Magazine article Internet@Schools

Can We Be Purveyors of Joy and Delight?

Magazine article Internet@Schools

Can We Be Purveyors of Joy and Delight?

Article excerpt

DURING spring 2015, I was fortunate to attend an Information Today, Inc. conference, this time Computers in Libraries in Washington, D.C. I always know these gatherings will provide top-notch presenters and yield new ideas and skills. One thing that stood out was the fact that in both of the first two keynotes, speakers stressed the need for us to bring delight to our patrons.

It is a point well taken that along with more traditional services, librarians should be providing experiences that bring joy and delight to their users. This got me thinking that the same is true for those of us who work in schools. We need to be seeking ways to bring joy, delight, and good old-fashioned fun to our students and colleagues. However, this becomes very challenging in some schools and districts where tests and test preparation are the be-all and the end-all.

I decided to turn to educators on the front lines, members of two internet message boards, LM_NET (Librarians and Media Specialists' Network) and TLC (Texas Library Connection) to ask about the possibility of bringing delight and joy to their jobs. Even though I posted my query very late in the school year, when people were swamped with other obligations, I was met with a deluge of responses. About a third of the messages were predominantly discouraging, something I had feared. But the remaining two-thirds were upbeat and replete with great stories and ideas. I decided to post the positive offerings verbatim and to share them via a Google Doc, available at this link bitly/purveyjoy.

When There is No Joy...

While my main purpose in this article is to share the positive ideas and stories, I do feel I owe it to those respondents who are having very trying times these days to share their frustrations. Without a doubt, there are factors that rob educators of the joy they once had in their jobs. Over-the-top testing and test preparation weigh heavy on many school families, affecting faculty, support staff, students, and all those involved with these schools. Other issues are behind the mounting pressure and in many ways go hand and hand with the testing. One in particular is cuts in funding and resulting cuts in positions. This adds stress and strife at all levels. Rigid adherence to scripted teaching, to Common Core, and to the tests can stifle pleasure at all levels.

It is an ongoing concern of mine that we hear a great deal from the far right about "failing schools" and "bad teachers" when in truth these claims are false. The other huge factor in a school climate is the building principal. This has always been true. I found it so way back in the 1970s, long before testing and budget cuts reigned supreme. Almost every response where the writer described a joyless school with no means of sharing positive experiences also described a principal who made it difficult, if not impossible, to transmit delight. What is one to do in such an environment?

All I know to say is this: First, try to be a little subversive and see if you can sneak in some positivity, starting with small steps and increasing, if possible. Beyond that, I do know sometimes parents can make themselves heard when teachers cannot. If concerned parents will express displeasure about the joyless climate, it might cause the principal to loosen up a bit. Finally, although I know often this is not an option, leaving a position may be worth it even if this calls for a longer commute or cut in pay. In my case long ago, I was able to quit at the end of my unhappy school year.

A Positive School Environment

One element essential to a positive school environment is the mindset of individuals. A former student of mine wrote, "I leave my problems at home." Several others said, "I am an optimist by nature," or, "I am 'a glass half-full' person." While I am fully aware that stopping with this as a recipe for success is oversimplifying matters, it is still worth noting. Personally, my resolution for the coming school year is to inject more joy, delight, and just plain fun into my teaching. …

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