Be the change, being a teacher, being me

Take Care

There are currently two distraught children in my house. One has locked her door to signal her anger, another is blasting her recorder as loudly as she can to let us know, only pausing to yell at her younger sister whenever she gets too close. The discontent seems to be a common visitor in our house these days as the world continues to be paused, as the cancellation of life events continue to roll in. As school continues in its now familiar humdrum of video, worksheet, record, submit.

We are doing fine, we are not in dire need of money yet although the financial strain is getting larger, nor is our health threatened. We have it better than many, we know it, we count our blessings. We search for the good, for the moments of joy when the kids are not yelling, when we can laugh together and don’t have to referee yet another sibling fight. When we don’t have to plead with a child to please get dressed because pajama day cannot be every day, when we have to ask them to please get back to their school work because it does need to be done at some point, in some way. And the hours we spend will never be enough to replicate what their teachers do because school is so much more about production of work.

We stopped pursuing a schedule a long time ago, rather just playing it by ear, knowing full well that there will be good days, and not so good and spending an entire day arguing with a 7-year-old is no one’s idea of joy. We have fallen into to an uneasy routine, counting down the days until school is done, and yet also dreading the news that come through our door every day, not quite sure what the usual magical lazy days of summer will hold for us.

And my own teaching continues. Yesterday, in a meeting we started to discuss what September might look like if we are online. As my heart rate increased, and that uneasy feeling in my stomach grew, we discussed the potential contingency plans that are being planned where hybrid learning may be offered – perhaps it will be entirely online, perhaps it will be every other day, perhaps it will be half days. It may be as close to normal as we can hope or it may be anything but.

Except for us teachers, it won’t be.

We will be expected to teach full-time in whichever way we are asked. We will be asked to create meaningful lessons that not only cover the standards, but also engage every child, value every child, meet every child where they are at. We will be asked to create meaningful bonds with students we potentially have never met. We will be asked to learn new technology, train ourselves if the professional development is not available, convert all of our learning to online “just in case.” We will be asked for new ideas, ideas we haven’t even dreamt of yet, all for kids most of us don’t know beyond their data and files, to be everything we can be for unseen children. And we will be expected to do it with a smile because that’s what we signed up for. Because that’s what teachers do.

And I will pick up the work and carry it on my back because I cannot fathom giving up now. Even if feels too heavy at times.

And yet, I have also once again come to the realization that right now we may know that the kids are not alright, but neither are the adults.

So I am going to make a few promises to myself as we continue to face this unknown future. I will set a few goals because at some point I need to remember that I do not have unlimited power reserves. That I do not need to solve every problem at that time.

I will fight for educational funding. In a time where schools are stretched beyond their capacity, where the glaring inequities that exist within our structures loom even larger than before, I will do what I can to shine a light on the need for funding of our schools, on funding for every child.

I will continue to reach out to those doing the work with me both locally and globally because together we can do so much more than we can alone.

I will set boundaries for myself. Allow myself to do what I can and then take a break.

I will seek out professional training that speaks to what I believe in; equity, seeing the whole child for the amazing being they are, and pushing my own biases and misunderstandings. I know I have much to learn.

I will plan day by day, sharing as I can with others so that others may have it easier.

I will continue to rely on what I know is best practice; that every child deserves a chance, that every child deserves choice, that every child has the right to feel safe, that there is more to the story of every child and it is up to them to decide whether they trust me enough to share it.

I will speak up against practices that harm rather than help.

I will stay silent when it is not my turn or my place to speak so that other voices can be heard, and lift their voices when I can.

I will read books when I can and not fault myself when I can’t.

I will plan for time off, sticking to it much like I would a work schedule.

I will seek inspiration in my own children.

I will stay informed but turn off the news when I need to.

I will say no when I need to.

The road ahead is uncertain, it may be filled with more hurt than we could ever imagine. I do not have answers for problems I cannot see yet, but I can continue on this path as much as possible.

To take it day by day, to continue the fight, and to take care of me so that I can take care of others. I hope you do as well.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

11 thoughts on “Take Care”

  1. You have perfectly put into words what I’ve been feeling all week. One foot is in the sinking quicksand of this year, the exhaustion of trying to be all things to everyone pulling me down. One foot is in the uncertain whirlpool of what the fall will bring and how I can stop myself from drowning. I’m bookmarking your words here as a reminder that I’m not alone and that I need to take care of myself. ❤️ Thank you.

  2. You inspire me each and every day. Thank you so much for your reflection and saying it as it is. I tell my team of teachers and my kiddos in school “we are going to take it one day at a time”.

  3. You inspire me each and every day. Thank you so much for your reflection and saying it as it is. I tell my team of teachers and my kiddos in school “we are going to take it one day at a time”.

  4. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I have been thinking and feeling. I teach 5th grade in a Title 1 school and I so enjoy your blog. Keep up the good fight. Stay off of Twitter and continue to inspire this if us who read your blog. Thank you! You are wonderful!

  5. Thank you for being a teacher. I seriously applaud you and all others. I struggle with just being there all day for parties and helping out.. could not imagine doing it day in and out.

    I have more or less given up on school work. She’s in kindergarten and was ahead of the class. We are trying to prepare for what the fall holds as well… and well what the future in general holds. I am hoping that by then we will be back to some level of normal. If not for our sakes for our kids.

  6. Thank you!! You’ve expressed my thoughts so beautifully 😍🤩😍🤩! Take good care of you and yours!!

  7. Hang in there! I’m with you – It’s exhausting to me to hear people say, “This must be so much easier for you since you have no behavior issues and you don’t have to deal with the kids!” Clearly, they don’t understand what teaching is. Let’s continue to support those who do understand what teaching is – not just standards and work completion. There has never been a time where the inequities in education, health care, and job security have been clearer. And I feel like your child some days. Don’t you also just want to slam a door, stay in your room, and scream at Covid?? Thank you for your “I will mantras”- a good plan.

  8. Thank you for your inspiration and do remember the boundaries you have promised yourself!

  9. Thank you for this piece. It t is long overdue and your thoughts are so in need of recognition and validation. You have so eloquently embraced what many are feeling at this time. I have been working harder and longer (and sadly not necessarily better) than ever before in my 25 years of teaching, yet there are moments when I feel inadequate. Even with our new and strange virtual classrooms, so much that is meaningful is lost. It leaves me wanting and angry at times. I don’t want a bitmoji to ever take my place, and I don’t want to see cute icons in lieu of my students’ faces. As grateful as I am for the technology– I cannot imagine doing this without it–I am tired of hearing my voice on screencastify, I am tired of seeing my face on a flipgrid, and I am tired of doing more and feeling as though I am doing less. I promise myself each day I will take time for some self care, but it doesn’t happen often enough. So now I sit and wait for what September will bring; I take a collective breath with my peers as we gear up for round two and begin our contingency plans. We give thanks to educators like you who reach out to help us hone our craft and let us know we are not alone; we are with you in spirit as we too continue on this path even as our own hearts race.

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