(Parents, please read.....)
Tonight I went out with a new group of people. And they were lovely.
However, when asked what I did, and I told them, I got the arched eyebrows, and small bit of a lip curl.
I didn't need a translator.
No matter how lovely a person's social exterior is, they don't know--TRULY know--what I do as a school media specialist.
I, however, KNOW what they think I do. They think I sit at a desk, scan a child's barcode, scan the book barcode, tell the kid it's due in one week, and be sure to return it then.
And after that kid/class leaves the library, I will shelve the 10-15 books on the cart, and then settle in my creaky desk chair, open up the book I'm currently reading to the moth-eaten bookmark I've been using the last 30 years, and then the library teacher's life will be happy.
Could. Not. Be. More. WRONG.
Once that class has left the library, I am cross-referencing just-turned-in books to see if I have any holds that have been turned in. If they are, I check those patrons' profiles to see if they can be checked out. If they can, I check them out, mark them on a hold note, and try to deliver them to class in my spare time.
If the holds can't be checked out, I mark them with the students' names, and put them to side, by my desk, to pass them out when it's time.
Then I continue with my weeding of the collection. I run reports of various sections: Easy Non-Fiction Animals, General Non-Fiction History Geography; Juvenile Fiction A-Z, etc. Anything not utilized/checked out within the last 5 years is pulled off the shelf, assessed by me for retention, and either kept or deleted to make room for new materials. This may be excessive when thought of, but consider your own house. When was the last time you truly thought of what you truly use, and just let sit there? I run an academic, lending library; not an archival library. If it sits on a shelf for 1+ years and is not circulated, it will be publicized. And if it's not checked out within one year, it's gone.
(Have I lost you yet, dear parent? Keep reading)
Or I am checking the newly added materials to the library, checking them against the AR quizzes available through Renaissance Learning, to update my catalog listings so my students have the most-recent data available to them.
Or else I run test results on Accelerated Reader quizzes, and create awards for new Sunshine State Readers.
Or I'm surfing sites like b&n.com, goodreads.com, titlewave.com, ala.og, looking to see what new books are recommended for curriculums, for new/potential award winners, to teach certain strategies, concepts, character qualities, etc.
Then I'm checking my order lists, to keep track of what has come in, what I'm still waiting for, and what teachers/students have requested still hasn't come in.
Then I check the Book Hospital--the holding box where all books that need "medical attention" go---some need slight tears on pages taped, some need whole page resections to be taped back in or glued; others need whole new plastic mylar covers to be replaced when possible. Those books are put on the processing cart with their new counterparts to wait for a day when I have a couple hours to devote to them.
Or..since I am the Yearbook adviser...I run all Yearbook reports to see who has signed in over the night, and done some work. I run off PDF versions of Yearbook latyouts to my staffers can see them in "real time," like they're real Yearbook publications. And I edit those--spelling, fonts, points size, correctly identifying students, etc.
Or I work on lesson plans. For grades PK, K, 1,2 , I plan out pictures books going along with themes in their classrooms, or holiday themes, or what I have going on in the Media Center. I plot them out, print out color prints of the book covers, so I can display them on my reading board,and after reading the stories, the book cover print-outs go on that grade-level reading board.
And I juggle books from grade to grade, to make sure that one class doesn't spoil a book for another. Grade levels have PE/recess together, so if I read a brand-new Pigeon book to a Kg class on Monday, and the lesson plan is to read the same book to a Kg class on Wednesday, it could ALL be for naught when the Monday class kids tell the Wed class kids what happens in the story.
And that's how Ms. Hazelnut's kids know the term "spoiler."
Kg and 1st graders learn how a "spoiler" can ruin a joke, a riddle, a story, a book, or a movie, by revealing what happens at the end.
When I have a discussion on a certain book (this month, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is a big one), some students will declare they know HOW that story GOES! I ask them what is the worst thing they can do when you know what's going to happen? Their eyes grow wide, their voices low, and they whisper," BE A SPOILER."
Or else I'm worrying about my older kids. How can I prepare them for middle school and high school? What can I teach them in 25 minutes a week that will stick with them? What can I imbue to them that will be upheld by teachers in the future? How can I teach them originality in research in the dawn of easy Wikipedia-use?
But, MOST OF ALL, I worry about the usage of data-reaping reading programs utilized in schools, like Accelerated Reader and Reading Counts.
My students come to my library, and ask me for books based on points.
They don't ask about REAL stuff. Not content. Not author. Not personal interest. Not professional recs.
Only what points the books are worth...based on a corporation's calculations.
I can't help but see it playing out later in life. Judging a package based on its packaging instead of its content.
"That house is big! It's got 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, is on the golf course, and is what looks good." (Content: The house lies in a 100% flood plain in a state that is primed for hurricanes.)
"I want to marry that man. He looks to be tall, good-looking, and have a good job." (Content: He's a narcissistic wife-beater with high gambling debts that manages to hold on to a good job due to good surface polish.)
"That job description states $65,000 a year, no outside duties, and free travel." (Content: You are always on the road, leaving your family alone 10 months a year.)
"That woman is beautiful, built, and comes from a good family."(Content: She's bulimic, all pleasing features are plastic, the family is kept together because if they weren't, the trust holding all the money would be dissolved, and all the family members truly hate each other.)
I know data-collecting reading programs have a use.
However,it is incredibly obscure when a 2nd grader comes to the library, sees a new book in a series she's been reading, gets so excited to see it, then sadly proclaims, after seeing the reading level of that book,"I can't read that. That's below my reading level."
My recommendation: Let the kids read what they want to read. Period.
In grades 2 to as HIGH AS YOU WILL ALLOW--let them read WHAT THEY WANT. They will have assigned story and novel reading in upper middle school, high school and college...so let them read what they want NOW! Who CARES if the student is on a "7.8 reading level" and the book they WANT to read is on a "5.3" level?? Don't SHAME them for reading what they want to read!!
I am a professionally certified teacher. I passed all required tests.
I possess 2 college degrees, a Bachelors in English, a Masters in Library Science and Information Studies. I got these certifications and degrees by reading what I was REQUIRED to read and to study, so I could pass the tests.
I am a professional reader, by choice. (I'm not kidding--BY CHOICE--there are many Media Specialists who don't read ANYTHING.)
I will read 3 picture books, 2 juvenile chapter books, 1 or 2 young adult books, an adult-level book,ALL in the span of 10 days or so.
I can read Dr. Seuss rhymes to Pablo Neruda in his native Spanish. I can decipher Chaucer and Dante. I can allude historical times and personages to Don McLean's "Bye, Bye Miss American Pie." I can recite Shel Silverstein's "Dreadful" poem from heart. I can tell you why Miss Nelson is Missing.
I can do all of the above because I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I can do all the above because I had a librarian, a Media Specialist who encouraged my explorations, who deterred my lazier choices, and always always always advocated for choosing books according to personal choices. I can do the above because I had a Media Specialist who taught me how to read, critique and understand what I read.
And that's what I want to imbue to children. Freedom to read, freedom to think, freedom to choose.