Rest in Peace Mrs. Rigsby

When I was in 4th grade, I attended Madison Elementary in Port Lavaca, Texas. This campus served grades 4 & 5, so we would call this more of an intermediate school in today's Education world.

I vividly remember a few things about my 4th grade year. For one, I decided to stop using my first name since there were so many Jennifers in my class and went instead by my more unique middle name, Jeanean. In the Spelling Bee that year I was the last 4th grader standing. I wore jeans, a periwinkle sweater with a J monogrammed on the front, and a black pair of kitten heels. More importantly, I placed 3rd when I left out the "i" when spelling "obituary". Lastly, I remember Mrs. Rigsby, the school librarian.

When you look up Librarian in a dictionary, you would find a picture of Mrs. Rigsby. She wore her graying hair in a bun high on the back of her head. Her glasses were worn on a gold chain around her next. I mostly remember her wearing skirts, blouses, cardigans, and sensible shoes. I remember her as an energetic and book-loving School Librarian.

One book I was most interested in reading that year was not available to 4th graders. That book was Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. The story revolves around a young girl dealing with her interfaith family while going through regular puberty experiences. What most people, including myself, remember about the book is the chant that Margaret used in a effort to create enough growth to need her first bra. Written in 1970, Judy Blume's book was often challenged in the 1980s. It was during this time at the Madison Elementary Library that only 5th grade girls could check out this book.

By limiting access to that book until a girl was in 5th grade, when we got "the Talk" in PE, Mrs. Rigsby was following normal school library procedure for the time. As a school librarian myself over 30 years later, not allowing students to check out a book that may not be appropriate for them isn't a plausible option. Now many 4th graders are carrying around a device in their pocket that gives them access to images and videos much more provocative than a book about usual coming of age issues.

The proverb says, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Historically, in education, we block students from access to things we deem inappropriate. With the influx of technology, we filter internet access so they cannot find information we think they shouldn't. Many times we miss the opportunity to teach.

I want to challenge you, as educators, to teach them. Teach your students to select materials appropriate for them. Teach your students to find online materials that are appropriate for them. Teach your students to self regulate their information consumption.

Earlier this week, I was visiting the online version of my hometown newspaper as I stumbled upon the obituary of Barbara "Babs" Rigsby. It included her picture, gray hair in a bun and gold-rimmed glasses on her face. Despite being about 10 years old when I last saw Mrs. Rigsby, her obituary  described the exact person I remember: active, energetic, and dynamic. "She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her."


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