Jan. 15, 2023: My Classroom Library
This is a picture of part of my classroom library. I have shelves that line almost all the walls of my classroom. I have reference books and encyclopedias, nonfiction books on a vast array of topics, biographies, and shelves and shelves of fiction. I have poetry and picture books, books on history and civics, and Shakespeare for children. I have books on weather and ocean creatures, books on the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, books on different types of ecosystems, and even law books. Books that cover everything from astronomy to zebras, and everything in between. The fiction section is also diverse, with a variety of genres and authors. Something for everyone!
These are not books the county, school, or school district has purchased. These are books that I have purchased with my own money, and my library has steadily grown over my nearly 30 years of teaching. While I do sometimes have to part with books that are falling apart from use, and I will occasionally lose books that students forget to return, I would estimate that there are thousands of books in my collection.
My classroom is a place of exploration and discovery, so research and investigation are a central part of my curriculum. Students routinely seek out books to answer questions, learn new information, or be inspired. They browse the shelves, flip through books, and share recommendations with each other. Shelves get messy, we tidy them up, and they get messy again. They are used and loved.
Like all schools and classrooms, parents sometimes fill my room, during times like Open House and other school events. Parents are also welcome to browse the shelves and make discoveries. I have even had parents donate books or periodicals to our shelves.
But this type of classroom library may soon be coming to an end. We have a governor who has convinced parents that teachers do not know how to teach and that they cannot be trusted. Apparently, our classroom libraries are now a vehicle of evil and should be suspect.
Creating issues, where there are none, our legislature has been methodically chipping away at the local control of schools and districts and teachers. By vilifying schools and teachers, they have been able to harness the fear of parents. Now the books we have in our classroom libraries, must be treated with distrust.
What this means is that all teachers must now catalogue every single book in their classroom library and have these lists available digitally for review. While this does not seem unreasonable, it is a herculean task, especially for veteran teachers who may have extensive collections. Teachers will be expected to do this work on their own time.
Additionally, it is “solving” a problem that does not exist. Parents have always had the right to ask a teacher what literature titles they may be using or to request that their child does not read a specific book. And teachers have always supported and respected those parental requests. Teachers build their class libraries to support the subjects and content they teach, and those standards are set by the very same legislature that is criticizing what teachers teach.
The most harmful result of all of this, is the methodical crushing of the parent/teacher relationship. Parents are being told that they must look with suspicion at everything their child’s teacher does, including the books he/she puts in the classroom library.
Many teachers are deciding that the work and stress of this latest mandate is not worth it, and will just close their classroom libraries. Cover the shelves with bulletin board paper, or pack up the books. That is heartbreaking for the students.
The silver lining for me is that I am old enough and have been teaching long enough, to know that when things become extreme in either direction, the pendulum will ultimately begin to swing back to center.
So, over these next few weeks, you will find me in my classroom at 6am, methodically pulling each book off the shelf to catalogue. Because I must protect my students and their right to learn and discover. Even if our legislature will not.