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Loving the Library

June 5, 2014 2 comments

Note: This post is written in conjunction with the #DadsRead campaign.  Learn more about it here.

About two years ago, the Montessori we send my son to called us early on a Monday morning.  Over the weekend there was a plumbing failure, and for the whole weekend water had been collecting on the floor.  It was a nightmare for the owner, who had to close the school for a week and a half and to get everything dried out and cleaned up, and for licensing to be satisfied there was not a mold issue.

It was also a burden for us parents, who all of a sudden didn’t have a place to take our kids.  My wife and I both work full time, so we had to split taking time off from work to be home with our son while the school was closed.  For a few days, I became a stay at home dad, and quickly had to figure out what to do all day.  Through some online searches, I learned about all of the benefits of my city’s public library system.   We love books, and my son’s bedtime routine includes us reading three books to him each night, so we are not strangers to reading.  What I was a stranger to was all of the awesome programming the libraries do during the day for kids.  I’m sure this is old news to stay at home parents who might be mentally writing me a late pass right now, but I had never sought this out before.  I found that each branch runs several story time activities each day, with different sessions targeted for different age groups.  At that point my son was not even two, and for that age group the sessions consisted of reading some short stories and mixing in some singing and movement to nursery rhymes.  Then at the end they bring out a bubble machine, just because toddlers love bubbles.

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Bubbles stuck in my son’s hair during the end-of-storytime bubble machine madness.

During that time, we went to almost every branch in the city to participate in what each of them offered.  Each branch’s story time was a little different, but all within the same theme, and all with the beloved bubbles at the end.  For older kids, the libraries had even more to offer, including puppet shows and programming related to animals and science. And it was all free.

Being full time working parents, we try to make the absolute most of our weekends and do lots of different things.  We don’t use the library programming in the same way as we did during those days off, as most of their programming is during the week.  We take my son occasionally to check out some new books, and we still keep our eyes open to what they offer from time to time. When we saw that one of the branches was having a party based upon Mo Willems’ Pigeon Character, we were there.

Fast forward to two nights ago, and the evidence that the library experience has stuck with my son.  I mentioned that I needed to return the book Spork, which I had borrowed to read to my son and also to review it for my post on culturally themed books.  When I mentioned that I had to return it sometime this week, my son’s face lit up and he asked if he could come with me when I went.   I have some extra time off from work this week, so I picked him up early from school yesterday and we went.

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Yesterday at the library, kicking back and reading some books.

 

Unfortunately with budget cuts, some cities’ libraries are being threatened with reduced hours and services, and even closure.  I was proud of my friend and then-Boston City Councillor Felix G. Arroyo when he stood up to threatened library closures in my former city.  It’s up to all of us to show our cities and towns that our libraries have our support, and if you haven’t checked out all that yours has to offer, go for it!  If you’re a dad, check it out during the #DadsRead campaign and let me know what you find.

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Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

I think we all have certain teachers who were special to us and we remember fondly throughout the rest of our lives. I wrote about one of these teachers of mine, Mr. Tefft, in a post you can find here. My 11th grade English teacher is another who, as long as my memory stays sharp, will always be with me. For one thing, the dude’s actual first name is Brainerd. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule in the universe that says any time you have someone whose name is some combination of the words “brain” and “nerd” they must grow up to be in academia. True to his name, Mr. P. LOVED books. Thinking back, it seems like every day he was talking about some new-to-him first edition he found by accident at an obscure used bookstore. Moreso than his name or his book collection, I remember the passion with which Mr. P. taught. In high school I was much more of a math and science guy, and English and Spanish were my worst classes.  But with Mr. P., English became my favorite class that year.  He wouldn’t have it any other way. I fed off his passion to really try to see what was so great about the books we read, and to try to understand them on a level that I could write something about them that Mr. P. would find compelling. Mr. P. was a tough grader too, and I was always walking the line between a “B” and a “C” in his class. When my final grade came out to be a “B-,” I felt proud of that, and stayed more proud of it than I was of the “A” I pulled off in English the next year, with a teacher who went through the motions and wasn’t nearly as tough or engaged.

Although he’s not even four yet, RJ has already had a variety of teachers. I’m not sure if this is typical of Montessori or just something his school is working through, but there seems to be a high turnover rate. His favorite teacher last year left the school abruptly after a dispute with the owner, a month before RJ was scheduled to move on to the next level of classroom. When he did move, the particular classroom he went into was having such a hard time finding a consistent lead teacher that the director is currently teaching the class herself. There is a new teacher hired to step in and take the lead role, although secretly I wish the director could just stay there. She’s to preschool Montessori what Mr. P. was to 11th grade English. I often can’t help but to think beyond the preschool years to wonder what RJ’s schooling will be like once he moves into the public school system. We plan on having him in public schools for elementary through high school. I see what both kids and teachers have to deal with in the “Stakes is high” ((c) De La Soul) environment of public education, with standardized testing results serving as a measure of performance for both students and teachers.  I see the emphasis that schools are putting on the testing at the expense of other things.  As I write this, I’m wondering how Mr. P., and some of my other favorite teachers would have done things in this current era of standardized testing.  I wonder if the backdrop of standardized testing would have stifled any of the creativity with which he taught, in favor of making sure we knew word definitions and analogies.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all teachers out there.  You clearly have your work cut out for you and you have my respect and admiration for rising to the challenge.