Growing Pains

October 31, 2016

My Sweet School is crowded.  There are 3 schools in town and the over enrollment at all 3 schools would almost fill a fourth school.  We do not have that fourth school…and therein lies the problem.  Every year for the last 3 years, classrooms have been added and this year it just feels different…tighter…like wearing your thin jeans when you’ve gained 10 pounds, everything’s covered, but it is not comfortable.

The Good, Bad and Ugly…

The Good

The Good is very good, in fact you might even say it is great!.

In order to get everyone ‘in’ and give all the teacher’s their planning time, we (the library) have all upper grade kids, 3, 4, 5th grade kids one class everyday, so sometimes we have them twice in one week, while we have K, 1, 2 grades every 8 days, except they come to the library every week, but not always to be taught by us.  If you think this is confusing, well, you are right and more than one teacher has turned up in the right place on the wrong day or the right place on the right day for the wrong thing.  Ok, do you understand our schedule now?

Having the older kids more often has given us (My Librarian and I) the opportunity to create a Makerspace opportunity in the library.

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library

or public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing.

We run a library program for 3 days and then we run Explore.  Explore is our makerspace time.  We offer engineering play & challenges, creative endeavors, and teach strategic and fun games.   We also believe in the power of age-old play…blocks, coloring and puzzles.  We have more ideas than we have time.  If you enter the library on an Explore day, you might see paper airplanes soaring across the room, Lego cities being built, Zentangle drawings to name a few.  This week the kids were learning to play cards.explore1

Many of our kids had never played cards before.  We taught Crazy Eights, taught them to deal, shuffle and how to play.  What to do when you loose.  You’re allowed to say, “Good game”.  There is no ‘cry, whine, fuss, fuss’ and if you are my sibling, you know who coined that phrase.  If you win, you are allowed to say, “Winner, winner chicken dinner!”

Our library is not a very quiet place.  When the noise is that of kids learning, playing and laughing…well, it is a very good thing.  Hearing a Special Ed kiddo happily announce “Winner, winner chicken dinner” and seeing he’d beaten one of the brightest kids in his class, Explore seems to make a level playing field and we love what we get to do.

The Bad

In every creative way possible, every available teaching space and room has found a use.  Our school is built like a 4 legged spider.  Each leg a ‘pod’ with classrooms built around it.  Two of the four pods serve as lunch rooms, so those pods are only available for a fraction of the day.  Supporting teachers and students by pulling students out of the classroom is a vital role I play for 1/3 or my day.  Except…finding a quiet place to work with kids is a challenge.  We’ve run out of rooms and quiet space.  We sneak into spaces already being used by others and teach kids to read in whispers.

I had a Grandmother Reading lunch all set up for this fall.  One lunch each week for 3, 4 & 5th graders, to eat their lunch and be read a favorite chapter book.  A delight for some kids who are not read to and for others who always crave another story.  It is amazing which 12-15 kids show up each week, anxious to hear the rest of the story and know that this adult came just for them.  Except, now we have no room.  The library is being used to often to squeeze the weekly lunch in.  Darn (or something like it).

The Ugly

To meet the needs of all the children, we are sharing our library space.  Even though we are not ‘on child duty’ while we are sharing the space, it still impacts us.  My Librarian and I lack the ability to spread out, create and collaborate.  We often joke that we share one brain and some days now, our brain seems to be missing altogether.  My desk/realm is smack dab in the center of the library.  Sharing our space is a bit like trying to pay one’s bills while sitting at your kitchen table all while your kitchen is full of guests trying to cook on your stove.

I love my school.  I love the kids.  I am not an extrovert.  I recharge by quiet or time with close friends or my family.  There is nowhere in my day for me to ‘get away’…no classroom to escape to while the kids are at recess.  I can sneak in about 10 minutes at lunch before the library gets utilized again.  Because of this most of all, I come home exhausted.

The Final Good

I’d say all the adults at the school have a good attitude toward our situation.  Everyone is trying.  Everyday I try to be an encourager and a positive person to those around me, even when sometimes I just want to say a Bad British Word.

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