One Librarian’s Take On March Madness

By on March 23, 2019

Dan Carlson on UnsplashMarch Madness is the time of year when most people become somewhat obsessed with college basketball. I do not watch basketball, but if I had to choose a team to win, I would root for Gonzaga because it makes me think of Gorgonzola cheese.

March Madness made me start thinking about what the word madness means. The website for Merriam-Webster defines madness as the state of being mad, with four parts to that definition: mental illness, foolishness, enthusiasm, and anger. Mental illness is not a joke. To be clear, when I refer to madness, I am referring to the other three parts of the definition. It seems to me that being an educator requires a lot of madness these days.

To be successful, dedicated people do things that some might consider foolish. Verona school librarians Corisa Walker and Elissa Freda are often up past midnight working on the blog for “A Boy Called Bat”, the One District, One Book selection for this year. Verona High School librarian Maria Mayo worked tirelessly to bring Kate Fagan, author of “What Made Maddy Run”, to Verona on April 1. Why not just go to sleep at a decent hour? How many people would really notice if the blog was not updated? Why work so hard to schedule a certain speaker? Aren’t there other speakers who are easier to book? They might not be as good, but they would be good enough. Why try so hard? After all, try-hard is considered an insult these days.

Blind Date With a Book

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” That is one of my favorite sayings. In my 19 years as an educator, I know it is the absolute truth. My fantastic parent volunteers, teacher friends, and student library assistants covered over 350 books with wrapping paper over the course of a few weeks so that students could experience “Blind Date With a Book.” I almost didn’t do this lesson because I thought to myself, “This is a lot of work for something the students might not like.” I did it anyway, and the lesson was a complete success. I circulated books to 320 students. I lovingly selected all of these books, and I felt like I was presenting each book as a gift to the reader. Books are gifts. To be able to read is a gift. To forget who you are and where you are and lose yourself in a story is a gift. Be amused. Cry. Laugh. Feel connected to a person who is real or fictional. Know that you are not alone in the universe. Feel your heart pounding in your chest. Nothing makes me prouder as a librarian than hearing a child say, “I really loved that book you recommended.” If you are reading this and you helped me wrap books, thank you. It may have seemed foolish, but it was worth it.

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Unwavering dedication and unbridled enthusiasm seem like obvious components to success, but can anger make someone a better educator? Absolutely. What makes me angry? Unfortunately, a lot of things in this world make me angry. Apathy. Injustice. Complacency. Ignorance. Cruelty. Stagnancy. Greek yogurt. (I sounded too noble, so I had to throw in one of my ridiculous pet peeves.) Of course, anger can be destructive, but I think anger can be useful, too. Let your anger be your momentum to do good. Don’t waste your anger on the small stuff. (I’m sorry, Greek yogurt. You don’t smell that bad.) But the kind of anger that leads to social change? Channel that anger. It’s powerful.

My good friend Tamara Gesario teaches at Forest Avenue Elementary School. At the end of every year, she gives out a personalized award to each student. Last year she had a run-in with her hot glue gun while she was making an award. A bit foolish? Her burned skin says yes. Enthusiastic? You betcha! Her glue gun injury has healed, but the impact she had on her students will last forever.

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Have you ever found yourself doing something for your students that made you say to yourself, “Am I a little crazy for doing this?” You may be right, but as Billy Joel says, “It just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.” So if you are feeling a little bit of “March Madness,” I would like to thank you. It sounds like you’re doing something right.

Jennifer Kleinknecht has been the media specialist at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School since 2007. She writes about life as a school librarian on her blog, “The ‘Yes’ Librarian”. (Top photo by dan carlson on Unsplash)

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One Comment

  1. Palma Quagliata

    March 25, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    That was great Ms. Kleinknech– you had me at Gonzaga/gorgonzola! Yes, madness by way of enthusiasm is great thing indeed 😉

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