Adventures in high school land

Cindy ArpEast Knox

After teaching and being a librarian in grades K-8 for 20 years, I spent my last 19 years working as a high school librarian. At that time Knox County high school libraries had two librarians and a secretary. Carter High librarian Becky Jenkins and secretary Betty Travis welcomed me to the fold, easing me into my new job.

Card catalog

A few days after school started, a large high school boy came by, asking for material on Langston Hughes. These were the days before on-line card catalogs and, excited to have my first student, I led him to the catalog, explaining Author, Subject and Title cards. When I finished, the boy said, “You’ve been an elementary librarian haven’t you?” I asked him how he knew. He said, “Too much enthusiasm!”

At one time, Knox County provided an hour and 15 minutes after-school study session. Students with several missed days attended these sessions, making up work thus avoiding the penalties exacted for absenteeism. A slip signed by the attending teacher proved the student’s attendance.

Carter High School library

One year I held the last such session of the semester. Christmas vacation was a few days away and the library was packed. I was the only teacher in the building. As the session neared its end, I announced I would sign proof papers at everyone’s table and then dismiss all.

I began my rounds. One table held four large boys who insisted they could leave immediately. I stood firm and as I left one said, “F–k you,” Immediately another four boys stood up. Fearing an impending fight, I told those boys to SIT DOWN and continued my rounds. Finally, I dismissed everyone and cautiously went to my car.

That incident was frightening but rare. Here’s a more typical example. Carter had early childhood classes and family and consumer science classes. I love reading to children and thought that skill might be useful to those students. Both teachers liked the idea, with the early childhood teacher agreeing that at the end of the lesson the high school students could read to her little ones.

This was going to be fun.

Becky and I first demonstrated the skills needed for the job. Dividing the classes, I took my group into a small room within the library. I seated them on the floor, I sat in a chair and we began. Reading to them Don Freeman’s Corduroy, a book about a bear who lost a button, I demonstrated holding the book so all could see, techniques to draw the children back into the story and how one can use one’s voice to depict actions, characters and scenes.

I didn’t finish the book and at the conclusion of the lesson, I asked if there were any questions. A huge football player raised his hand, pointed to a nearby girl and said, “Mrs. Arp? This girl wants to know what happened to that bear.”

A cousin of mine says, “Life is good if you don’t weaken!” So true. I enjoyed my high school years, with the good times far outweighing the bad As Gilbert Highnet, educational classist said, “…….. I consider a day’s teaching wasted if we do not all have one hearty laugh.” I completely agree.

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.

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