Thursday, May 24, 2012

Librarian, Part II

The coworker and I discussed the virtues of the writings of C.S. Lewis, especially the need for such clear-headed thinking so frequently demonstrated by our students and the choices they had made in their lives. My coworker has not read much by Lewis, and I have ready nearly everything by Lewis, and I want to get more into that library than just two fantasy series already there. As she suggested, having a better quality library could bring about better thinking among the students. We'll see.

However, today marked a difference in my usual interactions with the students in that I had more library time when they were available to come to it than I normally have. At one point, another teacher brought in two young men that were looking for something to read over the upcoming holiday weekend. I knew one of them, but the other was unfamiliar to me. The former kept trying to suggest books to the latter (I'll call them "Connor" and "Zeke" to protect the innocent).

Connor kept pointing to books that included varying levels of gore and violence, while Zeke was looking for something deeper and of better quality. Then again, Zeke was also interested in reading "Mein Kampf," which was not in circulation due to its questionable content. He commented on the fact that it might seem odd that he, being Jewish, would want to read Adolf Hitler's book, but then he revealed that he had relatives that survived the concentration camps. He wanted to learn more about the twisted mind behind those horrific experiences, but I could not help him.

A few minutes later, I heard him commenting to Connor about the "Left Behind" series. I quickly finished what I was doing in the office and went into main library room. I spoke to Zeke about his interests in books and then led him to a shelf with works by C.S. Lewis. First, I suggested "Out of the Silent Planet," but when Zeke made it clear that he needs a somewhat easy plot to capture his interest, I switched to "The Magician's Nephew." Zeke seemed confused so I asked if he had ever read the Chronicles of Narnia. He said he had not, but he had seen the most recent movie version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Hearing that he had liked the movie, I pressed him to take the first book of the series. He did. I'm eager to hear what he thinks of it.

Later, as my coworker and I continued our tasks in the library when everyone else had gone, she turned to me and said, "Bill, do you realize that you convinced a Jewish boy to check out a book by C.S. Lewis?!"

I replied, "Yes! It was on my mind the entire time he and I were talking. Given his interest in the Left Behind series, I figured a switch to the Chronicles of Narnia would just give him a better literary experience. Yes, it was on my mind the whole time."

The Path to Being Certifiable

All right, folks, here's the score: Maine requires teachers to pass the Praxis I (reading, writing and math) and the Praxis II (Principles of Learning and Teaching, and subject area content knowledge) to be certified to teach grades 7-12 in a given subject. My subject area is social studies. If you look at the lists in the parentheses, you'll see that there are a total of five exams. I have taken all five. I know now that I have have passed four, and I'm waiting to hear on the fifth, the PLT. When I pass the PLT, then I will be teacher-certifiable. Yes, that's the goal. Thus endeth the update.

Update: It's official. I am certifiable. :-)
New Update: It's official. I am certified!

Librarian, Part I

Substitute teaching has been my primary work this school year, even while I have pursued state teacher certification and alternatives for employment. In my role as a substitute teacher, I have encountered a number of challenges and rewards, and I am grateful to my employers and to the Lord for the days and months I have spent in various classrooms.

I can recall the interview process that I had for one potential employer very early in 2011. At the end, when I was turned down for the position, the reason given was that I did not have sufficient experience with "disadvantaged youth" to work at their school. Well, I have more than made up for that this school year, as one of the places where I work is involuntarily residential, so to speak. There have been countless opportunities to exercise de-escalation techniques, many of which would be very helpful to know and use in any classroom setting. I have received significant training in maintaining classroom and student safety and security, and I appreciate all the time that has been put into making this particular school a beneficial time for all involved. Challenging, but beneficial.

Though I am a substitute teacher, I have been employed as a teacher's aide and as a fill-in librarian, too. In December, the librarian got done in preparation for moving out of state. Though that has not happened, the school library was in desperate need of maintenance, so I offered to do it. Don't get me wrong--I'm getting paid for my time! And it has provided extra work hours for me during a long winter without full time employment. It has also garnered the appreciation of my boss, including good citations in my work evaluations.

As the "assistant-to-the-(nonexistent)librarian," I maintain the flow of books in and out of the library. Difficulties with the computer server have limited my ability to check books in and out of the computerized catalog, but I set up spreadsheets to handle the same functions. It gives some idea of where the books are and which books are most frequently being read.

The other substitute teacher has helped immensely, too, reshelving books when I am not there and keeping the room clean. Today, we had a lengthy conversation about what we would do "if we ran this library". I expressed my desire to see better quality books available. Before I could even say which author I'd really like to see represented more in the stacks, she said the name I was about to mention: C.S. Lewis.