“Did you get the books yet?” she asks, loudly, despite the fact that I’m in the middle of a conversation with another student. I ignore her, and she keeps on walking toward my desk where I’m sitting. Having a conversation. With another student.
“Did you?” she asks again, as she begins to dig through a pile of books that are reserved and that have a big sign over them that says, “RESERVED.”
My other student, a senior, looks at C and rolls her eyes. She doesn’t know C, but she knows she’s a ninth grader and hasn’t yet learned her manners. I worry the senior will go off on C; I’ve seen her go off for much smaller things. Thankfully she tells me goodbye, and thank you, and walks out.
C is sorting through the books, repeating, “Did the books come in yet? Did you get the books? Are the books here?” She won’t stop.
Somedays I am more patient than other days. Today I am patient, because I am able to remind myself that a) C really is super excited about these books, and b) C considers me one of her very few friends. Many of the other kids find her annoying and overbearing, even though she has a big, loving heart. She can be hard to be around, though, for sure.
Because I am more patient today, I’m able to step toward her, touch her arm, and turn her to me.
“Hi,” I say quietly. “Yes, the books are here. Why don’t you have a seat while I get them ready for you?” I gently move her toward a chair, where she sits down and finally stops talking. I get her books for her, and she takes a deep breath before she dives in.
Wednesday, 10/14 – 12:30 pm
A former student comes to visit me. He hasn’t been in this school since 2005, when it was still condemned and looked like an abandoned elementary school: pre-library, pre-cafeteria, pre-cleanliness. He marvels at the changes, and compliments me on the library.
We catch up. He’s a father now, to a one-year-old girl. He shows me pictures, and I confirm what he doesn’t need confirming: she’s the most adorable child in the world. He stays home with her full time, while her mother works nights. I admire his strength; I could never be a full-time caretaker. I’m not nearly strong enough. He likes it, though he finds himself longing for a break at least a few times a day. He’s excited to be visiting me because it means he’s not running after his newly mobile child. I ask him what he’ll do when they move to daycare or preschool.
“I want to write,” he tells me.
This comes as a complete shock to me, his 9th grade English teacher.
He wants to write. He only realized it recently, but he feels in intensely.
He regrets not having read more, not having written more, not having paid attention in class. He wishes he could go back and do it all over again, knowing what he knows now.
I tell him he can start now. He’s home all day—use that time! (as if I don’t remember what it’s like to have a one-year-old). He seems excited, though, and we talk about next steps.
Both of us feel inspired by his visit, and I go online to find books about writing. He’ll come back in a few weeks, and we’ll inspire each other again.
Monday, 10/19 – 12:35 pm
A busy day in the library: C is here, along with two other ninth graders who come with her. New friends! Each of them turn in multiple books and check out multiple others. Then they hang out and look at what’s on the shelves. They’ve been here every lunch the past few weeks. I think it’s their safe space.
K has come in to work on her college application. I sit next to her and guide her through it. It’s confusing, and I don’t want her to feel overwhelmed. Meanwhile, another student is across the room, on a different computer, working on a scholarship application. Two junior girls are sitting at a table, exchanging gossip quietly, oblivious to the books around them.
A sophomore comes in looking for new books in the LGBTQ section. He has come out recently, and he is going through books faster than I can keep up with him. He’s told me about some of the stories he’s read, and he talks about the characters as if they are his friends.
A group of four sophomore boys come in once a week or so to look at the graphic novels/manga section. They don’t check things out, but they take books off the shelves and talk about them enthusiastically. I’ve learned not to approach them, as they scare easily. Maybe one day one of them will want to check out a book. When that happens, I’ll be ready.
Friday, 10/23 – 10:25 am
A few times a week, one of the resource specialists brings a small group of kids into the library. The students have individual learning plans (IEPs) and do well with some extra help. I like it when they visit, because sometimes I get lonely in my little library. I like to listen to the resource specialist, an amazing young woman I had the pleasure of teaching back when she was a high school student at LHS. Her patience and skill are astounding, and I am reminded of how lucky I am to have played a tiny role in this woman’s education.
The group finishes their review with a couple minutes left before class. A couple of them hover near the door, but some of them start looking through the shelves. One asks, “Do you have any books about hair and makeup?” I don’t, I tell her, but I will by Wednesday.
Ed. note: Michele Godwin is in her 15th year of teaching high school. She’s back at Leadership High School, where she taught from 2001 to 2008. An English teacher by training and experience, Michele has changed her focus to build a library for Leadership. In addition to her fundraising and library organizing, she is an 12th grade adviser. These are her musings from the past few weeks. Please donate so Michele can buy more books!