We all have those days when nothing goes right. It sometimes begins before we step out the door, continues during our commute, and goes downhill from there. Judith Viorst understood and wrote about it. Her picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day captures one of those days in the life of a young boy. We all have those days. And the conclusion, “Some days are like that – even in Australia,” sums up the universality of it, as well as the need to move on from it. And we do.
You feel unappreciated, frustrated, disrespected and possibly several other negative emotions. And your feelings are completely justified. But you can’t continue that way. When you are in that place you are not a leader. And you must be a leader. There is NO other option.
So what happens when your “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” is every day? Some of you work in districts where your budget is non-existent, you have two or more schools to oversee coupled with a crazy schedule. Others of you are ignored by teachers who believe you have an easy job. Your administrators look at the lifeless space the library has become because they have not funded it in years and see it as a vestige of the past, to be eliminated if their budget gets tighter.
Underneath it all, you still love working with the kids. Most days. You love seeing their faces light up when they have connected with the right book or found a resource that is just perfect for the project they are working on. This is why we became librarians. But for too many of you, the rest of the school environment is sucking the joy from what you love doing.
Hopefully, you have a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement. The Mission, which is your perspiration, reminds you (and everyone else, since it should hang in your library) of what you do that’s vital and unique. Does it include the teachers in some way? Your Vision, which is your inspiration and aspiration, gives you a goal to attain – even if it seems as though it can never happen.
Now pick something that ties to your Mission and/or Vision. Develop a plan as to how you can address that one thing. If it’s teachers who don’t know or care that you exist, choose one teacher as your focus. Build a friendly relationship. Don’t talk library. Find common ground. Then make the suggestions that have heretofore been rejected. You may not succeed at first, but you will over time. Once you have reached one teacher, add another. After a while, you reach a tipping point, and your value will increase.
No budget? Look for grants. Start with your local education foundation. They don’t have much money to give, but the grant writing is easier. Focus on something that will be noticeable. Perhaps it will fund the start of a makerspace, or create a special collection that’s needed. When you get it set up, create some sort of sign thanking the donor. Get pictures of the kids enjoying the addition, post it on your website, and include that in a report to your principal.
The multiple schools challenge won’t go away so select the school most likely to react positively to a change. Once again, choose one thing or person and make your first inroads.
Is your library drab and dreary? Pinterest is loaded with suggestions on how to liven it up with little or no money. Connect with an art teacher in the high school (no matter what level you are on) and see if he/she is willing to make it an authentic learning project for his/her students.
There is no one involved with a school or its administration that isn’t regularly or constantly frustrated by one thing or another. When you feel alienated and/or annoyed with teachers or you are upset because the library is “dusty/musty” as a result of no budget money, you can’t let the situation drag you or your program down. Eventually, the kids will feel it and you will be less effective with them – and that mindset will prevent you from being a leader.
How are you dealing with your challenges? What baby steps have you taken? What successes have you had?