Gratitude, Reflections & Resolutions

The December holidays are pretty much done. You (hopefully) have time to relax before New Year’s and the return to school. In this quiet space, it’s a great opportunity to take some time to think, focus your mindset, and be ready to bring your rejuvenated self to being the best leader and librarian you can be for the remainder of the school year. But where to start?

I am a great believer in gratitude. The daily stress and crises of life, both personal and professional, can drown out the good. Life will always happen, but we need to savor the happy moments. To do this, find a quiet spot. Take a notepad or your tablet with you and give yourself time to think. What do you have in your life that you are grateful for? Family and friends. Home, food, coffee, jobs we enjoy, the people who make our lives easier. Start listing them. As you continue to think, your list will get longer.

Reflect on the joys and celebrations you have had this year. I keep an “All Good Things” canister on my kitchen island. I record whenever something good happens to me or a family member on a sheet of paper from a small pad I keep in the cannister. Then I fold it, write the date on it, and put it back in the canister. On New Year’s Day, I empty the canister and put the folded sheets in chronological order. As I read through them, I can remember what I great year I had.

With those two steps completed, you are ready for the traditional writing of New Year’s resolutions, intentions, or goals. Knowing how often these are made and quickly broken, consider Dan Rockwell’s suggestions in A New Year – A New Focus and do it differently.

His novel idea is to start by making a “Don’t Want” list. You’ll be amazed by how quickly you’ll write this. We are quite clear about what we want less of. Follow it with a short explanation of how to keep it out of your life (or minimize it.)  For example, you may not want to feel so tired. So, you will need to go to bed earlier. Perhaps you don’t want to be always going from task to task like the Energizer bunny. You will have to prioritize your commitments and learn to say, “no.”

Rockwell says to then consider what you do want. Think about what you want more of in your life and then ask yourself what it would take – what would the steps be – to have that in your life. If you want more time with your family what will you need to do? What will you stop doing to give yourself more time? On the professional level, you might want to collaborate with more teachers. Who can you reach out to? (You don’t want to tackle too many. Remember you are prioritizing your commitments.) What’s the best way to connect with that teacher? How can you build your relationship with them?

With these two lists, you now have a clearer idea of where to focus in the New Year. Reflect again. This time on what went well this year. How can you improve on what didn’t? How can you take your successes to the next level? How can you let go of what didn’t work or didn’t serve you?

And lastly, Rockwell (and I heartily agree) asks “How do you want to bring value to yourself and others? You have noted how much you have to be grateful for. Now it is time to focus on the ways you can give back. You are a leader. What do you need to do that will strengthen and grow your community? But do maintain balance in your life. It will be a matter of priorities.

Quiet time over. You have set your direction for the New Year. Now enjoy the remainder of your vacation.



originally posted: November 2014

 Last week I blogged about the giving half of Thanksgiving.  This week my focus in how we say thank you.  Many of you spend some time on Thanksgiving Day reflecting on the wonderful people in your life for whom you are grateful. You also may have expressed gratitude for living in freedom, being free from want, and for having the basic necessities of life which too many people do not have.

As we return to work, consider how often you say “thank you” or have the words said to you.  Most of the time, the words are tossed off automatically.  It’s a matter of being courteous.  While good manners are always important, heartfelt, sincere thanks can make a difference in how someone views their day.  Become conscious of how you react when you receive a true thank you and what it means when you express your gratitude to others.

During my time as a high school librarian, I was thanked often by teachers and by students.  Most often it was of the automatic variety, but I know I went through the day with a smile on my face when a student specifically thanked me, saying they got a good grade because of the help I gave them or a teacher let me know how much she appreciated my going out of my way to do her a favor.

With this in mind, my Thanksgiving resolution (I have just created a new tradition – join me!) is to give more mindful, specific thanks. In the supermarket, I thanked the young woman checking me out for the care she gave in balancing the weight in my shopping bags.  Her face lit up with pleasure.  That, in turn, was a gift for me. I thought I lived a conscious life, but I have discovered there is always a way to take it further.

Our students don’t always tell us of the burdens they are carrying from home situations, complications of friendships, or school pressures. Teachers don’t reveal everything either. The library is often the sanctuary where the whole school population can feel safe and derive comfort.  Add to the welcoming environment you create by becoming aware of when and how you say thank you.

And thanks to all of you who take the time to read my blog and subscribe to the School Librarian’s Workshop.  The thanks I have gotten for what I do motivates me to strive to always do better.

ON LIBRARIES – Gift Giving

Merry Christmas to those celebrating today!  I hope you received the gifts you wanted.  For those of you who are with family and friends this holiday weekend, being with them can be a gift in itself. For those who find themselves on their own at this season, I wish quiet peace and finding the strength and courage to fill your life with joy. For all of you, I wish time to relax and rejuvenate.  Too often we go from our hectic jobs to an almost frenetic pace preparing for and participating in the holidays.  Before you know it, your vacation is over and you return to your libraries exhausted.

So, take a breath.  Look around. And savor the gifts you have in your life.

It’s too easy to identify what you wish for and don’t have.  Instead, reflect and focus on what you have and all perhaps take for granted.  Commercials and appeal letters in the mail remind me of the many people who don’t have the simple basics of life that we take for granted such as fresh water and ample food (too much for many of us at this time of year).

Give yourself the gift of time. It’s so lacking in our lives. If you live by your to-do list as I do, include yourself on the list. Binge watch a favorite television program you have been too busy to watch. (My daughter recently couldn’t stop talking about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime). Read a book you want to read.  Play some board games.  Do what you enjoy that you haven’t been doing because of the tasks that occupy so much of your life.

For me, I make sure to go out for a walk.  I have been doing this 3-5 times a week for a few years now.  It’s what I do for me.  It gets me away from my computer and out in the world.  I have met so many wonderful people on the way.  Sometimes they even toot their horn and wave when they drive past.  I watch the seasons change, and pet dogs on their own walks.  I have watched exterior home improvements happening, seen people sell their homes and new owners move in.

Most of all I take this time think.  Sometimes it’s about what my I should write for this blog.  Other times I contemplate what I am going to eat. (I am a lifetime Weight Watcher member.) And in-between random and focused thoughts, my mind unclutters. It’s peaceful and my own form of meditation.

Make time to appreciate yourself.  Many of you feel unappreciated at work (and sometimes at home).  Think of the gifts you give to others.  What do you do for your family?  What do you do for your teachers and students?  If you are doing it because it’s who you are, and only on bad days do you feel you are being taken for granted, give yourself a pat on the back.

How many times have students thanked you for your help?  Don’t gloss over their words.  They recognize the gifts you give to them.  Remember the time teachers also thanked you.  They, too, are harried and over-worked.  They may not take time to express their gratitude, but when you reach out to them and build relationships, you will hear it more often.

Do give thanks to others.  Make it a practice to thank those who in any way are helpful to you. If you are specific in your thanks, as I noted in last weeks blog “The Power and Importance of Feedback,” you will help make their day.

Being true to my own words, I am thankful to all my readers and the participants in my Facebook group and to the extensive librarian colleagues and friends in my life.  You make my days richer. You are there to answer my questions and to post comments that keep me learning.  It is challenging for me to keep up since I no longer work in a school library, but thanks to you, I am not lost in the past. I thank you for that gift.

Enjoy your vacation – and the gifts you get and bring.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.




ON LIBRARIES – The Gift of Gratitude and Generosity

Thanksgiving in North America is over and the December holidays will soon be upon us.  While many take time on Thanksgiving to reflect on all the reasons they have to be thankful, the day is barely over before we are bombarded with the frenzy typified by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whether it’s adults scrambling to buy gifts and decorate the house, or kids campaigning to get something they can’t live without, the holidays can become more about material goods than people and celebration of thing that last beyond the life of a AA battery. It makes you want to hibernate instead.

We live in a stress-filled world. Our students are stressed as well.  Not only does this interfere with thinking clearly, it also causes us to focus on negatives.  It becomes so easy to complain, we forget what we have. You could easily fill a page with what is wrong on the job and in your life.  But what do you get from that? Let’s face it – it’s easy, but it doesn’t help or work. It’s not good for building relationships and it ends up making the library much less of a welcoming environment.

When I focus on having an “attitude of gratitude,” as corny and meme-like as that might sound, I recognize how fortunate I am.  I am grateful for the joy my family brings me, having work I enjoy doing, and the wonderful friendships I have within the library world. (Before I retired, I also recognized how fortunate I was in having colleagues who became friends and students who thanked me every day for the help I had given them.)  To ensure that I do think of the good things in my life, I keep a gratitude journal.  Each day I record two things for which I am grateful—big or small.

When you keep your focus on gratitude and the things that are going well in your life, the world becomes a nicer place.  Your problems don’t go away, but they don’t constantly dominate your thinking.  As a result, you feel less stressed which leads to additional positive benefits. It changes your body language and tone of your voice.  You become a calm port in the raging seas of others’ emotions, which run high at this time of year for many reasons.  People who interact with you come away feeling relaxed and supported.

In the spirit of the season, you could set up a Gratitude Jar near the circulation desk along with small pieces of paper and pens.  Encourage students and whoever else cares to join in to write something for which they are grateful and put it in the jar.  Signing is optional.  You might even set up a Gratitude bulletin board and post some submissions placed in the jar, changing them every few days. It’s someone everyone can participate in – teachers, students, volunteers, and administrators.

And since I always talk about this – while I have not seen it listed in any article I have read, I believe gratitude is a quality of leadership. Strong leaders are aware of what is working in their programs as much as they are aware of where there is potential for growth. They are grateful for what they have in their lives and the people who work with or for them.  And good leaders are quick to express that gratitude.

From Richer Life Journey

The season is also a reminder to be generous.  There are so many ways we can and do give to our family, friends, and communities.  It may be money, as many of us contribute to various charities this time of year, but it may also be the gift of time or sharing our talents with the world.

Time is a very precious commodity in our world.  Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen?  Serve on your state library association or AASL?  There are countless ways to give back.  My daughter’s childhood friend “scarf-bombs” Detroit, leaving hand knitted scarves that she makes all year long in key spots around the city. Each scarf has a note which reads: If you’re cold you can keep me. If you know someone who’s cold, please take me to them. She’s made and delivered over 400 scarves in the past three years.

Children love knowing their time and efforts can make a difference. In some schools, the produce of gardening projects is donated to soup kitchens and food banks. Other districts do food and/or coat drives or even collect gently used books to give to those who don’t have them.  What other ways can students show generosity?

You could also create a Generosity Jar to encourage students and others to be mindful of giving back.  Using the same system as with the Gratitude Jar, people can write all the ways they have helped others in the past year.  Consider posting some questions to help students recognize how they can give back. Did they clean up their room or the dishes without being asked?  Did they help a friend with homework?

We all have much in our lives to be grateful for and most of us do find ways to give.  I truly believe when we become aware of Gratitude and Generosity in our lives, we make our own world a better place and positively affect the larger world as well.