What a long and winding road it has been. I started babysitting for my cousins when I was in the fifth grade. Since then, I have worked at group centers and run a small childcare center in my own home. I have earned two bachelors and two masters degrees. I started my first library job in 2011.
Both of these jobs are related to working with children, but they are miles apart in the number of and way that services are provided. Childcare has to be one of the most stressful jobs on this planet (I say that now that I am not in it anymore). I love working with kids, but I love it way more at the library than I ever did at a childcare center.
Here are a few things I've learned that helped me transition from early childhood teacher to librarian.KiDs aRE fUn!!! The most important thing I learned while working in childcare was that KiDs ARe FuN! Kids are honest, playful, and they love to laugh and have fun. Adults often take themselves too seriously and forget to make time for fun in their lives, and they sometimes forget to let kids have fun.
Time is on my hands! As a childcare teacher, there is time for play, but there is also a lot of work to be done and very little time to do it. I used to hope for one hour to plan an entire week full of activities that included math, science, dramatic play, block area, daily circle times and the list goes on and on. My daily schedule was also planned out by the minute. As a children’s librarian I have hours of time to plan for a handful of weekly activities that only last for an average of one hour. I also get to choose when those hours happen!
Parents CAN be your friend. When I was a childcare teacher, I
had got to see the same parents every single day. As a
librarian, I usually only see the same parents once or twice a week. In
childcare, parents PAY for a safe, educational and entertaining experience for
their children. The library provides FREE educational and
entertaining service (hopefully safe, too). I’ve noticed that parents are generally easier to please at the
library! To build relationships with parents, listen to them respectfully, and try your hardest to be
friendly even when you have to dig way down into your left pinky toe for a
scrap of kindness. You don’t have to do or like what they say, but you can
listen and be kind. Parents love their kids and they want to know that you care.
Kids love you for trying! You don’t have to be the best singer or dancer, but if you try to have fun with kids, they will have fun with you. Sing loud and strong and so what if you suck, the kids usually won’t notice. If you deliver with confidence, kids and parents will have confidence in you!
Kids hate transitions. I hate them too. There is nothing worse for kids than waiting with nothing to do (visualize sitting in the bank drive through on a Friday night- YIKES!). There are a lot of transitions in childcare every day. Librarians are lucky and don’t have nearly as many transitions, if any. If you do have to have a transition during a program, have something fun ready to distract them from their boredom. Random dance time is great if you don’t like to sing and you don't have to take time to show kids how to dance. I’ve discovered that I Like to Move It by Reel 2 Real can get just about anyone dancing.
The world is my playground. Librarians are all about literacy, but they do not have to be all about literacy. As a teacher, I learned that books are wonderful tools for learning anything! I learned how to use one single book to teach all six of the early literacy skills AND math and science, too. I also am very lucky to have the freedom to create any program, dream of any activity, put up any decorations and follow through with all of these ideas at the library I work at. Some childcare centers have very strict curriculum and schedules to follow.
I love working with kids. They are honest and they like to have fun. Can they be difficult? You bet they can. I remind myself on those darkest days that kids are just little people learning how to be big people. It is a privilege to help little people learn how to be GOOD big people.
It has been a long and winding road (and long winded), but I’m finally where I belong. . . . in the short stacks.