Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ask Away #1: Working with Children and Being an Adult

There came a point last year when I was really considering my intended audience for this blog. I got a picture in my head of readers in small libraries downloading my ready-to-go Story Action Pod prompts; maybe some newly-professional librarians wading their way through librarianship; other afterschool program providers and teachers looking for fun activities. When I get emails about my blog, these are mostly who they're from. But you were all still pictures in my head, who I envisioned with every post, moving me to continue to blog as I had been.

And then, at the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest, I met one of you in person. Cate from Chicago. I was so ecstatically relieved that you all really existed that I asked her for a hug. And a selfie.

In that spirit, I've decided to start posting some of the emails I get (with permission) and the answers to those questions. My words are not advice but they're honest. If you have a question you'd like answered, please email me at brycedontplay@gmail.com. If you give me permission to post the exchange, you can choose to be anonymous.

Ask Away #1:
Erikka from Vermont (check out her blog here) asks:  I saw your post on attending Brewfests [...]and wonder if that concerns you at all? worries you for people judging you professionally for it (more the public than your staff/colleagues)? For me, in a rural, small knit community, I do not feel I can publicize my personal life too much. Also, my clientele are high schoolers...to whom personal information seems to be its own currency. They are two different worlds, public libraries vs schools, but sometimes I wish I could let me hair down! and whip it around like

True fact: She ended her question with a GIF as a punctuation mark and that alone made me want to share it.

I started my first professional position as a second grade teacher at 21. I tried so hard to be an adult. SO HARD. And I tried to make my definition of "adult" mirror that of my near-retirement ex-nun mentor, and it took a toll on me.The thing is, people want employees who are creative and innovative, but if they're constantly worried about being judged for their personal choices, that part of the brain is inhibited by stress.
*screaming internally*

At all my future interviews, I really tried to take in the culture as much as they were interviewing me-- is the interviewer even cracking a smile? Was the interview clearly over when they saw how young I am? Then no matter what they decide I shouldn't be working there.

When I moved here to Wisconsin, my husband got a job at a local brewery, and is now Packaging & Distribution Manager and a brewhouse tour guide. I'm really proud of how far he's come professionally and I'm glad he likes his job. I know I live in Wisconsin, in a city that boasts the 4th largest Oktoberfest in the world, so your mileage may vary, but I tend to feel like my connection with the brewery and my presence at stuff normal people do around here has helped rather than hurt me. The brewery is a family-friendly place and you often see parents with their children there. I use this as an opportunity to invite families to the library and to library programming. There are actually quite a few regular patrons at the library who started out as regulars at my husband's job, or met me at a brewery-related event. I've also formed friendships with some local teachers which is helpful.

True, there are sometimes when I feel weirdness from the occasional member of the public. There's the mom who lets me know every year that she's surprised I walk with the brewery in the Oktoberfest parade, for instance; but those are truly few and far between. For every one of her on the the route there is literally every other family who recognizes me and is excited to see me somewhere and I wave and give them candy and I'm on my way. I think that since I don't make it weird, that I don't hide away and assume other adults won't understand me as a multi-dimensional person, it's not weird. 

I completely understand my privilege with this answer. I feel as though I can rest assured knowing that my writing this post will not make most people assume that all librarians with disabilities are alcoholics, or something; and I know for a fact that if I'm a bar in town and someone sees me, they're there for the same reason I am and not to create town gossip or something. There seems to be a general consensus that if you work with kids you are (or should be) somehow morally superior to other people; but in my mind, if you're engaging in any perfectly legal adult activity, there shouldn't be any shame about that. And this is coming from someone who could have been thrown out of her college of education program if she "engage[d]in acts of moral turpitude."

Have thoughts on this? Share them in the comments!
Have a question you want answered? I'll try my best. Email me at brycedontplay at gmail dot com!