Monday, December 04, 2006


This is something that happened to me a few weeks before I left Info Services downtown, but I forgot to write about it until now.

As a general, stereotypical group, I despair of teachers who never did the after-degree. If they went straight into Education, and then started teaching, I never consider them knowing enough about the Universe to teach other people. And stories like this only cement my worldview on this point.

A high school teacher came up to the Desk, and said that she was preparing a unit on teaching high school students about budgeting; she wanted books on budgeting for teens. Fair enough.

I started to search for the elusive subject heading that I knew would be there, but with a certain type of patron, a full minute of searching - let alone 3 minutes of searching - is just too much, and obviously I don't know what I'm doing. She started to give me suggestions, and show her impatience fairly quickly - I'm sure we've all experienced this phenomenon.

Because she was so impatient, I suggested that she use some of the general budgeting books I was finding. She replied that those wouldn't work, because - wait for it - "With teens, sometimes you have to dumb-i-fy it."

Now, usually, I slip into my poker face and try not to comment on the patron's statement. But this time - with this shaper of young minds - I just couldn't resist.

"Um...," I said, "Did you... just.. say... 'dumb-i-fy'...??"

"Yeah," she nodded pertly, "Sometimes they just don't get it."

At this point in our conversation, two things happened together. We suddenly got very busy on the Desk, and I snagged the perfect subject heading as I knew I would. Since she's a teacher (heh), I wrote it down for her and sent her to the catalogue computers to find materials, and told her I'd check back with her in a few minutes. It should be pretty easy - right? - to find books with the perfect subject heading put in your hand for you?

But when I got back to her five minutes later, the only thing she had found of value was a 1986 children's book at a different branch. Puzzling? Oh. The despair. Indeed, she was using my perfect subject heading in a TITLE search. Yup, a high school teacher who doesn't know the difference between a subject search and a title search. And I couldn't talk her into doing it again correctly. She was all used up. She insisted that she'd drive all the way to Branch X to get her outdated budget book for kinders, and make the best of it.

It bugs me that she's dumb and doesn't know it. It bugs me that she probably thinks I wasn't very helpful because I didn't put the best books in her hand in the 30 seconds that she afforded me. It bugs me that her students have to put up with her for a whole year. And mostly, it bugs me that she has such little respect for the potential of her bet-they're-wildly-smarter-than-her kids.

Sayonara, Ms. FancyPants. May your teens dance circles around you.


Anonymous Elaine in Oregon said...

Did you try to just point out the section of all those classic Dummy books like "Car repair for Dummies", "Algebra for Dummies", "Extensive Brain Surgery for Dummies...."

Obviously, this what what she desired.

I shouldn't talk. I think I own two of those Dummies books. THEY WERE GIFTS, I SWEAR. Now that I think about it, I wonder if they were gifts or strong hints from friends ... like that "Dating for Dummies" book ... hmmmm.... Then again, you know who some of my friends are. That should explain a lot, right??!!

11:43 pm  
Blogger liz said...

Ouchie---a good reminder for anyone who teaches!

Perhaps she'd just had a frustrating week with her students. Or...a frustrating week at home and was taking it out on her students.

10:19 pm  

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