Relationships from the Hardest Year Ever

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July 6, 2022 by Dr. Robbie Barber

I called SY21, the #StrangestYearEver, and used this as the lens to look at everything. I wrote about my relationships with others during the year. This school year (SY22) was referred to as the #HardestYearEver. It’s no exaggeration. Plus, I had the added joy of contracting COVID (my first time) the last week of school and missed attending graduation. Unfortunately for me, I missed seeing the kids that last week though I had taken some time to write notes to some of my seniors in advance. So I’m taking a moment to think about my relationships with students, faculty, and staff during this turbulent year.

Sunday mornings were dedicated to finalizing the weekly staff school newsletter, Tiger’s Tissue Tabloid. The newsletter was to provide some technology insight – simple, direct, and using pictures to illustrate the point. Memes were added to provide a touch of humor. Originally, the newsletter was hung in the staff bathrooms. During our COVID time, I emailed it every Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. When we returned to the building, at the request of several teachers, I continued to email it every Monday morning and print it for the staff bathrooms. A science teacher agreed to help me monitor the memes I included in the newsletter each week. Our Sunday mornings involved this type of conversation.

Sadly, my colleague is leaving my school, but she’s offered to continue to check memes on our Sunday mornings. I’ll probably take her up on it and try to add another in the building.

This year with students in the building again, I found my library becoming the safe haven it’s meant to be again. I had students who couldn’t take the noise of the cafeteria sit in the library, dual enrollment students who asked to stay and work, a student who had lost family members and just needed a constant person to say hello to, and another who was a full-time online student but came by occasionally to mentor other students and had her own family issues. By the end of the school year, she was a regular fixture in the library. When I came back to the library after COVID, I found letters from some students and teachers saying goodbye or I’ll see you in the Fall.

This year, more than any other year, I had teachers come by to just sit and listen to the music. Our school has seven periods and teachers have five classes. At least one of those planning periods is to do the preparation and the other is often meetings. This year, teachers were often required to use at least one planning period a day to cover for other teachers. Every morning was an exercise in frustration for department chairs trying to find who was not coming in, who had subs, and who could cover what period. I provided spaces in the library for teachers to just sit (and one hidden room with a telephone). I always put on 70s music when Dr. S. was coming in 6th period to listen. I played the soundtrack from Hamilton when Mr. A. dropped in and never played it when Mr. D. came to chat.

I had more classes in the library this year, though sadly not because I was teaching more. Instead, it was easier for some to have their classes assigned in the library or use the space. That’s okay. That is what the space is designed for. And there are plenty of nooks and crannies for individuals and small groups to use without interfering with the class space.

I said goodbye to my part-time aide who retired in May. I will miss her and her skill set tremendously. I also said goodbye to teachers who retired, left the school, left the district, or left the profession. I have honestly never said as many goodbyes as I did this May.

I hope the next school year brings more joy. I hope more students find their safe place. I hope the teachers know they can visit. I hope they all remember that their school librarian is here to help, listen, collaborate, and teach.

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

Albert Einstein

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