When I woke up this morning and decided to write about the tension that exists between the kind of instruction possible in the media center versus the kind of instruction possible in my language arts classroom, I knew that there was going to be pushback. I’ve advanced this line of thinking before and been buried in angst more than once.
What I see every time is a defensive reaction from people who have spent the better part of their careers facing budget cuts that have the potential to take their positions. In an attempt to make sure that today’s conversation was about ideas instead of emotions, I started with these words:
During the course of my sixteen year teaching career, I’ve worked with a ton of GREAT media specialists.
In fact, one of the thinkers that I admire the most in my own school district is a high school media specialist named Kerri Brown-Parker who is doing great things to support teachers interested in integrating technology into their instructional practices. And the media specialists in my current school are both wonderful women who work hard with classroom teachers and students alike. They are thoughtful and innovative—and well-respected by everyone as a result.
I also believe that media specialists can play an important role in any school community. When they’re skilled, they teach students to manage information fluently and how to judge the reliability of sources. They help students to sift through heaping cheeseloads of content to make sense of what they are learning.
Finally, they often find ways to help teachers integrate media literacy skills into their required curriculum and do the heavy lifting on shared projects that are at once motivating and essential for students. All of that work adds value in the schoolhouse and yet it can be easily overlooked and/or underestimated.
Continuing to stress the importance of media specialists, I wrote this later in my post:
Now I get it: Media positions are on the chopping block all the time. Standing up for your profession is always admirable—and I’d hate to see schools lose the services of the most accomplished media specialists, who are an irreplaceable resource that can save teachers time, reach handfuls of struggling students, and support colleagues who are unprepared for the demands of a changing digital age.
And in the comment section, I wrote this:
EVERY media specialist that I’ve ever worked with has been INCREDIBLY willing to collaborate around projects with classroom teachers. In fact, at times, they’ve come to us BEGGING to help us with the work we’re doing with students. I don’t doubt their intentions or their abilities in any way.
But I still spent the past nine hours dealing with emotional responses. People expressed surprise at my unwillingness to be a team player. They questioned my intentions. They thought my comments were hurtful and unproductive.
Which has caused me to do something I’ve never done here on the Radical: I pulled the post.
Ask anyone who knows me how momentous that decision really is. I’m a “speak your mind” and a “stick to your guns” kind of guy—and generally there’s a good measure of truth in everything that I write, even when it’s uncomfortable to hear. I’ve ruffled more than a few feathers in my day and backing down isn’t in my nature, but honestly, I don’t need the stress.
My only goal was to talk honestly to media specialists. I wanted you to see how comments that you often make while advocating for your profession can come across to reading teachers. While I’m certain that the vast majority of y’all have nothing but great respect for reading teachers, that doesn’t always come across in the language that you use to describe your work.
I figured that was something you’d want to know because I’m certain that I’m not the only classroom teacher who feels that way. I’m just dumb enough to write about my thoughts openly.
For those of you who had the chance to read my post, I hope it challenged you to think differently. It was intended to spark reflection and to give you some insight into what it is like to be a reading teacher in a tested world—-and I hope that it helped you to recognize that “teamwork” feels a whole lot different when the members of the team are not judged equally.
As long as that message came across to one or two of you, then today’s drama may have been worth it.