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 My class librarians and I examine every book and I pull out damaged books, duplicate copies, and out of date books.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.