A Can of Worms and Other Rituals

It’s been tough going back to school. Dealing with my own fractured energy is hard enough, but suddenly I’ve been thrust into everything else, a day-to-day chaos which teachers must shape into learning in a not so brave new world. And it requires hours of reading and conceptualizing and creating and time! And the consequences and fruits already are apparent in my body as I slip back toward adrenal fatigue.

Enter self-care. The new “best practice” which supports “teacher autonomy” and learning. Not lip-service. Rather, it is intertwined with other tools of the trade and the broad categories of this can of worms: Mindfulness, Social-emotional learning, Restorative practices, Total communication practices, Brain exercises, Comprehensible input, Coding, Self-talk. Meta-cognition.

Each day, I patiently thread this self-care in to each period online, in face, and in spirit to my ever changing school setting. I have a cozy little room and a refreshing new minimalist view on material goods. I feel safe most of the time, and I have clear boundaries. We all wear masks. We have temperature checks. Many of us try to NOT be socially isolated, but the days are long and we mostly look tired and defeated leaving. It’s hard to share a laugh when there’s no time to share a cry and hugs and hold each other in the massive emptiness of the unknown.

I have a massive respect for parents this year. I’m grateful that my kids are graduated and out of our schools. I can clearly understand the nightly meltdowns and harried demanding emails to teachers about how stupid an assignment is. I feel the same. I know I have students who can’t manipulate Google documents and make their text boxes bigger. I know because I’m one of those students.

I struggle. My practiced, refined, and automatic thinking processes crumble and cower with the 7 hour routine of being online everyday and trying to reach all my students and everyone should be able to see, hear (or have interpreted) and share, triaging 100+. remembering meetings in new departments, and doing a hundred other administrative things that only matter at school. So, I model. Here’s my cell phone. Yes, it’s on my desk, but I’m not going to look at it until lunch. Its here for emergencies. By the way, there’s a fire drill today. If you are at home, what should you do?

And what do we do or where do we find out what to do for a/n fire drill, active assailant drill, inclement weather drill, late dismissal, a kid that shows symptoms, a quarantine letter, a free testing site which has enough tests? There are memorandums which we get after we learn what we actually have to do, and do it well. We keep our F2F students safe, and let go of learning content for that period until this becomes unacceptable and incongruous with mandated testing looming (thanks to our governor and Dept. of Ed). And I’ve missed meetings because of the 3 surgeries my husband has had and I can’t watch the 2 hour recording…not that anyone says anything because everyone is dealing with the same things, which means the students are, too.

Just as practices of physical safety are part of physical and formal school, mindfulness can be, too. Revisiting and reaquainting myself each morning in my own practice beneath the sky helps me build the strength and stamina to begin anew each day until we all feel safe to do good work.

The question really becomes what is good work? What does the student think good work is? The parent? The district? The State? Is it test scores? Is it all these things and more? For me, it seems pretty clear. Learning requires a new and readily practiced set of skills for coping, growing, and succeeding.

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