Photo by Alison Deli
14 English teachers; a myriad of books- the “Feelin My Shelf” book exchange brought the English department closer despite not being able to physically see each other. Jennifer Miller, the WCHS English Resource teacher, organized the exchange.
“I sent out a Google Form to the whole department and if interested, they filled that out. It asked them for their name, their mailing address, and some other stuff,” Miller said. “Once I had those responses, I just assigned people, mostly at random, but tried to pair some people that don’t get to work on a team together so that they could connect with someone else in the department.”
During January, participants were to choose and send one or two books to their assigned person with a note revealing the sender. The receiver was then supposed to take a selfie with the books.
“I actually saw something like it on Twitter- someone organized one with teachers across the country, but when I tried to get into that one, it was closed off, so I just decided to do our own,” Miller said. “Also because we didn’t get to have our usual holiday party together where we sometimes do a silly gift exchange.”
Getting surprised with books was a nice way to indulge in some cozy quarantine reading. The Google Form teachers filled out beforehand provided some parameters for each person’s reading preferences, but ultimately teachers did not know what they would get.
“It was fun to get a package that I didn’t have to feel guilty about ordering myself,” Naomi Ratz, a WCHS English teacher, theater director and yearbook adviser, said. “I also sometimes have trouble picking what book I want to read so it is nice to have someone do that for me.”
Everyone either shipped books directly from Amazon or bought the books and then reshipped them. Many of the packages had a personal touch like handwritten notes, which explained the significance of each book that was included.
“Books are personal. They give you that opportunity to share that gift with other people; you could pass your books on to somebody else, or the books given to you probably had meaning for that person,” Alison Deli, an English 10 teacher, said.
Sending a book is relatively easy nowadays with Amazon. The convenience factor coupled with the fact that reading is something all English teachers enjoy made this exchange appropriate for the already tight-knit WCHS English department.
“It is nice to see two brand new books sitting on my shelf and knowing that someone else liked them as well,” Ratz said.
Especially during the pandemic, the idea of using books as an “exchange of friendship” is a positive amidst daily stressors. Reading a book is a good way to relax and take time away from the constant screen usage during the school day.
“We’re readers, we all love books, and we’re English teachers! I think because we’re virtual it’s such a cool idea to receive something. We haven’t seen each other since last March, so the idea that somebody picked out something for you personally and shipped or mailed it themselves is just really such a cool idea,” Deli said. “I feel like reading is a great way to de-escalate the stress you feel and it gives you a chance to get absorbed into something that isn’t the pandemic or school or getting a vaccine and all of that stuff.”
Overall the experience went smoothly despite being adapted to a virtual setting. The exchange is an innovative idea that will most likely be done again- even when everyone returns to in-person learning.
“I’d actually like to make it a yearly tradition in our department and try to get more people to participate. Maybe [it’s] even something we could do school-wide as a staff,” Miller said.