always find it helpful to hear different points of view. I’d like to add a few points to the mix for us to consider.
    Many of us are teacher-librarians with full credentials as teachers with a Master’s in Library Science. So, many of us have been classroom teachers earlier in our careers – often, not surprisingly, in reading and language arts. So, we understand the direct accountability you experience. We are also often in the same collective bargaining unit as teachers, so we consider teachers very much our allies.
    I appreciate you pointing out the perception that some teachers may carry that we are over-zealous in our advocacy at time. As is the case with most departments, we compete with the other departments in our schools for very limited educational resources. As you know, administrators can consider us an luxury or an “extra” in hard financial times. Our positions are closed before those of classroom teachers. In some cases, we are replaced by non-credentialed aides. We know that we contribute to the success of students in the classroom although standardized tests fail to capture our contribution. Since many of us have taught reading, we purposely include such skills as left/right directionality, making predictions, creating alternate endings, rhyming, alliteration, etc in our story times. We motivate students to read recreationally for years in a school because we know it builds vocabulary, improves comprehension, and stretches their reading levels. We know we don’t do this alone, but good librarians support the curriculum. It is our job to work with reading teachers to know which authors and topics they cover in their classrooms, so we build the school’s collection to complement it with additional works by certain authors or additional titles in highlighted genre.
    Many of us have a vested interest in your success in the classroom. It keeps our schools from being reconstituted, restructured, closed, receiving a mandated structured curriculum, or experiencing high levels of central office oversight. We are held accountable, too. Many of us would probably not object to being held accountable for helping to teach information literacy skills to our students to prepare them for higher education and the work place. Unfortunately, standardized tests often to not cull out what we teach (in collaboration with other teachers in the school). Some of us have collaborated with classroom teachers for years and, in an age of structured curriculum, we are told there is no longer time to work with us. Classroom teachers feel this loss, too.
    I think a productive question for us to pursue together is “How can we work together to advocate for the success of our students?” Do classroom teachers do all they can to leverage the contribution of their school librarians? Do all librarians bend over backwards to collaborate with teachers effectively. Thank you, Bill, for your bravery in launching this discussion and for your valuable insights. I sense that you are actually one of our staunchest advocates.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Judi wrote:
    It would be my hope that NO member of any learning community put her/himself above other educators, her/his colleagues.
    Agreed, Judi! This is really well said.
    And it’s the point that I’ve been trying to make to media specialists for the past several days: The language that you use when advocating for your profession can often inadvertently (or intentionally, depending on the media specialist ; ) denigrate the work that reading teachers do.
    All I wanted to do was help y’all see how that advocacy looks from my eyes.

  4. Judi Moreillon

    Dear Bill,
    I attempted to post a l-o-n-g reply to your first “All Hail” post. When comments were no longer available, I posted to Diane Cordell’s blog. If you’re interested:
    I appreciate you for re-opening the discussion, because I think you raise important issues with regard to the language we use to describe our work. However, I wouldn’t limit these “challenges” to school librarians alone. Anyone who is called a “teacher leader,” “literacy or reading coach,” “instructional coach,” or acquires a similar role or label risks turning off people by suggesting a hierarchy of knowledge, expertise, or contribution to student learning.
    When we call a classroom teacher a “teacher leader,” how does that make the other teachers feel? I would suggest that depends on the relationships the teacher leader has built with her/his colleagues. Learning and teaching are first and foremost about relationships.
    Educating for the 21st-century requires that we all work together, as Pete says, for the benefit of the learner. It would be my hope that NO member of any learning community put her/himself above other educators, her/his colleagues.

Comments are closed.