By Carl A. Harvey II
Flying home today from a visit with family and friends in Indiana, I’m sure the people around me were wondering why I was fighting back a few tears. While home, I picked up a book at my favorite children’s independent bookstore called Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson. I don’t want to give away the ending, but let’s just say it was a tearjerker. This middle grades book focuses on the relationship of a teacher to the student and the power that one teacher has to make a difference. … sometimes without even realizing that is what they are doing.
Reading this book made me think about some of the teachers I had over the years. I remember fondly my German class in high school, where I know our teacher was often much more concerned about us than whether we had learned to speak German fluently. I think back to the computer coordinator who took me under her wing and eventually led me to the path that put me in the world of school librarianship—not that either of us really knew that was what was happening. I think back to the class birthday party that we planned for my 3rd grade teacher as a surprise. If only I hadn’t dropped the cupcakes as I walked out the front door that day! (Cookies were an acceptable alternative, thank goodness!) I think back to my Kindergarten teacher who showed up at my Grandma’s 88th birthday party…. some 25+ years since she had any of the Harvey kids in class because she always said our family was special. These are just some of the teachers that pop to mind thinking back over the years, and it makes me feel pretty lucky that I had so many “Good Ones.”
You don’t always get to hear the impact you have on your students like Ms. Bixby did. You don’t always know what they remember or what they got out of their time with you. I wonder about the kids I worked with in the 17 years I was a school librarian. I wonder what memories they had from the library, from our projects, and from those opportunities when I got a rare chance to work one-on-one with a student. I hope they have stories from our library, just like I do from my teachers.
Anderson in his book called teachers like Ms. Bixby “The Good Ones.” I think that’s a great goal to strive for with our students— that every librarian our students interact with over the course of their K-12 career is one of “The Good Ones.” First and foremost because we want to make sure when students leave us, we’ve done all we can to prepare them for their future. But also because some of our students are going to become the future teachers that school librarians will be working to collaborate with for the next generation. Some of those teachers are going to become future administrators that will be in charge of schools and districts. It is so important that they see “The Good Ones” in action, so they know just exactly what a school librarian should be doing for that next generation of students.
We can often get wrapped up in all the things we need—budgets, staffing, collections, time, etc. All those things are important, and we shouldn’t stop working on making them better! But in the end, it’s the impression you make on individual students that makes all the difference. Thanks for all you do to make school libraries the amazing places our students deserve. Every student deserves to have one of the “Good Ones” in their library.
Carl A. Harvey II, MS, is instructor of school librarianship at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Harvey received his master’s degree from Indiana University and is the author of five books, most recently Leading the Common Core Initiative: A Guide for K-5 School Librarians (with coauthor Linda Mills). He is a past-president of the American Association of School Librarians, and his school has been the recipient of the National School Library Program of the Year.