So weird. Our hearts definitely weren’t trained for this. We know how to do our jobs when our students are at school with us every day. We know what is expected of us, for the most part. We have a clear picture of what it looks like to be a good educator when we are in our classrooms and in our schools.
We don’t know how to be good educators from home. We don’t know how to take care of our students the way our heart wants to take care of them when we don’t see their sweet faces all day long. So many questions run through our heads–are they happy? Healthy? Being taken care of? Are they safe? Do they know that I love them? Do they miss me as much as I miss them?
We worry about next year, and if they will remember enough of what they have learned this year to be successful after being promoted a grade level after only 3/4ths of a school year. We especially worry about students who struggle academically. We especially worry about our students who have anxiety and struggle with change. We especially worry about our students who struggle socially. We especially worry about students whose families struggle financially in the best of times. How are they doing now?
We became educators because of our huge hearts, and our self-worth is connected with the service we typically provide every day to students, families and colleagues. It is no wonder that we are flailing a bit as we wrap our heads around our new temporary normal. One of my colleagues, Dr. Brandi Mendham, reminded us that although we cannot teach in the way we want to right now, we will get it back. I thought about what I tell myself at the end of a run, things like, “Allyson, you can do anything for eight minutes”. You guys, we can do anything for eight weeks. Kids are so much more resilient than we think they are and so are we. Those same huge hearts that make you great educators in the classroom are going to make you a great support to your students, families, and colleagues from afar.
The five stages of grief are very real, and they can absolutely apply to the temporary loss of our classroom community and our school community. The journey to acceptance is not linear, we will continue to experience ups and downs, hopefully more ups as we figure out how to create the structure to our day that helps us feel organized and the mechanisms to connect with our students that help us feel of service.
Making sure that I am in a good headspace has to take priority as I navigate the next few weeks, and I know you are working on this too. As I think about the things that help me feel in control and healthy, these five are at the top of the list:
Win the day early
Start each day with a “win”. It doesn’t really matter what the win is–it could be as simple as making your bed right when you get out of it. For me, how I feel about the day is dramatically different if I work out first thing. Choosing that “win” isn’t always easy, but it absolutely is always worth it. Your win could be checking in with a student first thing, or writing a list of things you are grateful for, or making pancakes for your own children.
Begin with the end in mind
At the end of the day, we want to be able to feel like we had a successful day, that it was a good mixture of productivity, fun, and healthy practices. Starting each day with an idea of what success for that day looks like helps you prioritize your time. This is different than a to-do list, it is more about how you feel about the day than what you specifically accomplish. At the end of the day, as you lay your head on your pillow and ask yourself about the day, what will put a smile on your face? Prioritize that.
Connect, connect, connect
We cannot be together in person and we are so thankful for the multitude of other ways we can connect. Texting and emailing are good tools, but phone conversations and video chats are even better. This is extremely important for our educator servant hearts. If we are connecting frequently with students and families, we will feel like we are making a difference. It is important for us personally as well. My extended family started getting together on Friday nights for “Happy Hour” and not only does it help add some social time and normalcy to our lives, I am actually spending more time with them now than I have over the past few months. On another night, my twelve cousins were all on a video chat together, and we haven’t physically been all together in years. Serendipity IS everywhere!
Get outside and move
I see posts of people hiking trails they never knew existed just a few miles away. It is so good for the body and the mind to get outside and move, even if it is just a walk around your block. Stretching your legs and experiencing the world outside the walls of your house feel so good.
Structure the day
Some families find success with color-coded schedules. We never have and thinking that we are going to start now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is a bit far-fetched. We do, however, benefit from some loose structuring of our days to help us feel accomplished and organized. Whether your family operates on a tight schedule or loose organization, figuring out the system that works best for you will benefit you all.
It is okay to have a kaleidoscope of feelings. It is okay to feel grateful and blessed, yet sad at the same time. We get to have all the emotions, no matter who we are. Know that you are enough and know that we can come out of this better than we were before. We will be stronger, we will have new skills, we will have prioritized the things that really matter, and we will be empowered by the fact that we did it! We not only survived, we thrived. Together!
If you are feeling emotionally and physically strong, if you are connecting and uplifting, if you are staying home and staying safe, you are WINNING against this pandemic.
Thank you for all you are doing!
Check out my newest book…a middle grades realistic fiction chapter book called The Serendipity Journal. I am in love with this book for so many reasons, and I hope you and your middle grades readers fall in love with Kip and her journal too!