Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

4.03.2011

Teacherless Classrooms

I'm curious to know if anyone would think it a good idea to have a band or orchestra room full of instruments available to students, but with no teacher. The students would still be enrolled in the music classes and a responsible non-teacher adult would hand the instruments out and supervise student behavior, but there would be no instruction. It would be assumed that if the students spent time with the instruments they would learn to play them on their own.

Is time in a gym full of equipment and directions to play productively and with a purpose a physical education class?

How about a laboratory full of substances and tools but lacking a teacher; is that a chemistry class? Say, even, the students have studied chemistry out of a book with a teacher in a different room. Would you then turn them loose in a teacherless lab expecting they'll learn what they need effectively?

I ask because there seems to be a common perception that school libraries should be a completely self-help enterprise, that as long as the resources are made available students will magically figure out how to find what they need and make good use of it. And that librarians, correspondingly, are not teachers.

(And, I know, everyone has a bad librarian horror story as supporting evidence to prove that librarians don't teach, but I'm talking about the way things should actually work--and often do--when done correctly.)

As the latest example (of many) in my experience, a local school district recently conducted a community survey about budget cuts. They are trying to figure out how to cut $10 million and came up with a list of options, then let people provide input for how to prioritize that list.

One of the options was: The district should eliminate the purchase of library books for the 2011-­‐2012 school year for a general fund budget savings of approximately $107,000. This received a ranking of 2.49, which was relatively low and meant people were not in favor of implementing it.

Another option was: The district should replace librarians with library aides at the secondary schools for a savings of approximately $568,000. This received a ranking of 4.39, which means more people were in favor of this option.*

So overall people would rather keep the books and get rid of the librarians, if forced to choose. And you may be saying, "What's the point in having librarians without books?" but would you vote to provide new band instruments while eliminating band teachers or gym equipment while eliminating P.E. teachers or lab equipment while eliminating chemistry teachers? In those cases it doesn't really make sense to have one without the other, so I'm guessing the question would never even be asked. Why was this one?

As someone who's helped people use libraries** in one way or another more days than not for the last thirteen years, I'm here to tell you that people don't figure it out on their own and we have plenty to teach.

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*Of 20 weighted options totaling 100 points, the lowest was 0.86 and the highest 10.59

**And by "libraries" I don't just mean shelves full of books, but all the different formats and media including digital and computerized.

3 Comments:

At 4/04/2011 8:49 AM, Blogger CDL said...

OK, then, and not necessarily saying all of the following are what I really believe, but what about the following.
Even in our library world we are having the discussion about what is professional work and what isn't. Do we spend a lot of our time doing non-professional work just waiting for the off chance that we get the really hard question to answer?
Should there be fewer professionals doing the professional stuff and let the aides shelve books and check out and even teach then how to use the catalog. Plugging words in boxes in a catalog is one thing, developing a search string is another. Can a professional rove? As in to various buildings and teach and be available for consulting and move on? Yes, there are issues with working out of your pay grade, but a job description can take care of that. I read some of the parent comments from the survey and many said where is the thinking outside the box in all of this? It's just pick something to cut? So what outside of the box thinking do we need to be doing?
Of course, several comments were work with the public library - have them do programs and coordinate the collections so there is no overlap. After all they both use public money.
And again, I know many of the issues and all, just saying. . .
These are questions we have to be prepared to answer. There may not be time for in-depth restructuring of the school library when the money is gone right now, sadly. But, these are things we need to look at and discuss as we rebuild after the money situation turns around. Or work on in the next few years of no money. Librarians may be saved this year, but next year? But that's another issue.
And I'm much better at discussion in person than in blog comments. ;)

 
At 4/05/2011 6:21 AM, Blogger Degolar said...

I'm not sure in this instance the exact comparison works between school and public librarians with what I'm saying--because they have a mandated, captive population base and a slightly different mission than we do.

 
At 4/11/2011 10:50 PM, Blogger CDL said...

Indeed - but the comparison I was trying to make was more about the terms than what we do. What it the role of the professional in the school? Can there be one for several schools to rove and do the teaching while an aide is there to check out and shelve and so on. Should the library be teacher release time or integrated into the curriculum? That's a bigger decision that may need to happen and in our area there are other school districts that use school libraries in different ways. Do computer labs and lab time need a teacher or an aide? In my school district computer lab was taught by aides. You can't compare libraries to band in some ways because they serve a different purpose in the school. When my kid was in band he had to provide his own instrument. It was a choice we made.
I think I mostly feel the survey and the choices were too simplistic but I know in times like this there is no time to be creative or even think about options, you just have to cut. It's what make the situation all too scary. It was hard to say from the news tonight what they actually did library-wise but it does seem like band is staying. It's all just sad.

 

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