This week. I mean, this week. I can’t remember a time that I felt more discomfort, more disequilibrium, at least professionally. And I guess it started last Thursday when the call came in that Friday would be our last day with kids.
Yes, last week launched us into second-order change. Are you familiar with this or another version of the change curve based on Kubler-Ross‘s grief model?
Last week, launched the roller-coaster from the landing pad. And just like that, I was reminded of my first ride on the Mind Eraser (Elitches in Denver, anyone?). On the trip up the first hill, strapped into the shoulder harness, legs dangling in time and space, I remember thinking, “Abort! Abort! How do I get off this thing! Help! I won’t make it. I can’t breathe.”
Yes, last Friday was the start of the ride, the longest day at school that I can remember, and I just kept thinking, “I don’t know how we’ll make it.”
Denial & Shock, Fear & Anger.
I spent the weekend tangled up in a torment of emotions. Denying that this was a situation that would last, in shock that things were changing minute-to-minute, afraid for my family and the families of my friends, colleagues, and students, and angry that our district chose not to send us home to tend to these things, but instead to transition to remote learning.
Monday was the first of many days that had my eyes tethered to a screen and my booty tethered to a stool in the office trying to figure out what I could do – as an instructional coach – to support from afar. I sent an email in solidarity, and also imagined that – if it were me as the teacher – I would be shutting my proverbial door and asking to be left the *!#k alone.
Then, tuning in to my social media feeds and reading an email from our superintendent, I was doubly frustrated that teachers were being expected to do anything to “prove” they were worth the money being paid to them while they stayed at home. As if they had taken an early spring break instead of advocating for basic needs and access to services, creating content, and reaching out to families who were stuck on the roller-coaster, too.
Writing helped to take the edge off my fury and I put out a PD plan that was based on what I hoped teachers would do to care for themselves in the name of “professional development.”
Tuesday and Wednesday led me into virtual classrooms, where I responded to students who were submitting work, and commenting and connecting with their teachers, my PD plan no longer relevant as I watched, in real time, the professional development that was taking place right in front of me.
This is where the ride shifted.
I heard student voices. I saw them in their P.J.’s making leprechaun traps and working alongside their siblings. I “conferred” with them on their writing and simply said “hello.”
I heard teacher voices. I saw them in their P.J.’s working to stay smiling and stay available long after the “bell” rang.
I heard stories of teachers calling and making “house-calls,” checking on students’ well-being and advocating for student access.
I heard teacher voices in virtual chat spaces, happy to be together while we were so far apart.
You would think, then that the announcement on Wednesday night that this remote-learning “thing” would last another three weeks, at least, would have sent me in a spin backward on the curve. And it did, but only just slightly, for this is where the ride really took off.
That night, I woke at 4:45 to a lesson design that wouldn’t let me rest. I got up, started creating, and then spent the day in virtual meetings, anxious to return to the lesson that eventually got recorded after a seven o’clock shower.
Lesson design – an outlet for my frustration – gave me direction, learning that I could do now with a product that teachers could use (or not) later.
The lesson ideas – that are now waking me at 2:00 – are giving me a place to place my energy, track upon which to ride my roller-coaster of emotions.
Today, it will be a fifth-grade writing of primary sources lesson and a first-grade Skills lesson. Okay, it is Saturday, so maybe tomorrow… or the next day. Going where this track takes me feels right.
Even with lingering doubts over whether or not this is the right, most sustainable direction, I don’t mind. For now, this is the path that this change curve is carving: creativity and hope and tumbling forward.