Monday, June 3, 2019

Lesson from Smokey and the Bandit

I wrote the following post in 2013.  The advice given is still, I believe, important, even though I look at the source material through a different lens.  When I was younger Smokey and the Bandit was a fun, action-filled adventure with high speed automobile chases, C-B lingo, and country music. Watching it now is almost painful.  I see racism, sexism and misogyny.  Still, I stand by my assertion that we all have something to learn from the Bandit's sidekick, Cledus Snow.  I hope you agree.

I will be the first to admit that my taste in movies is of the fast food variety.  

Smokey and the Bandit is one of my all-time favorites.  While it may not have won critical acclaim, I find  the wisdom in this film helpful in troubling times. This is especially true in regard to our plight of disappearing school libraries.

For those unfamiliar with the film, two millionaires dare the Bandit (Burt Reynolds) to truck a trailer-load of Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta.  This is considered bootlegging. Bandit enlists the help of his friend, the Snowman, also known as Cledus Snow.  The Snowman drives the tractor trailer while the Bandit runs blocker in a black TransAm.  When the Bandit picks up a runaway bride, he attracts the attention of the law, in the form of the would-be father-in-law, the aforementioned Smokey (Jackie Gleason), a Texas sheriff with "over 30 years seniority." High speed chases over several southern states ensue, until roadblocks and aerial pursuit bears down on the Bandit.

Towards the end of the film, when the law is closing in and Bandit sees no way out, the Bandit tells Cledus, "l don't like  this any more than you do, but we ain't gonna make it, son. We're gonna hang it up."

Cledus is morally outraged.  "Negatory. Negatory.  We say we're doing a job, we're doing a job!"

The Bandit tells the Snowman.  "It's me they want.  They don't even know Cledus Snow exists." Cledus replies, "Oh, they don't? Well, I'll tell ya what we'll do. We'll just introduce them to the boy!"

With that, Cledus shifts into high and blazes past the ensuing police cars, the Bandit and through a police car barricade.


There have been many times, especially in the last few school years, when many of us have felt like the Bandit.  We have done a remarkable job against incredible odds (without benefit of the black Trans Am), and we feel we just can't do anymore to help our profession.

When someone like the Bandit says it's time to hang it up, that no one knows we exist - or that our importance to the general education picture is ignored, how fortunate we are for the Cleduses of our profession who boldly proclaim that it's time to "introduce 'em to the boy!"  Like the Bandit and the Snowman making it to the Fairgrounds in time and saving their hides, these library heroes break their silence and champion school libraries everywhere.

We need more Cleduses, and I am urging all school librarians or friends of school libraries to be one.  I realize that because of our isolation within our schools we are often too intimidated to draw attention to ourselves.  But when all we library media specialists band together and tell our collective stories, our value and prestige will be difficult to ignore.

Be a Cledus.  Here's how:

  1. Never miss a chance to blow your own horn.  No one else will do it, because no one else has a clue what our jobs entail.  Talk information literacy standards and how you are helping your students be ethical and savvy users of information.
  2. Blog about your daily experiences.  And keep blogging.  Your blogs may be sporadic, but when you have something to say about a day in our profession, say it.  You may think no one cares: it could be that no one cares until you tell them what they need to care about. Blog.  And blog some more.
  3. Connect with other school librarians via Nings, Twitter, conferences and any other medium available.  Don't stop connecting.  We all have different challenges, even within the same counties, even within the same states.  We need to know what is happening with each other, so that hopefully we can all devise meaningful ways to help.
  4. Never miss a chance to impress your supervisor and his supervisors.  I recently was troubleshooting a laptop/tv setup for an administrators' meeting in the library.  Once I had everything connected, I said, "Oh, while you're here, let me tell you about the ebook bundles the PreK-5 librarians selected to support the Common Core."  
  5. Be recognizable by your school community.  I have a library Facebook page.  I use it to post about curriculum, as well as to advertise upcoming events.  
  6. Give back.  Seth Godin calls this generosity.  Doug Johnson calls it being indispensable   Whatever it is, give back to the community you serve in a professional capacity.  I have open library nights every Wednesday, where the parents are welcome to come in, read with their children and supervise their taking of Reading Counts quizzes.  Do I get paid for this?  Well, my parents generously support our two book fairs each year.  The least I can do is let them experience the library in action.  If I am ever involved in another staff cut situation, you can bet your last dollar I will have plenty of parents that come to my defense.
  7. Collaborate with teachers at least on a monthly basis.  Seek them out.  Go to them rather than expecting them to come to you.  Ask what you can do to help them meet their goals and standards.  Be willing to teach from their classrooms rather that relying on their classes to come to you.  Reach out!
  8. If you are faced with staff cuts, don't stand in front of the Board and cite the research.  The only people who care about the research are those who have money to spend.  If a school board wants to cut your job, they don't have that kind of money.  So, what should you do?  Tell them about how you use evidence-based practice in your school to contribute to student achievement.  Show them the data.  Get testimonials from parents. Show how your library actually saves the district money.  Stay positive and focused.
I challenge us all to be Cledus Snows.  Start by responding to this blog and contributing to (or challenging) the conversation.  There is no need to be shy. We all have professional experiences to share.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Generation of Lost Parents

The opioid crisis, and it's companion meth and heroin crises, have wreaked havoc on our communities, our families, and most specifically our children.  In the school where I teach, I can think of at least three children who have lost a parent to overdose and many, many more who have one or both parents in jail. These children are being raised by grandparents, aunts and uncles, or complete strangers in the foster care system.  

These are the children that are lucky.  Many more are being brought up in homes where drug and alcohol abuse are the norm, where domestic abuse is common, and where parents frequently change partners, leading to very confusing family connections for the children.  The children in these situations often have no real sense of who their families actually are.  

One child I observed repeatedly called another girl "Sissy," because she thought of her as her sister.  The second girl adamently denied being the first girl's sister.  I asked the first girl if she and the second girl had the same mother and/or father.  No.  Did her mom or dad marry the other girl's mom or dad? No. Why does she think they are sisters?  It turns out two of their parents hooked up for a time.  The girl refused to believe that this did not make them sisters.

The worst part of this, for me, is realizing how much the first child needed a connection.  She desperately wanted to have family, something that seems to have been lost to her. She needed some kind of stability and was willing to latch on to a child who refused her.  I can't imagine this desperation.

I wonder what the long-term effects will be for these children.  Will they grow up thinking these relationships are the norm?  When they are parents, will the behave in the same manner?  Who will be the responsible adults in their children's lives, since their grandparents were dysfunctional parents.  How can the foster system support more children?  What is going to happen to these babies

When Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child, I doubt she saw the long-term implications of these words.  Will those people not dependent on drugs and alcohol be asked to intervene?  I have thought of fostering, but the fear of heartbreak paralyzes me.  How could I let a child return to a home that may not provide the same level of care?  I don't think I could.

I don't know how long people like me (who came from a dysfunctional home, but had excellent secondary family members that provided nurture) will have a choice.  Children need love, attention and guidance, as well as food, shelter and clothing.  They need someone to be invested in them.  With a large part of this generation of parents being lost to their children, I shudder to think what the next generation will be.

We need to be ready.

I Got A Prize!

got a prize for self-control.  Granted, it was imaginary and self-awarded, but by golly, I earned it!  What didn't I do?  I did not chuck my non-responsive laptop across the room, smashing it to pieces. Realizing temper tantrums do not befit a 60-year-old woman, I congratulated myself on my self-control and reflected on reasons why I made a superior decision:

1.     I realized the wall would be badly damaged, and I would have to pay for the repair;
2.     I realized that smashing my computer would only hinder and prolong the odious tasks for which I required my laptop;
3.     I understood the value of the work and memories located on that computer could not be easily recovered; and finally
4.     I once chewed my daughter out for doing nearly the same thing.

Once when my daughter was a teen, I spied her, in a fit of rage, chucking her cell phone on the ground.  I recall her mood being inspired by her boyfriend.  I could understand if not support her sentiment, but I berated her loudly and publicly about the cost of the phone and the assurance that the phone would not be replaced if broken.

This did not improve her temper. She retrieved her phone from the soft, cushy grass and stormed inside.

There have been many times since then when I have had the urge to act like my former teenage daughter, but common sense and decorum always seem to derail my baser urges.  This is good, I suppose. No damage was done, and unnecessary financial commitments were avoided.  

Dr. Roberta Satow, in her Life After 50 blog on Psychology Today's website describes adult temper tantrums as the unachieved ability to handle disappointments in life.  She noted that tantrums can be internal, expressed in feelings of negative self-worth and fear.  Nurturing parents help children learn to deal with these feelings and evolve into emotionally healthy adults.  Adults who have lacked this childhood guidance require the patience and love of those around them as they continue to work through their personal and professional turmoils.

I guess I should feel grateful that I have evolved into a relatively stable human being but I have to admit that I think I would occasionally enjoy the freedom of a good scream and throwing tantrum.

Satow, Roberta. “A Strategy to Deal with Adult Temper Tantrums.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Feb. 2019,

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Kobe Bryant's Top Book of Summer

If Kobe Bryant recommends a series for young adults, my guess is that this series is going to hold adolescent's attention.  Bryant said the he became aware of the series when his twelve year-old daughter "came home raving about the book and said, "Dad, you've got to read this."

The series is Jason Reynold's Track series, a set of four books which follows track and field athletes as they stuggle with challenges on and off the track. Ghost, the protangonist in the first book, Ghost, has a dark past and a lot of anger to overcome.  Can he funnel this anger into a positive outcome?

The value of this series, as Bryant notes, goes beyond setting goals in athletics.  It is about teens developing resiliency to get them through the big battles in life. Ghost was awarded  Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award (2019) and many other coveted awards.

For more information and professional reviews, consult:

Cooper, Llene. “Top 10 Diverse Fiction for Youth.” Booklist, vol. 113, no. 11, Feb. 2017, p. 38. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 May 2019.
Njoku, Eboni. “Ghost.” Horn Book Magazine, vol. 92, no. 6, Nov. 2016, p. 86. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 May 2019.
“The Must List.” Entertainment Weekly, no. 1430, 9 Sept. 2016, p. 3. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost, Accessed 25 May 2019.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Did you ever have one of those days? If you are a school librarian, you no doubt have had many.  Here are a few headslappers I have endured:

From a parent:  "Do you need a high school diploma to do this?"

From student teacher:  "I've always wanted to be a librarian. I love to read."

From a student:  "You've read every book in here, right?"
Note: The student gets credit for thinking I am industrious.

From a district administrator, at a faculty meeting:  "How can you say you have a degree in library science?  There is no science in what you do."  (Yeah, I corrected his thinking.)

Now that I am retired, in theory, I spend a great deal of time advocating for school libraries and pushing my fellow librarians to push themselves to be cutting edge.  I am often buried in complacency, but lately I have been surrounded by dynamic women who are change agents, willing and able to assume some of the responsibilities I have shouldered the past few years.  Though I sometimes regret being on the outside looking in,  I now have the freedom to correct misguided notions without regard to how my employer will interpret my mission.

In my advocacy mission I have run into several brick walls, as we all have.  No matter how articulately I might have conveyed the school library talking points and delivered the elevator speech, some people could not  get past their preconceived notions of our job.  All I could hope is that these people did not directly impact our day to day library functions.   Without the limitations of their thinking, we had the opportunity and responsibility to show them our worth. 

Unfortunately some still will not see.  For those situations I am grateful John Koenig has coined the term exulansis, defined in the graphic above. Now I understand I am not alone in my despair.

Now that my colleagues have assumed the role of chief school library advocates, other points of view and approaches will be used.  I can  rest well knowing the future of school libraries in my state is not on my shoulders.  I have had about all the exulansis I can stand.

(Note:  For those interested in other words that  don't exist, such as exulansis, visit the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows on the website.  You can meditate on these words on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows Facebook page and follow on Twitter and YouTube.  Koenig's print edition version of the book is being published by Simon and Schuster. No release date has been announced.)