Picture from "The Library Dragon" by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrations by Michael P. White

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."
- G. K. Chesterton

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Continuing Journey of the unRIFFED Librarian

I've been at my new job as a middle school media specialist for a year and a half now and I'm just now coming up for air.  Yes, I was unRIFFED and I can tell you now it was almost as bad as my original RIF!  If you read my updated profile you will see I am now teaching Research/Keyboarding classes on a regular basis plus running the media center.  Just switching from a high school media center to a middle school would have been challenge enough, but throwing in the teaching part has been completely overwhelming. 

I have taught research/library skills to many high school students but always in collaboration with classroom teachers.  I never had to teach the entire research process such as selecting and narrowing a topic, making note cards and creating a work cited.  The English teachers taught that and I taught students how to use the library - the catalog, best reference & nonfiction sources, online databases and web sites. 

Now I was expected to teach a nine week course on all aspects of research and worst of all there was no established curriculum for me to follow.  Additionally, having never worked with middle school students before I really didn't know how to relate to them.  My classroom management skills were abysmal.  I lost my temper way too much and quickly learned that you never scream "Shut up!" to today's students.  You may as well say the F-word - the repercussions are that bad. I had several very uncomfortable conversations with my principal last year as a result.  The funny thing is, if you yell "quiet!" or, as I've learned to do this year, "class!" in exactly the same tone no one gets upset. 

One comment my principal made to me last year has stuck with me and helped guide me out of the abyss - "It's just middle school."  I was taking everything too seriously last year so this year I'm trying to relax and have more fun.  Truth be told, no one really cares what I do in this class.  It's considered a "Special" course for students rotate through along with Art, PE, and Health.  There is no high stakes, mandatory ISTEP-like test students have to pass on the information I cover.  Consequently, whether students learn or not does not have a big impact on my final evaluation.  Despite the fact that I felt like I did a terrible job last year, I was still rated as "Effective" on the RISE rating scale. I still received my "bonus" this year.

On the other hand, since this course isn't crucial and, as I've already seen, having a full time licenced media specialist isn't considered necessary either, should there be cuts, I'll be one of the first to go.  I have learned there is no job security in education these days and I am prepared for what ever may come, even if I am RIFFED again (and that is a very real possibility these days.) Thus I'll continue to share my journey in this blog for anyone who cares about education, school media centers and school media specialists.

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