Tag Archives: transitions

Leaving Teaching: Who Gets the Books?


So MANY Books…going to a good home!

After nearly 16 years of teaching and learning with young people, I’m leaving the classroom at the end of the school year.

I am not leaving entirely; rather, I’ll be working in a program that prepares pre-service teachers, a pursuit I’ve wanted to dedicate much more time to doing.

Now, though, is the hard part of leaving. My first thought after accepting my new position was: what is going to happen to my books?  I knew I wanted them to go to someone who knows why a robust, diverse classroom library matters–for all kids, but, in the case of my work, particularly for underserved kids. I also wanted to be able to give the library to someone who might not have the resources to acquire this treasure for him/her/themself.

And while I’ve worked to create a school-wide culture of independent reading at my current school, I’m not so sure it will continue in ways that I’m comfortable.

So, this was a wonderful opportunity to look backwards–something I’m not that fond of doing because, well, when that happens we can see the good and the bad.

Hindsight, certainly.

I have a beloved colleague that used to teach down the hall from me about 10 or 12 years ago. We have continued to be critical, thoughtful friends for each other over the years. He’s wanted to gain a foothold with independent reading with his kids. He knows it matters. He has made smaller achievements with them. He could make leaps and bounds, I think, if he had more resources. His school’s budget has been trimmed even more.

Supplies, particularly books, are usually the first line item to be cut.

He is taking all of the books. All nearly 900 of them that kids WANT to read. He and a colleague are driving across town and will load them all and take them back to their school. 

This colleague sent me an email asking for money for the library.

Is he kidding? But that’s how Chris is. I told him that the fact that I know the books are going to be read and re-read and that that library is going to be used is all the peace of mind I could ever want, and a small step towards giving kids access to all the books they want and need.

But yes, he could take me to dinner and we can catch up as thanks, for sure. Always. I’m also reminded of how ideas leave us connected and believing in the power of literacy and kids’ rights to have literate lives, reminding us to work like heck to realize those ideas.



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Filed under Book Love, Reading Lives, transitions

Hellos and Goodbyes

Ready, Set, GO

Image: American Bar

Memory is funny. I think I purposely erased all memories of teaching seniors. Thus, my current experience with seniors seems new. But, it’s not. That we keep them in school for a month, once they’ve checked out, after the college acceptances or job plans have been made, is perhaps not the most logical decision for anyone. When, finally, we reach that point–similar to what I experienced when I was leaving for college and had the argument with my grandmother over something so insignificant because, well, you have to have that fight so you can leave and then come back–then I know the end is near and it’s time for them to leave.

That leaving-time moment occurred this week. Their final reflection written, last critical reflection submitted, they rushed out the door and, I would think, we all breathed collective sighs of relief. Finally, high school was at its end for them. Finally, they were set to begin the next part of their lives and I could grade their papers and close the books on that block, at least, for me.

Yet, the following day, when they really didn’t have to be there…they came back. I actually was mystified to see them: WHY would you return after complaining miserably the whole semester about how hard the class was, how I was asking too much to require they, gasp, read at least 8 books plus Malcolm X, that I made them write, and write, and write? In their final reflections, they answered those questions: that while the number of books required was intense, they learned to love reading, or at least like it a good deal; that they finally understand how to put together an argument; that the financial literacy unit was a resounding success because since then, they ask themselves: do I want it or do I need it and have learned to save for the future…

And then there were the other young people I’ve taught as sophomores and haven’t had in my classroom since, but have seen around school. They came by with cards and cupcakes, genuinely grateful and happy. Oh, and the tears. A student stopped by to tell me she had been crying all day. My response: “Why?” I guess that was not what she wanted to hear because that exchange was texted around as “typical Dr. Parker.” But I do try to temper the sorrow with lots of joy: you made it, this is not the end, your life is set to start, go be great! And be sure you take a book, and read it. Guess that is typical me.

(Note: And I loved high school. Yup. I did. But I loved it for my friends, and the extracurriculars, and a teacher or two. But my life really started after high school, truthfully; I still love the memories and the friends, though. Forever.)

They don’t stay gone. They return, and once they’ve gotten some distance and lived a bit, it’s quite wonderful to see how they walk in the world, what decisions they make. A former student who is back after his first year of college texted me yesterday and asked if I wanted to meet for coffee, while I ran into another who is working on her nursing degree and we chatted about the exorbitant price of day care. I need to remember, too, that the trajectory is long and these snapshots of kids change quite dramatically (as I flashed back to how they were when I taught them and how mature they are now). That I was there to bear witness to some miniscule part of it is the wonder, indeed.


Filed under New School Chronicles