Photo used under a Creative Commons license
I am happy to get ideas and inspiration from wherever I can find them, and so clicked through on a Twitter link to read Michael Bierut's design column on Seven Things Designers Can Learn From Stand Up Comics.
What did I find? Seven things teacher librarians re-imagining their libraries and looking for design ideas and inspiration and all sorts of things can learn from stand up comics. Really truly.
This is the brief version, with my own comments.
- It's all about the basics. Librarywise, stuff being shelved and findable. A welcoming, helpful atmosphere and friendly staaff. A library that encourages and inspires. Resources and services that the kids want and need. You know. So do the kids
- Once you've mastered the basics, make the work your own. Every school library, like every classroom, bears the stamp of the personality of the teacher/teacher librarian in charge of it and responsible for it. The art and science of teaching is a juggle of personality and knowledge and human relations and all sorts of other alchemies. I know, in another library space, that I wouldn't do exactly what I have done at my present school. I know that another teacher librarian, in my current library, wouldn't do things the same either. It's not about better or worse, but different. Playing to your strengths, with the goal of making it as effective as you can for the kids.
- Respect your audience. That's kids, and teachers, and parents. Kids, because sometimes they're so easy to respect, and sometimes difficult to respect: although I have found that exquisite, courteous interest from a teacher librarian can completely discombobulate a noxious student, opening the way to achieving a positive outcome for both. Teachers can be irritating (late and lost resources, forgotten bookings etc) but like anything, there's a story both sides (teacher librarians can be irritating too: let me count the ways...or not; you know). I'm not keen on a them and us mentality. It's us, all teachers (whether teacher librarians or other classroom teachers) working together.
- Know your tools. The standard stuff - cataloguing and other organisational tools. The teaching tools - methods and strategies and ideas. More resources in print and digital form and more than we have ever had before. The tools of character and style - patience, interest in kids, enthusiasm... We have a huge toolkit, as big and Tardis-like as the mother's bag in the Swiss Family Robinson (I've never forgotten that - whatever they needed, she'd popped in that sailcloth bag before the shipwreck).
- Honour your craft. Work hard, create challenges for yourself, aim to never coast and always improve. Use your personal learning network, your willingness to be a lifelong learner hunting out new ideas from blogs, Twitter, email lists, the media, anywhere you can.
- Don't be afraid of failure. Not everything I try works out. Last week I planned an exciting lesson and realistically, on reviewing how it went, would barely give myself a pass grade. And a prac teacher watched it. So, why didn't it work as well as I'd planned and hoped? How can I do better? If we don't model coping with failure, valuing failure, using it as a launch pad, how can we expect kids to learn how important it is, learn to be resilient, learn to be brave?
- Finally, never forget you have a special gift. How much fun is it to work in a school library? Huge fun! Barack Obama in a speech to librarians some years ago, talked about libraries as being a magic threshold. We not only get to cross that magic threshold each day, we get to influence the experience of everyone who crosses it too. Teaching is an amazing gift - that alchemy when it works, the pleasure of the company of so many different, engaging personalities and dreams and ideas. Lucky lucky lucky (as I remind myself on the days when I end up tired and dispirited; because tomorrow is another day, and plenty of good things happen even on the tough days).
*GIFSL= good ideas for school libraries. An ongoing series on this blog. Find more of them by clicking here.