I imagine that starting in a new school district is a lot like being set up on a blind date after internet stalking the person. Sure, you've checked each other out. You may know a lot of data. You've almost certainly spent the entire summer organizing your space so it makes sense to you. There's probably even a drawer of things you just don't know where to put them yet.
You have some burning questions. Did you oversell yourself? Did they? Will people like you? Will you like them?
Here are my top 3 tips for starting somewhere new that have zero to do with your physical space because you know what to do with that.
1. "Make friends, not changes."
This is a quote from Dr. Rebecca Pasco, my library mentor. She says it so much that it's become something we refer to as a Pasco-ism. Here's the deal: she's right. It's the foundation. My own version of this is "People first". It's easy to get distracted by the mental to-do list. I wrote mine down and shoved them in a drawer for later. When teachers and students returned to school, they needed my full attention. It was incredibly difficult. I'm not naturally an extrovert. But it was so, so worth it. I put their priorities first, and they've been a valuable resource into my new role in our district.
2. Get in there with your teachers.
As a new-to-the-district teacher, I went to all of the new teacher days and was learning new things every day with other new teachers. We built relationships and walked through it together. They saw me struggle with different online tools and answered my questions. I offered to help with the things I did know. We jumped in together.
When the veteran teachers arrived, I found out something new to my experience: you don't have to constantly be peddling your wares to support teachers. You don't have to be the authority who knows everything to be valuable. The veteran teachers were MY support. I collaborated with teachers, and they took pity on me and returned the favor.
Being physically and mentally present with my teachers made a world of difference - especially in this unique year of starting a new school district during a pandemic. I saved my changes for later.
3. Talk to your administrators about their goals.
It sounds obvious, but the one thing that's made a huge difference in my own mindset is having a short discussion with my superintendent about the goal for the school library this year. Now, I'm in a very small school district with a superintendent who cares wildly about the school library program. I realize this is a unique situation. You may wind up speaking with a principal or a program supervisor. The value of having a clear goal has helped me put other good-but-not-a-priority ideas aside to implement later. It's helped me stay sane and avoid burnout. Get a school library goal and make everything you do about that. Ideally, you will have years to implement changes to your program and fix things in your physical space. Pace yourself with a purpose.
(Curious to know our goal for this year? It's simple: get books into kids' hands no matter the pandemic situation. Readers make good students, good citizens, and imaginative problem solvers. Get books into their hands.)
If you're also starting somewhere new or in a new role, I wish you the best, and I see you. We've got this. #LibraryStrong