“Street Cred” (or Nerdy Book Club Members Unite) by Erika Victor
I am a reader going through an identity crisis. I have been a reader for as long as I can remember and I thank Nerdy Book Club for helping me to see that there are a lot of ways to share our book love and lots of people just as book crazy as me, because sometimes being a Nerdy Book Club member can feel very lonely. I have usually found that my best friends are quite booky, too, but I am about to move into uncharted territory-alone! This summer I am changing schools, which in our profession is not unusual, but I am moving a great distance (almost 6000 miles- nearly 10,000 km). I have been at the same school for the last seven years (and 11 of the last 12 years). I know nobody in the entire country I am moving to. How will people know that I am a Nerdy Book Club member in my new location?
When I first contemplated moving, about three years ago, my biggest concern was my classroom library. I take great pride in having a healthy library and take pleasure in sharing my books with anyone interested in reading. I have had the amazing experience of teaching in six schools in five countries on three continents throughout the years and I have learned not to be too attached to too many “things” in all my moves. My books, though, well they are another story (no pun intended)! Until this move I never really had to consider whether my books would come with me or not, because in the past it was my ex-husband’s former employer who paid for our moves and we were lucky enough to always have few enough possessions that the books always could come along. This time I am moving on my own and, although I am happy to not be too attached to things, books are different. I have to admit I NEED many of my books to help me be a better teacher. With books I am always learning, sharing, building community, mentoring. These books are my guides each day. Some books in my classroom are books that have been passed down by my sons (now aged 23 and 21), while others are brand new friends.
When I thought about it more, I think my fear was not having street cred, with readers that is. At my current school I am known as one of the people you can go to to get a good recommendation. I LOVE that kids from other grades stop by to borrow or talk books. I LOVE that my colleagues ask me to pass on titles. I LOVE that my school has let me introduce some book related events into our wider community (Dot Day, Poem in Your Pocket Day, author Skypes, etc). I LOVE that it is assumed that our class will run the Used Book Sale twice a year (once to raise money for a literacy related charity and once for the PTA, but both for the love of books).
I am worried that at my next school they won’t know how much I love books and how much I love to share all things booky. So far what I am doing is sending out signals. When asked what curriculum committee I would like to join, I immediately said Language Arts. I was told that that was already taken by a grade level colleague (which I took as a hopeful sign that I would soon meet more book lovers). Since then it has opened up again and I sent a long email about why I thought that was the right committee for me (yahoo, I got on that committee!). I am excited to know that I am going to be on the Language Arts Curriculum Committee at school- I figure there are bound to be NBC members there. I look forward to finding more kindred spirits. I also hope that I can bring in new ideas and get fresh inspiration form a new group of readers (both teachers and students). I had to send a picture for the new staff board and was told I might want to include in it a hobby I enjoy. I sent a picture of myself surrounded by my students from this year with all of us reading (subtle, I know). I have started my new class website and straight out said in my introduction that in my free time I would probably be found reading. I hope people are picking up my signals.
I have now packed all that I am moving and sent it ahead. I have included 18 boxes of books from school to make our new classroom a home. I know that there will be books in my new school, but I look forward to having some familiar faces in the room as I start to establish myself as that book-loving teacher. I had great plans for keeping ten picture books that I “need” for the first days of school, in case my shipment has not arrived. When the date came for the packers, I had not set a pile aside- life just got too busy and I know that I also need clothes to start at a new job, so sacrifices had to be made. As I packed the books from our classroom and looked over the shelves, tubs, and piles of books, I knew that the next time I see these friends we will be in a new location, but as other people need a particular comfort item to feel “at home” these books will make my next classroom home. I kept a few professional books to read over the summer and a few books I am in the middle of reading, but I decided I have to make my own luck and take a chance on my new school’s library. being awesome. As always I am hedging my bets. I have signed up to get email notices from two local bookstores in Kuala Lumpur to learn more about the local literary scene. My plan is to go in to them one of the first days in town and see how they feel about ordering for a new customer (my own litmus test- little do they know the business I will bring!). I am also hopeful that my books may have arrived in time for the first day of school.
I am going to send out a few more signals to Nerdy Book Club members in my new school as soon as I can get into my new classroom. I will make a display on my classroom door of the books I read over the summer. I will put up pictures of some of the book characters the students will get to know in the first weeks of school. I will try to line up a few authors and illustrators we can Skype with to promote book love right away. I look forward to meeting Nerdy Book Club members in a new part of the world! Together we are better.
Erika Victor is a third grade teacher about to bring her love of books to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Please connect with her online if you would like to collaborate on any great booky things at @Victortweets. The Nerdy Book Club rocks!