September 01, 2018. Basically a new school year started and as a new teacher or Library Media Specialist, the task is exciting and daunting at the beginning of a year. Maybe both at the same time – however, that makes the task none the less important. Looking back even now in November, and hearing seniors ALREADY talk about “senior-it-is” (LOL, that COULD go both ways, couldn’t it, senior it is AND senioritis, lol) – I see now the periodic injections to hedge off feelings of burnout, anger and unsettled feelings about events in the country, you owe it to yourself and owe it to the country you live in to fix that problem to be your best self for others, and of course, for yourself.
This past year has seen the most activity I have seen in the roles and cementing the values of what an educator is. So many students and adults that may or may not be present, vacate the responsibilities that youth need so badly, direction, motivation, interests directed towards healthy target areas, discipline, advice, and on and on, so much are put on educators and educators, and, actually ANYONE in education are asked to simply “do their job” when ANYONE in educations knows, the minute, no, the second, you walk in the door, you start applying yourself in jobs that definitely are above and beyond the typical contract asked of anyone in education, and only those involved day-to-day in education truly realize this. Why? To make a better tomorrow, so it is easy to see the need for a realignment of the role educators of all areas play in a youth’s life, as well as the importance placed on that vocation from many different areas of the public.
In lieu in looking back on September this year, I remember one of the most inspiring events that addressed the above need for reminding all involved in education, why they need to stay the course. Of course I often have heard of the Library of Congress, yet, I assumed, long-aisle, dusty rows of recorded, printed information available, and of course eyes on-line but getting lost doing so. The 2018 National Book Festival was truly a career-changing experience. You realized if you really vested into this event, that here was a mini model of what education should be, all disciplines, all areas of study, contributing for a better today and tomorrow. Using the fact that literacy can indeed be used for positive action, finding solutions instead of blame, and solving problems instead of simply instigating them. After accidentally going to the Jefferson Building location of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. (yeah, you could tell I was new at this – and guided my colleagues along the same mistake, BUT- WE DID check out the Neptune Fountain!) – and once we got back on track, we hit the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (just so you know for 2019’s event already in motion!) and just wow. The masses of individuals attending – and amazing to celebrate literacy and for me, wanting to see how some pretty powerful people have put the power of democracy into motion and more than just mere words.
Our first attending session was as good as you would ever hope it to be, Amy Tan. I was blown away with how down to earth, how practical, how STRONG she was as an immigrant, author, and now a teacher to so many people hearing this visit based on her experiences. I could go into details, but why do I need to NOW THAT IT IS ON THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS for you to SEE!
But you need to truly get a sense of the length of time it too to get in, let alone the mass numbers this area held to see Ms. Tan – and truly, what you are seeing is only one SIDE of a double, maybe triple room that held I could not even guess how many individual. This was one of the best author talks I ever witnesses and was so cool how many current issues were actually approached as well through her talk and interview.
After this incredible session, we contemplated where to next? Yet, we decided to stay and see the next amazing opportunity, that of seeing Madeline Albright. I realized one truly does not know the contributions made by some many women in the United States, as well as immigrants that have helped shape and mold the ideas of what being American is. it was invigorating to hear so many international topics tied with domestic topics and how this aligned with who we are as Americans as well. This is an awesome session you do not want to miss hearing. She was FABULOUS. After two back to back sessions of such magnitude, what could be better? Oh wait, it got much better.
As we made our way out of what had become an amphitheatre, we made our way downstairs to where individual booths were to see how much stash we could gather and bring back to our schools. On our way there, no kidding, in the open we came across a live interview with none other than the author of Educated, Tara Westover – I stopped after having JUST finished this book and was like “NO WAY! That is her!” Stop and read the book, it is amazing and to simply see her right in front of me after soaking in the road she had traveled to be where she was now WOW ( I am trying not to give spoilers away here! )
After we gawked for a bit, we made our way to the vendors area to only find out author Jason Reynolds was speaking yet from All American Boys! What?! YES! So of course, we had to see that interview and let me tell you, the way he connected with children, adults, and everyone in between? That was why Jason Reynolds has become the enlightening and relatable author he is. His bit on connecting media found in former cassette tapes and how it symbolizes culture and interconnectedness among people today – brilliant. You will want to listen to that audio for sure – again, brilliant.
We did finally make it to the vendors, and loved seeing how every single state’s library was represented, and yes, we found Delaware’s, and Washington D.C’s, and Pennsylvania’s and found if we could show our library card, we received a gift – and to ADD to that, the scavenger hunt maps that youth had where they could get a stamp, as in a passport, from visiting every state library booth – it was fulfilling to see how education, the world, politics, social justice, and 10 other genres were woven into the fabric of individuals that were willing to show, what education could be.
We did find the vendors as well, took in the stylistic art that woven in education, and imagined what we would have done if we
had actually planned out the trip with speakers
before heading out? 2019 is already in the works, and if I could suggest the ultimate trip – check out the amazing interviews here from this amazing event, and add this to your priorities next year. this event just was one on many amazing possibilities that show how schools, classrooms, libraries, novels, and more can be living, breathing entities in everyday life!