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Thursday Thirteen Ed. #???: What I’ve Learned In My First Year of Teaching

June 11th, 2008

When’s the last time I wrote a Thursday Thirteen, anyway? Ah, well. And it hasn’t been a “real” year of teaching, it’s only been a few months. If you will recall, dear readers, as of last September we were considering moving across town. Changed our minds, unpacked the cartons, and I got myself a job at our neighborhood school. I’m working in the library, and how I got there is a kind of long story, so I’ll cut to the chase. Here is what I’ve found out in the last few months:

1. Librarians often aren’t considered “real” teachers, despite the fact that many of us have teaching certificates, master’s degrees, and classes and students who rotate in and out of the library all day.

2. Librarians are teachers. As one of the secretaries at school put it: “We’re all teachers. The librarians, the custodians, the cafeteria lady… We all teach and we all love the kids.”

3. We all need to respect each other a little bit more in this world, and reach out to each other. Would that hurt?

4. Librarian positions in schools are being cut nationwide. They’re being replaced with library assistants, clerks, or no one. I was told that the kids couldn’t check out books at our neighborhood school, because there was no librarian. “Maybe the parents could volunteer.” Only the parents have jobs of their own. So I started calling around, looking for volunteers, and had a little bit of luck, but no one who could be there consistently.

5. I moved my office into the library. I am now unofficially the community outreach coordinator/web content person/librarian. The first book I checked out was on penguins, and the student who checked it out was so happy that you would have thought she’d just won the lottery. She’s the one who changed my whole world. Books make people happy.

6. Yesterday, our last day with the students, that very same student spent a chunk of the day with me, shelving books, arranging textbooks on the cart, playing on the computer, telling me about her plans for summer. Then she came back to say goodbye. Three times. We’ve bonded. None of the teachers I’ve known over the years have ever told me how much of an impact the students have on them. They’ve dropped little hints — a student who went on to big success; a student they couldn’t get through to, who moved away; a student they found particularly challenging, who later on came back and said thank you. But it’s this precious, hidden gift, how much the students change your life. It’s total pay-off. It’s huge.

7. If I stay steady, the students stay steady. Mostly. But some days, things get crazy and you just have to roll with it.

8. If students (and take it bigger — society) aren’t given access to books, they learn to disrespect books, libraries, librarians. Themselves. It took me two months to get my students to stop eating and drinking in the library, to get them away from FaceBook and MySpace, to teach them to shelve books (we’re still working on this one), to not call me and each other names. In the library, at least. I have no control over them the rest of the time. It’s a little like getting deflowered, the first time a student curses you out.

9. Curse all you want over the summer, kids. I’m looking into getting my Library Media master’s degree. Turns out you have to take care of a bunch of pre-reqs, take several tests and then the real fun begins. I do not care if there are no jobs for librarians. I do not care one whit when people tell me, “It’s all Internet now, no one uses libraries.” Of course people use libraries. Where else will you find free internet? A DVD? A CD? Maybe a book or three? My crystal ball isn’t working, so I can’t see too far into the future, but in my lifetime? There will be jobs for librarians.

10. My daughter told me last night that she wants to be either an illustrator “or a librarian.” I am so proud.

11. Some tips from Marian the Librarian: Use rubber cement to patch up books, not Elmer’s. Use the fancy kind of scotch-tape to tape over the bar codes and call numbers — the other kind doesn’t hold. Use white-out to erase the dirty pictures. The Judy Blume books will grow legs and walk away, regardless of the fact that they were first published thirty years ago. Kids love Judy Blume. (And you’ll want to re-read “Wifey,” after working in a library for a couple weeks.)

12. I started hearing the kids talk a few weeks back about who is coming back, who isn’t — teachers, students, staff — and it bummed me out, realizing that this might be the last time ever that I cross paths with some of these people. I do not like the transitory nature of schools, but that’s education for you. You move on. You go back. You never go back. You start again. It’s alright. Cyclical is alright.

13. I love the students and I love the books. Happy Thursday! (Early.)




  1. wacky cousin says

    I loved my librarian so SO much. She was the one who would let me use her bathroom when I was crying and didn’t want to go home. She taught me to shelve books, to love reading, and that it’s okay if you don’t get to sit on the squirrel chair for storytime, you might next time. I loved her way more than my regular teachers. And got to see her for all six years that I went to elementary school.

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  2. The Other Laura says

    The Kid’s school is blessed with an incredible librarian and a library assistant. The library is my favorite place to volunteer!

    PS-Thanks for the knit teaching tips – The Kid is knitting away!

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  3. Sarah @ pussreboots says

    I never really got into Judy Blume but I love my libraries. Happy TT.

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  4. Our Life as an Air Force Family says

    Great TT!!

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  5. Angie @ Many Little Blessings says

    Great post! I worked for two years on a half time (temporary) contract as a librarian in an elementary school. I really loved it, but then my temporary contract expired and the position opened up within the school district and someone transferred into it. I really enjoyed those couple of years!

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  6. tinalina says

    I just finished my 2nd year of teaching and I hope you really enjoyed your first year. I also hope it wasn’t as difficult and emotionally/spiritually draining as my 1st year was. :) Yea for Librarians!

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  7. lambheel says

    It just gets better…

    You are doing something righteous for the human race – helping kids be readers.


    June 11th, 2008 | #

  8. Joyce T. says

    Congratulations on reaching out to students, and helping them to respect and love books!

    June 11th, 2008 | #

  9. Makita says

    We love the library! We go every week – sometimes more – but then we homeschool so it is our home away from home. :)

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  10. Recovering Straight Girl says

    I love books and libraries I just can’t seem to return my books on time.

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  11. Cindy Swanson says

    My husband has been in education for many years, so I have the greatest respect and admiration for teachers–including librarians! Kudos to you!

    Hope you’ll stop by my TT when you get a moment. :)

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  12. Norma says

    What a great read! I’m a retired librarian and thrilled that you are there to place a book into eager hands. What lucky kids.

    Before going for an advanced degree, at least take a look at Annoyed Librarian (a blog) and read the comments. Also look at LISNews.com which has both library news and blogs by librarians.

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  13. Vixen says

    You go girl! Leprechauns are people too. And very good teachers. How else would I know about that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, huh? Seriously, they deserve some respect.

    Wait, did you say librarians? Damn I thought you said leprechauns.

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  14. Bubba says

    For some reason, I have a lot of librarians coming into my life lately. And I’m growing to love all of you.

    Brilliant TT. Thanks for sharing.

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  15. WackyMommy says

    You are all cracking me up here. Thank you for the nice comments! I checked out http://annoyedlibrarian.blogspot.com/ Oh. My God. Laughing so hard I’m getting tears in my eyes.

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  16. Alice Audrey says

    I’m so glad the book made your first student to check something out so happy. They certainly make me happy.

    June 12th, 2008 | #

  17. Sarah in Disturbia says

    What a nice post! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside : ) Congrats to you . . . you are making a difference.

    June 13th, 2008 | #

  18. The Gal Herself says

    Love #7. Good to know that the educator can set the tone, and not the other way around. (After all, they outnumber you!) Thanks for visiting my TT.

    June 13th, 2008 | #

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