The Road to the Library Has Been Full of Thorns and Potholes (and it’s not over, yet)    


It’s been a hard-fought journey, folks. Initially, all I wanted to be was an English teacher. I had some amazing English teachers in my high school career who let me explore literature and make up my own mind about what I read and how I “analyzed” it. I became an English major because I loved to read and nothing excited me more than a good book.

After my kids were all in school, I decided to go back to school to earn my MEd. In Secondary Education, English. It was long and expensive journey, and student teaching was a truly horrible experience, but I made it.

Then I found it very difficult to get a job as an English teacher. My first gig was teaching one 7th grade remedial reading class, one 8th grade remedial reading class, one Peer Mediation class (for which I had no interest or background), one 7th grade remedial MATH class, and one 8th grade remedial MATH class. I was hired two weeks before school started and I was given no classroom. It was completely crazy. I hadn’t taken a math class since 1988 when I dropped trigonometry to take painting the next semester with Coach Mann. I was the only option for them and they were the only option for me, so I took it on.

I don’t know if I did a very good job, but I jumped at it and I really enjoyed the kids. I even enjoyed the ones who drove me nuts. The rest of the staff at the school were fantastic, and I made some great friends. It was a fun and challenging year. Each class I taught was only a semester long, so I didn’t get to know the kids as well as I would have liked, but it was great. The next year, I taught the remediation reading classes and three sections of a remediation writing class. It was great. I taught remediation reading full time for the next two years. Then, I decided that I wanted a change.

What nobody told me about teaching is how bizarrely lonely it actually is. Because I was a remediation teacher of electives, I was not able to attend any department meetings where I would have been able to talk to adults and compare notes on what was working or not working and how to do my job better. I didn’t have any opportunity to collaborate with anyone. I cycled between time with 15 frustrated, energetic, and entertaining teenagers to time in my classroom completely alone. Everyone in the building was so busy with their own classes and planning that I ended up alone, unless… I ventured into the library. Ms. McKnight was often there and not too busy to talk books, gossip, or just listen. She seemed to know what was going on in the building, she always had ideas for teaching, and she got to spend her days surrounded by all those books!

I left public school and spent a year working in a private school that I thought would be revolutionary and different. It was one of the hardest nine months of my life. The school had only sixteen students and touted “individualized” education. Our Head of School was dramatically and for fabricated reasons fired during the second week of school. The whole school year was an exercise in working for under horrible, terrifying, and destructive circumstances while trying to work with students and parents. By May of last year, we were told that the school was bankrupt and couldn’t pay us our last 3 months of salary. The parents all gave more money than was reasonable and paid us directly, and the School for Tomorrow collapsed.

I started taking courses for my Library Media Specialist endorsement last January through UVA Wise online. I took two classes in the Spring and had three courses left for the fall. I spent August through December of 2016 taking three courses, through three Universities using three different course platforms – Moodle, Blackboard, and Collab – as well as completing a semester long practicum.  So, I had to take and pay for fifteen credit hours on my own dime.

It was so much work.

I also managed to get hired at an Elementary School as their librarian. There is a shortage of qualified librarians in Fairfax County Public Schools. I was the school’s only option, basically and they mine. I began work and training as a new librarian, but soon there were complications.

Because the school is a Title 1 school, I had to be hired as a substitute because I didn’t have my endorsement finished, I am not “highly qualified” despite my MEd. In Secondary Education – English. I was hired as a long term sub, but soon figured out that I was being paid as a short term sub – $14.63/hour. That’s a pay cut of enormous proportions, and I still had to pay for my courses.

The fight began to get me paid as long term sub at $20.14/hour. It was confusing and long, but I am now paid at that rate, but of course only for the days we have school and for some reason I only get paid for 7 hours/day. My last paycheck was $495 because – Winter Break.

Anyway, so all of my paperwork for my endorsement (the additional license I need to be a librarian) has been sent to the Virginia Department of Education.  It’s been there for two weeks and it hasn’t been processed. I keep checking the website to search and see if they’ve added the endorsement to my license, but so far – nothing.

To say that I am frustrated would be a gross understatement. I want to be a librarian. I just want to work and be paid as a professional. I haven’t been able to do that for eight months now and I don’t know when I will be able to again.

It’s making me a little crazy.

Stay tuned.


Personal Achievements!

Work as an Elementary school librarian is never dull and is often hilarious.

One of the most “exciting” kindergarten classes came to the library today. It took me a while to get them to calm down and then I started reading a book to them. When I finished, I told them, “Wow, guys you did a great job. You really behaved well and you were quiet.”

One of the kids looked at me in shock and pointed his thumb at his chest and asked, “Me?”

I answered, “Yes, you too.”

He looked at his classmates ecstatically and said, “Guys! I was quiet!”


The lesson, take your achievements where you can, folks.


An idea so crazy it might work?

Well dear readers, it’s been a while. I’ve been working myself silly with starting a new job as an Elementary School librarian while at the same time, I’ve been taking three college courses from three universities which each use their own student work platform and I completed a 6 credit practicum/internship as a librarian. Suffice it to say, it was a stressful and a ton of work, but I have finished the courses and the endorsement paperwork is at the university and will hopefully be making its way through the Virginia Department of Education. Then, I will be a fully certified school librarian! Yippee!

Now that I have been working in an elementary school for many months again, I’ve started to think about preteens and kids who all become teens. In the past five years, I have been fully focused on teens as a unique age group with their own challenges and strengths.

The school where I work is a Title 1 school.  For our school, that means that 72% of our students receive free or reduced lunch and 54% are English language learners. It’s a diverse group of students in a diverse community. We have great programs that aim to help parents learn English, provide financial and counseling assistance to families, and soon we’ll have an after school program to offer enrichment to some of our students.

The library is right next to our Parent Liason’s office. She works hard every day to connect parents and students to community resources and coordinates a weekend food program for families to help them get the food they need over weekends and breaks when kids don’t receive free breakfast and lunch.

At the same time, I see parents who need more. Kids who need more support and more connection. Many of the staff at our school would like to do more to have students ready to read with a stable place to live, secure food sources, and parents who are financially secure.

What’s missing in much of this, I think is an intentional community resource. The Elementary school is where so many families who are new to this country learn customs and exchange customs with classmates and other families. It’s where some parents find help and others march on seemingly alone.

Why couldn’t our schools become centers for community resources? So many parents have to come to school to get help, ask questions, meet teachers, and other parents and even use our school based child care, wouldn’t it make sense to have a formal community center located in the school? I know that there are many resources throughout the community, but transportation to many places is so time consuming and difficult wouldn’t it make more sense to have one place that is at least a starting point to find resources? Wouldn’t that reach more families directly? It would build trust within the community and within the school community. I don’t for a second think I am the only one or the first one to think of this, but it did occur to me independently and now I can’t get it out of my head.

If we did this, we could then have similar services in middle and high schools. Resources to help families in financial need, but also to help with counseling, finding activities and mentors, and whatever else makes sense for the community where the school is located.

For one thing, many of these services already exist. One of the biggest obstacles is tracking down the information and then the people who can help.

Schools seem like exactly the right places to center family health and well-being resources. If it was the norm to go to a school to find the right help, stigmas might be erased and school staff and parents might see each other in a less adversarial way.

The more I think about this, the more strongly I feel.

We all need help. We can all offer help.

Sometimes finding each other is the hardest part.