Archive for May, 2011

Meandering Meditations About Readers

One of my favorite parts of being a researcher is talking to people.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been “hanging out” (in a researchy way) in a middle school library media center since March.  This week I had the pleasure of interviewing students at the school. Contrary to current popular notions of reading, this school has a lot of boys who read enthusiastically. Four of them were kind enough to speak to me.

These students are incredibly dedicated users of school library resources. They read voraciously, at time multiple books per week. Their teachers allow them to go to the school library as often as they like. The collection in the school library, as they told me, is well-stocked to meet their needs.

As school winds down, these students have been on my mind. Like many (perhaps even most) school libraries, the facility is not open during the summer months. I admire school librarians who keep their libraries open intermittently for checkouts during the summer. But, I also see the position of the school librarians who does not open their spaces, especially if there is no funding to support this investment of time.

But that’s not what sticks with me.

As I spoke to them this week, all of these young readers were so clear on the incredible benefits they derive from a school library staffed by their certified school librarian. I was nearly moved to tears to hear them speak of their school librarian with such esteem and affection. When I asked them what they would be reading this summer, these boys, for the most part, thought they would be able to find enough reading materials between home and trips to the public library. I could sense some anxiety though, or a feeling of loss at not having access to their school library.

I am not sure why I keep coming back to this feeling. It is not my purpose to be critical of the school librarian, or the families, or anything in the situation, really.

Instead, I keep thinking of the thousands and thousands of children across this country who are losing their librarians to less qualified staff. I keep thinking of collections unreplenished. I keep thinking of all that is being stripped away from libraries, indeed from young people, right now. To be honest, it is hard not to be heartbroken (and angry!)

I think of the young readers I spoke to this week. I see in them, and hear from them, the wealth that a robust school library program brings.  For them, it is a couple of months until the lights flip back on and the bright face of their school librarian welcomes them.

They are the lucky ones.

In a couple of months, in many libraries across this country, the scene will not be nearly so sunny. I think about all the shade that is being cast in school libraries around this country. When will all the rest see the light?

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Adding it up: Writing another semester

It has been so long since I shared on this blog!  The second half of the semester has been hectic.  I’ve started my on-site dissertation research, which is exciting and will figure in to future posts. I’ve also been busy enjoying my daughter’s first lacrosse season, track season, some task force work, and various other obligations both personal and professional.

But, for the moment, I am thinking about the courses I taught this semester. I had the privilege of teaching two groups of college seniors at the University of Georgia (59 in all), all on their way to certification in teaching elementary aged students. I taught two sections of Language and Literacy P-5, where we explore our ideas about writing and language arts and develop a vision for writing pedagogy.  One of the key parts of the class is, unsurprisingly, a LOT of writing.  We write all kinds of things in this course, in large amounts.  As a way of wrapping up this semester, I wanted to do a rough calculation of the massive amount of writing these students created since January.

472 blog posts (plus quite a few extras)

59 narratives, both imaginative and personal

108 maps to fuel our ideas (heart maps, place maps, and so on)

22 piclits

59 persuasive pieces, from commercials to letters to essays

40 (or more) wordles and tagxedos

59 informational pieces, about everything from vacation spots to the history of M&Ms

25 recipes

50 concrete poems

177 lesson plans

59 stories of our writing identities

40 sets of writing mentor texts

108 reflection papers

180 genres for our multigenre project, including everything from collages to diary entries, stories to brochures, birth announcements to wall maps, menus to videos, tickets to medical bracelets, paintings to poetry

countless drafts on the way to final pieces

endless to do lists (that have now, finally, ended!)

scores of emails

and more!

This accounting is all the more impressive given that many of these students walked into class fearing, hating, or feeling downright bad at writing.  They each challenged themselves and accomplished wonderful things. I am honored to have read every word of their work. I feel as if, as the semester added up, my own teaching and gratitude multiplied many-fold.

So, as I wrap up this semester, I just wanted to publicly share this wonderful experience. It is especially bittersweet because about a week ago I learned that I will not be teaching next year as I had planned. In an unexpected turn of events, I received a Dissertation Completion Award which allows me to focus my attention on completing my research and my degree.  Although it is a wonderful honor, and a gift for a researcher to have this devoted time, I confess I was a bit sad when I thought about not teaching again.  I have to think of it as a brief break from formal teaching, knowing that I will be back working with and learning from students very soon.

Hopefully I’ll be back to blogging a bit more regularly in the coming weeks.  I want to share the latest batch of multigenre projects, a bit about my research, and a whole list of other things I’ve been thinking about.  Thanks for staying tuned. Congrats to all my students!  You give me hope that the future will be better and brighter. Take care, be well, keep writing, and keep in touch.


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