Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bright, Shining, Faces

Good Morning to you,
We're all in our places.
With bright, shining, faces.
This is the way,
To start a new day!

My mother used to sing that song to me in the mornings to get me out of bed on school days. This past week, as I was going through my library orientation program with the 7th graders, I looked out across a sea of bright, shining faces, some eager to learn, some already totally jaded, and I remembered my mother.

You see, each year in my presentation I invoke the ghost of my mother. I open up and tell the kids the story of my childhood. How I was the funny looking kid in braids. How I was the kid with cooties, the awful nicknames I had, and about the physical torture I endured during my elementary school days. As I share these memories, I can tell the bullies from the victims by their reactions. I talk about the lessons I learned from my experiences, how I learned not to cry in front of bullies, and how I learned that my mother was a liar. "Stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me." Mom was full of aphorisms. Why do I do this in my orientation you may ask?

In my library I have no rules. I do have three standards of conduct. For while rules were made to be broken, standards can only be met. My standards of conduct are:

1. The library is a quiet place for reading and study.
2. The library is a safe place mentally, physically and verbally.
3. The library is a place to care for and respect books.

I tell of my childhood to illustrate being safe verbally. My library is a safe place for all the funny looking kids on campus. I assure all the students, that internally, there is not a student on campus that doesn't think that they are not funny looking. I let them know right up front, that while they may get away with calling names out on the grounds, because of my personal history, they will not get away with it around me. It always gets real quiet during this part of my schpiel. It touches them. It is the beginning of relationship.

Relationship is why libraries work. You have to be in relationship to advise students. You have to be in relationship to recommend books to students. You have to be in relationship to motivate students to read. So those of you who only use your orientation time to tell kids where the fiction section is, I would advise you to be vulnerable, and use the time to establish relationship.

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