Recently a young student came looking for dinosaur books in the library. I took him over to the books and showed him the “Dewey” section. He seemed pleased so I went on to help other students. I noticed a few moments later that he was standing by the same section tears dripping down his face. I asked him what was wrong. He began repeating that he needed a dinosaur book. I once again showed him the collection and he once again became noticeably agitated and very teary. This sequence repeated two more times. I could no longer take his sadness and frustration (even if he could).
So I took the entire dinosaur collection off the shelf and convinced him to join me at a table. We began to look at the covers of each book. he still seemed anxious and disappointed. At this moment I was not quite sure how to help him so I started turning the pages of one of the books. He started to calm down, to point to the pictures and to tell me I had finally found a dinosaur book.
So what had changed?
Had he never considered flipping through the pages to determine if the book was the one that would meet his needs? Was he looking for a specific dinosaur? Or type of illustration?
I am not really sure.
But that day he left happy and relieved that I had what he was looking for. (I was pretty relieved too)
So the next day he came back (we have a fully free flow book exchange program – gone is the once a week library day), I welcomed him as always. Then I asked what type of book he was looking for. Dinosaurs. So I immediately told him to have a seat and we once again spread the books out on the table. I started flipping the pages like the day before. He made a selection and all was well.
Anticipating his needs as best I could made the experience much better. I am not sure it will work every time. I am not able to do this for the hundreds of students who visit each week. But in that moment one little change made him feel heard, understood and valued.
Sometimes it is the little things. Not the major pedagogical trend or shift that helps a student get through the day.
I wonder what I will change on Monday?