Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Bananas Split

The school year is in full swing, Columbus Day has come and gone, yet it seems like the doors opened just a couple of days ago. It took me most of September to open my library's doors. One of the reasons I got off to a slow start was managing the split between what are now my three job titles and the three very different school schedules going on in my building. Much of September was spent negotiating my schedule with my three truly wonderful and very library-supportive (in spirit if not in funding) principals.

While we all discussed having a more closely aligned bell schedule last year, the reality is that we're even less aligned now. How that happened I have no idea, but since my work time and my library program are shared by all three schools, it's what I have to deal with. To add to the fun, each of the schools has at least two different schedules running: at Lyons high school has a different bell schedule than middle school; at The Green School Wednesday is a short day; at The Young Women's Leadership School (TYWLS) Friday is a short day (short days are created from using 37.5 minutes of extended day in different ways). In both of the schools that have a single short day per week, the schedule for that day is completely different from the other four days of the week. Even the periods are different lengths than normal. This by itself makes setting up a schedule for a single unit of operations and its sole worker that accommodates all six different schedules at all three schools virtually impossible.

To add to these challenges, my job split this year is more complex than it was last year. I can't complain, because I agreed to it: I am the ESL Coordinator for Lyons and The Green School, the ESL teacher for The Green School, and the librarian for the whole campus. Luckily, TYWLS is has tasked their newly hired ESL teacher take care of both teaching and testing coordination. What this means is that during my contractual 6 hour and 20 minute plus 37.5 minute day four days a week, the campus gets one-third of two-thirds of a librarian. Kind of skimpy.

Now, I mentioned I had agreed to this arrangement and it's true, I did. Mostly out of my own insecurity. It be due to my scarily-close-to-the-poverty-line upbringing, which I so openly hated living through when I was younger, that I've managed subconsciously to internalize some extreme survival strategies on some level, because I've noticed I do this a lot: I instinctively try to make myself difficult to replace. It's a self-preservation instinct to be sure, but on closer examination, the results are less than optimal. What obedience to this instinct has usually amounted to, for me, is that I end up spreading myself too thin, resenting it completely as time wears on and doing a less than admirable job of everything, rather than really focusing on the one job I'm supposed to be doing in the first place and doing it well. I'm mature enough now to see it happening, but not secure enough to stop it, evidently. And now the library program is suffering because of it.

On the positive side, there's never a dull moment. For a view of what my schedule looks like, click on the Google doc version and look at the Summary B tab. In addition, there are some bright spots in the way I'm set up this year. Some of the good things about my schedule are:

  1. The principals see that I'm split in all these different directions and are very understanding about it.

  2. I get to learn a lot: multiply the normal learning that happens in an education job by three; that's a lot of learning.

  3. It's helping me with my seemingly never-ending struggle to better manage my time and stay organized.

  4. I have the support of the New Visions Campus Librarians' Network and the NYC DOE's Office of Library Services.

  5. I get to continue teaching my own self-contained ESL classes, which I'm not ready to give up doing at the moment.

In September I learned that the three principals had decided, unbeknownst to me, that they would rotate responsibility for the library between them each year. This year I'm working with Talana Bradley, the principal of TYWLS and she is a pleasure to work with. Last year, I got a lot of support from Taeko Onishi of Lyons Community School, who oversaw library service for the year, and Talana is proving to be just as supportive. We have a regular Monday morning library meeting for 30 minutes and Talana takes the issues from that meeting to the Building Council meeting the following day. Why I don't present these weekly issues to the Building Council directly is a mystery to me since I've seen other services doing it, including custodial and food services. No disrespect these very important services, but I have to wonder why the manager (yours truly), of an instructional unit that is shared between the three schools is not present at the Council meetings. It appears, on its surface, to be yet another slap in the face to libraries and librarianship, but perhaps there are deeper reasons I haven't quite grasped.

The good part is that I'll be working very closely with each principal as the years go by, which is a benefit, as I like and respect them all already and can only hope to build even deeper bonds with each as they take turns having the library under their day-to-day supervision.

All told, this year will be challenging, and now that the September rush of new students and ESL testing has subsided somewhat, I can begin work on the many tasks that still need to be completed to make this library truly functional.

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