This year, my 19th as an educator and 6th as a librarian, is different than any other. This year I was chosen as a Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress. Typically, when I introduce myself as a Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, people ask what I actually do. “Do you work with students?” “Do you teach?” For the 2015-2016 school year, I actually do neither of these things.
In short, I work with the Library’s Educational Outreach department to promote to educators the millions of digitized items that the Library holds. I’m able to do this in a few ways. I do attend conferences representing the Library of Congress. (Visit me at the Library of Congress booth at AASL National Conference!) I write in the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog about how the Library’s primary sources can be used in classrooms and libraries. I also provide the Educational Outreach department, made up of many who have education backgrounds, a current perspective on what is happening in schools. I present my educator’s voice to the discussion, advocating for what I feel is valuable in how we promote the use of primary sources to educators and students. Later this school year, I will also have the opportunity to work with teachers in the DC area as well as others from across the country during the Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institute.
There are also weekly opportunities for professional growth. I’m encouraged to attend talks and presentations happening at the Library of Congress to broaden my thinking. You never know where that next great idea may come from! Recently I attended a talk on early printing in the American colonies and how it impacted the road to revolution, joined a group of coworkers on a trip to the Rare Books Room to look closely at science books for children from the 18th and 19th century, and this week I will examine frames from a 1897 actuality film from Thomas Edison’s film company in the hopes of answering questions about daily life in Chicago that were raised after watching the short digitized film.
Part of my year here at the Library is spent developing a plan to bring back to my district, the School District of Clayton, in Missouri. I am working with our middle school librarian to develop sets of primary sources that will be useful to our 5th, 6th, and 7th grade students as well as preparing for how we can share these sets with teachers and help develop, identify, and share best practices in their use. I regularly schedule time to work on this district project and even have a couple of days during the school year where I travel back to my district to observe and talk to teachers to assure that I’m not creating resources in isolation from the needs of our students and teachers.
In just over two months since I’ve been here, I realize that I’ve been able to follow a path of learning and research that I want for my students. I’ve been able to deeply explore areas of interest here at the Library. Those explorations have led me to wonder and ask questions and I’ve accessed information to help answer those questions. I process that new learning, determining what it means to me, and share that with others. There are guidelines, deadlines, goals, and objectives. I don’t see them as limitations, but as benchmarks and barometers to my work.
I’m not spending my 19th year teaching, but instead, learning to be a better teacher and librarian by exploring and promoting the millions of films, songs, photos, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, and more that the Library of Congress has online and onsite.
I started this journey in the summer of 2013 at the week-long Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institute. If interested, subscribe to the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog or follow Teaching with the LC on Twitter @TeachingLC. News about the 2016 Summer Teacher Institutes will be announced around January.
Author: Tom Bober
Tom Bober is a school librarian at RM Captain Elementary, 2018 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and author of the upcoming book Elementary Educator’s Guide to Primary Sources: Strategies for Teaching. He writes the Picture Books and Primary Sources posts for AASL’s KQ blog and has written articles for several publications. Tom also presents at conferences, runs workshops, and gives webinars to promote the use primary sources in student learning. He began his career as an elementary classroom teacher, was also an educational technologist, and has spent the last nine years as a school librarian.