This school year has been like no other in recent history--here's how teachers are reflecting and looking ahead

What are your reasons to celebrate this school year?

This school year has been like no other in recent history--here's how teachers are reflecting and looking ahead

“My advice: take time for yourself. You can’t help others or be there for them when you are unable to meet your own needs.” Joe Witek

“That running a library is more like running a small business than teaching: inventory, circulation, purchasing, promoting, employee management, customers + teaching, pd, etc.” Erin Hough

“That libraries are far from obsolete and so important to our students! It was devastating to be closed last year, cease circulation, and then push into classrooms. To see the utter joy and excitement from our students as we reopened this year and have had our library renovated has been so rewarding. The schools that don’t have libraries may think they can do without, but no child should be without them!” Audra Good

“That as a librarian it can be hard to put others first over yourself and your workload. However, it is necessary. Teachers and students need the support of the librarian more than just as a resource for locating information. At times, I felt like I needed to prove that I am valuable, but I stopped feeling like this since COVID hit . . . That is what I learned this year. We are recovering and trying to get back to normal this school year. I have been a crutch to help people to get back to normalcy.” Shelly Stall

All the comments I received reinforced my gut instinct: while it’s been challenging, we are all taking with us lessons learned and reasons to celebrate. When I spoke with Carrie Friday, a colleague who is a teacher librarian at a middle school in Florida, she pointed out what she learned about her students. “I learned that I am capable of even more than I thought I was,” Friday told me. “I also learned that kids who are invested in your program will be a huge help in keeping the program going—they just need opportunities to shine.”

Another colleague here in Illinois told me she’s ALWAYS learning and shared several great thoughts.

“’I’ve learned to embrace the wait time,” said Stephanie Kaye, an instructional coach in Fox Lake. “We live in a fast-paced world. Leaders – coaches, admins, teachers – need to give students TIME to ponder, think, consider…all too often whether it’s in a classroom, meeting, or professional development a question is asked and not much ‘wait time’ is given. Embrace the wait time!” Kaye also shared her thoughts on leadership and the level of teacher and librarian burnout that has become commonplace since the pandemic.

“Leadership in education needs to always remember that while we are here for the students, if the staff feels overworked and underappreciated, the students will be ones who suffer the most,” said Kaye. She shared that now, more than ever, it’s critical to have open dialogue with your staff. “Let your staff be heard, that you hear them and then find solutions together. Develop a way for staff to truly bring up concerns to leadership. Otherwise, people just complain behind closed doors, and nothing ever gets fixed; nothing ever changes. Stagnant water breeds disease.” 

Many other educators shared what they’ve learned in the last two years and why there are reasons to celebrate, but space does not allow for me to include all. However, the underlying message is clear from almost everyone who responded: Through the many challenges we faced this school year, educators can and will emerge stronger.

I hope you are inspired by these learnings and think about some of your own. How are you stronger now and what did you learn in the last two years?  We want to hear from you. Send us your input here and I’ll address your comments in a future column.

As your school year comes to a close, I hope you all find reasons to celebrate.

Britten Follett
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