Monthly Archives: April 2017

Visiting the School Librarian and Café Book Meeting

Another fun day of interning with CRRL consisted of a visit to Walker Grant Middle School. I teamed up with the CRRL staff worker who serves as the liaison between the public schools and the local library. We were to meet with the middle school librarian and help run Café Book, an extracurricular academic group for students interested in reading outside of class.

I was happy to see the higher security exercised as I entered the school. I had to use the intercom, get buzzed in, and check in at the front desk before I could even get into the rest of the school. It may not seem like much, but it is better that being able to walk in without restraint. It is important, considering America’s history, to be safe and have procedure.

The Walker Grant library was beautiful. World flags hung silently from the ceiling, and the books loudly waited on the shelves, begging for students to give them a tickle.

When the first group of 7th and 8th graders filed into the library and sat at the open tables, they stared at me. The liaison introduced me, naming me and my status as a senior at the university. One of the girls spoke:

“What are you studying?!” she piped.

“I am a double major…” The students grew considerably wide-eyed. “I study English Literature and Classical Civilizations. So I love books, ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and of course writing.” I was honestly surprised and happy that the kids were interested in me – and I thought that in some ways I was advocating for college, asserting how worth and fun it is. I told them so much.

The Café Book meetings (there were two, one for each lunch period) were relaxed and pleasant. I liked talking with the school librarian and CRRL’s liaison. The kids were interesting and smart – I even saw one of the girls I helped tutor at Hazel Hill the year before.[i] I loved the fact that the students who showed up for the Café Book meetings were there because they wanted to be, not because they were going to receive a grade or because they were required to participate.

At the end of the second session, one of the 8th grade girls asked the school librarian if there was a Café Book in the high school. The school librarian said there was not. I spoke.

“Why not start one of your own?” The girl looked at me, replied, and the last thing I heard as she scurried off after her three friends she had sat at the table with was “Hey guys! What if we started…” I hope I planted a seed. I saw my purpose in that moment, and I hope I moved someone.

[i] Hazel Hill is a government subsidized living community in Fredericksburg. I volunteered at the community center for three semesters, tutoring and helping K-8th graders with their homework and projects. I became familiar with the local middle and elementary schools in the Fredericksburg area because of this volunteering, and it actually helped me later when I worked on the book project with the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL and discussed the schools the books would be sent to.

Staff Workshop Training: Diversity and Leadership in the Workplace

CRRL Staff Training Meeting – Diversity

Speaker: Mauricio Velasquez; president and CEO of The Diversity Training Group

One of the biggest learning experiences I had while interning at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library was sitting in on the monthly staff meetings. I only wish there had been more that I had gone to, since I was only able to attend the ones in February and March. The first one I attended was phenomenal.

The topics and themes that were covered included diversity, leadership, respect and professionalism in the workplace; human relations, bias and prejudice, and interpersonal communications were also touched on throughout the session. Here are the bits I absorbed, which inspired me to behave and labor differently in the workplace:

 

“The best people take responsibility and apologize.”

What you see first: Age, gender, race, ethnic heritage, mental/physical abilities

What you learn later: Work style, work experience, operational role and level, communication style, education, religion, language, geographical location

The dimensions of diversity are the Individual, the Group, and the Organizational Affiliation.

On Being A Good (or Better) Leader:

“Stop talking yourself out of what you behaved yourself into.”

The SEVEN most important words:

“HOW CAN WE WORK TOGETHER MORE EFFECTIVELY?”

The TWO most important words:

“THANK YOU” or “I’M SORRY”

The ONE most important word:

“WE”

The LEAST important word:

“I”

I began to look at the workplace differently, and decided that if and when I ever acquire a “work space” of my own, I want it to be comfortable, respectful, efficient, and led by good leaders. I also realized that I can apply this attitude even in my own “work places” currently – even if that space is behind the counter at the local café. Even the humblest places – or wherever service and hard work are taking place – deserve good leadership and a respectful atmosphere.

Youth Services Book Project

For several weeks of my time at CRRL, I worked with the Youth Services Coordinator on organizing and taking inventory of the books that would potentially be put into the schools for the coming academic year. These books were usually advanced copies, meaning their release dates had either just past, or they would be released in the coming months. I spent many hours taking down the author’s names, book titles, release dates, and tag words that would help categorize the books into genres and theme-related groups. I also spent a considerable amount of time researching the credible reviews of each of the books. This would allow the school librarians to get a feel for the book, and help them come to a conclusion about whether they would consider the book for the next academic year.

I learned how to read the publisher’s notes, the author’s descriptions of their work as well as  about themselves. The authors tried hard to be whimsical in depicting themselves and their lives, attempting to have the reader, or in this case, the librarian, remember them. I wrote a few ideas about how I would go about writing a publisher’s note or an authorial blurb about myself, if and when I ever write and publish a book.

The YS Coordinator also taught me some valuable lessons about the separation of public library and school:

School: there is a responsibility for the school (middle or high) librarian and teacher to censor – or at least take into consideration – the materials they provide or make available for the young students. Schools express a sense of restraint on behalf of the age demographic they serve.

Local public library: There is a legal, social, and employment obligation for the freedom of information. Librarians cannot deny anyone a book or body of information if they are asked by a patron or customer. Here’s an example: If a child that may be below the age group of young adult fiction comes to a public librarian and asks for a copy of The Hunger Games, that librarian cannot and will not deny putting that book in the hands of that child. Where this gets tricky is when parents or various patrons fail to see that withholding information from someone is not ethical in the mind and eyes of the faculty at the library. The biggest difference is that local, public libraries have a set of ethical, moral and employee-related codes that all faculty must follow, that often differ for public schools. The demographic of patrons, students and customers also differ. The schools cater to a certain age group, while libraries are open to any and all people regardless of age group.

Internship Introduction

I wanted to make a space to talk about my internship experience this past spring at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library (CRRL). In the coming posts, I’ll outline things I learned, reflections I have about the now completed experience, and thoughts about interning in general. My internship started in mid-January, and concluded last week, on April 21st.

I was researching internship possibilities in and around my school’s area in November of 2016. I wanted a location close by, since I knew I’d still be a full-time student. I did not see the logic in having an internship in either Richmond or Washington, both being a good hour or more from my current living situation. I think I got lucky in finding the internship opportunity on CRRL’s website, and getting connected with the individuals that would become my mentors and supervisors. The Headquarters library location is in Old Town (Downtown) Fredericksburg, right off Caroline Street, the Rappahannock river flowing agile behind the square brick building. This was my primary home base for my internship throughout the semester, though there are several other CRRL locations in and around Stafford, Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg.

I had only a few low-hanging goals and outcomes that I wanted when I decided to pursue an internship:

-class credit from my university

-an experience that was more real-world, and that I didn’t need a classroom and professor in order to gain knowledge or experience

-a reason to buy and wear professional clothes (I realize that’s a shallow reason, but it was a reason for me nonetheless J )

-After putting the possibility of working in a local library on the table, becoming a better researcher made it onto the list of goals. This goal would be better developed because of this interning experience, but also due to the fact that I signed up for a senior thesis-writing class in Classics, which forced me to become better at asking questions and seeking answers.

Those were honestly the only ones I went into the experience with. I think I thought setting the bar low would allow for learning and lessons to come more organically to me, and for experience to grasp me in a more surprising way. So, I bought some new clothes and got ready to ask a lot of questions.

Computer Fiasco

Finishing strong is something that has been echoing around in my ears the last few weeks. Though it may not seem like it, finishing well is not reliant on a strong work ethic or a fistful of assignments at the close of the semester that will keep you busy and engaged. Finishing out the fraying, unraveling end of the last semester of all the semesters, alone, is cause for laughing in the face of someone that shallowly tells you “Finish strong.”

When my laptop’s screen dropped from white to complete black, as I was putting the finishing edits on a paper I had started early, my thought process kicked in like a lacrosse ball into an eroding rope net: My life is over, I am going to die.

I got real lucky with how easy Apple customer service was to navigate – but in the end, there was no cure, and in order to wake my computer up from the sleep that had arbitrarily taken its consciousness, I had to allow the computer-savvy people to wipe the hard drive – meaning all my photos, files, essays, ideas, downloads – they are now lost in the void of a $1,000 machine that decided to drop out of the sky of life and die suddenly.

Despite how despairing that sounds, it illuminated much about the reality of life. This reality has made me feel like my friends think I’m crazy for reflecting on it. It has made me churn out the connotations and deepest recesses of the word morbid. And this is what I have come to: Despite the fact that 4 years of work and brain function and thoughts are gone, life still works the same way. If I had actually died last week, wouldn’t the result still be the same? All that data would have been made obsolete anyways.

The point is, this ought not to depress. I am not sad – at least currently – about the way life and death works. I have been forced to think about death in depth in the past, and I have found some peace with it. Death really is a part of life, and it happens every day. Death can come slowly in a friendship; I have experienced this. Death can come like clockwork to a rosebush in October; I have experienced this. Death can come to the best machinery humanity has made thus far; I have experienced this…recently. Death does come; I have yet experience this, but I have also had it come alongside me, coldly bumping elbows with me.

I keep telling Carrie this: We are going to graduate in two and a half weeks. We are going to get our degrees. We are going to achieve what we set out to four years ago. Those simple facts are enough to finish strong.

Conflict and Resolution

The way we fight is nothing like laboring in a dress shop.

When we fight, it is like toiling in a field of Jersey corn.

Our noses are in the dirt; sweat bathes under our arms,

our heads are crowned by the hot sun

as we break up the ground and reconfigure.

We do not tread lightly on the delicate wood floors,

only pricking occasionally and bleeding hardly.

We get the soil under our fingernails.

We will farm that dirt later, blown up under a microscope.

The only thing a farming family has in common with a family of dressmakers is the end result of beautiful things – and yet, I cannot help but think that we are better made by what we plant. Seams sewn and clinched, no matter how well, may last ten years –

but the fields have been there longer.

Lean Into Pain

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk4eVPbKlLk

While I do not watch this TV show, I did run across this clip a few months ago, and it irritated me. It alerted me to the urgency of interpreting. It enticed me to think about how a potential job in ASL would provide a daily – even hourly – sense of purpose. I will not be behind a desk with my face fastened to a screen for 8 hours. I hope that if I do this, if I become an interpreter, I will be in constant need. I desire a purposeful job, as I want a purposeful life that honors and pleases Christ. Is this the correct path he wants me to honor him through walking on it? Perhaps —

“The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say,’” Exodus 4:11-12.

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” -Psalms 90:17

“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” -Proverbs 31:31

In the simplest terms, I feel like God has been bothering me about hanging on to sign language. I compulsively think about it, it will badger me every time I am asked about the future, and…I think I want it. I think I want to study it more, at least for a while. I think maybe I can do real good in the world if I make it. And to start making it, I have to try.

Of course there doubts. I worry constantly about the decision I have somehow made. How much longer will I torture myself in school? How old will I be when I finally do enter the “real world”? How will the day-to-day look as I continue studying? Will I get stuck in my hometown for even longer than I thought? Will people (my age and my elders) think I am crazy for prolonging something that seemed to come out of nowhere, or pursuing something that appears to be a fad or a whim? These doubts, questions, fears, and potential regrets have kept me up for way too many nights. Grappling with them have left me faint, vulnerable, and highly self-conscious of my own desires.

You know what it reminds me of? The final lines of the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. Fred and Peggy finally come together, and as Peggy smiles in joy and relief, Fred gives her the honest truth, but with the tone of a strong work ethic and an understanding that it won’t be handed to him in his voice:

“You know what it’ll be, don’t you, Peggy? It may take us years to get anywhere. We’ll have no money, no decent place to live. We’ll have to work, get kicked around.”

This is the attitude I want with regard to the next phase of my life, the life that I mindfully choose. I want to lean into the struggle and upcoming hardship I know I will face. I have been told that interpreting can be lonely – and I think that is due to the isolation some have felt with regard to the Deaf community. I have also heard that interpreting is emotionally taxing, especially when having to sign to someone they have cancer, or have to interpret in a difficult situation. I want to lean into these things – I refuse to look at life for all the ways I can avoid pain. I don’t want to find the perfect, comfortable niche in the world. I want to find the place I belong, the place that was set for me.

Epiphany?

This wasn’t a waste of time because I went into college not wanting a particular job. I just wanted a degree. I wanted to study English. I didn’t even know if I wanted literature or creative writing. Then I got blessed with finding Classics as a second major. I would have never dreamed of leaving the institution with not one degree, but two.

And now?

I am still leaving college with what I came in for: a degree that I wanted, and educated in subjects that I loved.

And now?

I know what I want to do. Or at least try. And I am trying not to be sorry that I am only just getting around to finding out now. And I am still kicking myself for thinking about how old I’ll be when I finally am trained and ready to be an American Sign Language interpreter. Time passing scares me more than most things.

I remember hearing a story in the 8th grade about a group of young kids – probably my age – that had been read the Bible; they heard stories, heard the poetry, truth, parables etched in the book of God’s voice. They lived in a country that did not recognize that God, or the faith(s) associated with him, or the only Son that stood behind him. They lined each child up and punctured each eardrum with a set of chopsticks, because they had heard the word of the Lord. That was my first introduction to deafness. That was the first time I became consciously aware of what a lack of hearing is like. A soundless world, borne out of a hatred and lack of recognition of my God, my Father, my Savior.

I can already begin to look back and see the road I tripped all over, jumped off of, and yanked myself back onto. I can see God smiling, as I finally submit to his wishes. I see the furrow between his eyebrows as he concerns over just how doubtful I was about his plan, and about knowing his own daughter – her strengths, her weaknesses, her ideas about what she wanted and needed for her future.

I see him, silent, in the trees. I asked him why he wouldn’t speak. I wanted to know him, I wanted to see, and I wanted to say…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szp9x1ZlZn4

The above song is more deeply analyzed by Fr. Damian Ference, in a great article linked below:

https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/twenty-one-pilots-masters-of-the-culture-of-encounter/2185/

“…just as God came to encounter us in the person of Jesus, so too must we go and share what we have received and encounter the world.”

“Twenty One Pilots close their set with ‘Trees,’ which embodies the mission of the band. The song is about finally building up the courage to come before God, but not knowing what to do or how to be: ‘I know where you stand/ Silent in the trees/ And that’s where I am/ Standing cowardly.’ Then the music shifts from a slow, frustrated lament to a big melodic, drawn-out burst of consolation: ‘I can feel your breath/ I can feel my death/ I want to know you/ I want to see you/ I want to say, hello.’ That’s it – ‘hello.'”

When I saw this band in January, they closed their set with the same haunting song – and that began this long ride on the fence between decisions – my fence was chain-link and after a long pause of clinging to its metal points and smooth bar, it caused me to numb what I felt about each side of the choice I could make.

I don’t want to be numb anymore – I need to let myself love what I have become fascinated by – just as English Literature did – just as Classical Civilizations did. I will start from the bottom again, with my nose in the dirt once again. But I don’t need the dignity or assurance a job straight out of the institution brings. I am not through with American Sign Language, because I have barely started. I am going to make the world better, and this is the road I have chosen – for now.