This Year, As Annual Takes Place in Chicago, I Happen to Be Meeting with Teachers
I did not plan it that way, just happened that I had no compelling reason to go to Chicago and instead I was invited to meet with a large group of 5th grade New York City public school teachers to talk with them about some of my books. In preparation for that session today I’m heading out to Dr. Myra Zarnowski’s class at Queens College, where she trains teachers for those same New York City classrooms. I mention this only because I am finding working with teachers fascinating.
I’ve gone to ALAs since the 80s, and I always like it. I meet with librarians who know books and are eager to see what is new, what is coming, and to learn more about books and bookmaking. It is a warm, nourishing experience. After working by yourself most of the year, ALA is a kind of weekend coming out party where you get to be with appreciative friends. Working with the teachers is different. They are pressed — by a curriculum that runs, so they say, from Plato to Nato — an impossible spread. They are pressed by testing. Pressed by the needs of a wide range of students. Pressed by administrators. They do not have time to linger on books and be appreciative. They want help, guidance, tools — road maps to how they can use a book.
Figuring out how to supply that map is an interesting challenge. I need to pause and look at anything that is implicit in a book — a moral question, a historical background, a research approach — and make it explicit. I need, in effect, to supply the thinking that surrounded a book so they have that available when they use the book with their students. Maybe that is the key word, "use." They need the book to work, to be useful. I don’t intend to change how I write books, but I am getting more and more interested in how to supply those handles so they can work hard, so they can be used in class.