A Special Role for Specials Teachers

If you had asked me 12 years ago where I saw myself in 2018, I would have easily told you that I would be teaching in a primary classroom.  I didn’t begin my career with the intention of becoming a Library Media Specialist.  I loved the classroom.  I loved each and every student in my class and I loved helping them grow.

As fate would have it, I only spent 5 years teaching in the primary classroom.  Because of this, I have a unique perspective of what it’s like to be a special area teacher and a classroom teacher.  I’ve served in both roles and both are very similar yet very different.  When I first started, I wondered if I made the right choice to leave the classroom.  I missed my close knit little community of students.  I missed the relationships that I built with their families.  And I missed seeing the “aha” moments that come after a productive struggle with a new concept.  It wasn’t until my own son was entering first grade that I realized how powerful my position as a specials teacher truly is in the lives of our students.

You see, my son absolutely loved Kindergarten.  He loved it so much that he was very upset and had some anxiety over having to leave to go to First Grade.  He didn’t understand why he just couldn’t stay in Ms. Nottingham’s room forever.  He was comfortable there and he already knew all the expectations.  It was safe.  I tried everything to convince him that having a new classroom teacher would be great.  He would make new friends and learn all of the expectations in no time.  He wasn’t convinced until I told him that while he was getting a new classroom teacher, his specials teachers would all be exactly the same.  He lit up when he learned that some aspect of this new year would remain the same – music, library, art, PE, and computer lab…..all the same, smiling faces as last year.  After that he was perfectly fine.  This really made me think about  how many other kids have the same nervous feelings about each new school year.  How many other kids find comfort in knowing that the specials teachers would be the same, familiar faces from last year?  That was a powerful realization for me.  We all know that students thrive off of consistency.  As a specials teacher, we are able to be a constant, reliable source of love and support for much longer than one school  year.  Just like that, my purpose became more than the stereotypical planning time for teachers and an avenue for students to check out reading materials.  I became the constant variable that makes kids breath a sigh of relief on the first day of school.  I became the friendly, familiar face after having just met many new faces.  I was reminded of the relationship that I have with my students.  A relationship that can only be built over time.  Because we are specials teachers, we already have a relationship with each and every child on the very first day of school and that’s a very powerful role.     

As a specials teacher, I still love each and every student and I still get to watch them grow and have “aha” moments.  I just get to do it longer than one year.  I get to watch them get taller.  I get to watch their confidence soar when they finally overcome something they’ve struggled with since Kindergarten.  I like to think that I have a hand in getting them over those struggles, even if it’s just an encouraging word to remind them to keep trying, that I believe in them.  I get to see them every week for 6 years and the impact that I’m able to have on our kids  is what makes my job so amazing and meaningful.  It took awhile for me to realize how much I loved being a librarian because change is hard for everyone.  But seeing their smiling faces on the first day of school each year and hearing them say, “I missed you Mrs. Arvin!  Did you have a great summer?” reminds me that I mean something to them and they need me to be there.  And that relationship, my friends, is more special than you can ever imagine.  

Becky Arvin, Leader, Library Media Specialist, Taylor Mill Elementary


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