#WNDB: supply and demand in education.

Throughout my tenure at Books of Wonder, my responsibilities shifted and evolved. When Covid-19 forced the store to close and left me jobless, the work was perfectly in line with my personal values. I had become the school outreach manager—a job that seamlessly wove together school & library marketing, professional development trainer, and event planning .

I collaborated with parent volunteers and our school book fair book buyer to create book fair events unique to each school community. I created timelines for the events, handled logistics, and managed sales staff for the book fairs.

I booked authors for school events and created an educator night at the store for publishers to pitch their newest titles.

But the aspect of my job that I really loved was meeting with teachers and administrators to talk about the importance of diverse books. We talked about the Lee & Low Baseline Survey and the CCBC statistics and infographic. I pitched the newest #ownvoices titles and made a few sales. We had honest conversations about parents who might throw up obstacles to LGBQIA+ content. (Most often, the administrators who invited me in said, “Send them to me.”)

Now, I’m thrilled to see that lists (that have existed for a long time) of #ownvoices books are making the rounds on social media. Educators are jumping in and that’s a great thing because increasing and constant school & library demand for these books will ensure that they continue to be published.

I have long advocated for changes to required reading lists to include newer and more diverse titles but there are a series of arguments that keep these lists frozen in time. (BTW: You can replace “lists” with “classroom libraries” in all of the following arguments.) Some of these lists are frozen in time with the excuse that the books on them appear on state and national tests. Some of them are frozen in time because the school has class-sets of those books and has not/will not allocate resources for new titles. Some say they cannot change the list because the books are “classics.” (I urge those teachers to ask themselves, classic for whom?) Some think that because their classrooms are filled with majority white students, that their lists are just fine. Some say they just don’t have the time.

But some of them are frozen in time because educators are used to teaching those books or feel like an imposter teaching other books.

A couple of stories:

  1. I once taught at a school where a teacher had a file of 180 index cards each with her daily teaching plan. She was a veteran teacher, and while I don’t know how long she’d been using those cards, she didn’t deviate from her plans in the five years I taught at that school. That meant any student-led inquiry had to be contained within her box of index cards.
  2. I advocated for new more diverse literature to be added to my son’s AP English required reading in 2017. My plea started when I saw the list at an open house and continued back and forth with the teacher and my school board member until the teacher finally emailed this:

Teachers, at least teachers like me, select art from an extremely personal place. I am not capable of teaching certain books well, because I don’t have a deep connection to them. 

AND:

Since your question at open house I have been trying to nail down why I don’t teach more authors of color; why I don’t feel a strong enough connection to many authors who are not white Europeans. The answer is simple: I’m a white woman, educated in Canada and Europe, with a focus on Slavic languages (still white, though).  The literature I know I can teach well (which may be different from the stuff I read) comes out of those European traditions.

AND Finally:

The other truth that rushed in before I shut the door on this insight was that what we need isn’t so much white, middle-class ladies teaching about the African or Hispanic or Asian experience to our very white population, which always seemed a little fishy to me–what we need is to hire teachers of color. That is the perspective we are actually missing, in my opinion. 

Absolutely, schools that hire all white faculty need to do better. But in my opinion, that is not an excuse to rob all children from reading widely. To me, teaching literature, teaching anything really, is not about knowing everything. It is about curiosity, passion, lifelong learning, and being vulnerable to new learning in a way that inspires your students to do the same.

If your reaction to updating your required reading lists, your classroom libraries, and your curriculum is, “I don’t know enough about these books,” here are some suggestions.

  • Use this summer as an opportunity for professional development and take a Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+ literature class at your local university.
  • Read more.
  • Research more.
  • Invite local scholars to talk to the class and pay them.
  • Plan virtual visits to museums that highlight the author, history, or the culture depicted in the text.
  • Plan virtual author visits and pay the authors.

Or…say to your students on day one. “This year we are changing our required reading list and I’m learning too. Over the next three weeks we will come up with a list of criteria together, do research, and change this list to reflect diverse, high-quality, literature.” Students are amazing. They are demanding change.

And where there is demand, there needs to be supply.

#authorvisitschat Debuts 3/5/14 at 8PM EST w/ Megan Frazer Blakemore

February marks the one year anniversary of my business Creative Bookings. To celebrate, teachers and librarians are invited over to the Creative Bookings blog for a month of giveaways and the kickoff of #authorvisitschat on Twitter TONIGHT! Wednesday, February 5th at 8PM EST.
#authorvisitschat icon
I’ll moderate #authorvisitschat for teachers and librarians the first Wednesday of each month. Generally, the chat will be a place where teachers and librarians can pose questions about school and library visits, discuss best practices (what to do before, during, and after a visit), creative budgeting, fun prep activites, kidlit in the classroom, etc.  Each time, one of my author or illustrator clients will be in attendance bringing their own unique spin to the conversation.
I’ll be joined at the debut of #authorvisitschat, Wednesday, February 5th at 8PM EST, by Megan Frazer Blakemore. TONIGHT! Megan and I will focus on how an author visit from an author of historical fiction can be an authentic way to teach research skills. We’ll discuss how Megan’s author visits can help your students meet Common Core State Standards.
If you’d like to join the conversation TONIGHT, but don’t know your TweetChat from your #hashtag, take a look at my post over at Creative Bookings. I can’t wait to get this party started!

Special wishes for educators of the visual and performing arts

The last few weeks have been full of fundraisers and concerts for my children’s performing arts pursuits. I’ve enjoyed drama, choral, jazz, and concert band performances. All were truly inspiring!

Here in Brunswick, ME, we are so lucky to have top notch music educators who love kids and music and champion the importance of music for human development: collaboration, confidence, self-esteem, brain development, executive functioning, rhythm, language acquisition, math, physics, and healthy bodies and spirits, etc.

This season, and all year long, I have special good wishes for educators who bring our children the gift of the visual and performing arts. Educators who struggle in a test-often-and-cut-arts-first environment.

I wish them:

• Support from their admin teams to initiate creative, progressive, student-centered, authentic (non-test-driven) programs.
• Wonderful collaborators who make the job less isolated, and with whom they can brainstorm.
• Parents who attend performances, remind their kids to practice (must work on this), and get the word out in their communities about how important the arts are to our schools.
• Students who are motivated, generous, kind, open to new experiences and eager to be challenged.
• And community members who use their voices and vote to support the visual and performing arts with generous budgets.

Peace and Happy Holidays to all who teach!

Brotherhood Give-away for teachers!

Teacher friends! I received the following email from author A.B. Westrick and I hope you’ll pass on the offer to other teachers before the copies are gone. I reviewed the book a few weeks ago but because I’m on my phone I can’t link to it. Maybe someone could add the review link in the. comments. Enjoy the long weekend.

My publisher is giving away 20 copies of BROTHERHOOD to educators who agree to use the book to kick off a writing exercise about bullying. Here’s the post about it: http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/bullies-bad-writing-and-baby-steps-by-a-b-westrick/

So far ten teachers from all over the country have responded, and I have ten more to give away…