Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Bursting bubbles...

I was commenting to a teacher at work today that one of the challenges of moving into a school environment is that schools exist in something of a bubble - slightly removed from the rest of society. Yes, we teach valuable skills and life lesson to help kids equip themselves for the rest of their life, but the rules are different, priorities skewed in certain directions, and tensions in unusual places. The calendar runs around pivotal curricular and non-curricular events, and things that, in real life, shouldn't really be that big a deal, suddenly because sources of angst and antagonism. Sometimes, ridiculous and sublime, but sometimes upsetting, tempers flare and celebrations are in abundance. It's a weird and wonderful place.

This has gotten me thinking about the trials of moving across sectors in the library and information industry. Yes, we have the same professional skills and principles, but each sector is its own bubble, full of its own set of priorities that may seem ridiculous or overwhelming to the uninitiated, looking in from the outside.

And to an extent, I can understand why there might be resistance to letting professionals cross those boundaries. It's not about skills - we've got all those. It's about having the openness to be able to put away the contextual values and priorities of your old job, and start fresh in the new one, ready to reprogram yourself as a professional in a new sector.

Whether it's adjusting to the different kinds of power relationships you have, or the expectations that are put upon you in your role, your personal principles of what it means to be a professional are going to be challenged.

And so, you have a choice. Do you try to burst the bubble, and bring your outsider perspective to the table? Or do you accept the status quo and try to understand it from their side?

(Incidentally, the teacher I spoke to suggested that, actually, teachers live in yet another bubble within that bubble. It often astounds me how they manage to work to embed all the principles of learning and assessment, as well as thoroughly checking off departmental guidelines, in order to present education in a way that's accessible to students. And I am starting to see the value of enforcing the recruitment of Teacher Librarians (as distinguished from Just-Librarians, like me), because they are professionals who have been indoctrinated into the weird and wonderful world of the school education system.)