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Guest blogger: My student teacher reflects

For the past three weeks I’ve had a student teacher.  Margie spent time at one of our elementary schools, and our middle school, before joining me at the high school. 

I wondered about her impressions of our district.  I wondered what practice looked like to her after the classrooms of her LIS program. 

I asked her to reflect and she was generous enough to share:

Joyce asked me to give my impression of the academic preparation of School Library Media Specialists from the viewpoint as a student librarian in the field.  Since my time as a student is coming to an end, I better do it right now.  Next week, I’ll be a full-fledged school librarian (albeit unemployed!).   It took me 1-1/2 years of hard work to complete this MS-LIS degree, but now as I near the end of my formal training, I find that I question whether the content of the courses required by my university program adequately prepared me to practice as the top notch SLMS that I plan to be. 

I am not saying that my courses weren’t rigorous (most were), and I’m not saying that my professors weren’t good (the majority were); I went to an excellent university and I learned incredible amounts of great information. But despite this, I feel that my formal schooling did not offer instruction in many of the state-of-the-art practices that the top-notch school librarians of today are utilizing in their classrooms.

Despite numerous education and library science classes in the School Library Media Specialist track, I was never instructed in much of the technology available to enhance the education process.  For example, I learned about WebQuests, creating websites, and designing pathfinders, but not about interactive whiteboards, or Classroom Performance Systems.

I was not exposed to the capacity of many Web 2.0 applications to improve the classroom, nor instructed in how to harness them to enhance the learner experience.  Prior to my field study, I had never designed a wiki, nor created a podcast; nor explored how blogs could be used to enhance classroom communication.  Shouldn’t my education or school library classes have included these new tools?  Wouldn’t you expect that a major university would be on the cutting edge of this educational transformation? (I did).

During the past three months, I have been lucky enough to have had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with three great school librarians who practice within a school district that overtly values and supports the central role of the school library (and the work of their librarians). My preceptors patiently taught me so many things… including how to harness the power of the technological tools at my disposal to enhance the learning experience.  I feel like it was three months of catch-up, but now I too, can offer teachers and students information on a wide variety of classroom communication tools.

I can’t help but wonder what kind of school librarian I would have made my first year out of school without the experience of the last three months. I feel that my field study has changed not only my concept of what tools a quality practitioner should have in their toolbox, but has also transformed my ability to provide that in the field. 

-Margie Weil

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Margie,

    Thank you so much for sharing your unique perspective! This is a message that graduate library schools – and teacher preparation programs in general – need to hear.

    The new teachers hired by our district are dedicated and care deeply about their students. Yet they are almost always mentored by mature teachers who are traditional in their outlook and instructional methods. The digital natives I read about are not much in evidence on our staff!

    Fortunately, our younger staff members are quick to see the possibilities in the tools and technologies that I share with them. But how much better would it be if they started their careers already firmly grounded in the possibilities of the 21st century!

    Consider yourself very lucky indeed.

    Good luck on your career – start a blog and let us follow along on your adventure!


  2. I am in my first semester of my MLIS degree and I couldn’t agree more! The school library track allows for so few electives (only one for me!) and yet I’m using mine next semester on Social Networking for Libraries, which I’m very excited about! I think we have to be trying these tools out on our own and definitely keeping up with what top-notch school librarians are doing in practice b/c the coursework will likely always be a bit behind the times.

  3. Joyce and Margie,

    Thanks for posting this. I got my MLS in June 2006 from another major university, and I felt the same way. Most of what I learned that I practically need in my job came from 2 courses and my internship experience, which was MUCH too short of a time!!

    No wonder Joyce continually laments that we aren’t recognized for what we are (supposed to be) doing – the collaboration, higher level thinking promotion, media literacy efforts, etc. – the library schools, it seems, haven’t even figured it out!!

    Margie, if you ever want to put together a new course for a library school, let me know! Maybe we should work on it together. 🙂

  4. P.S. – I’m located in South Jersey, not too far. 🙂

  5. MARJORIE WEIL says:

    Thanks for the comments. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Susan, I’d love to be a part of such a course. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before the library schools catch up!

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