Library Lesson Learned IV
posted July 8, 2013 11:08 AM by Sarah Barton
As much as I am looking forward to having the perfect library job, I am not quite so naïve to think that such a thing will fall into my lap, especially on my first attempt. In fact, I would argue that no job is perfect - there is always something that renders even one's ideal job just short of utopian. For my current part-time public library job, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes is that something.
Now, before the ESL police come knocking down my door, let me clarify a few things: 1) I fully understand that ESL is a crucial program for an urban library population, 2) I have seen firsthand how much the ESL students appreciate the classes, 3) I think it is fantastic that many ESL programs (including the one at my library) are taught by volunteers, and 4) As a strong candidate for an Introvert of the Year award, talking/teaching for two consecutive hours is not really my thing. It's not you, ESL; it's me.
I dread ESL like a routine visit to the dentist. Every Monday night I hope enough volunteer teachers show up and my services are not needed, but since that rarely ever happens I regularly find myself teaching English. I have been working at the library for ten months now, yet the initial feelings of anxiety and discomfort still haunt me each week I sit down with a group of ESL students.
Despite those initial feelings, ESL (like the dentist) is never that bad. Spending two hours with people from all over the world - Brazil, India, Nepal, El Salvador, Colombia, China, and Haiti, to name a few nationalities - is sometimes frustrating, often interesting, and always rewarding. People come to ESL because they want to improve their lives here in America, and if they walk out the door having learned just one thing, then I did my job. I had no idea that ESL was part of my job description until that first Monday night when volunteers were scarce, but ESL has been a crucial part of my personal and professional development at the library.
Pardon the cliché, but doing things that make one feel uncomfortable or hesitant generally makes for a better person. Over the past ten months, ESL, that dreaded something about my public library job, has forced me to grow and learn about myself in ways that circulation and shelving do not allow. In that sense, it's a blessing that no job is perfect. If I ever think I have the perfect job, I'll know that I am either not being challenged or not trying hard enough.