Library Tales

I was the substitute for the librarian/computer teacher at Little Brother’s school today. I’m there every Friday anyway as a volunteer helper, so I know the routine–but it is different when you’re on your own.

Someday I want to bring my resume along, because there’s a pre-K aide who seems to think I’m generally clueless and inexperienced. It’s true that I haven’t taught 4-year-olds before, but I am a certified teacher who has taught grades 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and college. Maybe I’m misinterpreting her remarks that I was “brave” to go it alone today. Brave or not, I’m qualified to do the job.

The day kicked off with a very pleasant second-grade class. They like to tattle, but that’s their only issue. I don’t like tattling so I don’t reward it, and that drives them crazy. I love this bunch of kids, though, and we had a good time and enjoyed a story after they checked out their books.

Normally when the librarian brings a class into the computer room I stay in the library to shelve books, make bookmarks or organize displays. When I’m substituting, those tasks wait until the kids are back in their classrooms, and I’m in the computer room with them as they work on projects. I enjoy helping them with their research, though their keyword skills can make me crazy. The 5th grade is studying explorers and using Pages to make brochures with biographical information. Some of them needed assistance, like the boy who found that googling “Cartier” didn’t produce the results he was looking for. “Does ‘Cartier’ mean something else?” he wondered.

One of his classmates, meanwhile, was mystified by her explorer’s cause of death. She wanted to know the definition of “dysentery.” I asked if she really wanted to know, because it was kind of gross, but she insisted that she wanted to know…so I told her. She was horrified. “People died from that?”

“Well, in the 18th century, yes,” I said. “It’s not like they could just take some Immodium. They didn’t have all the medicines we have now.”

I should apologize right here and now to the 5th-grade teacher for my “TMI” description of this disease. I’m kind of curious about how it will play in the final report.

I expected the eighth grade to give me more trouble than they did, after I wore a Notre Dame shirt to school last week and the boys all yelled “Roll Tide!” I was prepared to eat crow over Monday’s game, but a couple of kids made quick remarks and then that was over with. They were chatty, but busy, and our biggest problem was that no one could figure out how to print a Powerpoint slide in “portrait” instead of “landscape.” Finally I gave up and just told them to save their work until the librarian returns and can show them how.

After two 20-minute whirlwind classes with the 4-year-olds it was time for lunch duty, where I supervised the beverage table and then wandered around the cafeteria making sure kids ate their lunches. I called one 3rd-grader by name, which surprised his classmates who then quizzed me on the name of every kid in the class. I got them all except the new boy, and since I haven’t seen these kids since June, I was pretty pleased with that.

Then I had half an hour to eat my own lunch before heading back to greet the kindergarten. Everyone checked out books, then we read a story. They enjoyed the story so much that they didn’t even notice their teacher returning to pick them up.

The biggest wrinkle in the day came after all my classes were done, because the 4th graders came in to use the iPads. The secretary had given me the code to the locked cabinet, but there’s a trick to opening that lock and I couldn’t figure it out. I sent up a distress signal in the form of a text message to the librarian, who clued me in on what to do and the cabinet opened right up. And then I had the chance to kick off my shoes and go on Lysol Patrol in the computer room, wiping down tables, chairs, keyboards and mice. Oddly enough for this time of year, I didn’t have to run Tissue Patrol all day–there was no visible snot. I used the cleaning time to listen to a podcast on my phone. Now the computer room and library are neat and clean and ready for the librarian to return on Monday.

And I am tired.

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