I read a blog post yesterday by Jim Cordery (@jcordery) in which he described three words that would guide him this year. It turns out Jim isn’t the only one trying to sum up his New Year’s Resolutions in just three words. His inspiration came from blogger Jennifer Hogan (@Hogan_Jennifer) who also wrote about her three words for 2014. Their posts reminded me of an activity I used to do with my eighth grade students at the start of each year. I asked them to answer the question “What motivates you?” in three words or less. It helped me learn a lot about my students and their priorities, but I also post their three words on the classroom wall all year to serve as reminders of what they were working toward and for. So, I decided to share my three words with you. May they help you get to know me a little more, and may they also serve as a personal reminder of my own professional goals for 2014.
Without further ado, my three words for 2014: Empower, Celebrate, and Advocate
Empower: When I took the role of Learning Resource Center Director last school year, the library had become a bit of a deserted island. The person who held the position before me had been asked to leave, and very little had been done for the four years he was on the job. The three aides that worked in the library remained and were excited to turn over a new leaf, but it was clear that their vision of a school library was very different from my own. Each one is older than either of my parents and were raised in a time when school libraries were silent places of hard work, quiet research, and books galore. In essence, their philosophies coupled with the lack of guidance from a director turned the LRC into a place that few students and teachers saw a need for. I have been working for the last year and a half to not only physically make over the space, but to change student and staff perceptions about what the school library can offer.
Change is happening, quickly at times, slower at others, but most of that work has been done on my own. I was in such a hurry to make an impact, help students and staff, and turn my library around, that I did not take the proper time to sit down with my staff and actually empower them to help me make that change. What I realize now is that I cannot do it alone. Even though the people working with me are “just aides,” (as many would view them) the time they spend interacting with students and teachers is invaluable. I must take the time to empower those I work with so we can make the school library a true 21st century learning space, together. This will mean slowing down on some of the projects I know I can “just do myself” in order to teach my support staff how to accomplish similar tasks. The role of the school library will always be vital, but our toolbox is changing. By empowering the staff I work with to be 21st century researchers, curators, and continuous learners, we will have a larger impact on our student population than if I try to go it alone.
Celebrate: I am really goal oriented. So much so, it’s a little freaky, actually. I am so busy pushing myself to accomplish the next thing on my to-do list that I rarely, if ever, stop and enjoy the moment when I cross something off of that list. The past six months have been an emotional roller coaster for me. There has been a lot of frustration, anger, and some crying over things I want to make happen for students and teachers, but do not have the power or influence to do. It is easy for me to get down on myself when I cannot push through and see a goal to fruition. There are even times when I feel like giving up and retreating back to my own little classroom bubble. But the truth is, when I stop and think back on all of the accomplishments I have had over the last six months, they more than outweigh the few walls I have run into. This year, I want to take the time to celebrate. To stop, pat myself and others on the back for a job well done, and be proud of what I have accomplished. It is in the small victories, after all, that real change can happen over time.
Advocate: Now don’t think for just one moment that while I am out celebrating those small accomplishments, I will be putting some of those bigger issues on the back burner. There are flaws in our schools, our district, our system that need to be fixed. My passion is educational technology. Too many teachers in too many schools are being asked to “use more technology” without the training, pedagogy, or support to do so effectively for student achievement. I will continue to advocate for not only the students in my building, but for the teachers as well. Someone must be an informed voice in the crowd to question decisions, bring light to policies, serve on district committees and school improvement teams in order to help teachers and students get everything they need to do the hard work of teaching and learning. While I may not be in a position of power or authority, I will continue to serve as the bridge and the voice between those who are and the teachers who are counting on them to make the right decisions regarding technology in the classroom.
So, there you have it. My three words. Hopefully I will have many more blog posts to share with you this year as I make progress in the areas of empowerment, celebration, and advocacy. Until then, I would love to read about your own three words in the comments below or on Twitter (@mrskmattson). Happy New Year!