This New Blogger is a Poor Planner

My post today is going to serve two purposes. First of all, I'm going to introduce myself as one of the new bloggers at Smack Dab in the Middle. And second, I'll talk to you a bit about planning or rather, poor planning, which is something I rather excel in.

My name is Kristen Zayon (rhymes with crayon), and I come to this blog from the library point of view, in particular, an elementary school library. I'm in my eighth year working at a beautiful school tucked into the woods in the foothills surrounding Fairbanks, Alaska. We have an ice rink, and multiple skiing, hiking and snowshoeing trails right outside our doors. Moose wander through the playground, the soccer field, and the school garden. The school itself has always functioned as a de facto community center for the area residents, and the staff, students and parents really view themselves as an extended family. It's an ideal place to work except, of course, right now there are very few actual children. We have approximately thirty students who, for various reasons, from poor internet to lack of home supervision to special needs, are better served inside the building. It's nothing like a normal school day for them, but at least there is a qualified adult there to teach and guide.

I spend the first part of the day working from home because, in addition to creating and teaching library lessons to kindergarten through sixth grade, and managing the library, I also have five kids of my own. Three are still in public school, and I need to be there to make sure all the work is actually getting done. In the afternoon I head into the school building to manage all the work that can't be done at home; pulling books and prepping them for curbside check-out, processing books, checking books in, storing them for quarantine, shelving, weeding, ordering. The list goes on and on and there's not nearly enough time to do it all. But the hardest thing, really, is that I miss my students tremendously, and I worry greatly about the ones who I know are slipping through the cracks and falling behind.

Our local school board, too, is concerned about those students who are falling behind, and so they are making the decision to move forward without a solid plan. Just last night, they voted to allow all families who want to send their kids back to school to do so after January 19th. They made this decision with the knowledge that, in some schools, it will be impossible to follow CDC recommendations for social distancing. As in so many instances, all the careful planning has been for naught, and now the district and building administrations will be left scrambling to prepare schools for the arrival of an unknown number of students. All of this mere days before the majority of staff leave for winter break. What I've been looking forward to as a restful period of rejuvenation is now promising to be filled with lots of anxious thoughts and - my favorite! - more planning. 

To be fair, it's been hard to have a solid plan for anything since the pandemic began. My niece did not get to walk to receive her college diploma, so there was a new family plan for a scaled down celebration. Our school's sixth graders did not get their usual ceremony, so we brainstormed a curbside drive-by instead. I'm hoping my own son will get a sixth grade celebration at the end of this school year, that my nephew will get a high school graduation, but there's no guarantees. It seems that every plan we make, either on a personal or professional level, is subject to change. Our principal says at nearly every staff meeting "this is what I know right now, but it could be totally different tomorrow." Every plan that we make is fluid; 'expect the unexpected' is the new mantra.

When I was laying out my library lessons for the semester, it was with the knowledge that it was more of a loose guide than a solid plan. Believe it or not, this actually works alright for me, because I'm not a big planner. Sure, I'll outline a novel before I write it, but it's just a framework. The final story might look quite different. Yes, I have a 'to do' list, and a list of books I want to order for the library, and a list of things I need to get done before Christmas. But those are just a starting point. There's plenty of flexibility in my plans. My lack of planning extends to my personal life as well. Yes, I am one of those, "let's get coffee one of these days" kind of girls. My intentions are good, but my follow through is poor, and I have to really put in an effort to have a social life. This is something I must actively work on, because I know it's important to have those connections.

The pandemic, though, has made poor planners of us all. How can you have a solid plan when you don't know from day to day what the situation in your community, state, or country is going to be at any given moment? The most important kind of planning for me lately has been creating white space and relaxation in my day, treating myself when I need it, and being gentle with myself when things go awry. Four cups of coffee when I normally have only two? That's okay. Didn't get out for a walk today? There's always tomorrow. My kids are spending way too much time on screens? Well, this is a temporary situation. It won't always be this way.

In the meantime, one kid is crushing this online school thing, one is doing pretty well, with lots of pushing and prodding on my part, and one is floundering badly, despite my encouragement. A part of me feels I'm failing, and a part of me knows I can't control everything - make that anything - and that it will all work out in the long run. The only thing we can really count on is that it will not go according to plan.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this, Kristen. I don't have kids, and so appreciate hearing what it's like for young readers and learners during these times.

  2. Sounds like you're one busy lady. This month was my first post too, welcome. I think being part of this blog will be fun.😊

  3. Your plans sound like the way I've planned most of my life. Somehow, things fall into place ... well, enough.


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