Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the Foolishness of Certain Memos

The teachers at the Morton School recently received a memo admonishing us to wait until the last 2-3 days of school to dismantle classroom libraries, take down bulletin boards, and the like. I appreciate the spirit of this memo, but in practice find it absolutely impracticable.

Those of us teaching with classroom libraries constituting several hundred volumes have a daunting task: sorting and storing books for the new school year. If your school, like mine, is used for summer school, all of these materials must be secured so that they aren't "borrowed" during the summer. If you don't want to spend September in any more pain than you have to, you want to assure that things are put away with some sense of rhyme and reason so that unpacking is not terribly daunting when you come back for the fall.

"But Miss Eyre," you might say, "surely, as a professional, you can understand that this task might require time outside of the school day?" Yes, I do. I stayed at school two hours late today and worked through most of my lunch getting my library sorted out for next year. I am maybe 25% done. New book purchases mean that books must be leveled; books must be sorted according to genre and level; and then stored. When I'm really clicking along, I can do maybe 30-40 books in an hour, but when you have over 100 new books to be sorted and leveled, plus a new sorting system for next year, you're talking a multi-hour task. Saving it for the last 2-3 days of school is just not doable. In fact, looking at the work still remaining after my efforts today, I'm glad I started today.

"Maybe if your classroom library was sorted and leveled to begin with, you might not have to do this." Well, you're probably right. The problem is that when I first got my classroom, I got boxes and boxes of books, most of which were not leveled, none of which were sorted by genre, and some of which were totally inappropriate for my grade. These books I have gradually weeded out over the years, only to have them replaced by more books--purchases of my own, the school's, the PTA's. All of this takes time. Plus the new requirement that 100% of books must be leveled and sorted by genre, as opposed to the old 30-40% target--you can see why this is a substantial task.

Putting together the physical space of a classroom when you teach the lower grades (I'm counting anything lower than 9th as "lower") is a task that takes close to a week of full-time days. Why administrators think that you can take it all apart on your 45-minute prep period over 2 or 3 days in June is beyond me.

Happy packing, everyone. In flagrant disobedience of the memo, I'm already underway.