By Daphne McMenemy – Originally posted here.
A year for the books.
We are about to begin a school year like no other. I am preparing to bring in a whole bunch of little people in need of some kind of structure, routine, and a little bit of “normalcy” (in quotes because do we even know what that means anymore?).
Everything I am about to do goes against every natural instinct I have as an educator. I have to teach some of our youngest learners that they cannot share, they cannot help their friends, they cannot hug. Little learners love to hug. I cannot wipe terrified tears on that scary first day or hug away anxiety (of kids AND parents). I cannot high five excitement and happiness. I have to put 20 little bodies at wall to wall tables, with their belongings by their side. No cubbies, no coatracks. They must all face the same direction, at least a metre away from one another. I have to teach great big minds in tiny little bodies how to be together, apart.
I have to figure out a way to keep everyone physically safe all the while ensuring their emotional needs are being met.
“They’re resilient” people say. “You’ll be okay” people tell me.
They may be right, but that doesn’t make this any easier nor does it make it feel any more “normal”.
In the end, this has nothing to do with resiliency, and everything to do with intent and purposeful practice. There are so many rules, more protocol than I’ve been faced with in 15 years combined. I’ve said out loud more times than I can count, I don’t know how to do this. And the truth is, I don’t. How could I? I’ve never taught in a pandemic before. The other truth is, I will. Teachers will. Because that’s what we do.
So…I have two choices.
I can complain and list infinite reasons why this won’t work. Or I can take a minute to accept what’s gone, take a deep breath and make some decisions about what I’m going to do to make the very best of this school year.
I chose to complain for a week. I was miserable. I focused only on the negative, only on what I could not do, only on what I was no longer allowed to do. I was quickly becoming the person I hate being around.
I flipped the switch. I had to.
I don’t like that person. That person doesn’t get anything done. That person doesn’t see the beauty and opportunity that we are being faced with.
I get to welcome 20 little faces into a new room, a new year, a new reality. I get to make connections, arguably, in a time when that’s never been more important.
I’ll number those tables and chairs. I’ll clean, disinfect, and sanitize every square inch of our room. I’ll wear the gear. I’ll dig out every creative idea I have to teach Kindergarten and Grade 1 in this new environment, keeping every mind, every body and every little heart safe.
This won’t be easy. But it will be beautiful. We are in control of how we choose to see and handle what’s ahead of us.
This will be a year for the books but I get to decide how that book will read.