I was planning to respond to your post on Character Education vs. Citizenship after I got back from the local public library with my kids but then I had an experience that so struck a note for me I had to write about it.
I went into the library with my kids and I knew I needed to get some fresh books for my classroom reading. I decided to ask the librarian for a recommendation. “What? You asked an expert in children’s literature for a recommendation on a book to read?”
Yes. Yes I did. But, I didn’t go in with what she usually gets. Teachers asking for recommendations for books to fit a theme. Years ago somebody decided that preschoolers dig themes and they started organizing every pre-k literacy curriculum around themes. No, I did not ask for a theme book. She said, “Do you have a certain theme?”
Yes but, I didn’t really want to go that direction. So I asked the unspeakable…
“What is the best picture book for young children you have read in a long time”
Her eyes glazed over and a grin as big as the moon crossed her face. “Really?” she asked.
“Yes.” “Oh my gosh have you read …—>” and she was off. She turned to her colleague and said, “He wants to know our favorite books.” She was so excited. It was like watching a kid in a candy shop. She started recommending books left and right. She tweaked her recommendations based on my answers to questions as she went. She offered a book based on a folk rhyme originated in sixteenth-century France sung to the tune of a traditional song that the author sang growing up in Colombia, called, “Let’s Play in Forrest While Wolf gets Dressed” that incorporates a hide and seek game. She recommended “What Will the Fat Cat Sit On?, set to be possibly the funniest book I have ever read at work. But, the one she really wanted me to get was, “A Home For Bird”. She thinks it will win an award this year.
I walked out with five great books and five more on hold. She said, “No one ever asks us to just recommend our favorite books.” As I was driving home I was thinking, what would happen if someone asked me “How would you change teaching? What are your favorite reforms?” I would probably be as excited as she was if I knew someone who was listening and was going to actually take my suggestions was listening. Many would like what we recommended in Teaching 2030.
So, I dare you, ask a teacher what they would recommend we change, without the inhibitions of the current themes like performance evaluations or professional learning communities. Go ahead.
I dare you.
PS. Thanks to Kathleen and all the great librarians at our library for some great recommendations for me and my kids over the years. See you next week.