It was about one year ago when I wrote the original version of this post, Three Ways to Be A Better Colleague. I never could have imagined how we would all be thrown into a global crisis, simultaneously experiencing it together, but also absolutely on our own.
As educators, family members, and friends, we all rely on people to get through each day–but we also are forced to somewhat do it on our own. Our teaching lives and personal lives are all transformed by the same crisis, and yet what that means is unique to each one of us. We cannot possibly know what it is like for each other–and yet we are undeniably part of a collective experience that is a global pandemic.
Right now it’s tempting for me to shrink my world. There is an immediate need to focus on my family, my loved ones, my closest colleagues and friends. Some days, I am so overwhelmed with this that there is no other option but to stay focused on my small, close-knit circle.
But some days, I do have the ability to reach out. And even on the most overwhelming days there are a few things we can all do that could make a big difference to each other.
- BE PATIENT
Patience seems to come easily to some people — especially teachers of young children. But we all know that patience takes work. You have to practice being patient, especially in difficult situations, and the more you practice, the better you get.
Researchers have found that patience is a personality trait that can be cultivated intentionally. You can:
- use mantras in difficult situations (I am not in a hurry right now. I am not in a hurry right now. I am not in a hurry right now.)
- pause and count slowly to ten
- practice deep breathing
- focus on the bigger picture — what kind of teacher/parent/friend do you want to be?
- cut back on caffeine
Being patient allows you to be kind to others, and alleviates a lot of your own stress.
Currently, all across the United States teachers are frantically switching to distance learning. Even in a school or district with highly coordinated distance learning plans, it can feel like you’re on your own – generating plans, meeting with students, creating videos, slides, and resources. And if you happen to teach in a school or district that has yet to create a coordinated approach, you can really feel like you are on your own.
Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram can connect you to educators just like yourself, who are also creating plans for distance learning. When you share a photograph of a chart you created, or a link to a resource, you’re not only helping out others — you’re creating connections for yourself, and eventually you can create a network of support so that you aren’t doing everything alone.
- MODEL MISTAKES
Each day of distance learning during the pandemic presents opportunities to learn–or shut down. There are plenty of chances to learn from mistakes, or repeat them again and again. During this time, you have a chance to model learning new things, making mistakes, revising your thinking, and changing your mind.
I never, never, in a million years thought that I would see a scenario as a literacy coach where I would recommend that teachers scale back to just one minilesson per week. But guess what? That’s the exact recommendation I made for the district I work in!
I know that a video lesson longer than five or six minutes can be grueling for others to watch – no matter how interesting – and yet NONE of the distance learning videos that I’ve made for teachers so far fall below the seven-to-ten minute mark. I’m trying!
I could keep these mistakes (and so many others) to myself, sweep them under the carpet and pretend– but what good would that do anyone? If we all agree to model what learning looks like – it’s messy – then we all benefit.
Maya Angelou said, “Prepare yourself, so that you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud.” I’m working on it. I hope you’ll join me.