Educators: Next Year Let’s Give Ourselves a Little More Space

column | Teaching and Learning

Educators: Next Year Let’s Give Ourselves a Little More Space

By Kimberly Rues (Columnist)     Dec 16, 2021

Educators: Next Year Let’s Give Ourselves a Little More Space

This article is part of the guide: Survival Mode: Educators Reflect on a Tough 2021 and Brace for the Future.


It’s the final frontier, but it also defines the shifts in my life as a result of the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic, I spent my days in a flurry of activity, scrambling to get things done, rarely, if ever, taking time to do things I enjoyed. I was constantly drumming up opportunities to do more, to be more, to offer greater benefit.

The work I do matters to people—it impacts kids, it supports teachers. My administrators count on me, and I serve my district and my profession in leadership roles beyond the library. I have always taken pride in that.

But, my calendar was stuffed, my to-do list neverending, and the amount of time I had to just breathe simply did not exist. I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to connect with others—to learn student names, to engage collaboratively with teachers to provide meaningful point-of-need instruction, or to enjoy spending time with children as we learned together. I felt like I was always on the run from one thing to the next, like a whirling dervish.

Of course, the pandemic changed all that for a while, through distance learning and limited contact time with students once we returned to buildings. At first, I was saddened by the shift. But now, as I have spent the last year or so working my way back to what feels like a bit of normalcy, I find that I intentionally, deliberately, and joyously revel in the space.

My calendar is still a bit busy, but I’m no longer drumming up lots of extras to make sure that I’m busy enough. There is space between classes and meetings to take care of the things that invariably come up, to spend time with a student who is struggling to find just the right book, and to support my colleagues as we navigate this year.

I still fill every minute of school time (and honestly, time beyond the contract day as well) with work that supports my students and staff, but I’ve intentionally chosen those tasks, and I know they’ll bring the greatest benefit.

My to-do list is still long, but I am able to take a few minutes—the space at the start of the day—to prioritize what matters most to those I serve. The rest of the items may fall to the wayside or be shuffled off to next week. If they need to get done, they’ll get done. If they don’t, they may not.

And I’m taking time to breathe, to learn students’ names and interests, and to savor wonderful books with kids. I’m appreciating the beautiful space we have created in our libraries and relishing the fact that all members of our school community love spending time there.

The students are finally allowed to sit in the soft seating I’ve invested in across the library, which adds a dimension of calm to the end of our library visits—each child in their own space, enjoying their own books. It’s simply blissful.

On my desk, I try to keep just one task at a time, giving that project the space it deserves. On the library shelves, I seek space (removing outdated materials) so that there’s room for new inclusive stories that appeal to my students.

In my lessons, the focus is smaller, the steps slower (partly because I sense the need to slow down, take a step back, and acclimate my students to school), but the end result is learning. I’ve given kids space to learn, to grow.

And in the end, that’s true for me too.

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