The past two months have been unusual to say the least. What we consider to be normal, our daily routine, our sense of safety and stability have been challenged in so many ways. The information and guidelines we are receiving change frequently as more is learned and discovered. It can be incredibly overwhelming at times.
What can also be overwhelming is engaging with Internet content right now. I know this is a bit ironic–seeing as you are reading a blog post from someone who tweets on the regular. But as someone who is connecting on social media more than normal, I wanted to share some thoughts I shared in an online meet up that the Nebraska School Librarians Association (NSLA) held recently.
Even though all our lives have been affected by the same event, we are all living a very different experiences from each other right now. What you are able to personally do as a human being–as a professional who is working at home, who might have kids at home, or who might be worried about family members or friends or taking care of loved ones who are adults–is different from what I am able to do. And that is okay. What your district is asking of you might be very different from what my district is asking of me. The resources I have access to are different from the resources you have access to. The technology and Internet connection your students have is probably different than mine. Some people are working harder and longer than ever, and some are having trouble finding their place. Many of these things are true in the most normal of times, but they are more evident and necessary to acknowledge now.
There is a phrase that I have seen in a few places that I very much appreciate–we are in an emergency remote learning situation. This was not a planned event. This was not something we had time to truly prepare for to handle in a long-term way. I don’t think it matters how technologically savvy your school or district is, because there is still the human factor to account for when moving experiences entirely online. The living situations of students and staff vary vastly, which means no experience you design will work smoothly for everyone involved. Everyone is simply trying to do the best with what they have right now.
It is also important to acknowledge that now is not a time for comparison. Do not look at what someone else is doing and think, “I’m not doing enough. Wow, that person, look at what they’re doing. I’m not as good at this as they are. I am just not doing a good job.” Because I will tell you that you are. Whatever it is that you are able to do everyday is more than doing nothing. I am going to guess that you spend a large part of your day worrying about your students and your staff. I am going to guess that you are thinking about what you can do to support people without overwhelming them. You are probably trying to figure out ways to engage with your school community that is not only good for the brain but good for the soul. Whatever you are doing for your school, your students, your staff, within the confines of what you are required and what you are able to do is good. Please, take that to heart, and just know that wherever you are wherever you’re at at this moment, is good.
As I write this, we have two weeks left of this school year. The articles I am reading, the chats I am attending, the webinars I am archiving to watch later will probably no longer inform my practice for this school year. What they can do is spark some thoughts about what I can try to incorporate for the future. But I also need to be careful about how much I am taking in.
I feel like there are so many things available right now that I kind of waffle between being really excited and being absolutely overwhelmed. I have to be conscious about striking a balance on what I am committing myself to. I sign up for a ton of webinars, but I don’t actually attend all of them live. I love that most webinars and podcasts are archived for a later time, because I can deal with them when I have more headspace to do so. I want to be productive and I want to spend my time thoughtfully, but I also know that there is such a thing as information overload and that I have a threshold. There are days when I very quickly meet that threshold, and there are days when I can do a little bit more. Some days I can engage in multiple chats and webinars while on other days I need to respond to e-mails, create learning materials, or read.
Listen to what your mind and your body are telling you and give yourself a little bit of grace as you’re going through all of this. Think about what you as a person in this life need, not only to be successful but to successfully get through the day to day. Think about what speaks to you and what you want to engage with as you prepare for the unknown future. Remember, this is not a time for comparison. It is a time of compassion–for others and for ourselves.
I want to give a huge shout out to the AASL Town Hall meetings on Thursdays. Hearing the stories and experiences from other school librarians across the country have made me feel less isolated in this experience and more connected to our profession as a whole. Hearing the successes and challenges of others has helped me remember compassion not comparison. You can sign up for future town halls and see recordings of past town halls here.
I also highly recommend attending or setting up chats with other school librarians. The two we have had through NSLA have been bright spots for connecting with others in our state.
Author: Courtney Pentland
Courtney Pentland is the high school librarian at North Star High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is adjunct faculty for the University of Nebraska-Omaha School Library program and has served on the Nebraska School Librarians Association board as board member at large, president, and chapter delegate to AASL. She has been elected to be the 2023-2024 AASL President. Follow her adventures on Twitter @livluvlibrary