Being an educator during a pandemic has brought many words to mind. I’ve been reflecting on this journey and it’s been a bumpy, curvy road. There have been challenges and celebrations. No day has been the same thus far, yet I’m encouraged and optimistic about what the near future will bring.
ARGH! is a word that comes to mind when I reflect on being an educator at this time in life. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not technologically savvy. The technological changes my job is going through has created many challenges for me, and I’m sure that the learning and frustration I’m experiencing right now are similar or the same as that being experienced by caregivers, students, and other educators. When I think about my own technological learning curve, I can better empathize with what it must be like for some students to go through the process of learning a new concept in school. The frustration of learning something new and challenging can lead some students to shut down, throw their hands in the air, or cry, and I admittedly feel these ways at times when grappling with the transition to online teaching.
WHAT?! is another word that has resonated with me since the onset of the pandemic. As in, “What, a pandemic? What’s that? What’s closing? What am I going to do? What will happen to my health and my family’s health? What about my students? What will my students do? What will happen to my job?” We are on an unprecedented journey with so many questions and so few answers. My superintendent had told our administrators, “We are building an airplane in the air, and building it with some of the most committed and expert engineers.” The fear of the unknown is undoubtedly challenging as we’re being called on as educators to trust a process of which we know very little about.
TRUST is yet another word that’s resonating with me. We’re called to trust that the rules and regulations put forth are the best ones to keep us safe and healthy. We’re called to trust that other people are taking appropriate steps that will help society to be healthy. We’re called to trust our employers to make wise decisions. Most important of all, though, is the trust we’re being called to have in ourselves as educators – that we’ll be continuously able to share appropriate lesson plans and support our students as best we can through this pandemic.
TEAM means the world to me right now. In this pandemic, I’m constantly seeing people come to the realization that they’re on teams they never even knew they belonged to. Education staff are coming together in strength to support each other, and smartphone apps are helping educators support their own well-being and connect with each other like never before. A great example is my school district leadership team, who provides daily videos expressing on-going communication and genuine openness to ideas that will support and care for staff. I’m also thankful for my fellow staff and students, whom I miss dearly. We spend five days a week together and while nothing can truly replace our discussions in the hallways or informal chats, we’re nevertheless finding ways to stay in touch to the point that my cell phone usage has spiked to 112% in past weeks. Normally, I’d be shocked and appalled by excessive screen time, but instead I’m thankful because that 112% is made up of text messages and emails with some amazing individuals whom I’m glad to call my team.
THANKFUL is a big part of how I feel in this time of uncertainty as I see strangers and neighbours band together to manoeuvre through this rough patch in our lifetime. I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to exercise patience and understanding with each other through and post-pandemic, and I’m thankful to all those who are looking out for their fellow human beings. I’m also thankful for decision-makers who are making tough calls, for all those working in essential services, for technology which has allowed us to stay connected and productive, and for organizations who are finding ways to support everyone’s mental health and well-being. Overall, I’m thankful for all of the good that’s flourishing amid COVID-19.
ANXIOUS is my last and final word, and it refers to the new state of being that I’m trying to reduce the most. I’m anxious to ensure that my students and their families are able to access what they need. I’m anxious about knowing that everyone I know and love is healthy. I’m anxious about making sure I say the “right” thing in meetings or emails given that people are dealing with this crisis in so many different ways. I’m anxious about my fellow educators staying well and healthy. I’m anxious about people not taking COVID-19 seriously, as I want things to get back to normal as soon as possible. I’m anxious about all of the negativity that pervades social media. I’m anxious about not knowing what will come of this virus. When I reflect on all of these reasons to be anxious, I realize more than ever that this is a period where I absolutely need to focus on my well-being. It’s so easy to be overcome by anxious thoughts and worries over things that are out of our control. What I do have control over is myself, and while there are many more words that can describe how I feel right now, well-being is the word that I strive to prioritize over them all.
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