Thursday, May 15, 2014

Do You Like Your Job?

After enduring the latest major maladjustment to keep the library from functioning as a library and not being informed until moments before the very last day of book selection that I'd not have use of the library for half the day, thus preventing five classes of students from choosing books, I became angry.  In the next 20 minutes I contacted ten teachers, and turned my schedule inside out including double booking four classes with specific instructions as to how to make this work so students and teachers could check out the books they need both for pleasure reading and for research projects.  I was still fuming when the usurper of the library appeared just as I finished settling the schedule, which had already been rearranged earlier in the week to accommodate testing in the library.  Said usurper felt the need to poke at me in my ire and finally dared to ask me, "Do you like your job?"  I was too angry to say the following.

Do I like my job?
Yes, I like helping students find books they will enjoy.  I like making life easier for the teachers by finding materials they can use in their classroom instruction.  I even like the boring parts like shelving and covering new materials with the crinkly plastic jacket covers.

Do I like my job?
Yes, I like teaching the kids the word bibliophile when I tell them to hug their books while they carry them so the books don't fall on the floor.  I like how excited the little kids get when they are entrusted with and remember such a big word, how they stand at enthusiastic attention in line clutching their books to their chests like the treasures they are.   I like when the older kids successfully sound out the word bibliophile when they look at the "Bibliophiles always welcome" sign above my desk.

Do I like my job?
Yes.  When a student checks out a Shel Silverstein book I like telling them he's my favorite and asking them to share which poem they enjoy most in the book.  I love when one remembers and actually comes back with a bookmark in a page so he or she can show me.  I want to dance for joy when one asks to discuss some of the deeper meanings of her favorite poem and she observes, "I think the poem could really be taken two different ways."  I like doing this all year long not just during National Poetry Month.

Do I like my job?
Yes.  When a student comes through the line to sign out a book embossed with a shiny Caldecott or Newbery award I like to ask if they know what that means.  Most don't.  I like when their eyes light up because I tell them the book won a gold or silver medal for being so good.  I like asking them to give me their opinion when they return the book.  Did it deserve an award or do you think something else might have been better. I like when some of them remember.  I love when one little guy comes up to me at breakfast the next morning, throws his arms wide, and exclaims, "I LOVE that book!  It's GREAT!  It TOTALLY deserves an award!"  And I LOVE when one is bold enough to say, "I don't think the pictures in that book were good enough for an award at all!"  and yet he is willing to listen to me explain that when the book was published the color printing process was too expensive so the publishers opted for monochrome and although he stands by his review he agrees that with such information he does see things in a new light.

Do I like my job?
Yes. I like being able to give a student or a teacher the very book they are looking for.  I like helping a student who doesn't know what to chose find something to be excited about.  I feel very satisfied with myself when I can "sell" a kid who wants Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is checked out as soon as I re-shelve it so I could never hope to give it to as many kids as want it,  EB White's Trumpet of the Swan because the synopsis I gave made it sound interesting.  I love having a student who knows what genre he loves most and knows he loves to write his own stories but he struggles for ideas and making them long enough.  I tell him short stories are a terrific form and ask if he'd like me to show him the section with anthologies of short stories so he may draw inspiration.  I freaking LOVED the way his eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he almost hurdled over two tables to get there with me and how he poured over those shelves.
Yes.  I like that some of the kids who have problems every where else come into the library and behave for me because it's the one place in the school where they have the right to choose something for themselves without interference.  When a boy sheepishly hands me a book which mostly only girls read and pleads, "Please don't make fun of me," I like how he stands taller when I look him straight in the eye to say, "People have all sorts of reasons for choosing different books and I will NEVER make fun of you for any book you choose."  I like researching the etymology of a student's surname because she tells me she is embarrassed by it because others make fun of it.  I love to see her new confidence because I now address her as Miss Brave and Strong since that one of the possible interpretations for her name. And when a first grader looks up into my face and asks me to show her where to find the happy family books are because her family isn't I know I am standing on holy ground in that moment because the book I put in her hand will either tell her someone hears, understands, and cares enough to give her an example of something to which she can aspire or that someone is just shoving a book at her to get her out the door.  I can either provide a measure of soothing and hope from the written word or I can give her meaningless drivel.

I like how kids who just want to be helpers push my book carts with pride while they help me go from class to class collecting books to return.  I like when kids who are working off fines by taping ripped pages, or erasing pencil marks on pages, or fixing torn covers wake up and realize they really need to take better care of their own books.  I like when  teachers asks me for resources and I hip them to something they never knew existed.  I like the sigh of relief that someone saved them some time and effort.  I like the excitement over new resources, because you know, the best teachers never stop being students.

Do I put 80 miles on my car every day so I can do it? Do I sit in a moldy basement to do it? Have I stepped it up a notch because the district has furloughed 14 of the 15 elementary school librarians? Do I bend over backwards to make sure every class has an opportunity even when the library is taken for testing, and meetings, and God knows what other activities? Did I show up and continue to give good service to the roughly 80 staff and 1500 students in not one but TWO schools even when I was dealing with CANCER?  Did I arrange the moving of shelves by promising baked goods to any teacher who helped after my work order was ignored for a month?  Did I then return about 6000 books to the shelves with no help and complete an inventory in record time so circulation could begin sooner rather than later or who knows when until the shelves would have been moved?  Do I seek out the testing schedules well ahead of time so I can plan around them? Do you think I do any of this for the generous remuneration to the tune of food stamp wages which are exceeded by what my daughter earns to flip hamburgers????

You are either woefully ignorant of what I do and how I do it or you are threatening me.  Neither reflects well on you.  If you want to know if I like my job I invite you to ask ANY of the classroom teachers I serve in either of my buildings what their perception of that would be.  Ask the best teachers.  Ask the worst teachers.  Then go ask the few who were in my buildings last year and have been moved to other buildings this year.  You go right ahead and ask them all.  You ask them, "Does Michelle like her job?"  You tell me what they say.  Yes, I am that confident that my work and the manner in which I perform my duties speaks for itself in answering that question.  If you can't see that you're not even as perceptive as the six year old who peered up into my eyes and said, "Miss, my daddy would just love you because I tell him how you always smile at us when we come in and me when I get a book.  He says only people who like their jobs smile at work.  Do you like your job, Miss?"  I beamed and wiped away a tear as I  told him, "I like my job very much because I love to help boys and girls find books they will enjoy."

Do I like my job?
Are you kidding me????  Don't you dare insult or threaten me with such ignorance and arrogance.  I love my job but I LOATHE the stupidity which drives the policies in our nation, our state, and this school district.  And I despise with every fiber of my being your audacity in asking me such a question simply because I hit my limit over a total disregard for the purpose of the library and your inability to communicate with me in a timely fashion regarding its usurpation.

That's what I wish I could have said.

Instead, with my eyes boring like lasers into hers and my jaw set I replied, "I like my job very much.  I know it is meaningful work, important work.  I'd like it even better if I had any sense of this school district valuing its libraries or the people who run them.  This district gets quite a bargain for the service I provide."


Bijoux said...

I'm impressed with your real answer. What was her response?

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think your actual answer was still very much on target. I hope the asker heard it.

Tabor said...

I am sorry you are enduring all of this each year. The stress is taking its toll and I wonder if you should not try to find another school district? That is probably not feasible, but you need a break so that you do not burn out. At least summer is around the corner.

Anvilcloud said...

What a fine rant, although I don't know that rant is quite the right word.

Stephen Hayes said...

I think it's good you got this off your chest. I also like the fact that you appreciate your own self worth. This school district is LUCKY to have you.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

When I read this last night my first thought was an expletive I haven't heard since my brother retired from the waterfront.
It has four syllables and three exclamation marks.
This morning my thought hasn't changed.
But, you rock, lady.

Craig said...

I'm with Bijoux and SAW; I think your clenched-teeth real answer was amazing. . .

Suldog said...

What is your largest local newspaper? Check out their editorial pages and find out how to submit an op-ed. Take out the swears, trim it to between 500 and 600 words, and I wouldn't be surprised if what you wish you had said gets you an opportunity to say it on their pages.

In any case, this is magnificent. And do I love you? Yes.

Hilary said...

Oh how you need to be able to say this and have it land on ears that don't already know how much you love your job.. the kids.. the rewards. I'm with Jim. I'd love to see that land in the newspaper.. but I'd worry that those same uncaring individuals would read it and know exactly who wrote it and why.

Suldog said...

Yeah, Hilary has, of course, figured out the flaw in my scheme. Tell you what: Sign it "Anonymous Library Lady Whose Real Name Is NOT Michelle." That should do it.

coopernicus said...

well played. I don't need to answer any of those for myself, do I? said...

Food advice Suldog xx

Kat said...

I love this post. You are a treasure. You are a gift to those teachers and students. And for what it is worth I LOVED your actual response. Well done you!

Lolly said...

You are freakin fantastic!

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koi seo said...

I think your clenched-teeth real answer was amazing. . .