It’s hard to believe that just a couple of weeks go, I was struggling to write another post. Over the past few days, although unsure of exactly what to say, I have found myself typing away every second I can. This post is messy and personal, but I’m not sure how else to write it.
Every day is different with loads of information flying at us and every day I experience fear. I doubt my job as a parent and spouse at least once a day and as an educator, there have been countless moments of scrambling. Resources are streaming in a mile a minute and as someone in our district helping to create a place where families can go for enrichment, I am incredibly grateful. I am also a little overwhelmed and just recently gave myself permission to not grab it all. (Our Natick Public Schools resources are here and continue to be updated)
It’s so important to give our families a place to keep academic learning and curiosity going. What’s interesting, though, is that recent conversations with colleagues have been exploding with the core of our educational and human existence; connection. Our district hashtag is #relationshipsmatter and I am happy that soon we will be connecting virtually with colleagues and students as we miss them greatly. I look forward to seeing how our online experience will play out over the next few weeks, because when connection is at the core, potential feels limitless. In fact, I love hearing my husband, a PE teacher, with his students on Zoom. During his first Zoom session with kids, he talked to his class as well as made time to have a conversation with each student individually. I know already it’s making a difference.
Until I can write a post about our new adventure, it occurred to me as I continued to add digital resources and prompts, perhaps I could share some things I’ve learned since school closed last Friday and transform them into prompts for us. Some are professional, some are personal, and some are both. They have been so impactful for me that I had to write them down. I hope you will share anything that has made a difference for you, your family, or community as well.
Let your administrators know you’re there. It’s hard to accept the notion that our leaders who guide us every day are grappling with something new. It even feels scary. But sometimes they don’t have the answers when we want them, cannot foresee every decision, and some things are just out of their hands. They need support possibly now more than ever and just a simple, “Let me know if there is anything I can do” can go a long way. From students to superintendents, we can never underestimate the power we have to help.
FaceTime a colleague you are used to seeing. Email and phone calls are great, but challenge yourself to FaceTime those you see daily at school. Seeing familiar faces keeps us going, makes us feel whole, and when we suddenly disconnect, it feels incredibly strange. Connect for even five minutes over a cup of coffee, whatever works, because it matters. I actually had the opportunity to crash my husband’s school staff meeting on Zoom a few days ago set up to help prepare them. To see their genuine camaraderie come to life through a video call was a huge reminder that connection matters even from a distance. They smiled, helped each other with the ins and outs of the platform, cheered each other on, and laughed.
Reach out to a colleague you don’t see every day. Connecting with a colleague who you don’t see as often is something I can’t take credit for and it’s 100% worth it. I received an email from a teacher I admire just wanting to do more, help in any way she could, and simply talk. I had only spoken with her face to face a handful of times but we spoke for an hour over the phone and what came out of the conversation was a sense of hope and plan of action I would have never created myself.
Find a way to make isolation beautiful. I’m borrowing this from Dr. Nolin, our superintendent, who added “Making Isolation Beautiful” at the end of one of our district updates. She included this link. If you haven’t seen people on a street in Italy singing together from their windows, it’s certainly worth the watch. She went on to say that “despite tough times, people can always make beauty.” Below to the left is a picture of my mom. What you can’t necessarily tell is that she is kissing my kids through the window while they face her from the back row of my car. The image to the right shows her dancing with my daughter. The global circumstances are devastating and unpredictable, and we must follow the rules of social distancing. What I’m learning, however, is that finding and creating beauty within our distance can give us hope.
Gain insight and inspiration from people you know. Sharing and connecting over inspirational stories happening around the world is so important. It’s amazing to me, though, how much we can also learn from each other. I’m blessed to be incredibly close to my parents and now, especially, we talk daily. They are in their seventies so I of course worry about them, but they also provide incredible insight. My mom’s parents were Holocaust survivors. A Polish refugee at the age of two, she grew up in Israel, joined the Israeli army at 18 years old, and has been through a lot. Not only that but she has a deep understanding for what her parents went through during and after World War II. What I can learn from my mom, what she can share from her life and the lives of her parents, her unique perspective, the hope that she exudes, I hold onto.
Create. I had the itch to create something. It’s simple. We take walks every day to the nearby woods and inspired by the idea of playing music outside (combining two of my passions), I thought why not see what sounds we can make? So, I started taking sticks and drumming on a log with my son. My daughter filming, we created a quick and imperfect video in hopes that even one kid (or adult) might be inspired. So regardless of your role, challenge yourself to play one. Create something and share. No contribution is too small even if it’s simply for you or your family.
Make an at home plan that works for YOU (this is a long one)- To be honest, I have no idea what that plan looks for my family and me, but I am certainly paying attention to what’s not working and holding onto those magical moments that are. Parents everywhere have entered the world of working at home while trying to take care of their kids. We can certainly create schedules, and in fact I just modified a copy of this gem that I’m sure many of you have seen as a flexible guide for my family. We can empower our kids to be in charge. My nine year old is emailing relatives to set up times where they can read to each other and she is also updating the schedule. My seven year old is now our weather reporter consulting my daughter with ideal times to go outside. We can prep the night before (I learned this the hard way), get everyone’s input, and go to bed knowing there will be at least one small dose of predictability. Yet at the end of the day regardless of what our family looks like, the people in it need us. What I have learned over the past week is the most important part of the day, the non-negotiable (if we are lucky enough to have loved ones in our lives) is spending time even if virtually with family or friends. Every day now for as long as we can, my husband, kids, and I make sure we are together. For us it’s been wiffle ball games, daily walks, card games, dinner at the table, a lot of hugs, and a lot of conversation. Whatever works for your family, even if that changes every day, try not feel the pressure of what others are doing, but do what works for you.
Our first read aloud FaceTime this week included thirty precious minutes of our children reading to my parents and their cat. This is now a daily event with both sets of grandparents and my brother, a writer and professor at NYU, reads to Tess and Jackson every afternoon.
This is my cousin Liat, who lives in Israel, reading a book to her daycare kids through a video call. Tess will hopefully be setting up times to connect with Liat soon and other family members in Israel. We are so fortunate in that external links can bring our students a variety of virtual experiences. I recognize, though, that my kids are also aching to connect with people they know and love.
These are just a few ideas I quickly put together based on the last week and I’m hoping you will share your own. A constant I keep coming back to whether it’s through exercise or simply taking a breath is to take care of ourselves. It’s a crazy time, it’s an emotional time, and it’s certainly a time that’s new for everyone. I hope we will all reach out to someone who is alone and I’m certainly going to continue with my own family to find ways to help those in need of support. I hope you are all doing okay. I am so grateful for my PLN, friends, and family near and far, and I know we will be able to continue to support each other.