Monday, September 14, 2009

Being Resourceful

How excited would you be if you got 541 new books for your classroom library? One of my colleagues is VERY excited because that is how this new school year is beginning for her. She has so many new books that she enlisted the help of her husband to build bookshelves to give them a proper home.

What’s running through your head right now? Are you wondering where the funds for so many new books came from? Are you wondering where she teaches? Where is it that values reading so much that adding 541 new books to a single classroom library was a priority? Are you wishing that you, too, could start the year with 541 new books?

As I pass through conversations in lots of different schools, I hear a great deal of negative criticism about what teachers CAN’T do because schools haven’t provided what they feel is adequate training, resources, or materials. Teachers wish and wonder what it’s like to work where their friends teach and dream about how much better it would be if “this district did it like that district.” As somebody who works with educators in many different districts, I can tell you, no matter where you teach, something will always be lacking. There is NEVER enough money for all the training, resources, and materials that we need, so instead of resisting good teaching initiatives, I propose we exchange CAN’T for CAN and plow ahead with good teaching practices.

My colleague, the one who has 541 new books for her classroom library, is a dedicated reading workshop teacher. With a mere twelve hours of training under her belt, she started independent reading and literature circles with the classroom library she had. In spite of not having an adequately stocked tool box, she dabbled with mini lessons and teaching strategies and forged ahead with her reading workshop. Her courage and can-do attitude helped her figure out what else she needed to make her reading workshop productive and successful. For her, it came down to books. She needed more books.

Probably like your school district, there wasn’t much money in the budget for new titles, especially the number of books she was looking to add to her classroom library. So what did she do? She placed a letter in the mailbox of her many neighbors asking them to donate any gently used children’s book that had been relegated to a dusty shelf or box in their basement. “Please, if you are done using them, I will put them to good use,” she promised her neighbors. And little by little, the books began to appear—in her mailbox, on her stoop, at the end of her driveway stuffed into a paper bag.

Five hundred forty one books later, Michele feels ready to begin her reading workshop. Is this because she works in a dreamy, heavenly district that made her teaching dreams come true? No. This is because she is a teacher committed to helping children become more proficient readers. In order to do this, they need books. Lots of books. And her students will have them because like any great teacher, she is resourceful.

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