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Calling All Educators: Peace, Love, Books, and Clarity

Kristen Hildum, a retired teacher and school librarian, owns a bookshop with her family that is uniquely situated in a vintage Airstream in the ViBe District of Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Learn more about the shop and how you can order books delivered to your home, including audio and e-books as well as uniquely curated gift boxes for friends, family ,or yourself here.) She is also a founding member of Edjacent, as a creative inspiration and supporter, and by providing physical space for Edjacent to exist and grow.

Have you found your calling? If you are in education then that may seem like a silly question. But it wasn’t until COVID-19, that I truly realized mine. I am a retired educator/librarian turned bookseller. My career “hats” included elementary teacher, literacy non-profit founder, school librarian (elementary and high school), and now independent bookstore owner. COVID-19 forced me to stop (temporarily) doing what I love most. This forced halt was very different from my choices to try new avenues, start new adventures or retire after 30 years as a school-based educator.

This change was not just the opportunity to realize a new norm for me, but rather felt like a visceral loss. We were all forced to change the way we do business. If you are a classroom teacher, you figured out how to encourage, scaffold support, engage, listen and care for your students in a whole new way. If you are feeling a sense of loss and helplessness, then please know it is because you are a professional educator of the highest regard. You feel a visceral loss as well.

Take some time to reflect on these feelings and you might find that you are able to identify (for the first time), your true calling. As I reflected on my entire career I considered why this detour may be causing such an emotional reaction (aside from the fact that this a worldwide pandemic) and it hit me. The most enjoyable, satisfying aspect of every single one of my jobs over the past 30 years has been placing the right book in people’s hands. Like the runner who gets that adrenaline rush at mile 10 (so I’ve heard) I too get a tremendous thrill when I foster the acquisition of the perfect book!

As a classroom teacher I fostered this experience by connecting children to books through the magic of read-aloud or a well curated classroom library. As the founder of REACH, it was providing a child dealing with homelessness or domestic violence brand new books that were theirs alone. As a librarian, it was watching children skip out of the media center with their favorite new book. Or, it was a high school student divulging that the right book literally saved their lives. I am a bookseller now and I spend my days discussing, searching for and curating great books and helping folks of all ages find their next great read.

Once I identified my fear of losing this necessary act, or calling, I found such relief. My energy could still be focused on book matching, but I’d simply have to do it in a way that kept people safe during this crisis. My business had to go online temporarily, but I still connect with readers through online book clubs, social media and my website. I meet with other bookstore owners online and we support each other with ideas and understanding.

We all know The COVID-19 crisis will end. So, if we are able to stay safe and well, we will have the opportunity to return to what we hold dear in our professional lives. Take some time to identify exactly what that is today. Name what you’ve lost. It may just inform your practice in beautiful, beneficial ways. It may just help you sleep at night. My hope is that it will do both.

Peace, Love, Books, Home, and Health,

Kristin Hildum


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