In honor of School Library Month (April) and the #whylib hashtag, I'm going to take a few moments to share why I became a librarian.
When I graduated from college, I got the chance to go overseas for a year and teach English to 3-6th grade students. I loved the experience, and with some trial and error and a co-teacher who took it upon herself to be a mentor to me, I began to feel like maybe education was something I wanted to pursue. But then that year-long stint ended, and I found myself at a 8-6 desk job that made me miserable, and about six weeks into the job, I began to realize that teaching brought me joy. Whenever I thought of my kiddos, I felt a deep longing to be teaching again. After all, if something can make you get out of bed and smile and laugh on one of the worst days of your life, it's worth thinking about.
However, I didn't see myself getting an M.Ed. and being a homeroom teacher, but at the same time, I knew I had to teach. And then I stumbled onto school librarianship. A field that would let me teach, constantly learn new things, introduce kids to ideas, concepts, and critical thinking skills, be surrounded by books, and let me integrate technology (all things, it turns out, I had already been doing that year abroad without even realizing it)? I couldn't believe such a perfect job existed.
I applied to graduate school, quit my job, moved back to the US, and the rest, as they say, is history. I still cannot believe that I get paid to do something that brings me so much joy and satisfaction on a daily basis. That's #whylib.
I'm in the middle of a truly awesome, exciting unit right now. I taught my fourth graders how to use Scratch (just the basics) and then set them loose to animate their Greek myths. At least five have come up to me privately and told me excitedly "Mrs. Bery, I signed up for Scratch and I spent the WHOLE WEEKEND playing on it!" which, you know, is a wonderful feeling. And they're using their classmates who know more about Scratch to fancy up their animations, which is even better.
Unfortunately, due to our district being a pilot district for PARCC and library closings for MCAS, our state standardized tests, Scratch is temporarily on hiatus. Which is a shame, but there's nothing to do about it but adapt and move forward. And since I'm in their classrooms for a full 41 minute period, I have to come up with something for them to stay occupied for 41 minutes (doing silent reading could happen, but it feels like a bit of a cop-out).
And then on Sunday night, I had a brainwave. I'd just had a conversation with our fabulous 7th grade social studies teacher about his "create a country" project. But that was too grand a scale for me, and I wanted a project to have a curricular tie-in. His project kept floating around at the edges of my mind (where some of my best ideas seem to come from), and then, I had it! We would do a "create your own state" project, which would incorporate the knowledge and skills students have gained from their study of the United States all year, and their current research project in class. Win win. And the kids LOVED it.
I got not only your basic ideas, but some kids thought about adding a government, writing a constitution, coming up with districts (unsurprisingly inspired by The Hunger Games), and more. When I told them I thought we'd record their state information online with accompanying visuals (VoiceThread), they nearly jumped for joy at the idea. And some asked if they could use Scratch, to which I said "sure!"
I'll write another post about how I'm handling being a librarian on a cart (quite literally), but for now, I'll revel in a spur-of-the-moment brainwave that I think is going to turn into something kind of awesome.
Sometimes, it's hard not to feel like you're not being the bestest, most awesomest librarian ever. Logically, I know I've done a heck of a lot in six months, but it's hard not to feel like there's so much more you could or should be doing. It's so easy to fall into that slump when you follow librarian bloggers who are amazing examples of what our profession can achieve, who inspire me each time I read one of their blog posts.
But sometimes things don't always go to plan. A research project drags on too long and kids lose the spark that got them motivated in the first place. You stumble from a whirlwind 5 day, international trip and do as little active instruction as possible during the next week. You get the standardized testing schedule and realize that between tests and library closures for said testing, you're losing valuable instructional time - it's hard not to feel discouraged.
So I'll put it out there: I am not involved in my school's Read Across America Day celebrations tomorrow. I had never heard of World Read Aloud Day before two weeks ago. I did nothing with the Caldecott or Newbery awards with my students, either real or our own mock contest. I dropped the ball in ordering the books for our statewide book award contest, where students have to read 5 books to vote.
But it's ok. We've done great things, and read great books, and learned new things. My frenetic weeding of the fall will eventually get finished, and the library will look incredible when it does. Those signs I keep meaning to make to guide students to find books will eventually get made. And there's always next year. That's what I'll keep telling myself.
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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