Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things 10 and 11: Certification and Mentoring

I came to the media program in a rather roundabout way, but find such total satisfaction and sheer joy in this profession, that I thank my lucky stars that I did finally get here. Like so many others, I've had a long love affair with reading and books and the fortune to spend many, many hours in a variety of libraries around the the US and even overseas. I am hard pressed to remember much about my growing up that didn't involve books and reading.  When a book wasn't handy, the cereal box would do.

However, as I entered the university, my love of reading led me to major in English. My passion for history inspired me to switch over to that department, and then I thought, "What am I actually going to do?" I was so caught up in loving the study and learning of it all that I never really thought about a career. I immediately thought, "librarian", but an utter dearth of jobs in the field at the time made me doubt the viability of that route. I switched over to education, upholding a tradition of teachers in the family, and took a survey course on children with exceptional needs. I was hooked. Teaching it was, and not just any teaching, but teaching those that had diverse and challenging educational needs.

Personally my life went a little crazy, with ups and downs, and transfers to other schools, but I graduated with high honors and landed my first job in our local school system. Like any new teacher I was filled with enthusiasm and, rolling up my sleeves, worked hard, taught a lot of kids, and had some fun along the way. After 5 years in the classroom I was ready to go back for my Masters of Education, with one little, niggling problem. I didn't want to spend 2 more years of my life sitting in classes to learn yet more about special education. I wanted to spend two years (and the money) to add a little diversity to my portfolio. At about the same time, a new program was starting up in the district that would allow educators to target reading skills of the district's struggling first graders. I began a program to simultaneously add on a certification in Reading Recovery and enrolled in a Masters program for school library media. Life was very busy, but very, very good. My days were filled sharing the joy of reading along with teaching the mechanics of reading, and my nights were filled with learning how to be a collaborative instructional partner, program administrator and an information and technology specialist.

Wrapping it all up (as this is getting quite a bit more involved than I anticipated), I did finish, though it took 3 years and not two.  I once again graduated with honors and found my way into the school library.  I was a librarian at last.

I learned so much about how to design a program that met the needs of my school and my patrons because of the time and talent of those that generously and patiently answered question after question. Time and again, my mentors (and a mentor became practically anyone that was willing to answer my incessant stream of questions) would show up and walk me through a difficult piece of wiring in the head end or brainstorm ideas to get collaboration going. A few of the elementary media specialists met in a small cluster and we became each other's sounding board, support system, source of ideas, and yes, at times, even shoulders to cry on. Our group made us stronger and better individually so that we could wear the very many hats it takes to work in the unique environment of an elementary school media center.  Over the last few years, I've tried my best to mentor others, because the only way I know how to say thank you to those that helped me, is to pay it forward and help others.

I love my job, the kids, the technology, the books, the teachers I work with, my wonderful elementary cluster, and yes, I love them all....even on the (very rare) bad days.

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