Saturday, June 8, 2013

Last Days

Today is the last day of the 2012-13 Leading to Reading program. Not counting the ultra-short summer programs, I believe this is my fifth(!) last day. That number seems ludicrously high. It's also probably my last one, since I don't expect to finish LTR 13-14 as a Site Monitor. LTR 13-14 will be my sixth school year Leading to Reading program, and my eighth if I count the two I was merely a volunteering.

I always have mixed emotions on this day. On the one hand, I'm sad because I have to say goodbye to some really great kids and volunteers who are not returning. I also see the end of some relationships between kids and volunteers who worked really well together all year, but for whatever reason won't be paired again in the future.

On the other hand, I also know that I now get a chance to fix some mistakes and eliminate some headaches, as I start to plan for the next session. Selfishly, I also look forward to the break. For the next three weeks I can relax and work at my own pace. I can, within reason, set my own schedule, rather than being a slave to the program hours. I've had four Saturdays off since October, so the idea of three off in a row sounds heavenly. These little breaks keep me from getting burned out in this job.

I also find myself doing a lot of reflection on days like today. When I started in LTR as a volunteer, way back in 2003, I was really only doing it to get my volunteer hours for high school. However, I think I was more responsible than your average tenth grader, and so even though I didn't plan on making a career out of working with children, I was going to make sure that I did this well, because I had committed to it. I did it for one year, and then I did it again the next year, mostly because they called and asked, and I didn't want to say no. I didn't dislike it, but I also didn't fall in love with it. That said, I was in high school, and I'm pretty sure I hated everything, so not hating this was kind of a big deal.

I didn't return in 2005, but in 2006 the Site Monitor at the branch in which I was working as a Page was desperate for volunteers. She found out that I had been one in the past, and begged me to take on a session. I agreed, mostly to help her out. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

In January of 2007, the Site Monitor took a job elsewhere in TPL, and her position was vacated. In situations like that, until the position can be filled, branches appoint a Page to take over in the interim. I was actually only the third most senior Page at the time, but my branch was experiencing such a staffing crisis at that time that the two ahead of my were both already appointed to other positions. In fact, things were so dire that I agreed to pick up extra hours so that I could continue to work as a Page, as well.

The LTR Coordinator had been trying to recruit me as a Site Monitor since the day I was hired in TPL. I'm still not entirely sure why; I was reliable as a volunteer, but I don't think I was especially spectacular at it. Still, she apparently saw something in me. Claiming that the branch, which had been through a string of Site Monitors, needed stability and someone who knew LTR, rather than another new person, she pulled some strings to ensure I stayed until the end of the LTR session. She even got me a TPL email address, years before Pages were given email accounts, which helped me snare another job elsewhere in the system doing some seniors programming a couple of years later.

By summer, they had found a new permanent Site Monitor, and I returned to being a Page. But, in 2010, the same thing happened, and I once again took over the program for the remainder of the year. They thought they had found someone permanent again by the summer, but chaos within the internal hiring system, as happens sometimes, resulted in them posting the position again, and bringing a Site Monitor from another branch over for the summer. I continued to run the program on Saturdays, but not weekdays.

At the urging of just about everyone, I applied for the still vacant position. I didn't think I had enough seniority yet, so I was fairly surprised when I got the interview. The problem was, I wasn't sure if I actually wanted the job or not. I had been doing some really interesting programming work throughout Scarborough, and with my branch again in staffing chaos, I was working nearly full-time. Taking the Site Monitor job would mean less hours and less money. However, it also meant a guarantee of hours and income, while the extra hours and work I was doing as a Page could dry up at any time. In the end, that, and the fact that I realized that I really liked working as a Site Monitor, won out, and I took the job.

That was nearly three years ago, and I don't regret my decision for a second. I've been relocated since then, and I was sad to leave the branch I essentially grew up in, but I still do the same work, and that's what matters. LTR has become a part of my identity now, without me even realizing it. It makes me sad that, when I graduate this fall, I'm going to have to try and leave this job. More than any other job I've ever done, I frequently leave at the end of the day exhausted, frustrated, and stressed. And yet, I wonder if I spend the next forty years in TPL, if I'll ever find another job I love more.

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