One of the best things about being a published writer is that you run into people at conferences who have read your book. I enjoy meeting colleagues who share my professional interests. Talking to other teachers and librarians about the importance of reading excites me. These conversations engage my brain.

I know that I’m a better teacher now because I have learned from some of the best teachers in America—the ones I meet while presenting at professional development conferences and workshops. Anyone who gets up early on a Saturday morning to learn about reading instruction is my kind of person.

And sometimes, these kind colleagues will ask me to sign my book for them. It is awesome. Signing books is fun. It is one of the best things.

But, it’s not the best thing.

At the end of every school year, I cull our class library and my students help. My class librarians and I examine every book and I pull out damaged books, duplicate copies, and out of date books. I dig out books no one has read all year and booktalk lots of them. Kids recommend books to each other and take more reading risks—branching out to try books they haven’t already read this year. Our class has renewed excitement for reading.

Every morning, I fill one marker rail with discarded books, scrawl “Free to good homes!” on the whiteboard and invite my students to take these books. I know many of my students don’t own books, and I would never sell my used books when I can give them away to kids.

A few students each day grab a book off our giveaway rail and bring it to me, so that I can write “discard” in it. Wednesday, two girls in my afternoon class shyly asked, “Can you write your name in our books, too, Mrs. Miller? When we donate books to the class library, you always ask us to write our names in them. You should do it, too!” I smiled, “Sure, girls.” All of the kids wanted me to sign their books. I’ve been writing “donated by Mrs. Miller” in books all week.

My favorite book signings ever.

It’s true that some teachers are famous for what they contribute outside of the classroom.

But all of us are famous for what we contribute inside of the classroom.

Teachers feed more dinner table conversation than Beyonce and Peyton Manning. We are famous (or infamous) to our students and their families. These relationships matter. One of my favorite poem is “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye, my fellow Texan. This poem centers me, and I read it often. (Read it. I’ll wait.) “famous as the one who smiled back,” that’s how I want to be remembered.

As we end another school year, reflect on how you’re famous to your students. How will they remember your class and you? What can you celebrate? What do you still need to teach them before they go? What can you do together to end this year memorably?

I wish you the best for your last weeks with your students and colleagues. Enjoy your time with them.

14 responses to “Famous

  1. Thanks for the much needed reminder of what really matters. May have to steal your idea and donate a few “threadbare” (AKA-well-loved *thanks Natalie Lloyd) books to my students this year. You are a rockstar and our literacy community is so lucky to have you!

  2. I am excited that I get to host a book study on The Book Whisperer for 14 of my colleagues. I am hoping that our discussion can make a tiny toehold in a school culture that is heavily punitive and uses the adjective “AR” in front the word “book.” Maybe, just maybe. I have to tread softly.

    • Check out my article “How to Accelerate a Reader” in the Posts. Presentations, and Projects tab here. Perhaps, it will give you some additional information to inform your conversations:)

  3. Alison McDermott

    I am a little choked up. I tell my classroom teacher colleagues this all the time. Especially my reluctant reader teachers… ” as their librarian they hear it from me all the time… But you, you are their rock star. Star gushing about the books you love and watch what happens. Or ask me because I may know about it first.”

  4. Thank you for all of the goodness inside this post! I LOVE that poem too and I’ll be sharing it with my students. Thank you and have a wonderful end of the year!!

  5. I love that your kiddos asked to have you sign their books-what a great memento for them. Thank you for introducing me to that poem-what a beautiful sentiment! Thank you also for the reminder to celebrate-we are in standardized testing season and I am having trouble still bringing our regular joy to the classroom. I realize I need to work harder at that-I want them to have other memories of our year..

    • I agree that standardized testing emphasis crowds out a lot of the fun and engaging things we used to do in school. I want my students to have positive memories, and I have to remained focused on what really matters for them. I am glad that I am not the only one who feels this way!

  6. What a profound post. I love the reference to the poem. What an incredible reminder of our role in a child’s life. That’s how I want to be remembered. I hope you don’t mind if I link your blog to my FB page “The Heart of Literacy”. I share great literacy finds for my group to access. And, of course, this grop should be Donalynn Miller fans 🙂 Thanks for another great post!

  7. That poem is beautiful. Thank you for these thoughts. It was a reminder that I really needed right now!

  8. I love this post! and couldn’t agree more! I want to be remembered like a pulley or a buttonhole. I came across The Book Whisperer in my studies through an ARC (alternate route to certification) program for librarianship that I’m currently working my way through. I’m currently seeking a job and it’s tough looking for a job any time, but I can’t help but feel its really tough to get hired in education if one hasn’t gone through the traditional route of becoming qualified to teach. I have to tell you that the thing I find myself continuing to think over and over again is, shouldn’t my desire to continue growing and learning and becoming a better educator for the sake of the kids I come in contact with each year be worth more than it seems to be worth to others? I don’t know. Of course I’m not advocating that educators should be hired willy nilly without any thought to their background or ability to teach at all. Simply that this–what you described here in this post–is a very important part of being a successful teacher and it sometimes seems undervalued to me from where I stand today. Maybe because there’s no real way to measure a person’s desire for serving students unless you just give them a chance to serve the students and that’s a risk that one must take without any promise of payoff. Oh, but it will pay off for the person who one day hires me. 🙂 Thanks for your books. I’m about to dive into Reading in the Wild. Thanks for sharing your insight into sharing a love of reading and learning with our students. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying it’s helped this newbie out exponentially!

  9. These are beautiful thoughts as we wrap up the school year. I often wonder what it is that my students will remember about me, and I have come to realize that it is that I made them feel like a part of my family through the stories I share with them. I appreciate you reinforcing this with the reminder that it is this relationship that is the foundation of all learning. Enjoy the rest of your school year!

  10. How cool that you’re able to give the weeded books away to your students. You ARE a rock star–no wonder they want your signature:>)

  11. I know it is not at all the end of the year for me but we surely feel like celebrities to our students on a day to day basis. I hope to end my upcoming year in a positive and exciting matter. I think so often my daily routines that are exciting at first become a lull throughout the school year and lose steam. I hope to re-create enthusiasm for reading before my students leave me for the summer. I love the way you weed through your old books and let students take them home and I think I will try that this year to see if it affects my students and hopefully motivates them to read throughout the summer.

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