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TL v61n3: Sarah Culp Searles
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 61 Number 3
 

2011

 
It's My Opinion!

 

School Libraries

by

Sarah Culp Searles

 

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Librarians love stories, right?  Let’s consider a folk tale for a moment.  Dear old Chicken Little is out working in her garden, when out of nowhere, an acorn or seed or some such falls on her.  The strike must surely have been uncomfortable, but she has a rather unreasonable response: instead of looking around to see what hit her, she assumes the sky is falling, runs to tattle to the King, and gathers a pack of incredulous friends along the way.
 
Pause the story there.  We’ll come back to it.
 
There are a lot of things I’m concerned about with the new TEAM evaluations that are being implemented in public schools across the state.  I’m worried about the look of dread in my first evaluator’s eyes when she confessed to me that she’d had zero training on the librarian’s Designing and Planning of Services rubric; I’m worried about the way my co-librarian and I are going to have to alter our division of duties, which we’ve carefully planned to use both our personal strengths for the best good of our students and school, for the artificial goal of furnishing unannounced instructional observations on our fully flex schedule; I’m worried about the number of experienced teachers I hear muttering “I have enough years to retire, you know” and the number of young and pre-service teachers I hear saying “I don’t know, guys, I have other options.” 
 
I’m concerned, and I know many of you all are too.  But friends, we cannot become Chicken Little.
 
Some of us are feeling like TEAM has been dropped on us out of nowhere; but is it really so awfully different from what has come before?  We’ve always been responsible for making sure kids know what is expected of them (posting the standards and objectives), telling them when they’ve done a good job and where they need more work (academic feedback), and showed them the right things to do so they can do it too (modeling to demonstrate performance expectations).  This rubric is full of trendy jargon—we know educators LOVE the latest jargon—but it is designed to describe good teaching, plain and simple. 
 
Is it possible to achieve every single one of the TEAM indicators in a single lesson?  I don’t know; I haven’t had an instructional observation yet.  The task is definitely daunting to me, and I feel some good healthy discomfort about it.  But I refuse to let it beat me before I even get started.  We are professionals; we are intelligent, highly educated men and women.  Better, we are librarians; we are the masters at reducing the most complicated information chaos into orderly organizational systems, then teaching even our youngest patrons to navigate them.  If we can invent and understand LC classification, surely we can make sense of this rubric.  Surely we can do what we know how to do, what we’ve been doing for years, and just tweak it to fit the language of this model.  It’s tough, but it’s not tougher than we are.
 
Feeling the rubric land on our heads is uncomfortable, but we have a choice about how to react.  We can panic, fuss and fume, gather all our friends to gossip about how awful it is, and run off to make a lot of noise about it to anyone who will listen.  Or we can look around, see what’s really happening, make a logical decision, and calmly proceed without panicking anyone else.
 
Depending on what version you read, the story of Chicken Little ends with Chick and her friends wandering into a fox’s den, typically with disastrous results for our harried heroines.  Panic does absolutely nothing to increase their safety, happiness, or positive outcomes.  If Chickey had simply stopped, hollered out a good yelp of pain, and perhaps found that acorn and given it a good satisfying stomp before returning to her gardening work, she could have saved herself and her friends a world of trouble.  
 
I’m going to shoot for the latter, and I hope you will too—satisfying stomp and all. Surely there’s a “rock solid” lesson in that.

 
  

Sarah Culp Searles is the school librarian at West High School in Knoxville.     sarah.culp.searles@gmail.com

 


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