Ever since AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner was released in 2007, I have been pondering the wisdom of asking for a fixed schedule. I know – what I am saying is heresy to those who have fought so hard for and been denied the flexible schedule. To you I apologize but ask you to hear me out. Even I can’t believe I am putting this in writing.
I have been in my elementary library job for 20 years. At the beginning of the second year I asked my principal to consider flexible scheduling. I wasn’t in the related arts rotation, so this was not an issue. His concern was that teachers would feel I wasn’t doing anything if I didn’t have a fixed schedule. I explained to him my concern that half the teachers forgot their scheduled library time, which was a waste of my time and a loss for their children. With a flexible schedule, kids could come as many days a week as their teacher would let them. As there was no set library time, all teachers had to do was call and see if there was a conflict before they brought their classes. Teachers could schedule research or skill lessons as needed without worrying that it wasn’t their “time.” My principal acquiesced, with the warning that he didn’t want to hear that I wasn’t occupying my time properly. I assured him that if teachers embraced this schedule, I would be so busy I wouldn’t have a choice.
And so my library ran on a flexible schedule, with vary little variation, from 1997 to present. For the first 13 years or so, I was able to collaborate with teachers and work with the children on some very cool projects.
But then the noose that was NCLB and now Race to the Top began to tighten, leaving teachers no time for “frills” such as research. Even the teachers that still did want to collaborate did not allow me the time to teach notetaking, paraphrasing and other valuable skills. I could see that the kids really were not getting much from their projects, and I felt I was sending them on unprepared.
Around the same time we experienced an explosion in our digital collections. Kids could have 24/7 access to many resources. For me this meant that time spent on research would not necessarily take away from the reading program, if time was structured properly. Students would be spending less time finding information and more time using it, as the information was readily available in most cases. Locating obsolete information, my chief objection to “library skills” would be minimized. Real world information literacy could take place.
And so I read Standards for the 21st Century Learner and all AASL’s accompanying literature. I perused the Crosswalk to the Common Core. And I made mock yearly outlines in the event I was called upon.
This summer, after one of my library programs, I was talking theory with my assistant principal. The talk turned to digital citizenship and information literacy, and I said, “You know, sometimes I almost with information skills was part of the related arts rotation.”
The next day, it was a done deal, and this fall I will be teaching grades one through five on a daily basis, implementing what I have learned during these past few years of study. Singlehandedly, I have turned my back on the flexible schedule so staunchly promoted by AASL and school librarians everywhere. And I am okay with this, as I have come to realize, slowly and stubbornly, that my job has more in common with my teaching colleagues than those at the public library. Once I accepted that proposition, I realized I had a lot more to give.
My challenge over the next few weeks will be to recruit adequate volunteers to help keep the library running up to my expectations while I embrace teaching as a full-time, structured role. I will have to be at my most organized to pull this off!
I will write more later about this shift in philosophy, and I won’t be afraid to tell you if I made a huge mistake. It will be interesting.
A word of warning, though: It may be best not to talk theoretically with your assistant principal!