Confessions of a committed teacher.
Okay, can we just admit to ourselves that the last
1 year – 9 months – 3 weeks – 5 days
have been exhausting?
According to the all-knowing-internet, this is when COVID came to Illinois where I am located.
My personal calendar looks more like this:
March 12, 2020 – My high school went full remote and we all became online teachers.
May 25, 2020 – I planted yard signs in Seniors’ yards to show we still wanted to celebrate their achievement and wish to see them at drive-thru graduation.
*** I also make the decision to switch school districts after 20 years for a new adventure.
August 1, 2020 – I provided training to my new district and other area districts to knowledge-hungry teachers about how to more effectively teach online.
August 12, 2020 – The new school year started fully-remote with kids I had never seen in person, but I was excited.
October 15, 2020 – We head back to school in person but with safety protocols because education realities had proven that at least some students need in-person instruction to be successful.
October 2020 – May 2021 – All teachers are “Hyflex” by teaching live, while Zooming, and posting for later, trying to keep all the plates in the air.
June & July 2021 – Built a universal intervention curriculum focusing on SEL and skill recovery for the coming year.
August 13, 2021 – Began a “normal” year of school with in-person full days, still supported by online resources.
Then the realization hits, for both students and teachers, that the impact of COVID itself and the disruption it has caused in the lives and emotions of students is very real and will be with us for much longer than 2020 or even through 2021. It is becoming increasingly clear based on the number of counseling interventions needed, the number of disciplinary incidents, the number of students who are struggling academically, etc. that there are many long lasting effects that will need to be addressed. In short, the hard work is just beginning.
But I am sooooo tired.
I was initially excited by the opportunities the disruption brought by the pandemic presented. That excitement was tempered somewhat by the entrenched education mentality. As the reality of changes in education sank in, teachers at all levels stepped up and stepped out of their comfort zone and became avid learners and adapted to the new realities at breakneck speed. There was great implementation of new methods and new technology that had been waiting in the wings for years, as readers of the Flipped Learning Network resources already knew. It must be admitted, however, that there were also some poor implementations of both methods and technology, but in the situation, teachers were given the benefit of the doubt and the kids rolled with the punches. As with all change, as realities set in and new patterns were developed, both students and teachers became worn by the constant change and the constant call to be stretched in yet another direction. We often forget that even good and positive change has a price in both time and energy, both of which are finite personally and professionally. As of November 2021, I am sooooo tired.
No problem, challenge, or opportunity can be addressed until we first admit that it exists. I AM TIRED!
Likewise, we cannot address the issue until we accept it and internalize it without judgement. I am tired, BUT that is okay.
It is okay.
It is not only “okay” to admit I am tired; it is actually necessary. I am finite in my strength, emotional depth, patience, creativity, and for me to be good for students, I must manage my own resources. We work with students at a variety of educational, emotional, and maturity levels, and they often have not developed the necessary skills and coping mechanisms to address the changes they normally face, let alone the changes they have seen in the last year and ten months. Helping students develop these skills means that not only do we need to accept and manage our own limitations, we need to communicate and model that process for students:
- Show students that it is okay to prioritize tasks, and allow them some choice to prioritize tasks in your classroom.
- Show students that balance in life between work and rest is healthy, and provide them some opportunity for balance in your planning.
- Show students that everyone has bad days and/or anxiety, but there are ways to address them in healthy ways.
- Show students that periods of rest are okay, but there is also a time to return to work. In the classroom, this may be defined periods of activity, it may be built into procedure, or it may be an opportunity for choice, but as anxiety does not last forever, neither does rest.
Over the past few months, I have found myself working harder and harder to meet the needs of my students, my district, my family, the blog, and so on and so on, while all the time feeling like I am letting someone down or letting things fall through the cracks. This brings me to the inspiration for this entry in the flipped learning conversation — I have come to accept a few things (or am still trying):
- I need to prioritize my personal health over the “immediate stuff” of life and keep my eye on the “important” things in life.
- I need to make time to be creative, but accept that not everything will be creative or exciting.
- I need to keep reaching out to colleagues and friends for support and ideas, but I don’t need the social media attention / feedback loop.
- I enjoy training and sharing with others, but I need to keep my own house (classroom) in order and prioritized.
- I cannot meet all of the emotional, social, etc. needs of all of my students. My job is the math needs for all students, and to help those that I can as I can with compassion and grace.
This list is still in progress, as is the maintenance of the priorities. It is too easy every day to let the immediate bulldoze the important. It is too easy every day to be anxious about meeting the expectations of everyone around me. It is a constant process of reviewing the mental priority list, saying “No” to new demands, and taking time to pause. In this entry, I have suggested that you do or don’t do many things; unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to do it in a way that works for you as I am still figuring it out myself. What I am confident about is this:
I am sooo tired, but that is okay,and the best way to help students is to ensure that I am in a place personally to model healthy responses, effective coping skills, and graceful teaching.
Thank you for your patience
Regular readers of the Flipped Learning Network site have, I am sure, noticed that the content frequency on the site has dropped over the past 6 months. I apologize… sort of. This past July, the Flipped Learning Network offered our now annual free virtual conference centered on flipped learning. This conference produced a lot of great presentations from presenters from around the world and we will be posting recorded sessions and resources from that conference along with other original content. However, do be patient with us as we are a volunteer organization and the many people who write for or work behind the scenes are active in education and if they are anything like me, they are also tired. This site and the flipped learning community has been a source of excitement and inspiration for me over the past eight years and all of us here are committed to seeing the community continue. Be patient as we all try to keep our lives in balance as we all do our best to address the continuing impact of the pandemic on our students and our profession.
Matthew T. Moore
The Flipped Learning Network, a non-profit community of educators focused on sharing and supporting ideas and good practice in flipped, blended, and flexible learning environments that reflect the four pillars that help define F-L-I-P.
We are also a community built on collaboration and sharing. If you would like to share your thoughts, ideas, blogs, vlogs, tweets, toks, papers, questions, or comments with us we would love to hear from you via the comment discussions in our posts, through our contact page (https://flippedlearning.org/contact), or via Twitter (we are @FlippedLearning) or Facebook.