It’s a school librarian’s worst nightmare, I think — a class that’s going poorly. Students who seem apathetic, distracted, chatty, hyper, uninterested in anything in the library. A class where you might as well throw those carefully drawn up lesson plans in the trash for all the good they are going to do you.
I’ve had that class. In fact, I have them this school year.
This year, I’m teaching a weekly 35- minute specials library class for middle school students. The school’s goal was to get students to read for 20 minutes once a week and teach some basic literacy and library skills, so I was trying to make that happen. After three weeks, I hadn’t gotten more than a handful of student to read for more than five minutes. Frankly, I barely got through taking attendance in a few of the sections in the midst of all the chatter and disruption.
I was doing every teacher trick I knew — seating charts, one- on – one conversations to get to know students, controlled choice, setting expectations in collaboration with students, making sure students had work to do right away, greeting the class at the door, planning lots of activities with movement and writing. It was so much work, and it wasn’t even working! It’s been awhile since this has happened to me as a teacher.
The doubts crept in.
Was I a bad teacher? Was being a librarian not for me any more? Did my 8 years of experience count for nothing?
Throwing up my hands, I decided if students wouldn’t read and they wouldn’t check anything out at circulation time, I’d just make them sit and listen to me read a book.
And, you know what? It worked. Even though I’d gone back to something basic at least half out of frustration, the classes were curious about their book, not just passively listening, but totally engaged, didn’t want me to stop reading!
The moral of the story, if you go in for this sort thing…
Don’t be afraid to strip away the complexities from your classes and programs and go back to basic and classic activities with meaningful connections to people and stories.