Dealing with Stresses in the School Library that are out of your Control
|Middle School Lunch
The first problem that made teaching extremely difficult in the library occurred right at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, and it had to do with the furniture. We moved into the new building in August of 2013. We had only about 400 students then, and there were many empty classrooms. The library had been outfitted with only four rectangular tables which was certainly not enough when a class of 32 students arrived in the library for a lesson. Since there were so many empty classrooms, I just took tables and chairs from one of those rooms. Then in 2016, we opened with 580 students and every classroom was in use. The tables and chairs in the library needed to be in a classroom. Now what was I going to do. I tried to have the students bring in a chair from the classroom when they came to the library, but there was a concern that the floors would get scratched. That was not going to work. I borrowed a couple of folding tables from my mother, but she only had two. Then around the middle of November I found eight tables stored under the steps in the PE pod. We do not have a gym, so the PE teachers are using three classrooms. One of the PE teachers said that she only needed the tables when she was teaching health for one quarter otherwise I could use them in the library. She also had stacks of chairs. She was moved to a classroom for health, and I got to keep the tables for the rest of the year. Then we started school this year with 680 students and no tables and chairs in sight. Then my prinicipal came to me last week to say that the furniture vendor would be visiting school, and I should make a plan as to what I wanted for the library. It took 12 months, but the district finally heeded my prinicpal's request for money to buy more furniture for the school. Currently, I have tables and chairs only because teachers are moving tables from classroom to classroom as needed depending on the sizes of their classes. I am excited about what I have ordered. It will look different from the rest of the school. The tables are on wheels and nest together allowing for lots of flexibility.
|High School Lunch
Another issue that was not an everyday problem was the scheduling of students taking online classes in the library. We run on a 4 X 4 block system and have four academic periods a day each semester. I had students scheduled in the library for three periods. During the other period, I ate lunch for half the time and had middle school in the library during their lunch the other half. When I scheduled classes in the library for lessons there was plenty of room for the online students and the class that was not the stress. The online students would talk and make so much noise that I had to constantly stop my teaching and ask them to be quiet. I heard that this year because the class sizes were growing that there would be many more students taking online courses. I was dreading what would happen. Then I found out that at 3rd and 4th period there were so many students that a teacher is scheduled to sit with them in a classroom. Actually, at 4th period, students with transportation are allowed to leave school. My schedule has 6 students at 1st period and 5 at 2nd. I can deal with that. If the students are noisy when I have classes, I have space to separate them.
Then there was my job as AP coordinator for the school. I have been handling all the AP tests for about six years. At first, it was easy because the school was small, and I had time to complete all the duties required for the job and be an effective librarian. Last year, there were 50 more students taking tests than the year before. AP tests are given in May, and I also am the coordinator for senior awards night and graduation as well as the resident speech editor for students speaking at graduation which also happens in mid-May. April and May were so hectic that I totally neglected the library. Library circulation was down for 2016-2017, and I attribute it to the fact that I had to keep closing the library at lunch so I could deal with AP. At the end of the summer, I emailed my principal explaining in a very nice way that I had too many responsibilities in May and that I couldn't be AP coordinator any longer. She understood, but she did not have a ready replacement. Then on the first day of school, the district assigned a dean of discipline to our school. A week ago, my principal told me that the new dean would take over AP. Unfortunately, he has never done it before and knows little about the program. I will serve as his guide this year, but he will be doing the brunt of the work. That is a huge load off of my plate.
Why did I tell you all about this? Because we all have to deal with issues beyond our control. I have been a school librarian a very long time and have been asked to shoulder burdens or take on tasks to which I would like to say no. I just can't. Being a team player is paramount to getting along with your administration and your teachers. I have always had good relationships with my principals. I don't always agree with their decisions, but I always abide by them. My principal realized that some things needed to change in the library, and she made that happen for me. I had to wait longer than I wanted to, but it did happen. I appreciate so much that she had my back, and so I will always have hers.
Watch how you treat those around you. It is often best to just grin and bear it. Usually, if you wait long enough, whatever the issue it will turn around in your favor. I really love my job. There are great kids at my school, and I enjoy the teachers with whom I work. My principal and assistant principal are easy to work for because both of them are extremely kind. After 33 years working in public schools, I can say that I have good and bad years, but the good definitely wins out.