Today is my last day in the library for the school year. I’ll still be at school organizing the library for next year, helping the teachers with end-of-year projects, and reading to a couple of classes. This year has been an inspiring, life-changing year. I am hugely satisfied by any opportunity to learn and self reflect, and volunteering in the library allowed me to do that in spades. Here are some of the things I’ve learned this year.
- I learned that teachers work really hard.
- I learned that it is wonderful and rewarding to work with kids.
- I learned that it is easy to care about children who aren’t yours and to want what is best for them.
- I learned that finding books appropriate for a school library that satisfy the students, the parents, the administration, and the Diocese is difficult!
- I learned that most kids just want you to listen to them. A simple “Mmmmm” or “Oh?” is like a balm on chapped skin.
- I learned that older kids love read alouds.
- I learned that watching a child fall in love with reading is an adrenalin rush.
- I learned that I really love organizing books and putting up silly seasonal decor.
- I learned that I’m a bit insane about which pens I use for various tasks.
- I learned that Newbery Medal books from 10-20 years ago are often better than the Newbery Medal books from today.
- I learned that book cover design is very, very important to kids.
- I learned that boys like violence and girls like romance far earlier than they did at my age.
- I learned that there are some children you will not inspire, will not reach.
- I learned that I really like grande-soy mocha frappuccinos with a shot of toffeenut–no whip–way too much.
- I learned that this is what I was meant to do.
I’ve been a funk since January. I haven’t been walking. I’ve been tired. I’ve had trouble keeping up, focusing on even the smallest things. But this Monday I got an urge and I went on a walk. It was 8:00pm and I almost didn’t go. The next day I went on a walk around 7:00pm. Like the day before, I went because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. The same thing happened on Wednesday and then again Thursday. Four walks in four days, which is more than anything I’ve done since February. I’ve missed the me that had energy to do things for herself. I’m happy she might be back.
Some of you don’t know Mikey plays the clarinet. And if you don’t know that, you don’t know that I went Tiger Mother on him and told him was going to play the clarinet. I strongly encouraged him. To this day, I don’t know why I was so adament about the clarinet. I played the piano for a decade and I have no real opinion on clarinets or music like jazz and soul, where you normally hear the clarinet. The best I can say is that I thought he would like it based on how much he loved the recorder in 3rd grade. He fought me. He wanted to play the trumpet or saxophone. I don’t have an opinion on trumpets or saxophone, other than saxophones remind me of a skeevy Rob Lowe in St. Elmo’s Fire. Also, Bill Clinton. The Mister calls the saxophone the lady’s man instrument.
I’m relieved to say that Mikey took to the clarinet like a fish to water. He practices for fun and has me download the sheet music of his favorite songs. He’s taught himself to play some Star Wars songs, Tao Cruz, Ode to Joy (that one by ear), and this week, Viva La Vida by Coldplay. The first thing he did when he got home from school was grab his sheet music and practice for about an hour. He scribbled, made notes, crossed off music he didn’t like, and circled areas he needs help with from music teachers.
He taps his foot when he plays. I noticed that at the school concert in April. He does that thing my piano teacher used to do, the snapping of the fingers and waving of the hand at the beginning of the piece like a human metronome. He doesn’t realize he does either. He likes me to take videos of him playing over the course of a few weeks so he can watch himself improve. He watched the videos the way a football player watches post-game films in a locker room.
The other day I had the boys and the carpool kids in the car. I asked them what their favorite subject was, but most of them said things like recess or PE. When I asked if they could go to school and learn only one subject, only Mikey changed his answer. “Oh,” he said. “That’s easy. Music.”
It’s his favorite class and I don’t know how school music instructors do it. All those instruments! All those kids! The thought of organizing a production with so many different levels of talent and interest stresses me out. Hats off to you, music teachers.
On Thursday, as Mikey was working on Viva La Vida, he started asking me about college and scholarships. I explained to him the concept, how colleges will pay for a student to attend classes if they contribute a needed talent to their school. Mikey waved his clarinet in the air and said, “Here’s my scholarship right here, mom.” I told him he would probably have to be in a marching band to get a scholarship. He did not like that idea. The idea of skipping across a field with a clarinet and a feathered hat terrifies him. (His words.)
He asked me about majors next. I explained the idea to him, which he didn’t like. He thought it was unfair that someone would make him choose between science and music. I told him he could always do a double major, and he liked the idea. (Hahaha! Music and science! Two of the hardest majors to combine!)
What amazed me is that this was the first time in 6 years that he ever considered doing something other than paleontology. Mikey is ridiculously loyal and committed. When he makes up his mind, he stays the course, so music must be important for him to consider something other than science.
This summer he is again going to music camp, though he’ll be playing on the bass clarinet this year. The band needs another bass and Mikey’s teacher thinks he can do it. Mikey also wants to take a remix class, where you learn to make mixes on your tablet. Or DJ? Or something. No clue on the technical terms. He and Nico are really inspired by Martin Garrix. It’s insane to think that boy is only 9 years older than Mikey.
Last year, I followed my instincts and ignored Mikey’s request for a different instrument. Now, he tells me he can’t imagine playing a horn–though he wouldn’t mind playing one in the future. Listening to my gut, not screwing up my kid (that I can see) by making him play an instrument he didn’t want, and watching him continuing to develop and refine his interests makes me happy, happy.
This past week was teacher appreciation week, and even though I have told the kids time and again that I am not a teacher, the student council included me in their round of gift making for the teachers. Of course, I was beyond touched and happy. My favorite has to be “best book mommy” and #book.
Nico’s teacher is so, so supportive of my goals to read to the kids and has really done a lot of great things with her class. We’re working on a book report where the kids are going to do a video “book review” of their book. The 8th graders will edit the videos as part of their final computer class project. It’s should be so cute!
In the meantime, I’m still reading James and the Giant Peach to the first grade. The other day I got to the part where the centipede sings a song bashing Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker to Miss Spider, who is sad because the aunts flushed her dad down the drain. At the end of the songs the narrator says the audience (James, Miss Spider, Earthworm, etc.) all clap in appreciation. When I said that sentence, the first grade started clapping! Nico’s teacher and I shared a look and laughed. So stinkin’ cute. When they left for PE, one girl came up to me and said solemnly, “Mrs. Kendall, you are a good librarian.”
This could not have come at a better time because lately I have been feeling so tired, so run down. I’ve been doing too much, eating too poorly, and not sleeping nearly enough. Summer vacation can’t some soon enough, though I will miss interacting with the kids.
A homemade present from a 7th grade girl! I will treasure it for the rest of my life. I’m using it as a bookmark for Island of the Blue Dolphins and the other day when I pulled it out of my bag to read she looked surprised and pleased that I was using it. As if I wouldn’t use it! She’s lucky I didn’t parade around the school waving it like a flag of victory.
Have a happy, happy weekend, friends.
p.s. I’m so excited book club is back in business! THANK YOU for the push.
I don’t know how many remember my library update post that talked about the 5th graders who like to tease me with annoying songs. Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows was a popular one for a while.
Aren’t you so glad I refreshed your memory? You’re welcome!
A couple of weeks ago I was shopping for Valentine decorations at Michael’s when I rounded the checkout line and I saw many pink fluffy unicorns. I weighed the price of a small, stuffed unicorn against the joy in torturing 5th graders with my dorktitude for all of 2 seconds before I tossed that doe-eyed horse into my cart next to the glittered hearts. Then I rushed home so I could gloat on instagram. One student, a boy, conceded the girls were going to flip, but that the unicorn needed a stage and a rainbow. I said, sure, every unicorn needs a rainbow and stage! Sadly, I don’t have that kind of time. I told him he was more than welcome to make one. I didn’t think about it again until the next week.
How awesome is this kid? I was so proud and told him so at least a million times. I just love it and it’s now on display where it’s the first thing people see when they walk into the library.
I’m so lucky to volunteer in the library. I love it so, so much. I love the kids, I love the books, I love the environment. I love that I leave my door open all the time and now the older girls come and visit me during recess. I love that they trust me enough to tell me about their crushes, frenemies, worries about grades. (“But don’t say anything Mrs. Kendall because I will just die if he finds out!”) I love that all they want are hugs and more hugs.* I love the way the younger ones get so excited when they find a book they like and how you can hear a pin drop when I read to them. I love my fancy rainbow loom ring, the pictures I get every week, and painstakingly wrapping books in clear contact paper so they’ll last longer. Seriously, I do. Methodical, brainless-but-detailed tasks are perfect for minds that don’t know how to slow down.
I especially love that while I wrapped a book under the watchful eye of a 5th grader she said, “Wow. You, like, really really care about this library and us so much. Crazy.”
She’s right on both counts.
*I only hug the girls in 5th-7th grade, but not because I think older boys don’t need hugs. On the contrary, I think they need twice as many hugs! I just don’t feel comfortable showing physical affection unless I really know the parents and they know I’m not some crazy pedobear out to destroy lives. I wrote about this some more on Facebook this morning, but let’s just say that, like Erin says in the comments, I give good side squeezes.