It’s the beginning of my fourth week of classes. That is hard to believe! For many of you, it will be the first. I was calm on the outside but quaking inside that week. New school, new students, new admins, new colleagues. Clearly at my age, even if you didn’t know anything about me, you would expect me to know what I was doing.
But like a lot of you, I felt that I had no idea what I was doing. Or very little anyway. Luckily the people around me felt much the same way, and weren’t afraid to admit it. I knew that I was not alone.
They also DID have knowledge that I did (and still often do) not. Where the different rooms are. Who is in charge of what. The unspoken expectations of an institution, of a building and of a community. They have been reaching out at every turn.
Last week, while we watched Hurricanes Marcos and Laura, many of them gave me advice on how to prepare and asked if I had questions. They also offered up phone numbers and promised to check in on me if things got ugly. (Luckily it didn’t get ugly here, but much of Louisiana was not so lucky.)
So here I am, four weeks in, with my own experience, many, many questions and the support of others.
Is that not what Life is about?
When I visited Alaska, I was keenly aware of an interesting dichotomy there. It seemed that everyone was quite prepared to take care of themselves. Extraordinarily capable. Yet, there was a very strong sense of community there. People relied on each other. They knew that to thrive, it would be necessary. Independent, but rarely alone.
I think that we are all in that place right now…..maybe even more so if you are teaching from home. You are working through a new experience …and having to do it independently. I’m sure that some districts believe that they have prepared you well. I know that they are telling parents and students that they have.
The truth is, they probably haven’t. No one made decisions early enough for that. (Not throwing blame, it’s a complicated situation.) So…..here we are.
Working with what we have and what we know. Knowing that we could know more, but don’t, yet.
And again, that is Life.
Covid-19 has reminded us of many things. It has forced us to see that we have depended extraordinarily on the world of technology to answer all of our questions. No, we are required to use that technology to teach. Whether or not we have been able to keep up with what is out there.
Some teachers are techie. They have been so for years and delight in bringing tech into the classroom. Some are Luddites. They see teaching as one of the last bastions of people to people communication and do not want to bring anything electronic into the picture. Others are somewhere in the middle….some moving slowly at the pace that is comfortable for them. Others are in the middle and jumping around….trying this, trying that, using what can be used well in their particular experience.
And we are often treated like puppets, pulled by the strings of the present administration towards whatever idea, program, etc. is the “new” focus. Even if we wanted to fully explore something, we are often yanked out to complete some new project required of us.
So, as a profession, are we fully prepared? No. Nor should we have been expected to be.
We’ve been focusing on our students.
The question I hear over and over again is…..how will I be able to connect with them using techology?
Trust me, you can.
What are your strengths? What are your skills? What is it that you do that opens doors so that students trust you and listen to you?
Are you funny?
You will still be funny over the internet. You will just have to realize that you won’t be seeing and hearing those smiles and that laughter. You will have to trust in it. Use your funny bone to create memes and stories.
Are you thoughtful?
Ask your students thoughtful questions about the topics that you study. Provide them with thoughtful stories and articles.
Are you interactive?
Still possible!! There are many ways to have students use Jamboard or actual white boards, gestures and hand signals to interact using the language.
Whatever your strengths are, use them. Work with them. Build on them. Don’t forget them.
But we will always do better if we accept support from others.
So, when you look around out there, don’t look at everything. Look for what goes with your strengths. Look for interactive activities if you are interactive. Look for humor if you are funny. Look for what will enhance and complement the way you teach, so that don’t lose yourself in all of these new activities.
Take this new teaching world one step at a time. Please. ALL teachers are struggling to make this transition, and or students and their parents are as well.
In the first few weeks, BUILD your new world, one layer at a time. One piece at a time. It will be all that your students can handle. It will be in everyone’s best interest.
I know, I know, we haven’t worked that way since we first started in our present position. It’s not “supposed” to be this way.
But my friends, this IS where we are.
And wherever we are, we bring ourselves and all of our skills with us. Teaching is more than well-honed lesson plans and tried and true activities curated over the years. Much, much more.
Teaching is leading by example. Teaching is facing challenges with humility and courage. Teaching is knowing that we must work WITH students, not for them or in spite of them, and certainly not against them.
Teaching is starting out from one small place of security and testing the waters. It’s building boats and mending bridges to move ahead.
It is NOT going from point A to point Z in a certain period of time.
It is growing enough at each point, and between each point, to make better decisions, and learn even more.
Do NOT expect more from yourself than is humanly possible.
Even if you, your school, your students and your parents think that you can.
Create an outline, a pattern that students can count on and you can count on.
Stick with it. Let everyone get used to it.
Grow with it. Make small additions and changes and lead you and your students to more understanding and more input.
Do not evaluate, yourself or the students, too soon. Give things time to take root and to grow.
When plants are repotted, there is often a period when they are “in shock” before they grow….even if the new pot is bigger and better.
We are in that spot. That’s where we are.
We are also surrounded by support….some of it more welcome than others.
You are on a new journey. It’s an independent journey, so don’t accept more than you can carry at any given moment. But there is help out there. And you can offer help as well. You would be surprised how much you already know and how much knowledge you are acquiring along the way.
It is OKAY to be where we are. Even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient or frustrating.
How we handle this will determine how well we get through it. We cannot control what happens, but we can control our response…Even if others are yelling what our response should be…WE GET TO CHOOSE OUR RESPONSE.
Reach out as soon as you can. Share one idea, get one idea. Say thank you. Repeat.
You will always have yourself in this new strange land. You will always have support (really, just ask, we’ll help you find it.) And bit by bit the land will not be so strange.
We were made for this. We learn new languages. We teach them. We explore new worlds. We share them. All good things take time. This journey will too.