I’m waving hello from my seat on this roller coaster called the “new normal.”
We got the message on Sunday evening during dinner, just a few hours after my wife and I were notified that our COVID-19 test results were negative. Our district was closing schools immediately. As I considered the complexities of homeschooling I lost the appetite that I had only recently regained from being ill.
On Monday morning my two daughters, 7 and 10 years old, developed a schedule for “Super Sisters Academy,” (.pdf) as they named it. The first week went surprisingly well. We refined our schedule and processes day to day, and solidified it over the weekend.
Going into week two we were feeling like the homeschool part of things might be more manageable than expected.
You see where this is headed, right?
On Monday #2, homeschool started late. Somehow we were all exhausted even though we have been “sleeping” extra hours. When we finally got things underway, I suggested we start with math, hoping to recapture the “how I got my math teaching groove back” feeling of week one. Oh how naïve I was.
Within 30 minutes, we had one girl expressing hatred of math and the other claiming that she was bad at it. There were tears, bursts of anger, blaming and shaming. I soon found myself alone, head in hands, wondering where it had all gone wrong. My own children had been possessed by negative math mindsets!
I had failed as both an educator and dad, two of my most precious identities.
So yeah, this stuff is hard.
I’m in touch with enough teachers to be able to say that pretty much everybody is struggling right now, regardless of how impressive some folks seem on social media.
Super Sister Academy righted itself eventually (adding a morning meeting has been a huge help), but I feel like every day brings new highs and lows. I’ve been focusing on a three-part mantra to keep me going:
- Go easy on myself – I’m doing the best I can. Don’t compare myself to anybody else. Whatever I manage to pull off, it’s enough.
- Stay compassionate – Other people are doing the best they can too. Everybody is dealing with the current moment in different ways, and that’s okay.
- Be human – Fully feel all the things: fear, joy, pain, laughter, sadness, love, vulnerability, empathy. Connect with others as authentically as possible.
Vermont educators have managed to center compassion amidst all of the technology overhauling, problem solving, and paradigm shifting. Even as teachers, administrators, and school staff have worked incredibly hard to set up infrastructure and new processes, our schools and communities have emphasized relationships and emotional well-being.
Mr. Rogers’ mom told him to “look for the helpers” during a crisis. Don’t forget to look in the mirror, folks. Thank you for everything you do.