Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Librarian as Herpetologist

I have one more "teaching" experience that I would like to share with you from my school librarian days.

Classes at my school were scheduled into the library for one session per week. Our time together went pretty quickly. The kids wrote in their reading logs--a journal of the books they read all year long--then they checked out books. There was often a lesson about finding or using information in a library or online, and then came our favorite part. I would always spend a few minutes reading aloud to the group, a custom they were loathe to part with even in the older grades. I found that there was absolutely nothing else I could do that modeled the value and enjoyment of reading better than these few moments spent sharing a book together.

Some books just seemed to call out for props and these were the ones my old students would come back and talk about years later. One of these was a fascinating one by Bianca Lavies, called A Gathering of Garter Snakes. It is a photo essay about the red-sided garter snakes that hibernate together by the thousands in communal dens in Manitoba, Canada. The subject matter is absolutely riveting, although not for the squeamish.

I would read the book while taking lots of time with the photos, which we would all exclaim over together. After a bit, I would get a sort of twitchy thing going, pretending to be distracted by something under my shirt. Eventually, while focused on the group--still reading and not missing a word, I would slide a hand in and pull out an apparently wiggling little snake. Continuing to read and ignoring all the reactions in the audience, I would casually place it in my lap. After a bit, another little (preplanted) rubber snake would follow, then another, and another. I never, ever lost the attention of a single child during this performance, and the book was always one of the most popular in the library.
Photos from Google Images


Judy said...

I bet you were a wonderful teacher of books. I thought for a minute you were going to say you pulled out real snakes. I was getting ready to get goose bumps! I am so afraid of snakes but what a great way to get a book across to the students.

Quiet Paths said...

Ho! Brilliant. I too thought perhaps you were hiding real snakes. I bet they were real to the kids even for that magical split second....

Anonymous said...

Ha! That was great. What a great teacher you must have been. I started laughing reading this. I used to play with garter snakes as a child in Oklahoma as well as 'horney toads' (which I think have disappeared in respect to pesticides though I haven't investigated this). Anyway, what a great story!

clairz said...

I am actually even afraid of rubber snakes, so the performance took on an air of reality, even to me!