When the Crazies Come Knocking, Will You Be Ready?
I first became aware of "The Disgraceful Interrogation of L.A. School Librarians" when Neil Gaiman tweeted the link along with the note "this makes my blood boil." Within hours, my twitter and facebook feeds were full of responses, one of my favorites having to do with how clearly the crime rate in LA must have dropped to something less than miniscule proportions. How else can you explain school librarians being interrogated like criminals? Anyway, soon I was led to this blog post that recounts the experience in LA first hand followed by this letter to the editor in my local paper (from a former principal!) which (although unrelated) basically says fixing my state's fiscal woes is easy because we don't need school librarians (or guidance counselors or nurses!) anyway.
Needless to say, it's been a rough week for educators, and for school librarians in particular. And lots of (really smart) people have been writing about it to express their outrage and frustration. Unfortunately, however, while this is an extreme example to be sure, it's only one in a long line of beatings that all educators are currently taking from lawmakers and a populous who want to balance state checkbooks without taking any of the blame for mismanaging the funds. I hate to say it, but I think this is only the beginning of such "interrogations." While, hopefully, most of us will not be dragged down into a basement and forced to prove our worth under hot, and really unflattering, florescent lights - rest assured, we WILL be asked to prove our worth.
I guess the question we have to ask ourselves now is: can we?
Now is the time of year when many in libraryland start thinking about end of year reports. And gosh, there's lots of really cool examples out there that showcase the work that goes on in our libraries. This year, however, as I put these numbers together, I will be thinking a lot about how to draw the line between the data I've collected and student learning. This year, whatever form(s) my report takes, its ultimate purpose will be to prove that my work is a) the solution to the problems that keep my principal and superintendent up at night b) directly linked to student achievement and c) an indispensable part of our school culture and mission. More than ever, I think these reports need to take the extra step of bridging the gap between simply presenting the facts and linking those facts to student achievement.
Along those same lines, if you're anything like me, then this time of year also leads to endless prognostications about how I'll do things "next year." It's funny, but I can remember, being told my first year teaching "not to worry," that after five years I'd "get my groove" - which in this case meant that after 5 years, I'd have a cadre of resources at my fingertips and I would no longer have to create new things every year. Unfortunately, if that's the definition of getting one's groove, I've yet to achieve this zen like state. Rather, I'm the kind of teacher who is constantly reinventing the wheel. No matter how successful or enjoyable or impactful a program/project/collaboration may be, I seem to always be able to think of ways to make it better. And this year is no exception.
Even as I start gathering together the fruits of this year's labor, I am overcome with thoughts of how I will collect data next year. I'll be writing about this in more depth later, but for now I think it's well worth mentioning that if I am lucky enough to still have a job next year, I'll be taking extra care to ensure that I collect data that spotlights the impact of my work. Not only because it's the right thing to do, but because when my seat in the basement is ready, I want to make sure I'm prepared.