This is a very different start to a school year for me, and for lots of different reasons.
1. Over the summer, I accepted the position of Librarian at Walden III, meaning that I've left the comfort of my previous home of Mitchell Middle. And I mean that. Despite whatever you may have seen on the news, Mitchell was a building full of some of the best educators I've ever come to know. I was their Librarian for 5 years and I regret none of it. For all the amazing things that Walden has going for it (and there are LOTS of those, as you'll find out), it was a difficult choice to make. And this is no slight on the staff of Walden, to be sure. So far, every single person I've met at Walden has been inviting, fun, and very good at what they do. But the change of schools does make me feel like I'm leaving something behind. When you break bread with souls like theirs in times like this, it stays with you. This is all to say that the move has me feeling like the new kid in class, which I pretty much am.
2. Walden is a completely different animal than any other building I've worked at. They have their ROPE (Right of Passage Experience) program, which is totally unique. Their system of Homegroups, which is like a home room but with tremendous directed purpose and engagement. And you know what else? All staff here are addressed by their first name! That's taken some getting used to, for sure. It took a long time for me to be comfortable being addressed as Mr. O'Connell (a title I still instinctively reserve for my father). And now I have to switch back to just Brian? But that's okay. It's funny the way a simple alteration of how a teacher is addressed can change the way student/teacher relationships function. And from what I've seen, it's for the better by a longshot.
3. My very favorite day of school is always the first one. There is nothing in the world like the feeling of smiling and cheering at students you haven't seen for a summer. Your soul warms at helping a new student completely lost and walking them to where they need to go. And due to COVID, that beautiful experience has been lost. I won't lie, it hurts my heart a bit. The Library is empty. I feel like a shepherd without any sheep. Luckily Walden's unique nature keeps me very busy, so I don't have to dwell on it.