Middle School Monday: Welcome, Julie!
Let me ask you a question. How much—on a scale of 1 to 10—do you dread that question when the speaker / trainer / principal asks you to “say a few words about yourself” as a way of introduction? For me, it hovers around 42.
Robin is that person in this story. She asked me to introduce myself to you in this post which seems strange, as I have been a fan of Robin and Middle School Monday and it still hasn’t registered that she will not be writing theses posts anymore. Gulp, I will.
Oh, no. it’s time for my “few words about myself”—right?
Gah. Those Few Words.
I could say something like this: I’m finishing my first year at a new school and it’s been a heady whirlwind of diversifying and updating the collection, establishing a culture of collaboration, and building a community of readers.
I should probably tell you more about my amazing school—it is a public, alternative school with over 80% male students and over 80% students of color.
I should definitely tell you that every decision I make in my library is geared towards inclusivity. I lied a few sentences ago. [I won’t make a habit of it—promise.] I told you that I diversified our collection—what I really did was MAKE IT REAL. Diverse books are not extra…they ARE the collection. Diversity is our wonderful reality and our collections need to reflect that reality.
Really, that’s enough about me. Surely, my few words are up? I’d always, always rather talk about my students. Expect to see their words here a lot—from anecdotes to guest blogs. I’ll introduce you to Nia who mumbles pop-culture hilarity under her breath and thinks no one hears her. I hear her. There is Tae, who already had his 10 minutes of fame during our Matt de la Peña Writer-in-Residence this spring, but he’s game for more. (Which (hello!), I’ll definitely be telling you more about. It’s MATT DE LA PEÑA and he’s the coolest guy on the planet.) You’ll meet Kevin who dropped his backpack on the library floor and said, “finally, I’m home.”
Student statements—especially the unguarded ones like Kevin’s—are the best kind of truth, aren’t they? My library has been lucky enough to live through some amazing experiences this year. Student feedback and testimony is always my go-to assessment, so when Zach gave his seal-of-approval on last week’s Family Book Night with a pithy comment, I knew we’d hit a homerun.
Family Book Night
To celebrate reading—and champion reading over the summer—we held a night-time family event where everyone chose a new book to bring home and keep. EVERYone—students, parents, and other family members. How was this financially possible? I got most of my books by shopping the Scholastic Warehouse Sale where I bought over 400 books for $500. I then set up the library to look like a typical book fair—but no money changed hands. Everyone simply shopped and then selected a book. And, brought it home.
Before the event, as I was talking it up in classrooms, the 8th graders were the most enthusiastic [which you know is RARE]. Many told me that they had always loved and hated book fairs in previous schools—loved seeing all those new books, but hated that they were never able to buy anything. Zach made the statement of the year when he added: “Seriously. They were Book UNFairs. You are having a real BookFAIR.”
And, a BookFAIR it was. I did not just buy whatever books I could get. I bought books that were reflective of my students, their experiences and interests and made purchases in every age range to celebrate family reading. To continue the party into the next day, all classes visited the library so that all students had a chance to bring a new book home (whether or not their family was able to make it to the nighttime event).
|I’m Sitting Down Now.|
I’m thrilled to be joining this conversation and am looking forward to connecting with—and learning from—other middle school librarians. Honestly, I’m thrilled that there even IS this blog. (Thank you, awesome Robin!) Middle school is AMAZING and we know it every time a person looks at us in horror when they find out what we do. We get three years—one, two, three—to take our students from elementary to high school and travel with them on this crazy, meaningful journey. How lucky are we? And that I can write that sentence—and mean it—at the end of May when even my eyelashes are exhausted feels like a victory. Who’s with me? You? I knew it! Here we go…
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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