elementary fieldwork: roundup


My elementary fieldwork endeavor ended a little over a week ago, which has given me some time to internalize my experience, synthesize everything I’ve learned, and metaphysically analyze how my time in that particular school media center fits into the existential development of my professional chakra.

Or maybe I slept in, ate many meals with many friends I’ve been missing, and caught up on my Hulu queue.

Definitely one of those two.

Anyway, it occurred to me at some point that I had been approaching my fieldwork with the wrong attitude.  Based upon my limited experience at the elementary level, I started my experience having virtually ruled out this type of librarianship altogether.  I armed myself with the motivation to do good work, enjoy myself, and keep the most open mind I thought I could muster.

It’s not that I don’t like kids.  I’ve got some nieces that are a lot of fun to hang out with.  But I don’t need to say that there’s a big difference between being the world’s coolest aunt (which I most certainly am, by the way) and managing a classroom of twenty or so kids, especially when you’re also responsible for teaching them something beyond sitting still.

On top of the panic-inducing dynamic of an elementary library, the high school and above demographic just sounds so much more appealing to me.  I daydream about how I could decorate my library, demonstrate way cool resources, and coordinate fun events.

Regardless of my frequent reverie, I had the task in front of me.  As it turns out, I also had a lot of the tools I’d need to complete the task, and my elementary fieldwork ended up being a really positive experience.  The kind of experience that is best summed up with a bulleted list and a catchy title:

Things that made elementary fieldwork way more awesome than I ever thought it would be

  • My site supervisor:  In all seriousness, I can’t emphasize how fantastically wonderful she was.  I’ve known her for a few years, which helped me relate to her- since we were once at the same level, it was easy to see myself in her position in just a couple of years.  It also meant that she knew where I was coming from.  She offered me a lot of invaluable words of wisdom about being an up-and-coming school media specialist.  We made a pretty good team, I think.
  • The faculty:  I’m always pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the fellow teachers and librarians are to me, and this was no exception.  I didn’t spend very long at this school, but a lot of the teachers immediately made me feel like a part of the group.  It might be the team mentality of forming a united front to control 300 children, but I am very appreciative of it nonetheless.  I learned a whole lot from informal communications with other faculty members.
  • The projects:  This is what gets me fantasizing about my own library.  Getting a little bit artsy makes me happy, and my elementary fieldwork was such a great setting for getting artsy.  I got to use big letters and bright colors, all the while keeping in mind that it has to be quickly understood by fourth graders.  My librarian seemed appreciative, and I loved contributing to the space in this way.
  • The kids:  I admit it.  The kids… they are righteously cool.  On my first day, after my first full class, several youngsters blindsided me with hugs.  It was a moment of terror, followed by a moment of nervous laughter, followed by a moment of clarity.  I realized that I could enjoy hanging out with the students and use the opportunity to learn how to interact with them without the pressures of being accountable for their intellectual progress.  Of course, their little brains were in the back of my mind the whole time, but I tried to focus on the foundation before worrying myself with the feng shui of the living room.
  • Story time: The last day of my fieldwork was right before Halloween.  Over the course of the week, the librarian had read some festive books, including Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I got all nostalgic for my days as a third grader, when my teacher would read these stories to us.  Before I knew it, I was reading to the kids.  Out loud.  On the carpet.  Like a real librarian.  It was pretty rad.
  • The kids: Worth saying again, because they were lots of fun.  And they drew me pictures from the art books they checked out:


I’m not sure that this fieldwork has changed my mind about working in an elementary library, but I’m definitely more open to the possibility.  Since I don’t have to decide that just yet, I’ll accept the experience as a good time and a whole bunch of great learning opportunities.  And I’m much more prepared for my big elementary practicum… even a little excited for it.


One Response to “elementary fieldwork: roundup”

  1. 1 evidence. « karen.the.librarian

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