being me

Good Enough

We got the news last Sunday at 2 PM, while we were standing at our public library, stocking up just in case. “Schools are closed until April 6th.” The two days of goodbyes we had planned for getting food, devices, and books to kids no longer an option. Of giving phone numbers and reassurances. No “see you later,” no clean out your locker, no what do you need? Nothing.

So, as parents, we went home and did what we do best; plan. Create a schedule for the very next day where some sort of home learning would have to happen. Try to explain to our own kids, ages 6, 7, 7 and 11, what this meant. Answer their questions in a factual way without scaring. Try to come to grip with this new unprecedented reality. Take a deep breath and simply do the best we can.

We have been doing the best we can since then.

We all have.

And now as we face schools being closed indefinitely, we will continue to do so.

Yet the best we can is very much dependent on the day. Yesterday, I felt on top of the world. My kids did their academic work we have scheduled for an hour each day. They invented adventures together, I baked a cake with my son and it tasted good. I wore earrings as I prepped for my Facebook Live in our Passionate Readers community. The kids liked dinner. We laughed, we danced, we went outside, and we learned things about the world, letting our curiosity guide us. This whole deal – we got this.

But today, my kids slept in, they didn’t want to get up. They decided it was pajama day. They decided that they didn’t have to follow the rules of math that have been around for thousands of years because they “don’t like them.” They didn’t want to hold their pencils right, or trace the words, or read because “reading is stupid.” They couldn’t do their enrichment packets sent from their schools because all of the instructions are in Spanish, and their dad and I don’t speak Spanish. They left a mess in the kitchen, upended my teaching supplies, and decided that they were done. Just in general done. As my son exclaimed, “I hate the Coronavirus.”

And so I tried different methods, and I took a deep breath and tried again, and I gave them choice, and I gave them rewards, and I listened to their feedback, and I chunked it out, and I problem solved with them.

But the learning; that still wasn’t happening.

Despite having the tools. Despite having the time. Despite being an experienced teacher. Despite being able to provide a life filled with privilege when it comes to the basic needs of us all.

And so I yelled, even though I knew better. I shared my frustration because even though I am the adult; the world seems really scary to me right now too. Because my worries are stopping me from sleeping; I am the lone income in my family and while I am grateful for my teaching job, with my extra work all being cancelled, the threat of financial insecurity is real. I am worried about my students. I am worried about the community that is lost. I am worried for our economy. For all of the many inequities we see play out and how it will affect the future we are looking toward. And the worries are real even though I know they are not helpful, and much like my kids, I am just trying to do my best.

And the yelling did nothing. Only splintered the day more. Instead, I stepped back, let my husband take over and crafted a new plan.

So today, we are doing recess. We are doing art. We are doing bike rides. We are doing reading if we want. Games if we want. Videos if we want.

And we are going to call it good enough for today. Good enough for right now because right now is all I can influence.

And so I share this as reminder; that what we are doing right now is not homeschooling.

That we cannot ask the adults who care for our students to become teachers overnight. That we cannot ask adults who are carrying the weight of their families on their back to also shoulder the responsibility of becoming their teachers.

That as schools plan for this remote/virtual/online learning that we are all expected to be able to do now, that we cannot for one moment think that it is going to be like school. That even if we invent amazing learning adventures to go on using online services, those websites may not be able to handle all of our traffic. That even if we provide devices and hotspots that doesn’t make our learning equitable. That we cannot ask our students to sit in front of screens for hours each day, trying to patch together what would have been the learning we would have done together. That we cannot expect our students to be in a healthy place for learning. That even if we send home work to do, it may not get done. And we need to be okay with that.

Because we are not together. Because we are not there to support. We are not even there to hand out paper, or pencils, or ideas if needed. So how can we expect those at home to take over?

What we can do though is simple; be ready. Be ready to pick up the pieces and help the students that return to us wherever they are in their learning journey. Be ready for push back. Be ready for the reality of what this new path will look like. Be ready to be okay with good enough. Be okay with being partners and not always leaders.

Because right now is maintenance. Keeping kids in the game of learning. Of drilling down to the most important essence of what education can be; community, connection, relevance, and grace.

That while the adults surrounding our students are facing an unsafe world, we need to make sure we do not do more harm than good. That we push back against district mandates that will further inequities. That we keep our reality in stark focus so we don’t add further stress to an already unpredictable world.

Right now is not normal, and nothing we invent or create or implement will make it normal. So perhaps like I had to, we all just need to take a deep breath and be okay with good enough for now.

And my kids? Well, I have recess to go do. A new adventure awaits and tomorrow we try again.

Take care, I’m here to help.

16 thoughts on “Good Enough”

  1. Thank you for posting this. An important reminder for all us. And permission just to go take a bike ride or walk!!

  2. I needed to read this today. Everything is so uncertain. Thank you for your post. Enjoy recess. I hope your kids get super messy and tired and belly laugh a lot!

  3. Thank you for expressing what I feel a lot of folks are discovering. The most important – we as teachers will pick up where the kids are. We will honor where they are when we gather again. Take care.

  4. Thank you, Pernille. This came at a perfect time. The day was crumbling around me between trying to be mom and teacher. I was losing all sense of sanity and wanting to cry. It’s like being in charge of an eight-hour circus! For example, I feel like I can’t help my 11th grade daughter with her chemistry and I can’t meet the IEP needs of my 12-year-old daughter, as well as teach five classes online. I keep seeing pictures on Facebook of families happily completing homework and their own work around the kitchen table like a modern Norman Rockwell painting. Yes, it’s probably a facade but doesn’t make me feel good about the frustration I’m feeling. Thank you for this post. It’s a little gift of writing to a fellow teacher and mom in need of reassurance that I’m not alone.

  5. After just finishing a read aloud with my students, and doing my utmost to teach (and entertain!)
    I was hoping I brought a bit of joy to my students. Your post brought joy to me and encouragement. Thank you. You are doing a fantastic job.

  6. So honest and true. So valuable. Good enough for today, is just that. Good enough. Thank you for sharing this message with your audience. So many need to hear it.

  7. Thank you for writing this. We left school on Friday last week without knowing at all that it would be our last day with our students. Right now we’re waiting for word on what we’re expected to do. I don’t know if we’ll be expected to send home work and if so, how much. We haven’t been allowed back into our schools but teachers are starting to share resources. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to just make a few suggestions, a couple of sites that they can chose to use if they’re able but I don’t know what it’s going to look like, I hope you and your family stay well.

  8. Thank you for this, Pernille. I have been in overdrive, pushing, pushing, and pushing some more because I desperately want some control in my life. I started work at 8:30 this morning and I’m still at it because that’s what I normally do. But what’s happening right now is not normal. I’m isolating, not eating well, not sleeping well and when I read this, I broke down and cried. Thank you for helping me to be vulnerable and honest about my feelings. For helping me to see that it’s ok to give myself permission to just be good enough. I’m going to try that tomorrow and be ok with that.

  9. Thank you! I feel so relieved to have you in my daughter’s corner.

    I was so overwhelmed last week when I started getting emails from teachers wanting to get ahead and prepare us for what expectations will look like–which days are orange days and black days and when assignments will be due and how hands-on labs for autos will be submitted and algebra class might be taught for our high schooler and, and, and….and then I cried. I was so overwhelmed. I cried for my kids who will need to adapt to this new way next week when even at 47 years old, a college degree and having 2 kids–I couldn’t adapt to “new math” in years. I cried for being scared of being self-employed–what will this all mean to our income if any of us get sick. I cried because I will still need to work when my kids are home–my kids will need to adapt to learning with a house full of toddlers taking all of my attention and they will come second. I cried. I cried some more. And then–I shut it down. I shut down my tears. I shut down my email. I pulled up my big girl pants and decided to focus on what I could control at the moment. I washed my hands for the thousandth time that day and made dinner.

    I made dinner the next night and then the next too.

    One foot in front of the other.

    I’ve even opened email again…and luckily–a reprieve of expectations for now.

    I know the emails will start coming again in a few days–and I will be looking forward to yours.

    There will likely be more tears shed, but that’s okay. We can only do our best. Some days our best may look like our worst–and that will be okay too.

    Thank you for being a leader and the voice of reason. Thank you for being you.

  10. Dear Pernille, Thank you for sharing your home life and honest observations. My name is Annie. I just finished reading this twice. I couldn’t see through the tears the first time…. I was good up until, “And so I yelled. Even though I knew better.”

    This piece is bookmarked now because I think I may need to read it every day. Though I am no longer in the classroom much, I have been concerned for students and teachers, and the expectations placed up them, which is large to begin with. I hope that kids as well as adults take away from this whole mess, the fact that we are a global community. I hope teaching will use this period in time to apply it to Civics, geography, STEM, etc.

    What I really wanted to say, was thank you for sharing. It did help. A lot.
    Now if I only had a cookie…that would help too.🍪 Stay well! 🌎✌🏼🎶🎨📚😊

  11. Thank you for your honest, thoughtful post about our new reality. There are moments my heart breaks for my students, most live in poverty. I feel my head spinning, trying to figure out how to support them during this time. I feel like it is not enough. Then as I look out my window from my home and I see the birds flying around as if nothing is happening, and I am reminded that life will go on. I have to accept that I am doing enough and look forward to when I see my students again. The education community is filled with amazing people and I am proud to be part of it!

  12. Love your post. Thank you for getting to the heart of what matters. I will try to keep your words in my mind and heart in the weeks ahead.

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