What happens when your work and home ecospheres become one and the same? For many of us this is part of the new normal.
As we are responding to a global pandemic, the need to redefine space, roles and schedules has presented itself. Educators are amongst the many feeling disrupted and experiencing the growing pains that accompany forging new routines. Personally, I’ve tried to keep these two aspects of my live separate and now, that is not longer a possibility. No doubt many of you have seen my daughter making faces over my shoulder when in virtual meetings.
Regardless of your situation at home this is hard.
Whether you are parenting and working simultaneously, dealing with social isolation, worrying about your health or any of a million other scenarios — this is new territory. And it will take time to find the right balance.
So how do we respond?
I’m reminded of the movie Ghostbusters (hello 1984!). Throughout the whole movie, the Ghostbusters were cautioned never to cross the streams from their proton packs. But in the end? Crossing the streams turned out to be… not so bad. In fact, it kind of fixed everything.
Stay with me on this.
Setting new routines
What’s the new normal? We know that school will not physically reconvene for the rest of the year. Distance learning is now the norm. Schools are presented with the challenge (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it) to reinvent new structures for learning. Recreating what we know as school at home just doesn’t seem to feel right. With new guidance coming almost daily how can we feel comfortable with our new normal?
I’m still working on this one but I have a few things to share as the dust settles:
- Get out of your pajamas. And not just a nice shirt with pajama bottoms for those virtual meetings.
- Create time for physical activity or being outdoors. Sunshine and movement is a must.
- Set boundaries. Twelve hour work days are not healthy! (Maybe no more than 3 cups of coffee, too).
- Find joy and excitement in something. Be creative and inquisitive.
- Don’t forget to have fun. It’s okay to laugh and be silly in faculty meetings. Even play a game.
- Embrace your two worlds merging. My animals frequent meetings too, FYI
- Be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it! Hard but necessary.
- Continue with empathy and kindness. You may never know who needs it.
Be human and embrace your supports
It’s okay to be human and let down your shield. Which aspects of these two worlds coming together can we embrace? After the first few times my daughter put in an appearance on my Zoom, folks began to ask me when she would next appear. She changes conversations for the better. It’s a boundary I’ve taken down and it allows me to be my full human self and bring my best to the work.
Educationally speaking, resources have been coming across social media, in emails, and just about every other possible delivery method. Many have been examples of online tools, equity focused, and connected to supporting learning. Many have been making sure people are fed, needs are met, and resources for support . The lesson here: take advantage of what you need. The popular sports phrase “it’s okay not to be okay” seems to apply here to. If you are struggling help is available. And that includes nuking your inbox and not even finishing this blogpost if you don’t want. Do the thing that helps you be okay.
Owning the discomfort
I fully admit I was paralyzed the first few days at home after Governor Scott announced he was closing our schools. I mean, I knew it was coming but at the same time… it just snuck in there. Time to regroup!
First, I didn’t have the right workspace set up.
Now that colleagues would be seeing my home it made me think. What about that pile of dishes over my shoulder? Or the stack of overdue library books? The casually discarded toys? Or the general disarray that changes from day to day in my house? All fixable. I simply turned my kitchen table around. Now there’s even a nice picture in the background. And it’s helped me much more so that I thought it would.
It doesn’t even have to be your space
Videoconferencing tool Zoom has a feature where you can swap out the background of your call for one of your choosing. You don’t have to share any part of your house with co-workers. You can convince everyone you teach from Hogwarts. Or the moon.
my zoom background game remains undefeated pic.twitter.com/2t3dicl1Ke
— caitie delaney (@caitiedelaney) April 4, 2020
So privacy can remain yours. (And a sidenote: the Zoom background feature is much more than a cute moment. It can help people who need their living situations to remain confidential — for whatever reason — do just that.) Again: do the thing that makes you feel the best.
Second, as mentioned above, sometimes my family just shows up.
The cat has a Jedi sense of when meetings are happening. My dog, Maple, likes to bark every time the mute button is off. It’s just part the deal. And I’ve let go of worrying about those aspects. It helps. Everyone’s doing their best, everyone’s adding to the chaos.
What have we all learned from this?
It’s all still a bit new but I have definitely learned a few things about myself. Forging new routines has taken a solid two weeks to feel like it has mitigated my anxiety. But… things are starting feel “normal” (if you can believe that). Yet it took some pushing and difficult learning to get there. In the bigger picture, I wonder what we can all take away from this experience? How can this period of upheaval inform our growth as educators and people?
In the interest of full transparency with the home/work overlap, let me share our newest backyard learning: maple syrup.
Since we were home, we decided to learn how to make maple syrup. It was our own take on a genius hour/passion project to help distract from the world. We borrowed taps and buckets from our neighbor. Looked up how to identify sugar maples. Tapped 10 trees. We started every morning, coffee in hand, collecting sap buckets. Who knew that 10 trees could produce so much sap? It was a welcome addition to our new reality and routine.
The last word
I found this calming. Hope you do too!