Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Little Walk Down Memory Lane

Dear Teachers,
I got a call a few days ago from someone in another department who was verifying that I am about to celebrate 15 years of service in the district.  I replied that that was true. ("Wow," I thought to myself, "15 years. How can that be?") Would it be okay if they published my name and years of service in various district publications? Yes, I told her; that would be fine. After we hung up, I kept thinking about those fifteen years and how much has changed in the world, and in me.

I was lucky enough to stay home with my kids when they were babies, and for the first four or five years, I loved it. I loved seeing all their firsts, witnessing their precious little discoveries, and taking them on little mommy field trips. My kids were just under 16 months apart, and I used that fact  for a while to justify not working  - "Sorry, my kids are 2 and 1; I could never get out of the house on time in the morning" was a line that made people smile knowingly and immediately understand my decision. Then it became "my kids are 3 and 2..." "my kids are 6 and 5..." It dawned on me one day that I would soon be saying, "My kids are 23 and 22...," which even I realized sounded ridiculous.

So when my son started kindergarten, I began to think about returning to the work world. Fortunately for me, he went to a wonderful public school that had a phenomenal librarian. I signed up to volunteer in the library, as many new kindergarten moms do. I talked to her about her job and her role in the school, and after several months I decided that's what I wanted to do. To this day, I'm grateful for her influence in my decision, because the path I ended up on has been pretty terrific.

Keep in mind that in 1998, I would just barely have been able to search online for information on an MLS program, even if I had known how to and if we had had dial-up back then. The Texas Woman's University website, according to the Wayback Machine, looked like this on February 13, 1998, the earliest snapshot available:

(Image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/19980201000000*/http://www1.twu.edu/)
I don't remember using the Internet to research my options, so I assume I did things the old-fashioned way, making phone calls and using the U.S. Postal Service. I started pursuing my Master's in Library Science, and it felt as though I was waking up from a long sleep. After being at home talking to young children all day every day for almost seven years, the intellectual stimulation I got from graduate coursework was empowering and rejuvenating.

I had been an early childhood teacher in my life BC (before children), and I'd always expected that I would continue to work with preschoolers. But during the last year that I was in library school, I was told about a job as a library assistant in a junior high not far from where my kids were in school. I did not expect to like that age group, but I accepted the job because it was such a perfect opportunity to make a gentle slide back into the work world: it was in the field I wanted, and part time, just on school days. I remember that I made $8/hour, but the growth in self esteem that came from earning my own money for the first time in several years far outweighed the size of my paychecks. A huge unexpected bonus was that I discovered I LOVED those middle school age kids! And it turned out that it led to my first Real Librarian Job, when in May of 2000, I was offered a position as a middle school librarian in my current school district. I remain grateful to the principal who took a chance on me.

You know in job interviews where they ask, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I remember being asked that by the principal who hired me, and I remember that my answer was something along the lines of "I've never been very good at predicting my future, but I hope to be better at what I do in five years than I am on the first day of the job." You know, a vague non-answer, although I was certainly correct about the "not good at predicting my future" part. I could never have guessed my professional trajectory.

To help you with a frame of reference, Google looked this in mid-2000:

(image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/19990428171538/http://google.com/) 

How in the world did we search for things before Google became a verb? Well, remember Alta Vista?

(Image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20000815052635/http://www.altavista.com/)

There was also Yahoo:

(Image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20000804230500/http://www.yahoo.com/)

And of course, AOL:

(Image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20000804133924/http://aol.com/)

Our district's main page looked like this in 2000:

(Image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20000815092055/http://www.pisd.edu/)

And the district library page looked like this:

(image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20001211190500/http://k-12.pisd.edu/library.html)

Just for fun, I also clicked on that "Region X Media Fair - 2000" link you can see in the graphic above:

(image captured 2/23/2015 at the Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20010110044200/http://k-12.pisd.edu/library/mediafair.htm)
Wow - how innovative! "Powerpoint (sic) and Curriculum Use"! "Word 97"! It all seems almost like another lifetime now, doesn't it?

And for me, in a way, it *was* another lifetime. In 2000, my kids were 9 and 8 so I was still in the middle of daily hands-on parenting. I had a different last name; a different home address; different colleagues; a different work space. The school building I was in at the time was even different because it had not undergone its renovation.

As it turned out, I was beginning my own renovation, too. When I first started library school, I was something of a Luddite but was unabashedly proud of that little flip-style cell phone I had finally gotten. I barely knew how to open a Word document, let alone format it or insert an image. A couple of years later I was still woefully inept at much of the technology that was available to me at the time, but I became unafraid to click things and unafraid of making a mistake; I began to see how much I learned from doing things the wrong way once or twice! AND, I had Clippy for help!
But if you had told me in 2000 that I would one day be working in Instructional Technology, I'm not sure I would have believed you.

When I joined my current department in 2006, I had no clue about all the instructional software that was available to teachers and students at what grade levels. I was unclear as to what my role was in terms of support for these programs, and I had absolutely no idea how to get up in front of a room full of adults and deliver an effective training experience.  I used to get so rattled if, during a presentation, technology would fail or someone would ask me a question to which I did not know the answer. I have learned a lot through my own trial and error, from the gentle coaching of colleagues, and from an active pursuit of my own professional learning, particularly through involvement in Learning Forward and TCEA. I like to think that I was somewhat accurate in my vague non-prediction about being better at my job than I was when I first started.

My job continues to evolve, and most mornings I am eager to get to work and see what the day brings. I imagine it will seem like the blink of an eye when in the not-so-distant future the phone rings (will we still have phones that ring?) and someone says, "I'm calling to confirm that you have 25 years of service to the district."

What do you remember about how the last fifteen years have changed? Write me back in the Comments section below.

Fondly,
Nancy