Two weeks before school started, two weeks before the School Board mandated “Open as usual. 100% capacity. Full time,” I was told that in an effort to keep class sizes down, I was being moved out of the library and into a middle school teaching block and that the library space was being repurposed for processing students in the morning and sectioned off to make “med rooms” for students who showed signs of Covid.
And in a bitter, bitter piece of irony, the day I was told this news, I encountered a certified letter that arrived for me. Inside was my shiny new Library Media Specialist certificate. Hard earned over three years.
Now all of this should have been damn depressing. I debated quitting, (I am sooo close to retirement), I debated moving into a homeschool teaching position, (parents that believe in the science of covid are pulling kids from brick and mortar schools), but in the end I decided to embrace this change for a couple of reasons. First, we are in a pandemic, second, I was told I was moving, I as not asked if I would like to move, and third, I simply am not someone who can rage against the machine.
I will be the Social Studies/Science teacher. Content area? US History through the Civil War. I am thrilled! This is my wheelhouse. But science? I have no business teaching that… I will stick to the teacher’s guide, show the little videos, do the little demonstrations, and if I am asked complicated questions the librarian in me will kick in and we will research it!
School ended so abruptly last spring, and access to the building was so limited that when I returned this fall, the library just stood unoccupied, as though it still had kids. I turned on my laptop and the lesson I had been teaching in March was still active. It was sort of overwhelming. There was so much library business that needed to be done, but I simply papered over book carts and hung the closed sign.
In the movies or on TV, when someone quits, they pack their stapler, maybe a desk plant or a family picture into a single cardboard box and they are finished. Ready to move on. One box of personal effects. Not me though. I schlepped boxes for two straight days!! I hung the pictures of my daughters, of my grandsons and of my husband behind my new desk – an idiosyncrasy of mine, I just am not at home without their smiling faces. I spaced the student desks 3 1/2 feet apart. I ordered an industrial clear face shield with cloth protector and was ready for my fifth graders.
Just to this small little audience in my secret blog world, my family, a few friends and few fellow bloggers, I will admit that it is earlier than I wanted, but as I sat through professional development after professional development session, being trained to keep kids from breathing the same air, touching the same doorhandles, making sure their desks and faces were always facing forward, we were even advised that singing and laughter were not advised, I began to. consider a big decision. Even though it is many years before I really wanted to, I think I am going to call this my last year. The politics that brought me to this point infuriate me – both national and our own little school board.
I started this career as a fifth grade teacher 25 years ago, and will end it as a fifth grade teacher. I want to experience the “last firsts.” I want to have my last first day of school. My last Christmas workshop projects. My last read aloud of a favorite book. This is the year I pull out favorite art projects. I want to go out strong. Love what I am doing, even if it will look different.
Being in the classroom wont be the same as it was 25 years ago. Kids are different. Times are different, and the environment is certainly different. Those exciting projects where we mapped out a boat on the floor and “outfitted it with provisions,” those lessons where kids work in teams to Colonize the “New World,” are over. In its place I hope to bring what I have learned as a librarian. With new technology we can dig deep. Research authentic sites. Become experts. Present our knowledge in unique ways.
For now, the library is closed. The shelves are covered, those books that can be accessed are being taken “on the honor system.” Shelves of books have been removed and stacked on counters. It is going to be a mess for someone to figure out. The new book order is shoved in the back, waiting for a librarian to catalog them. New books. Shiny books. Award winners. And I am sorry to say, most likely, it wont be me.