Posted in Life, Lists, Teaching

10 Things I Learned From Working In An Elementary School Library


Last September, I got a part-time job as library clerk at an elementary school near my house. I’d been out of the classroom for two years at that point and all my teaching experience had been in middle school and high school. I’d never worked in an elementary, and I’d never worked in a library, but I decided to give it a try. I mean, books + kids = fun, right?

Right! Kids are cute. Books for kids are cute. Libraries full of books for kids are cute. It turns out that spending ten hours a week checking out books, checking in books, shelving books, helping kids find books, and reading books to kids was just what I needed to fill the unproductive hours in my day and earn some extra income. And I even survived the filing, stapling, bulletin board decorating, and (shudder) cutting out laminating that also came with the job. (Someday I’m going to invent static-free laminating plastic and become the hero of all teachers and librarians.)

Much of what I experienced during my first year as library clerk was expected. However, there were a few surprises. Now that the school year has ended, it’s time to reflect on…

10 Things I Learned From Working In An Elementary School Library:

1. When working with kids, this is your best friend:


2. You know those squirrels that dash into the middle of the street, freeze, consider turning back, and then end up running in circles instead? First graders are like that. All the time.

3. Unlike the hordes of middle schoolers I taught who all seemed to have the same closet, elementary school kids dress wonderfully, adorably, outrageously weird, and I love them for it.

Some of my favorite outfits this year included:
– The Kindergartner in the orange Ninja Turtles t-shirt and bolo tie
– The third grader in jeans, a tucked in white t-shirt, and red white & blue suspenders (on picture day)
– The fourth grader in the neon yellow t-shirt and yellow plaid skirt, with matching gloves and hair bow

4. Bookmarks come in all shapes and sizes.


5. Talking to children is sometimes like putting a quarter into a conversation bubble gum machine and waiting to see what flavor will come out.

* Bubble Gum Conversation #1:
Me – “Thank you for paying for your lost book.”
Kindergarten Girl – “You’re welcome.”
Me – “Wait here while I get you a receipt.”
Kindergarten Girl – “I can run as fast as a cheetah on fire.”
Me – “That’s great, but now is the time for standing still.”

* Bubble Gum Conversation #2:
[Shouted to me by a lone third grader at the other end of an empty hallway]: “I’m going to meet my friends in the cafeteria! I don’t need any help! I’m fine!”
(For the record, I did not offer help, nor suggest that he was not fine, nor engage him at all.)

* Bubble Gum Conversation #3:
Me, handing books to second grade girl – “Here you go. Enjoy them!”
Second grade girl – [Big sigh] “I have a LOT of talents.”
Me – “That’s nice.”

6. I also have a lot of talents I didn’t know I had, such as:

– Putting together this cart all by myself.

(It rolls and everything. I'm so proud.)
(It rolls and everything. I’m so proud.)

– Stapling 300 book fair flyers in a single day.
– Memorizing the Dewey Decimal System. (Go ahead, try me.)

7. Kids love books about:

– Cars (Call Number 629.222)
– Dogs (Call Number 636.7)
– Scary Stuff (Call Number 398.2) – I don’t think the many volumes of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will ever go out of style.
– Sharks (Call Number 597.3) – Every single week, I re-shelved every book in this section.
– The Military (Call Numbers 355-359) – This one was a surprise to me.

8. Kids also love it when people come to visit them. Being a part of the library means getting the behind-the-scenes experience of some fun school events.

This year we hosted two amazing authors – Bethany Hegedus, author of Grandfather Gandhi, and K. A. Holt, author of Rhyme Schemer – and also got a visit from Typewriter Rodeo. The kids had a blast.


9. Typing up a list of books in the Dear America series can really depress a person.

Titles include:
* Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
* When Will This Cruel War Be Over? 
* One Eye Laughing, The Other Weeping
* My Heart is on the Ground

10. You find weird things during inventory. Such as…

* Notes from substitutes regarding questionable content in videos.


* An episode of Reading Rainbow that I definitely did not see in school.


* And THIS:


I had a great time learning to be a library clerk, and I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year. But FIRST, I’m looking forward to my break. 🙂 Happy summer vacation, everyone!

Library3My First Year Stats:

# Hours I worked = 319
# Fire drills I survived = 3
# Surprise unexpected ambush hugs from kids = 4
# Times I had to say, “Please don’t lick the book” = 1
# Times I got sick, possibly from ambush hugs or licked books = 2 (not bad, considering)
# Library Books Shelved = 50,000 (ish)
# Times I reorganized the graphic novel section (Call Number 741.5) = infinity

Posted in Teaching

Your Parents Don’t Want Me to Know That

Amazing Artwork by Carie Juettner


Your Right To Privacy Has Been Revoked

These days, we are constantly cautioned against revealing too much of our personal information online. Be careful what you share on Twitter. Don’t post your home address on your Facebook page. Never give your social security number to a stranger. Blah, blah, blah.

The way I see it, anyone who has a child has already given up their right to privacy anyway, so what does it really matter? Seriously, if you are considering having kids and currently have a nifty little “Pros and Cons of Procreation” t-chart on the fridge, go ahead and jot this down in the cons column: Kids tell people everything. I know, because I was their teacher.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s just the little ones that blurt out embarrassing snippets from home. Nope. I taught seventh graders. That’s right—your offspring are just as likely to reveal your dirty little secrets at age twelve as they are at two, and what’s worse is they’re more articulate. (Well, most of them.)


Over the course of my middle school teaching years, I developed a line that became useful in handling awkward conversations with students. Whenever a girl or boy shared something about home that was shocking, embarrassing, or disturbing (while not being illegal, abusive, or counselor-worthy), I simply responded with, “Honey, your mom/dad probably doesn’t want me to know that.” This would cause a brief look of wonder or enlightenment to cross the child’s face before they either blushed and hurried away or shrugged their shoulders and continued to prattle on about their family’s strange ways.  (Parents out there, consider this right now: Which type of child do YOU have?)

Comments which warranted my cautionary mantra included, but are not limited to, the following:

Super Grover
  • Boy – “My mom gets so mad in the car. She’s always flipping people off and cussing them out. The thing is though, SHE’S the bad driver.”
  • Girl (pointing to the Grover stuffed animal on my shelf) – “Hey! My mom sleeps with one of those.”
  • Boy – “My parents got divorced because my dad was my mom’s boss and she didn’t like him telling her what to do all day.”
  • Girl (upon receiving a note that she’s leaving school for a dentist appointment) -“Oh, I’m not really going to the dentist. My mom’s taking me to get my nails done for the Taylor Swift concert tonight.”
  • Boy – “My mom can’t pick me up today. She’s getting a new tattoo on her butt.”
  • Girl – “Whenever my dad gets a bad sunburn, he peels off all the dead skin and eats it.”

(Ok, yes, if you are keeping track, there are a lot more embarrassing details shared about moms than about dads. However, the dad one is by far the most disgusting.)

Dear Carie, How Can I Prevent My Child From Embarrassing Me At School?

The good news is, there are ways to keep your kids from airing all your dirty laundry in public. Simply never swear, never lie, never fall down, never speed, and, for goodness sake, never peel off your skin and eat it in front of your children. Just lead a perfect life and you have nothing to worry about.


[To read more stories from my teaching career, check out my Teaching Stories page.]