I am a committed Weight Watcher member. When I set out on my weight loss plan almost eleven years ago, I couldn’t imagine I could lose close to fifty pounds. I expected that on reaching “Lifetime,” I would indulge in a large bag of potato chips (a personal weakness at the time) and eat all the foods which had contributed to my girth. Instead, I discovered the journey had no end, but the path diverged. My commitment now is to lifetime healthy eating, and I indulge when I truly feel like it, having learned the foods that are good for me are the foods I enjoy. I still weigh in every week.
What does this have to do with libraries, librarians and your program?
Most of us have become goal-directed. Certainly our jobs require it. Writing Student Growth Objectives (or whatever terminology your state and/or district call it) demands you focus on reaching set outcomes to demonstrate your contribution to student achievement. Aside from those, you may have a strategic plan –written or mental—designed to improve your program. And then there are personal goals—for fitness, weight, home improvement, financial, or any other target important to your life.
When we set those goals, they may seem distant and at times unattainable. We picture completing them as having reached the finish line with metaphorical crowds cheering out victory. Yet the truth is – life goes on. There isn’t a finish line until the very end. What we attain when we achieve a goal we set is a milestone, not a conclusion.
The Common Core has all of us focused on benchmarks indicating what students are expected to be able to do at the conclusion of a grade level. When they reach it, they have not arrived at the finish line but are moving on and using what they learned to achieve the next one. Beyond the Common Core—having proved themselves “college and career ready” – their learning and growth can never stop or we and they have failed.
In preparing students for lifetime learning, we as librarians need to take on the challenge of going beyond Common Core (as unsettling as that may sound). Critical Thinking is not an end, it is means, and must be paired with Creative Thinking if students are to become the innovators. The first is convergent in its focus, the second divergent. Where they overlap, is where new ideas are put into action. Two circles and the wheel turns and repeats. There is no finish line, only milestones on a life journey.