This week in a training, the group of teachers I was with were asked a simple question:
What is your purpose?
Then, a room of hard-working, still passionate folks went around the room telling their tales. P.E. teachers, weights trainers, Special Education teachers, classroom teachers, English as a Second Language teachers - a whole mix of wonderful and weary teachers whose eyes lit up as they explained their purpose.
When it got to me, the facilitator said,
I know your answer will be different from the classroom teachers. It might be a little harder. What's your purpose?
But...is it? Is it really? That different?
So I prepared to give my elevator speech.
Elevator speech = a 30 seconds or less explanation of why you do what you do. They vary in purpose, direction, etc, but they are passionate and educated responses. They are common in the library world. We have many versions prepared in our heads. When I told some friends about elevator speeches over dinner, they were shocked. None of them had ever had to have one. They weren't librarians.
We're asked to defend ourselves a lot. Prove our worth.
I took a deep breath. I explained that I echoed some of the sentiments of the teachers who had responded before me. Then I added:
I left classroom teaching because I found something special in the role of school librarian. I found the meaning behind talking to students about life. Their lives, fictional lives, world events, history, things they have experienced, things I hope they never have to. It doesn't matter. I get to talk to them about everything. I get to guide them in critical thinking. I get to be the one not shackled by a content area. When they come to the library, they get the world. They get an adult who has the time and desire to have conversations classroom teachers often don't get to have because they are restricted by time and content. I'm not sitting and checking out books. I'm giving students the opportunity to experience all life has to offer in the safest way possible.
I wish I could honestly say that the room cheered.
However, I do think that my colleagues - even those who have worked with me for the past five years - got to see something a little different in my response. I hope they saw pride, passion, and a pretty dang enticing career. I hope they were proud to have me as their librarian - at least as proud as I am to have them as teachers in my school - because we're united. We're building what we hope will become fully functional humans in our global society together. We have the same purpose, just dressed up a little differently.
My purpose is your purpose; yours is mine. We're a village because it takes one.