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Middle School Monday: Welcome, Julie!

MSM11Let me ask you a question.  How muchon a scale of 1 to 10do you dread that question when the speaker / trainer / principal asks you to “say a few words about yourself” as a way of introduction?  For me, it hovers around 42.

Robin is that person in this story.  She asked me to introduce myself to you in this post which seems strange, as I have been a fan of Robin and Middle School Monday and it still hasn’t registered that she will not be writing theses posts anymore.  Gulp, I will.

Oh, no.  it’s time for my “few words about myself”right?  

Gah.  Those Few Words.

I could say something like this:  I’m finishing my first year at a new school and it’s been a heady whirlwind of diversifying and updating the collection, establishing a culture of collaboration, and building a community of readers.

I should probably tell you more about my amazing schoolit is a public, alternative school with over 80% male students and over 80% students of color.

I should definitely tell you that every decision I make in my library is geared towards inclusivity. I lied a few sentences ago.  [I won’t make a habit of itpromise.]  I told you that I diversified our collectionwhat I really did was MAKE IT REAL.  Diverse books are not extra…they ARE the collection.  Diversity is our wonderful reality and our collections need to reflect that reality.

Really, that’s enough about me.  Surely, my few words are up?  I’d always, always rather talk about my students.  Expect to see their words here a lotfrom anecdotes to guest blogs.  I’ll introduce you to Nia who mumbles pop-culture hilarity under her breath and thinks no one hears her.  I hear her.  There is Tae, who already had his 10 minutes of fame during our Matt de la Peña Writer-in-Residence this spring, but he’s game for more. (Which (hello!), I’ll definitely be telling you more about.  It’s MATT DE LA PEÑA and he’s the coolest guy on the planet.) You’ll meet Kevin who dropped his backpack on the library floor and said, “finally, I’m home.”

Student statementsespecially the unguarded ones like Kevin’sare the best kind of truth, aren’t they?  My library has been lucky enough to live through some amazing experiences this year.  Student feedback and testimony is always my go-to assessment, so when Zach gave his seal-of-approval on last week’s Family Book Night with a pithy comment, I knew we’d hit a homerun.

Family Book Night

To celebrate readingand champion reading over the summerwe held a night-time family event where everyone chose a new book to bring home and keep.  EVERYonestudents, parents, and other family members. How was this financially possible? I got most of my books by shopping the Scholastic Warehouse Sale where I bought over 400 books for $500.  I then set up the library to look like a typical book fairbut no money changed hands.  Everyone simply shopped and then selected a book.  And, brought it home.  

Before the event, as I was talking it up in classrooms, the 8th graders were the most enthusiastic [which you know is RARE]. Many told me that they had always loved and hated book fairs in previous schoolsloved seeing all those new books, but hated that they were never able to buy anything.  Zach made the statement of the year when he added:  “Seriously.  They were Book UNFairs.  You are having a real BookFAIR.”

And, a BookFAIR it was.  I did not just buy whatever books I could get. I bought books that were reflective of my students, their experiences and interests and made purchases in every age range to celebrate family reading.  To continue the party into the next day, all classes visited the library so that all students had a chance to bring a new book home (whether or not their family was able to make it to the nighttime event).

I’m Sitting Down Now.

I’m thrilled to be joining this conversation and am looking forward to connecting withand learning fromother middle school librarians.  Honestly, I’m thrilled that there even IS this blog. (Thank you, awesome Robin!) Middle school is AMAZING and we know it every time a person looks at us in horror when they find out what we do.  We get three yearsone, two, threeto take our students from elementary to high school and travel with them on this crazy, meaningful journey.  How lucky are we?  And that I can write that sentenceand mean itat the end of May when even my eyelashes are exhausted feels like a victory.  Who’s with me?  You?  I knew it!  Here we go…

Julie Stivers




  1. Aunt ginger Taylor says:

    I am Julie’s ,Aunt ginger.
    After reading this wonderful informative piece of writing, I am so grateful we have teachers like Julie who can connect with the students and their families in such a personal. way.
    May this article stimulate other teachers to follow her lead..

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