26 April 2008

Feeling Bizarre about a Book Bazaar

My bookshelves are groaning. No, they aren't disappointed in me and I didn't tell them my bad jokes. No. My bookshelves, if you listen carefully, are groaning from weight. Today is the annual Book Bazaar put on by the public library. My head is spinning.

Leaving there today I had to remember that I paid with a business check and that most of the books I got are specifically and could only be teaching materials. I remembered this while my guilt of gluttony rattled my teeth. But I wasn't selfish. I complemented the collections I have, I grew the availability of resources at my fingertips, and I can't wait to have a student who needs them.

Why is it so important I keep myself in check? I've been to many a book sale before, but none have ever equated to this. To illustrate, I hauled home about a third of what I could have fit into my tiny neon with the two children in their car seats and two boxes of crud that live in the trunk anyway, without making the children hold books on their laps. One third of my capacity. In numbers, I counted 153 textbooks, children's books in mint condition, anthologies of children's stories, readers, and educational series. I also brought home a selection of computer math, reading, and motor-skill related software, an educational DVD, and about 15 CDs for my work collection. In dollars, I wrote my check to Beta Sigma Phi for $53.25. Don't be jealous just because my library throws the most awesome book sale that's ever been seen. In fact, I spend at least one half-hour sitting on the floor making sure I don't make the drive home a guilt trip. Who am I to take all these books?

All the thoughts of children across the world, without books to read; all the people in my neighborhood without enough money to buy a book, and I'm gobbling up these, those, and some over there for my already 500+ book collection. It's not like if I don't buy them they'll be trashed. Instead, they'll be boxed up for next year. It's not like donations aren't made through the Beta Sigma Phi sorority and the library to these children I keep remembering are in need. It's not even like I'm hoarding them in my basement for some obsessive-compulsive ownership reason.

No, I'm amassing a library to teach from. I'm equipping myself with the tools necessary to do my job. My business is not in material things, my business is in the development of the mind. I am a teacher. I am a writer. I don't count all these 153 individual books as a trophy to my frugality. I collect what I do for the content within. The words on the page, the skills I can share using these textual symbols as a base. A jumping-off point. Our schools do not distribute textbooks to our children so they can say: “Look, each kid went home with 7 books this year.” They instead say, “Our children have a year's worth of curriculum resources at their fingertips.” They don't even walk away from these hypothetical 7 books. No, our schools help the children open them, read them, learn them, so they can walk away with 7 books worth of knowledge in their heads.

Where I fit in is that the schools give every student the same 7 books. Not every student is going to respond to those 7 books or the methods used to approach them. My job is to take the content in those 7 books and present it in ways different than those books and the methods they're approached. My job is to offer the same content, the same skills, but in a way that odd-student-out can understand. I don't want to own the exact same 7 books that the schools use, no I want 7 different options for each of those 7 books. I need to have 49 books for every 7 the school gives out.

I'm not an instructor. I'm a teacher. I teach ideas necessary to go forward, even if it's just, “How do I understand my 7 books?” I suppose, at this point, the question should be not “Why is it important I keep myself in check?,” but instead “Why keep myself in check?” Well, the reason for that is that there's always next year, and I need time to place new bookshelves.

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