Just a little something to think about before the school year starts

(Note: I just took the plunge and joined the rabbit-hole that is Pinterest. As a result, I can clean out my "Drafts" folder in gmail, which is where I kept things like links to tutorials and recipes and stuff I wanted to hang on to. As it turns out, I also kept a few blog entry drafts in there. This one was started nearly a year ago during my full-time-librarianing days.)

First, let me say how much I respect teachers. Second, let me say that I wish that some of you would pull your heads out just a tad.

Here are a few of the things I've had kids come in looking for in the last little while, at the direction of their teachers:

A 2nd-grader came in looking for a historical nonfiction book that is at least 100 pages long. News flash, teachers: Most nonfiction written on a 2nd grade level is 32 pages long. The stuff that's 100 pages or more is for, like, 6th graders.

A student came in with a list of acceptable books for a book report. Eight out of 10 were no longer in print. Way to keep current, there.

A 14-year-old girl came in with a list of books her teacher had given her as being especially good for "reluctant readers." Included on the list were A Clockwork Orange, The Color Purple, The Bluest Eye, and Charlotte's Web. For a 14-year-old. I have no words for that.

One girl and her mom came in looking for a book that, as far as I can tell, does not exist. Or, if it does, it hasn't been in print for a long, long time. And the teacher told ALL of the students in her class to go find a copy and read it. Too bad our library didn't come with a Room of Requirement.

Entire grades of children will come in looking for a subject that is so narrow and specific that there aren't enough books from the library on that subject to go around. ("I need an entire book about life as a lady-in-waiting in 15th-century England, please." Not even kidding.) And this is with a county-wide system made up of many branches, mind you. We're not riding around in the mountains delivering our books by camel.

They'll come in with very current topics and be told that they MUST find a book and cannot use electronic sources--even though that's the direction that publishers are moving and that's where the information is going to be. When I find them the perfect thing, the kids are terrified that their teacher will discount their source as being "some random Internet page" rather than an electronic version of a printed work.

Here's the thing, teachers:

I NEED YOU TO STOP SUCKING AT THIS. When you give these assignments, please check to be sure that your students will be able to find what you're asking. Please make sure that what you're asking ACTUALLY EXISTS. Please try to become aware of what's current, or what's still in print, rather than assigning your kids the same books you were assigning 25 years ago.

If you really want to be cool and you want to be sure that your book lists are going to work out, call your local children's or young adult librarian. They will, I can absolutely assure you, be thrilled to talk books with you. They can give you great lists for reluctant readers or any other category you need. They can buy more books if you give them a heads-up about what you are going to assign. If they know when the assignments are going to be handed out, they can create a display of all the available Civil War Young Adult Fiction Books of 100 Pages or More. (Note: I did this once I realized what every third kid was asking for, and it was awesome.)

Thank you for your kind attention in this matter.


MJ said... [reply]

So true. SO TRUE.

Azúcar said... [reply]


Brinestone said... [reply]

This post stressed me out more than a little. What is a student supposed to do when they cannot complete the assignment their teacher has given?

Nemesis said... [reply]

EXACTLY, Brinestone. It's really not a cool situation at all.

AmyJane said... [reply]

I had this chat recently with our Awesome Children's Librarian. She said kind of the same thing--that they would love to be in better contact with the schools and the teachers but that there's only so much reaching out that they can do. The teachers need to meet them halfway for there to be a real partnership. True.

FoxyJ said... [reply]

You've made me feel a little better about working in adult reference instead of children's. But, my daughter is starting 3rd grade next year and now I feel stressed that she may start bringing home assignments like this. So far it hasn't happened.

I feel frustrated by the 'no electronic sources' thing because it reflects a fundamental ignorance of how the world works these days. There are so many good things available electronically that are often more accurate and useful than stuff in print. The thing is, you have to teach kids how to search them and how to evaluate them, and many people just don't know how to do that themselves. Sigh.

Stephanie said... [reply]

Urggghhh. Amen, and amen. We are having a really hard time explaining these concepts to some of our "vetrans" who would really rather not do anything "with computers" and don't believe in "research." They also have 8 week units on root words. Nothing but roots, for 90 minutes, every other day, for 8 weeks.

No wonder they don't know how to use a library.

Wow. This brought out a mean case of the ranties. Good post. I will try not to suck at libraries.

Stephanie said... [reply]

ps, I am aware that it is spelled "veterans," but my Principal always says it "vetRANS" and, sweet heaven, public education is ruining my brain.

Ann-Marie said... [reply]

Can I just say Amen!

jeri said... [reply]

*headdesk* is my favorite word of today.

I wish our local librarians were thrilled to talk books. Short of that, I wish they would not obviously roll their eyes when I ask pesky questions like "What's a good, fun alphabet book for boys?" Maybe I just unluckily get the lazy one each time but... sheesh.

Nemesis said... [reply]

No JOKE, Jeri. I swear every time I step foot in that place I cannot stop the words of, "Oooooh, if I were your boss right now you'd be CRYING." from running through my head. This is especially true when I am trying to ask a question of someone who can't be arsed to look up from her computer screen at me.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . .

coolmom said... [reply]

On one level It's called " be your child's advocate" and it's why I was a worn out mother most of the time. Just hang on there and do the best you can.

Heidi said... [reply]

There are an unfortunate number of out-of-touch teachers, but, to be fair, what the teacher assigns and what the child thinks she means aren't always the same thing.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Heidi, you are absolutely true. What's even worse is when you have the PARENT coming in looking for what their KID says that their TEACHER said. It's like a game of Telephone. Sometimes we just can't get anywhere and I have to say, "You know what? If you could find the original assignment and bring it in that will probably really, really help."

goddessdivine said... [reply]

That's why I don't assign those kinds of things. It just saves a lot of grief.

(No; I'm not that crappy of a teacher. It just doesn't fit my curriculum. THANK GOODNESS.)

Not all teachers are created equal. If you even knew how many suck at grammar and spelling you'd be even more appalled.

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