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A belated confession
I’ve avoided writing this post for years. But a couple of recent conference breakfasts and beverages, with librarians you all know well and admire, and a few questions from my grad students, pushed me into a reflective confession.
I don’t think we can really rock every aspect of our jobs at once, however much we aspire to do it. And if you don’t realize this, it can drive you kinda crazy.
It’s a tough job. It’s a complex job. It’s a job that reaches across grades and disciplines and all elements of school culture. And while we can and never should actually shut down on any aspect of it, we have to set priorities based on our mission, our current goals, and our pressing local initiatives.
For those of you Type A personalities (and there are a lot of us out there) who cannot bear to be average at anything you do, here’s a personal take and, perhaps, a little guilt relief.
When we focus, we allow ourselves space to create on what is most immediately important.
I would try to balance the year, rather than the month. But I was keenly aware that my focus on one area of my work took me away from attention to another. When I chaired our state YA book committee, I developed a serious expertise in YA lit and knowledge of every killer new title, but when I was off the committee, I didn’t keep up with the same intensity. During times of major school tech initiatives, I may not have spent as much time as I would have liked on building our reading culture. When I was needed to curate digital resources to support teaching and learning in our school, I may have let my physical collection go a bit. When I was needed to help roll out the professional development for our CCSS initiative, I let a lot of other things go.
While I loved this job more than any other I ever had, and I’ll bet my faculty and students were convinced of my competence and powers, doing the job the way I wanted to do it was aspirational.
My conversations with admired colleagues revealed that I did not own the market on librarian guilt.
My small sample revealed regrets about:
- not being as fully committed to advocacy as you know who,
- or being as conversant with new YA/children’s titles as you know who,
- or as quick to genrefy as you know who,
- or as creative about instructional strategies as you know who.
The fact is, we cannot go full steam on everything at every moment.
Even you know who likely lets a few things go to be so very good at you know what.
When we read the blogs, when we see our heroes speak at conferences, we have to realize that they too are running at different speeds in different areas of their practice. While we cannot let anything go completely (laundry, is a pervasive example), we can consciously approach our activities on gentle, sliding scales.
The criteria set on six pages of formal assessment tools can be intimidating. While we cannot use these high stakes measures to admit what might look like deficiencies, rather than shifts in focus, I think it’s healthy to be honest, at least with ourselves.
When I played around with representing my own personal worries and guilts, I began to see them more clearly in terms of a series of scales connected to my annual goals.
It’s okay to focus. When we don’t allow ourselves to focus, we risk not accomplishing anything of value.
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
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