Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 09 2013

0 school library, 1 DonorsChoose project, 1 very grateful teacher

As many of you know, my school has no library. It was disbanded about a year ago because there weren’t any staff members with the time to staff it (and there wasn’t money to hire any new staff members) so it was getting pretty disorganized/chaotic. The books were decentralized to every English teacher’s classroom. Of course, this happened before I got there, meaning I started with nothing.

Through a combination of my own middle school books from home, and some very generous donations/sales from Half-Price Books, I’d managed to build a library of about 150 books, about enough for my students to have 1.5 book options per student. My TFA fellowship literature informed me that a well-stocked, effective library has 5-8 options per student. Oh man.

I ended up posting a project on DonorsChoose.org, on a whim, basically desperate for any help I could get. I always feel weird asking my friends/family for money but I figured this was a good way to connect people in my life with a concrete, measurable way they could help. And books are forever.


Fortuitously, Kia (the car company!) matched my donations, as did the board of DonorsChoose, and I got the rest of the private donations in about 50 minutes – thanks, Facebook. I raised $350 for books and am going to post a new project tomorrow – this one geared towards reluctant readers/struggling students. They need high-interest lower-level books. And since my library is the only one they have access to, that’s pretty much on me.

I’m ecstatic the project actually worked, but it’s made me think a lot about things like:

1. How much privilege do I have?
2. How much privilege do my friends/family have?
3. Is there a right/wrong way to access that privilege?
4. Does DonorsChoose make things more equal or less equal overall?
5. Do the people who donate feel the same way I do about my kids? Do they have a “white savior” mentality? Does it matter?
7. To what extent should I rely on private donations as opposed to my kids fundraising or something?
8. What kind of message is my school sending by not having a central library?
9. What is the role of private philanthropy in funding non-traditional public schools?


As always, lots of things to think about. But it’s late and I’m teaching grammar tomorrow (plus I’m getting observed at 8 AM, good lord) so I’ll head to bed.

My class averages went up to a 70, a 74, and a 78 after the most recent formative quiz. I’m feeling good about that. My kids need just a little bit of hope that they can succeed, and once they get it, I know they’ll run with it.

One Response

  1. Meghank

    I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: It’s ridiculous that money couldn’t be found to hire a librarian for your school. How much does your school’s CEO make? If there’s not money for a library, I guarantee you money is being wasted somewhere.

    This would not stand in a more affluent school, and someone should be protesting about this injustice.

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Journeys, challenges, & writings of a first-year teacher.

Middle School

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