Ed. note: Michele Godwin is beginning her 14th 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 11th grade adviser. These are her musings from the past few weeks, her third contribution to TEACHER VOICES. Please donate so Michele can buy more books!
Wednesday, 10/8 – 10:55 am
The first cross-advisory meeting, where every junior is grouped with juniors from other advisories. They are to discuss their individual passions and then look for intersections. Many of them find this difficult; they have never been asked to think about what makes them fired up, excited, angry. Most respond with generalizations: “Music feeds my soul,” or “I enjoy spending time with my family.” Between now and May, it is my work to help them find an issue they feel strongly about, so they can work toward affecting change. It is a high-stakes project. There is much to do.
Friday, 10/10 – 11:15 am
Ms. M, with whom I share a classroom, tells me, “Some students were looking for you.” Really? Because my advisees don’t seem to have much interest in anything but my granola bars, at this point. Turns out they were looking for “the book lady.” They wanted to put in a book request. I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Tuesday, 10/14 – 3:45 pm
Ms. P, senior adviser, stops by after school, a tall boy in tow. “Ms. Godwin, I want you to meet R. He has never read a book the whole way through until this year – until now. He’d like to make a request.” R. smiles nervously and asks, “Can you get the sequel to The Maze Runner?” I want to say, “Are you kidding me? You’re my dream come true! Of course I’ll get that book for you! I’d do whatever it takes to get that book for you! I’d got through a maze myself to get that book for you!” — all while jumping up and down and whooping and hollering. I don’t, though, because I can imagine how disturbing that could be for this shy boy. “Sure!” I say, and send him on his way.
Wednesday, 10/15 – 10:15 am
Independent reading time in advisory. It takes a while to get students settled down and reading, but, once they’re there, they love it. One student is reading The Divine Comedy, another is reading essays from The Best American Sports Writing 2014, another is reading as many articles as he can find about Ebola. When I tell them, “Time’s up. We have to move on,” they groan. They don’t want to stop reading!
Wednesday, 10/22, 11:00 am
Giants fever is in the air. A few of my students request books about baseball, which are surprisingly hard to find, but I manage to get a few, including a book about Derek Jeter. It feels like blasphemy, but my student doesn’t seem to care. In fact, he finishes it in a day and asks for more. I need more sports books!
Friday, 10/24 – 2:10 pm
In the hallway, I see a boy with whom I have not had pleasant interactions. I stop him and ask, “Have you read this?” It’s Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. I have heard this boy use the words “hegemony” and “dominance” before, and I know he reads at a college level. I tell him, “It’s super advanced, but I hear you can handle it.” He reads the back and says, “Yeah. I’ll give it a try.” He walks away, but turns back and says, “Thanks.” I do NOT jump up and click my heels.
Thursday, 10/30 – 9:15
The Giants have won the World Series, and our students are over the moon. The building is humming with energy, everyone recounting their favorite moments from the game, arguing about who should have been MVP (Bumgarner. Duh.). I wonder about the books that will be written about our team. And will future librarians have to ask for donations to get those books? Will they worry about how to raise $60,000 to fill a beautiful new library space, or will books be obsolete by then, libraries reduced to nothing more than charging stations? I shudder to think about it.
So I will stick with being in the present, enjoying today and the pride that unites the entire city, and the excitement our students experience as they are reminded that amazing and triumphant things can happen, and that, indeed, together, we are giant.