Last week I had the opportunity to give an author talk at the Massachusetts State House Library. When they asked last Fall if I’d be willing, I didn’t hesitate. Even though I didn’t know anything about this author series, I’m a devoted fan of libraries and librarians. Early in my teaching career it was the librarians who always helped me develop curriculum and offered me books that she knew my students would enjoy. Just the other day when I was doing some research, I called my local librarian to ask a question. Librarians are some of the smartest and most dedicated folks I know. The State House library is a beautiful room that is free and open to the public to come and study or just think in its majestic space. I felt honored and privileged to give a talk in such a place.
The audience asked great questions about the topics I address in my book, “When Grit Isn’t Enough.” One participant asked if we thought our schools prepared our young people for the 21stcentury global economy. He concurred with me that countries like Switzerland do a much better job helping young people think about careers as well as college, and that these countries are focused on future skills and not just what exists today. Since the Boston Globe’s Valedictorian Panel discussion is about to happen, I warned folks that it’s too easy to bash school systems like the Boston Public Schools for not doing a good enough job–that would be unfair and too simplistic. One participant noted the kind of resources he has seen in the schools in the suburbs as compared to those in the city left him wondering whether people even care about urban schools. “There’s just more support in those schools, too.” And he talked about the numbers of parents who seem to have the time to be in and out of the school all day. I talked about the SD.101 bill filed by State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz and suggested that everyone go speak to their legislators NOW about getting it passed. This bill intends to re-examine the money spent in schools with high needs students as there is not enough going to the students who have the most needs. Another person asked about year-round school, and I thought that was a terrific idea to begin thinking about and perhaps he should consider filing a bill! I asked the audience to imagine what our schools and educational system would be like if every child had the use of a well-stocked library with a certified library media specialist, a full equipped gym and daily arts instruction. Currently, for too many of our students the curriculum is a diet of double English and double Math classes. In the name of raising test scores, we have forgotten that our goals for school is much broader than a high stakes test. So, thank you Massachusetts State Library for inviting me to host this talk. I look forward to hearing other authors that you bring in, too!