Our English teacher formed in us a straight line of giggly prepubescent soldiers marching single file to the mahogany square masses of tables to learn “The rules.” As I sat on the cold chair next to Marita, I was barely aware of the shadowy figure that approached us in the sunbeams that shielded her from our view. Her words were crisp with a musical lilt that only an extensive education can provide. Hours, procedures, and passes—we absorbed the commonality of the information and were settling into the comfort of the shelf-lined room when she approached over the table:
“What are we reading today?”
Unsure, I let Marita speak first. Marita blustered out something about romance and the voice dispatched her quickly to the shelves and Sweet Valley High. The owner of the voice stepped through the sunbeams. Her eyes were leveled on me and she asked the question again. I stammered out the words and waited to be judged for asking for help in choosing something to read. A few questions later and she lead me to the shelf with memoirs and travel journals that promised to speak of exotic places.
“Which one will I choose,” had escaped from my lips as a confession of indecision.
Her words cut into my thoughts, “I remember your father. He visited me every day.” She whispered now, “He never managed to return his books on time, but he read every one of them.” After a pause, “Choose whatever you like and comeback whenever you need something to read. We won’t worry about late fines.” While standing there, she had read me so clearly and made me the most committed patron of the library. Ms. Lemon was the first meta-human that I had ever met.
After twenty years’ experience in education, I do not believe that we are offering intangible goods with intangible benefits to the patrons of the school library media center. At our best, we are, according to David Lankes (2016), on
“a mission to improve society” by creating a safe environment for patrons with a variety of tools and opportunities to explore the world, ask questions, develop content, and find or create solutions to make life worth living and the world a better place. “To accomplish this mission, librarians [or school media specialists] use a set of tools to facilitate knowledge creation; they build participatory systems; and they empower their community members [students, teachers, patrons] in accordance with the core values of service, learning, openness, intellectual freedom and safety, and intellectual honesty” (p.73).
This is the “kinship” found in all libraries. To be effective, however, we must become “fully conscious of the research and practice paradigm from which we operate” (Bates, 1999, p. 1043).
In my students, I challenge myself to create the colleagues with whom I would like to work in the future. I want to spark in my colleagues the eternal quest to stimulate new questions, raise new possibilities and challenge discourse with thoughtful arguments that influence and contribute to the understanding of the profession. With every student, I am on a grand adventure to find out who they are, where they are, and how can I provide the best possible experience that will transform and hone their abilities and find in themselves the power to “tilt at windmills.” I want to equip warriors who bravely stand up for intellectual freedom, who advocate for user-experiences, who are self-motivated and self-directed risk takers, who create environments where all students feel valued and confident and where diversity is respected, who use their “meta-perspective” to be flexibly innovative and actively participate in the global conversation via their expertise, shareable content, and time (Bates 1999; Rosenthal-Tolisano 2016). I want my students to have the spirit of a lion, the soul of a reader, and the heart of a child. I want to create meta-humans.
My teaching is a carefully crafted symphony introducing the counterpoint of ideas, theory, research, and authentic problems to provide transformational experiences that mimic the challenges and work of the school library media specialist. In order to engage students, themes are narratively introduced and guide clearly stated objectives and outcomes. Concepts are explored through a variety of approaches with carefully selected media and instructional technology. Students invest in their own learning through shareable content creation, research, and reflection. Assessments are student-created and provide another lens of the meta-analytical perspective.
My syllabi are designed to promote meta-perspective thinking and understanding. Semester courses are structured into 3 or 4 cohesive units. Each unit is introduced with a multimedia presentation, lecture or demonstration, and a selection of readings from core journals and research in the field. Students are expected to participate in discussion and collaborative activities to build and strengthen knowledge. Each unit will provide an opportunity to respond to a professional practice activity through research and presentation or project-based learning. As part of developing a meta-perspective and reflective thinking, assessments are student-designed that answer the key assessment question, “What does a quality _____ look like?” Each course culminates in an opportunity to reflect on course products and polish them for inclusion in the students’ portfolios, which are a part of any NCATE-CAEP accredited program.
Since my teaching focuses through the meta lens, my research interests lie in the analyses of quantitative indicators to predict social behaviors. I am currently investing time in three areas of research: the evolving scholarly networks of instructional technology identified in conference proceedings to reveal and articulate its hidden culture; the development of concierge services to support students and transform digital learning; and the effective instructional partnerships between library media specialists and other educators to create meaningful experiences that may be analyzed to reveal “below the waterline” measurable and repeatable behaviors.
Bates, M. J. (1999). The invisible substrate of information science. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 50(12), 1043-1050.
Lankes, R. D. (2016). The new librarianship field guide. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Rosenthal-Tolisano, S. (2016). Langswitches Hub [weblog]. Access from www.curriculum21.org.