Teacher Karen McNaughton wrote two grants to fund my visit and books for all the 5th graders, telling the kids, “this is what happens when you learn to write, you can get what you want.” What a great advertisement for writing skills! The school is in a temporary location while “cigarette money” builds them a new facility. Teachers have to be entrpreneurial in such an environment, housed for two years in an abandoned office building that surprisingly lends itself quite well to classroom use. The kids who live in Clinger’s (from Mash) old neighborhood, the ethnic east side of Toledo, were enthusiastic and eager. More disturbing than the setting or the time-worn neighborhood was the fact that the library is staffed only by volunteer parents, no aide, no secretary, only a librarian sent from the district office 1/2 day every other week. This is common throughout the district. The library computers were on windows 95 and unable to call up much of what is on the internet, the unabridged dictionary available to kids was published in 1967 and doesn’t even contain the word “internet.” The library clearly suffered from a lack of new titles, revealing a book budget cut to the bone. I couldn’t help making a mental comparison to the Olentangy district I visited earlier this year in the northern suburbs of Columbus where the libraries were throbbing with new books, kids, state of the art computers and were staffed with parent volunteers under the direction of a degreed librarian and a full time secretary/aide. I suppose in some legislator’s mind the two weeks of expensive testing the students had just completed is intended to correct such disparities, but for the life of me, I can’t follow that logic.
I continue to be buoyed by teachers who have a “how can we make this work?” mindset in the face of incredible odds.