Hello Educators. Welcome to another week. As always, I hope you and yours are well and that you continue to find moments of peace and joy even during this time.
Over the past couple of weeks, most school districts have begun rolling out their school reopening plans. Whether the decision was made to go fully virtual, hybrid, or fully in-person, the implications are significant for everyone involved. The questions continue to swirl regarding whether to prioritize health or learning, public wellness, or local and state economies, with the sentiment that it seems nearly impossible to have one without sacrificing the other. The decisions are multi-layered and complex and even for families given the opportunity to choose, the decision is oftentimes littered with varied considerations. It is hardly as simple as, “am I more comfortable with my child or children learning at home or school?”
What seems to get lost in the discussion and the soundbites are the critical decisions that you as educators are also having to make as it relates to school reopening. For some of you, hearing that schools would remain virtual brought a wave of relief as you weighed the pros and cons including your health and of those who are entrusted in your care. There is also a deep and valid concern of how much more virtual learning some students can manage without deep negative impact due to the challenges associated with distance learning. For others who are being asked to return in person, there may be a sense of relief that in some ways an aspect of normality is yet to unfold while others may be paralyzed with frustration, fear, and the reminder that yet again, the plight of the educator is the last to be acknowledged when decisions must be made. There is so much here and I know that I have only given voice to just a few sentiments. This week, while working with district teams focused on developing professional learning sessions for school teams, I couldn’t help shake the feeling of how incredibly challenging this time must be for those who will certainly be on the frontlines when schools reopen.
Throughout the past few months, we have tackled some significant topics on this blog. We’ve discussed and tackled the issue of racism front and center and the need for us to identify our role in dismantling the personal and collective systems that uphold it. We’ve discussed the inequities elevated through the pandemic and how the marginalization of students of color continues. We’ve also elevated using the summer to educate ourselves and increase our capacity to manage the challenges and realities of this time. Everything we have addressed is weighty and requires stamina and commitment that often wanes as time passes.
This is a time when it will be critical to do whatever is required to be well and stay well. I know we are in a challenging time and if you were burnt out and running on fumes in this profession before our current reality, the time is now to make a shift. If you have not determined a plan which identifies your needs and realistic ways to meet them, I am concerned about you. The reality is that you cannot give out what you do not have within. At times we push through because we must and it can work...at times. This, however, is not that time. You are too valuable, too important, and much too necessary to take that gamble this year. Today, I am nudging and inviting you to take care of you. If you are wondering where to start, here are a few options to choose from…
Become clear on where your locus of control or sphere of influence exists in all situations and use your power there. You can’t solve every problem and many are not yours to solve but where your power and influence exist, push into it with all that you have and use it for the better.
Embrace “no” or “not yet”. It is not possible to be all things to all beings at all times and at 100% always. Sometimes to ensure that you give your best to what must be done, you have to be willing to say no to what can wait or is simply a nice to have. Your willingness to say “no” may create an opportunity for someone else to step up, support, and expand their capacity.
Lean heavily into what only you can do. This is where your focus matters critically because only you can fill this space. What are those spaces in your life?
Become aware of your feelings and learn from them…all without judgment. There is no right or wrong way to feel at this time so choose to drop any association with guilt or shame based on how you feel. Feelings are an indicator of something else. Acknowledge them and learn from what the “something else” might be.
Protect your time and your wellness. Whether you are working virtually or in-person, decide when the workday must stop. Although work is a significant part of your life, it is not all your life. Choose to unplug, decompress, shift your focus at some point every day and find something rejuvenating to do that brings you peace, joy, and calm.
Prioritize sleep…yes…sleep. It is a necessity and not a luxury. The more energy you expend, mentally, emotionally, and physically, the more sleep you may need to rejuvenate.
Find your tribe and stay connected. Who do you have in your corner during times of challenge? Are you able to be fully honest with this person without risking judgment? Will this person hold you accountable for what you’re committed to being and doing? Even one person will do but being alone and flying solo, particularly now, may bring on an unnecessary layer of difficulty. Whoever you have, make it a point to stay connected.
Start every day as another opportunity to do good and be the necessary change. Instead of new year's resolutions or intentions, how about “new day resolutions or intentions?” Morning is evidence that you have been given new grace and new opportunities abound. Set an intention that will push you in the direction that supports you and those you will interact with that day.
“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” – J.B. Priestley
This school year will be one that will certainly pull and stretch us. I believe that our first and most important work is not that which we offer to our students but that which we engage in personally. It is the care, the compassion, and love that we offer to ourselves to rise above the fear, the discomfort, etc. and embrace the absolute best version of who we are. Just take it one day at a time.
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In Solidarity and Love,