In the midst of change, and stress and angst, it’s the little things that make what we do bearable. Before I went back to school and got my MLS, there were only a few of those times – I can count them on one hand, I think. That’s not to say I didn’t make friends or have fun, but those surprising rays of sunshine seem to happen more frequently now that I’m working in a school.
For example, the reason I’m on Facebook is that a former student e-mailed to ask for personal reading suggestions even though she was still at school (her librarian apparently didn’t read much YA fiction, and never really tended to that part of the collection), and she also complained that she’d had to e-mail – why wasn’t I on Facebook, where she could reach out far more easily. The first friends I had there were former students, all of whom reached out to me.
One of those students, a girl who’d graduated several years before, sent me a personal message apologizing for giving me a hard time one day. Honestly, I didn’t even remember it but apparently she’d felt guilt about that for a while and this was her chance to get rid of it. She’s not the only student who has reached out to apologize for being a teen. And each time, they’ve mentioned that I’d been gracious about their behavior, which was what had stuck with them.
Another former student, from my first school, turned up as a teacher at my last school. We’d bonded back them, even though I was only there for a year, and during the time we worked together he would occasionally come to the library for some “Laura time” – in part because not only had we bonded, but in the intervening 10 or so years I’d remembered him and the things he was interested in. It’s those little connections that matter to students.
At my current school, we have Weekend Duty for about five weekends in the school year. Duty can range from chaperoning a dance to driving students to the mall to a pizza making party. One weekend, a colleague who was supposed to stay in one of the dorms while the housemother had the weekend off couldn’t make it. So in addition to my other duties I was scheduled to stay in the dorm from 6pm – midnight, making sure the girls were ok. This was in my mailbox a day or so later:
Just for doing my job!
And then there are the students. They’re all very polite, thanking me for proctoring study hall or for driving them somewhere. But as at all schools, there are some who stand out, who become “library groupies”. There’s one, a voracious reader, whom I’m convinced is the daughter I’m pretty sure I never had. There’s another who has come to me with some problems and asked for advice. When new books come in, there are a few I know will be in soon, perusing the display and choosing what they’ll read over the weekend or during a Break (or, as I did as a student, instead of doing homework). Some feel comfortable enough to joke with me. Last week, three of them gave me hugs during study hall (for three different reasons). Talk about the little things!
Finally, there’s Jenna. Apparently one of her goals is to be mentioned in a blog post (yes, I’ve spoken with her about raising her aspirations and goals… still, who am I to deny a lifelong dream). And I’m happy to do it – not just because of the wish-fulfillment, but because she’s one of the ones who in some ways reminds me of me, back when I was in high school.
I don’t think she’ll do what I did with my high school librarian, with whom I became professional colleagues years after working in the library as part of my community service. One day I called her from work, saying, “Barb, I’m going to say something to you that no former student has probably ever said to you before, nor will in the future. Thank you for teaching me how to cover books, because that’s one of those things they don’t teach in graduate school – and it’s so necessary to know!” When I next saw her, she handed me some mylar in celebration.
Those connections, those random acts of kindness and hugs and smiles and “thank yous” make the larger job so much easier. It’s nearly spring, a time for hope and warmth. We’re also rushing forward to the end of the school year. As you reflect on the year past, the successes and failures, don’t forget to count all those little things.