Revolving Book Rack: Yours, Mine, Ours
Earlier today, a cherished colleague posted a picture of a revolving book rack, a longtime piece of classroom furniture which she was now, having reassigned a cabinet area for her classroom library, offering up to another needy soul. I recognized the item in the picture. That rack had once been my revolving bookshelf, the one I’d left behind when I exited the classroom at the end of 2012 to become an instructional coach. When I left the classroom, I invited my students to take the paperbacks on my rack for themselves. They did. One boy brought a grocery sack. And just like that, a world vanished.
Or at least for that year in that room it did. The rack in the picture certainly looked like the one that had been in my classroom, the one I myself had scavenged from the school library when it had undergone a remodel. Perhaps my colleague’s rack was a second one, also scavenged from the library.
In any event, the picture of that revolving book rack standing empty stirred memories of school years past. Kids would come to my classroom in the fall, nervous and excited and awkward and shy—even the seniors—and we would take up topic after topic, book after book, rolling through the curriculum and the months until at last, on a day that seemed as if it would never come, the end of the year was suddenly and abruptly there. And those same students, now excited in a different way and no longer nervous and shy, were like the books on the rack: gone.
I was always bereft, entered into a kind of mourning that lasted through the first two weeks of June. This phenomenon surprised me at the beginning of my career; eventually, I came to recognize what was the matter with me and then anticipate the grief and understand that it was natural to mourn: the end of the year brings an end to whatever magic has been created in any teacher’s room. I knew the magic would be recreated the next year, but of course it would not be exactly the same. I took solace in knowing that in August the students would enter, nervous and excited and awkward and shy, and we would begin together to construct anther magical world, one endeavor, one lesson, one understanding, one misunderstanding, one joke, one joy, realization, sorrow, conclusion at a time.
Now we are at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The shelves will soon be empty. It has been a year memorable for the things I am sure most if not all of you wish you hadn’t experienced. And yet, overcoming the challenges, confronting the fears, dealing with the reality of all that Covid-19 has brought to this year—the mask battles, the quarantine disasters, the disappearance of the neediest students, the perseverance of many and the courage of all—especially your courage, colleagues—has created a world that you might not mourn but at least will reflect upon often this summer.
This post is more than a piece of nostalgia. It’s a shout-out to you, to all of you, you who braved the year, delivered your knowledge and skill and wisdom just as expected, embraced your students, and created a world of safety in the danger zone of the larger world. The revolving rack has nearly stilled. You’re just a few days away from celebratory outings, sleeping in, focusing on your own children and creating a wondrous summer for them, from new grad classes of your own, new opportunities, camping trips and visits to family you’ve been separated from, to explorations and pleasures of all kinds.
But as you reflect, in those quiet moments of summer relief, rest, and recreation, remember this: You are the heroes of the Covid story your students will never forget. You are the heroes in the books they take from the rack. You spun that rack and made this 180-day revolution one to remember.
Have a well-deserved vacation, my friends. .
I will see you in the fall when, together, we take another spin around the world.