I have had quite an adventure since my last post, which is why it has been so long. That day was July 27. On July 28, I went back to work.
I have been a paraprofessional at an elementary school, meaning that I support the teachers and the students in whatever way is necessary. Up until now (9 years) it has been serving special education children being mainstreamed in regular classes. When I went back this time, however, I was assigned to the MO class, meaning that the children have disabilities of such significance that the goals are to teach them to count manipulatives (like blocks or little plastic figures), to recognize the pictures of different things, recognize colors, etc. Some are non-verbal. I am a writer most comfortable teaching writing being assigned to students for whom writing is not a realistic goal. I was being pushed beyond my comfort zone but looking forward to the challenge. My only concern was being able to give the children the service that they truly needed.
Then…we didn’t make numbers to justify the addition of a third paraprofessional in those classes. The question became: Where would they put me? The administration had told me in no uncertain terms that they would find a place for me, but where was I to go? I felt very much like a puzzle piece trying to fit into a picture complete without me. Would I be interested in going into the Media Center? the principal asked. I was absolutely stunned. Surely this could not be true. Me in a library surrounded by books?
Let me give you my fundamental position on books:
- Loving reading does not equal loving books. Many people are voracious readers who then pass their books on to someone else, or take them to used book stores for credit against new books, or check them out of the library for a couple of weeks and then return them. I support this process whole-heartedly, but it is not the philosophy I live by.
- I have to have books around me. Books that I have read, books that I haven’t, books that I never will. I must have their physical presence in my life in order to have any peace at all for my weary soul.
- My go-to refuge, my mecca, is the library. There are hundreds if not thousands of books, so that you can walk to any bookshelf, close your eyes, reach out and select any book on any topic, and you can become an authority on anything from football to the wives of Henry the Eighth to the creation of the first airplane.
- Books let the reader Feel a place. Any picture can let you see what Venice looks like, but until someone describes sitting in a café on a canal having a party boat go by complete with loud music and singing drunks, you can’t really know how it feels to be there.
- On the other hand, give me a picture book with hundreds of glossy photographs on whatever topic you can think of, and I am good to go for at least an hour. When I worked for Little Brown, we were owned by Time Warner, and they annually gave employees the chance to buy any book on their lists at a deep discount. Among many others I bought A Day in the Life of America and A Day in the Life of Russia. Holy cow! I am right there in the lives of dozens of people I will never meet. And the great thing? The people have continued to live, to age, to move on, but for me that moment is frozen in time, and they will always be the people they were when their pictures were taken.
- Don’t get me started on illustrations. Maurice Sendak. Tasha Tudor. Gustave Dore. On and on and on.
- I love the feel of a book in my hand. I love the way it looks. I love the way it smells. I love the way it is put together. I check to see if it is sewn or glued. I love the yellowed pages of age. I love being the first to crack a spine.
- Books are my life. I read them. I write them. I study them. I sell them.
You get the picture. I am obsessed with books. Joseph Campbell talks about finding your bliss, and the Media Center is my happy place. My only fear is that, having been given this great gift, it will be yanked away as I am needed elsewhere. I don’t mind though, as long as, at the end of the day, I can always return to the books.
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