My first experience as a full time teacher without the presence of a mentor teacher was during September 11, 2001. The experience from the last week is the only memory that surpasses that one as life changing. It seems like one day I could go to work at 300 Sauk Trail like everyday before for the last ~19 years and the next everything had changed. EVERYTHING.
The last week has been one of the most challenging of my life, with a steep learning curve, and one filled with small joys that were truly big joys. I turn back to this blog as a old friend who is always waiting to hear what I have to share. Thank you for partaking of my takeaways and I hope you can, in turn, take something to help you moving forward.
I remember taking a communication class in college and it seemed so easy. You have a sender and a receiver and the sender encodes a message and the receiver decodes the message and responds with feedback and there is an endless loop. If only this was truly the case.
Student Communication As we quickly left school last week, which might be the last time I ever teach a class within the walls of 300 Sauk Trail due to the consolidation at the end of this school year, we hurriedly attempted to ensure that students would be able to communicate with us if we were no longer allowed to have in person contact with them on a daily basis. On that Friday when I attempted to have students access their email it became blatantly obvious that although we have a MILLION ways to communicate with each other, students sometimes do not even have one access point with their instructors. Students were vastly unaware that their email was called Outlook and you had to click Office 365 first. I knew from previous experience that teachers lean on using email but given this grave situation, that email would not be a effective way to communicate with our students.
Parent Communication If you cannot reach the student, maybe your best bet is to try a parent. As a parent myself, I receive email and try to look for ones from my son’s teacher. However, given the ridiculous number of COVID-19 updates from my mortgage lender to my internet provider to the place I have a wine club membership with, sifting through it all to find the daily update from my one son’s one teacher is challenging. I can only imagine what can happen with a high school student who has 5-7 teachers attempting to engage with the student. Additionally, many of my parents did not list an email address and only have a phone number. I have LOVED using Google Voice Text Messages for this reason. The responses to those have been at a much higher rate than email. It is just so hard to keep up with all the modes of communication:
- phone call
- text message
- Remind message
- feedback through our LMS (Schoology)
Logging Communication Once I finally am able to get a message out and confirmation that it has been received, I feel like I log that in about five places. There is a space to log in PowerSchool that we have traditionally used in the past. Then there is usually a spreadsheet created by someone to track something and usually I prefer that the set up was more reusable. I keep thinking “don’t recreate the wheel every day or week, instead create one space that you can constantly update or filter so that there is a one stop shop of data”. But then I am usually just grateful that someone else did the work so I don’t have to and I just adjust my own practices even if they are not as efficient as I would like. The battle in my mind is so real as I LOVE efficiency.
Phone is Still Best I have found that my best bet is still a phone call. We have come so far with tech but in the end of the day, people really want a voice. They want to know that you are calling about their kid, use their kid’s name, and are interested in helping see them through to the conclusion of their problem. This is tough because it takes immensely longer than an email or text that you can send out to multiple addresses, but, it is worth it to make the connection. I will continue to remind myself of this.
People Want A Direction
I know that my staff typically does not want to be told what to do. However, this last week has been so confusing and challenging that people are CRAVING exactly that. My people seem to want something solid to believe that will actually happen. Or even if it won’t, they want to know that they are doing what is “right”. I have learned that what is “right” or fair in any given situation is “fluid” or “temporary” in so many cases. This is especially difficult for me as I selected my college major because I believed that Mathematics was so black and white. Only in my older age have I realized that most of the time life is not all about 0’s and 1’s but rather spectrums of everything in between. I am ok with this even if others are not. The challenge is working to help others see life outside of 0’s and 1’s knowing that I used to be one of those people.
We Are All Doing the Very Best We Can
I used to give a ton of lip service to “assume positive intentions”. This has become a way of life for me in the last week. I hope that others assume that of my actions. I constantly feel like I am never doing enough as a parent, wife, teacher, or administrator. However, that doesn’t deter me from trying to do my very best to live in the moment I am in. Additionally, I continue to encourage my staff to live in the moment they are in. I feel like I have aged like 10 years in a week but it was a good journey to have.
Negative Revenue Is Ok Sometimes
My husband owns a local gym. It is his passion and reason for living. Because of the stipulations of the Governor, we had to close the gym indefinitely. This is especially challenging because we moved to this larger space in January and he has not had a paycheck in several months. We were counting on a large group event that was supposed to happen last weekend – postponed by Governor dictate over assembling in groups over 10 – to be the event that would put us in the black. Today, he left our home to go to put memberships on hold which translates into negative revenue for the business, since members can not use the gym right now. Hopefully, our teammates will rejoin us after this is over. It’s all about relationships. By taking away the financial burden of our members, I hope they are grateful and return when this is over due to our good will at this moment. I sincerely hope that we can return to business as usual. It puts more stress on ensuring that the time I spend on any given activity during the day is beneficial and not wasted.
Knowing what to expect gives more purpose and purpose helps us determine what we would like to expect. For instance, my four year old needs naps so she is more pleasant in the evening. Sure, she could go without a nap, but then she is a little beastly by 5pm. If we understand the why, we are more likely to go with the plan. Having a plan, makes us more likely to achieve what we want. Having a plan is a good thing, being able to sometimes deviate from the plan helps keep us sane. Therefore, here is the general Monday-Friday plan I have in place
8:30am class chat (I picked this time because this is when I used to teach class)
9am STEM Division Check In
9:30am Admin Team Check In
10:00am Work my class (provide an online assignment, try to engage students who are not engaged) and STEM (emphasis on the M) activity for Jacob
10:30 snack time (my kids will just eat snacks alllllllll day without a planned time)
12:30 Nap for Alyce/ Reading Time for Jacob (Jacob has been great with reading Alyce a story before nap – two birds with one stone)
1pm Email check (both from Jacob’s teacher and my teachers), Project Work (i.e. engaging students who have not engaged from other teachers)
2:30pm Physical Activity like a walk with the dog
4pm Close out School for the day and make dinner
6:30 Connect with someone (my son learned how to Facetime on his own)
7:30 Alyce Bedtime
8:30 Jacob Bedtime
9:00 Me time (Grey’s Anatomy, this blog etc)
And with that, I am out!