Friday, August 6, 2010

The best of times, the worst of times

It’s tax-free weekend in North Carolina and kids, anxious parents, and teachers are hitting the stores to stock up on binders, bookbags, and back-to-school clothes. The lines are long at the Apple Store this weekend, the malls are jammed, and the newspaper is full of sales circulars. For most of us, school is only a few weeks away. What an exciting time!

On the other hand, if you read the newspaper, The Friday Report, or the State Board of Education blog you learn that North Carolina is among the states facing the worst budget shortfalls next year – a projected shortfall of over $3 billion, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only California and Texas are in worse financial shape. We lost school library positions this year in my district. I hate, in fact I avoid, thinking about what next year will bring. I hear the words, "falling off the cliff" applied to next year's budget scenario and I worry about what this will mean for our profession and the impact it will have on our students.

Now add to this strange mix: a new Teacher Evaluation instrument that emphasizes 21st century skills & knowledge, the introduction of new Essential Standards replacing the familiar Standard Course of Study in every curriculum area (including the integration of information and technology skills), and the possibility of Race To the Top funding with all the strings attached.

What’s your take on this challenging, confusing convergence of circumstances? In my mind it means no more status quo. I’m thinking hard about what it means to model 21st century skills and knowledge. I’m drawing on my PLN to develop resources for 21st century learning. I’m making plans to use technology in new ways to promote collaboration, new communication models, and critical thinking. Most of all, I’m keenly aware that I have to: 1) be on top of my game, and 2) make others aware of my efforts, especially when it comes to my impact on student learning. It’s not enough to do good work behind the scenes. I can no longer acquiesce to the stereotypes about librarians, the warm fuzzy library memories that so many share, and the outdated ideas that the library is just for quiet reading and checking out books. I'm not your mother's school librarian -- why, I'm not even my adult son's school librarian. No more status quo.

This year, a year of profound change and challenge, things will be different. I’m taking some advice from the comments of Gary Hartzell on the Blue Skunk Blog post “Wisdom from Hartzell and Professional Death Wishes”. Hartzell says that success flows to the visible. It’s up to me to show that the school library is essential – to teachers, as a partner in data-driven instruction, to administrators as a supportive model for 21st century teaching and learning at every level, to students as THE place to engage in exciting learning activities, and to parents and the community as the 21st century learning environment their children deserve. Big ideas, big plans, and let's face it -- a big challenge.

Chances are I may not have a adequate budget or an assistant to share the day-to-day work load this year. In fact, I’ll probably be doing more with fewer resources, just like every other teacher at my school. What I DO have, however, are personal resources -- the vision for what I need to accomplish, a commitment to 21st century teaching and learning, the technology skills to support my goals, a great PLN to propel me forward, and the ingenuity to embrace a new kind of practice.

The new school year is almost here. It’s exciting and scary. The stakes have never been higher, but I’m staring straight into the future. No more status quo. What will you be doing differently this school year?


  1. I've already started the year differently, pushing my teachers to get their students immersed in media and technology much sooner in the year. (We've been in school for four weeks already at our year-round.) I'm also using language that I haven't really used in the past with students and teachers. I'm talking about my role as their TEACHER in my CLASSROOM. I'm talking with my middle school students about IMPACTING their ACADEMIC SUCCESS. I'm looking forward to a dynamic, hands-on, media and tech-filled year!

  2. Thanks for following me on Twitter, Kelly, and leading me to your blog. I am starting a brand new position (for me) at a high school library after 7 1/2 years as a middle school TL and the last year in the classroom after cuts in my district. (Yeah, things are really bad in California, but even here there are some districts maintaining libraries as priorities.) I'm SO excited, SO nervous, and SO aware that I am going to have to give it 1000% to make everyone at my new school see the impact a strong library can have. Thank goodness for a wonderful PLN and words of wisdom like you wrote here to guide me along the way on this new adventure!

  3. Jane,
    It's great to be a part of one anothers PLN! We're all in this together and fortunate to have such a strong tribe to call on for support and strategies. Congratulations on your new position and the opportunities you'll have to shine at your new school! The school library association in California is a great ally for your efforts -- I'm very impressed with the wonderful tools and resources they've assembled on the impact of school libraries on student achievement. Please keep me posted about your new job! You can reach me at
    Wishing you lots of success, VISIBILITY, and fun in the best profession ever!