Since 2016, this is the annual blog post where I share my reflection on the past year. (Prior to 2016, this blog was a collaborative project with several contributors.)
Before writing a new post, I review end-of-the year reflections from previous years. I must admit that “Professional Connectedness 2019” almost brought tears to my eyes. Although I will be eternally grateful to the alignment of the pandemic with the rise of Zoom, this year I deeply missed being face to face with so many family members, friends, and colleagues.
Teaching and Learning in 2020
After teaching graduate students 100% online for more than ten years, this year I had the experience of failing to creating community in the virtual learning environment. Perhaps, I am now of the generation of educators who need to see students’ faces in order to understand how best to guide their learning. (I took it personally when students opted out of turning on their cameras.) Or perhaps, the combination of online learning with the pandemic presented a stress level that inhibited a level of trust and sharing that I expect to give and receive in graduate studies. Whatever the reason, this was a difficult lesson for me.
On the other hand, the virtual world supported collaboration among contributors to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021). School librarians from across the country responded to my invitation to contribute to the book. Eight of nine chapters were co-authored by two or more educators who co-wrote using online tools. I provided feedback and edits virtually as well. We couldn’t have done this easily without the support of Google docs and Zoom.
This was also a banner year for free online professional development. I took advantage of many opportunities to learn from far-distant colleagues and to extend my reach for sharing my work. I believe that many individuals and organizations experienced success in developing more interactive virtual learning strategies and that this trend will continue long into the future.
That said, I look forward to having the option to return to in-person professional learning, sharing, and networking.
Connecting 2018 with 2020
“Looking Back, Looking Forward,” my 2018 reflection, focused on the research and writing that had further influenced my understanding of teaching reading. In 2019, I had the privilege of chairing the American Association of School Librarians School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force.
The position statement we crafted was approved by the AASL Board in January, 2020. I am exceeding proud of this work and stand by the perspective that the crucial work of school librarians is not only as book promoters but also as teachers of reading. To be sure, the school librarian’s role in reading is indeed “the hill on which I will die.” (As a colleague noted, perhaps it’s time for a bumper sticker!)
Identity in 2020
If I were asked to provide one word that anchors my professional identity, it would be authenticity. I believe in remaining true—true to my beliefs, passions, and values. I want to be considered a genuine person with unquestionable integrity. I strive to always represent myself true to my nature even if my truth does not align with that of another person of integrity or that of the prevailing norms.
Christopher Connors is an author, executive coach and emotional intelligence speaker. He reminds us that “authenticity is about presence, living in the moment with conviction and confidence and staying true to yourself” (2017). According to Connors, these are five qualities of an authentic person.
- Be True to Yourself.
- Think Inward, Look Outward.
- The Way You Treat People (Kindness and Respect)
- Live in the Moment and Be a Great Listener.
- Open-Mindedness and Fairness to Opportunities and People (Connors 2017).
To learn about how Connors describes these qualities, read his entire article on Medium.com.
Authenticity in 2021
Kindness, respect, and trust may be especially important now when reality has been turned upside down for so many students, families, colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Our struggles are real.
This could be an especially essential time to live an authentic life.
As Brené Brown so eloquently said, “there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”
This is a time when it is essential for school librarians to mindfully practice authenticity. As educators and colleagues, we must make a commitment to taking risks to improve our teaching and transforming students’ learning experiences.
For 2021, I am renewing my commitment to be my authentic self—to be vulnerable and brave and true. I will collaborate with others to create a better today and tomorrow for others. I invite you to join me.
Connors, Christopher D. 2017. “The Five Qualities of an Authentic Person.” Medium.com. https://medium.com/personal-growth/the-5-key-ingredients-of-an-authentic-person-259914abf6d5
From My Personal Collection